Camden Crawl (20-21 June '14, London) // Words: Glen Byford
Festivals mean different things to different people, to me, a festival should be filled with a certain amount of discovery, and perhaps I have lost touch with the current music scene but with very few names on the bill resonating strongly with me, and with some 100 or so bands and artists appearing across 22 venues on Saturday alone, I have got plenty of discovering to do.
Having been unable to make it along to day one of 2014's Camden Crawl, I decide I'll get a head start on the more casual crawlers. With the official app downloaded (the modern festival must-have) that serves as a handy interactive programme and planning aid, I browse a number of the earlier fringe events as I land on the bustling high street.
The afternoon's heavy drinkers are already out in force, but once inside the Electric Ballroom it's clear that the festival goers are still rather low in number, leaving the 1,100 capacity venue feeling especially cavernous for Gentle Friendly's slightly obtuse performance. Perseverance was key to the enjoyment of their fidgety clash of noodling, and as the melodies eventually fell into place, calm and resigned vocals ambled for attention, resulting in a soothing, although somewhat underwhelming starting point.
One of Saam's tips (Ed's note: Hello.) for the evening is performing a matinee set far off the beaten track and I choose to make tracks to what turns out to be a cooler and shady outdoor courtyard watching the glacial cool Norwegian Farao playing a stripped back acoustic performance. I sensed her atmospheric musical stylings would be better suited to an intimate indoor space, but once past the rowdier afternoon drinkers congregating at the non-festival accessible main bar, the audience were respectful and attentive to a set that includes a beautifully unexpected cover of Queens Of The Stone Age's 'Go With The Flow'.
Currently being so far from the main throng, I took a punt on the fringe comedy stage at The Grafton that was a short walk away, providing variety to the city-based festival's credentials. Sara Pascoe and Richard Sandling impressed a sizeable gathering with their funny business, faring better in my estimation than Great Ytene back at the Brewery after, who I listened to briefly whilst visiting the portaloos before deciding to venture further into the heart of the action.
Back once again on Camden High Street, Rhiannon The Nightmare brings her raucous and infectiously entertaining indie-blues to Belushi's Bar, casually ad-libbing her songs and engaging in banter for the benefit of slightly sozzled spectators, I then dash to the tucked away Black Heart where the slightly bonkers and absolutely adorable Swedish songstress Akiine is infusing an oppressively dark room with equally dark pop music, stuttering drumlines prompting her to dance in a fashion that others rarely allow to be seen in public.
At the Jazz Cafe, a different class of crawler have gathered for a smoother and more soulful outing of talent - I catch Mickey Lightfoot, a hot mess of hip-hop and Prince-tinged funk, the performance is rough around the edges but is the most engaging artist I've seen so far, successfully moving the crowd, more so than PAWS' oversubscribed turn at the Lock Tavern, despite sounding like Biffy Clyro overflowing with magnificent pop music. Those lucky enough to squeeze in seem content to simply sweat and bare witness rather than truly getting involved.
Once the room was vacated of the majority of static spectators, e.m.m.a presumably played some sort of laptop or DJ set, bass wobbled threateningly from the speakers but failed to deliver much to write home about so, with midnight fast approaching, I decamped to The Beatrice where I resided until the early hours of the morn.
A quick turn around onstage of dynamic rappers provided a fast paced finale and an atmosphere at odds with Camden's usual scuzzy indie leanings, the vibe was undeniably hyped as Little Simz, Lady Lykez and the acoustically backed Eyez intimately held court over the enthusiastic late night crowd, geographically only a few minutes walk away, yet sonically a whole world away from the habitual closing party of Koko.
With my discoveries over, a wealth of new acts encountered and a reasonable number of Camden brewed beers consumed, I board a night bus back home and eventually crawl into my awaiting bed.
Find more information at thecamdencrawl.com.