I say it every year (and this is number 6) but I really can’t believe how fast this festival comes around and is truly the start of summer for me. But this year is even more special, because for the first time it’s spread over two days. Double the fun and double the sun! For the sun always shines on Camden Rocks Festival weekend!
I meet our Ross nice and early at Euston Station and we step out into glorious sunshine and take the short walk up to Camden high street. There’s nothing like the vibe of Camden whenever you go, but there’s an extra special buzz this weekend, the high street an array of band shirts and buskers as people stream to The World’s End to meet up and grab wristbands. Ross and I get ours and our all-important program, then the anxiety sets in as it’s awash with so many clashes and distances between venues that you have to start planning the day carefully (I daren’t even peruse Sunday yet!).
After a calming beer and a deep breath, Ross and I head over to the Dr. Martens Boot Room, where we’ve kindly been invited for bagels and (my first) bloody mary – an acquired taste – and celery makes for a useless straw! It’s such a cool venue (in both senses of the word) and we’re pleased neither of us has to dash off just yet as Sleaze hit the stage making my ears prick up!
With all the swagger of Iggy Pop, frontman Dave Coalbuzz takes to the vocals and the band launch into an alternative, grimy rock set. Filthy bass riffs get the room jigging along. This 6 piece smash out an energetic, entertaining set filling the stage and room with sound. At times they reminded me of The Presidents of The United States with a nice indie punk feel with fast beats and grungy dissonant guitars. Stripping off as the heat builds, a barefoot Dave then takes to the rigging, you can see he’s just bursting to get out of this cosy venue. These are ones to watch!
All too soon, Ross and I have to say our goodbyes as I head to The Electric Ballroom because I’ve heard a lot of good things about Milk Teeth so I didn’t want to miss them. Thankfully, another air conditioned venue as the pavements are melting outside! The largest venue this weekend, there’s a sizeable crowd building towards the stage.
The venue soon fills however as the band discharge their weighty, punk rock set on the crowd. Becky on vocals and bass puts on a confident show with her honey toned vocals marrying in contrast to the crunching, grungy guitars. The band really seem to come alive, however, when Em on guitar throws out his guttural screams and the songs take on a harder, darker edge and the room is awash with head bangers. Flying through their raucous set, we hear tracks from debut album Vile Child and torches and lighters are encouraged throughout “Swear Jar (Again)”, one of their more melancholic numbers. Closing with latest single “Stain” they had the whole room rocking out, electrifying stuff!
Another dash up to Music & Beans next to catch Dig Lazarus, having seen them play several times I know these boys will bring the party! When I arrive at the venue the boys are hanging around the seating out front and we exchange hugs and they tell me all the latest news, they are most excited about new EP Figured It Out and I’m assured I’ll hear some new tracks today!
As we head down the steps the venue is like a miniature Cavern Club and the boys barely squeeze in, it’s an absolute sweat pit but makes for an incredible sound and atmosphere. The small room is packed to the rafters, people hanging off the steps as the boys explode into their frantic rock and roll set. I spy Ally Dickaty and Danny Dolan of The Virginmarys in the enthusiastic crowd and some hard core fans are shouting “Dig, dig, dig” between tracks.
We’re treated to “Joker”, “Tell Me Why”, “Get Out” and “Outlaw” from the new EP plus firm favourites “Salacious” and “Satisfied”. Ash is a delight and infectious to watch as he handles the guitar and throaty vocals with ease, there’s an incredible connection between all three members. Jack just slays the drums track after track and Atticus is cool and controlled; it’s the perfect balance. Raucous fun yet again thanks guys!
Then it’s down to the bottom of the high street to The Lyttleton Arms to meet up with many friends and fans of The Hyena Kill. This ferocious noise rock two piece are banging away in the studios currently knocking together another album so it’s been a while since I’ve seen them play live.
Not even taking breath, the pair slam into their set at breakneck speed melting off our faces as we stand aghast! At one point I remember grabbing onto Ross to steady myself such is the impact their sound creates. Effortlessly, Steven Dobb roars out mesmerising vocal screams with a power I have yet seen matched, all whilst not missing a note in the waves of gargantuan riffs. Lorna Blundell is an absolute powerhouse on the drums, thrashing out complex blast beats without coming up for air. Their supercharged set includes “Panic Womb”, “Exit Mask”, “Ribbons”, “Tongue Tied”, “Pound of Flesh” and “Still Stick”, huge roars and whistles fill the room, people blown away by what they have just witnessed.
After being recommended by a fellow Idles fan, next on my list for the day are Queen Zee. I head up to Gabeto in the Stables Market. I had no knowledge or expectations and this is what I love about Camden Rocks so much; the opportunity to check out unfamiliar bands as much as your favourites. I’ve gotta say, they were fabulous! Filthy, flamboyant noise rock obliterated our eardrums and made our arses shake. The whole room was dancing, whether you knew Queen Zee before or not, you certainly did now. Punky and fun, it was by far the most enthralling set of the day. Hardcore fans were singing along, raising the roof, the atmosphere was off the chart.
Reaching out to the crowd before “Anxiety”, Zee talks about how nobody should feel like they can’t be themselves, dance at gig, whatever they want to do and at this point the bass player asks for a friend to come and dance with him… well, no-one else seemed to put their hand up! So before I know it I’m being whirled round, mid pit, to the song and having just about the best time of the whole weekend!
They finish with angry, ranty “I Hate Your New Boyfriend” and the crowd just lap it up, screaming and singing along in a sweaty packed pit, it was an absolutely blinding performance, these could just be my new favourite band!
Unable to gain entrance in to see Frank Turner due to huge queues, we were gutted to learn that Ally Dickaty and Danny Dolan (The Virginmarys) had been pulled on stage for the encore with Frank and Chris McCormack, so we grabbed some beers and drowned our sorrows back at the flat and braced ourselves for day two!
A crowd of us gathered for breakfast and everyone was buzzing about the day before, the bands, the venues, the atmosphere and the weather! We then dug out our planners and mapped out our days ahead – one thing for certain, we’d all be at The Virginmarys later that day.
After a quick catch up with Trash McSweeny of The Red Paintings (sadly not playing this year), Ross and I watch his friend’s band Silverkord who gave us a classic 90s grunge rock set, with some incredible metal howls from vocalist Cody Warden, but I’ll leave Ross to tell you all about them. Then we head to Dingwalls early, Ross wants to catch Rews and we want a good spot for The Virginmarys.
Another delight was coming across Nova Cub whilst we were waiting, a huge decapitated teddy bear head suspended above the stage caught everyone’s eye. Belting out uplifting indie pop songs, Nova Cub played out a tight, captivating set. Their phenomenal rhythmic drummer didn’t seem to miss a beat (or break out into a sweat) as Louise bounced around with her guitar and candy coated vocals. It was an inspiriting performance including latest single “Wait Up” and an angsty tune that required Louise to let loose on the megaphone!
And then, well, the reason I ever started going to and keep going back to Camden Rocks – The Virginmarys. Firm favourites here at The Moshville Times, they seem to have one of the tightest relationships with their fans, which they speak of often and interact with regularly which creates an incredible atmosphere at any gig anywhere in the world really. I knew today would be no exception, meeting and greeting friends I’ve made over the years some only ever once a year at this festival, reminds me just how special music as a part of my life is.
Coming out to the loudest cheer I’ve heard all weekend, pride all over their faces as they look out across a completely packed venue and spy familiar faces in the crowd.
Hammering through an incredible set spanning across their whole career, the crowd don’t pause for breath if anything they’re begging for more. Bouncing and screaming through angry “Step Up”, desperate “Running For My Life” and monolithic “Eye For An Eye” the band are unstoppable. You can see they’re having the best time, the connection is electrifying between them and the crowd. Ally takes a moment to talk about his experience with Frank Turner last night and how he only hopes that he offers some inspiration to the next generation of music makers which, of course, goes down well with the crowd.
Danny takes his signature stance, hovering over the drums, eyeballing the crowd, a slow build of claps as the intro for “Running For My Life” kicks off, from there chaos ensues in the pit, beer flowing, sweat lashing and the biggest grins around. Right there I know it’s probably one of the best Virginmarys gig I’ve been to (and there’s been a few!) Smashing through track after track, Ross and I glance at each other wondering how much longer we can bounce for, then then all too soon it’s the final and legendary “Bang Bang Bang” that literally brings the roof down as the floor bounces under our feet. A quick catch up with the guys and crew outside and I drag Ross along to see Ash.
Ash had just finished school the first time I saw them play live at Reading Festival 1995 and I’ve followed their journey since, catching them recently on their 1977 tour. I was so glad no clashes meant I could get to see them again. Their infectious indie rock had pulled a large crowd to the Electric Ballroom and I was forced to stay at the back but it didn’t spoil the show. Launching with their heaviest riff-laden track to date “Loose Control” I could see the mayhem in the pit ahead and to be honest I was glad of a breather. Unfortunately I don’t think the acoustics were that great; no fault of the band, unless it was just where I was stood but it did lessen the impact of that huge opening track.
The crowd lapped up hits of old and new with the likes of “Kung Fu”, “A Life Less Ordinary”, “Shining Light”, “Girl From Mars”, “Candy”, “Orpheus”, “Cocoon” and finishing all too soon with “Burn Baby Burn”. I danced the night away in my element, reminiscing about the old days.
And then a mad dash to The Underworld to catch the mighty The Wonderstuff. This band are so important to me, they’re the first band that really got me into indie music at school and they’re still regularly on my playlist. I can hardly contain my excitement as Miles Hunt swaggers onto the stage with his cheeky grin “Don’t worry, you’re not going to hear those awful words ‘We’re playing you some new stuff’; we’re playing nothing but the 90s tonight”, a huge roar goes up from the sardine-d crowd, I’m front of stage and I know wild horses couldn’t drag me away right now.
It’s a humongous set, opening with the melodic “Mission Drive”, honing in on Miles’ glorious dulcet tones, drowned out by the crowd of course, with its huge chorus which sees the pit erupt for the first of many times tonight. Favourites from The Eight Legged Groove Machine, Hup, Never Loved Elvis, and If The Beatles Had Read Hunter were belted out one after the other, the whole band rocking out seemingly loving every minute and the beautiful, talented Erica Nockalls was simply mesmerising on the violin.
Special moments included dancing with strangers to “Golden Green”, little snippets and memoirs of Miles’, particularly the story of the gorgeous Kirsty MacColl aggressively grabbing his arse by surprise at a Jellyfish gig and then, of course, he dedicated “Welcome To The Cheap Seats” to her.
Towards the end of the set Miles wished he written more ballads as the songs are “Far too fucking fast to perform at 52”. There was constant banter with the crowd, a small hissy fit with a mic lead and guitar swaps to feed his ego as he joked “Just because I think I look a lot better with the white one”, it made for an incredibly special and intimate gig that I didn’t want to end.
But end it must and I just knew I had to run to The Brewdog and catch Longy who was performing a stripped back acoustic set tonight. In a small intimate venue, that was full already, Longy had started his set. Beautiful, soulful songs performed acoustically with his haunting, instantly recognisable tones. Sublimely supported by the uber talented Feral Child on the trumpet which just adds a stunning depth and feel to the songs that is spine tingling. An absolute poet, his words resonate with every beat that drenches you with waves of emotions from despair to love and positivity. Favourites “Back from The Abyss”, “Love Schizophrenia” and requested “Down On Victoria” are sang along with by the crowd, it really was something special, as always.
Speaking to the guys after the show just confirmed that what you see on stage is what you get in person, I can’t wait to see them on tour later this summer.
That was the perfect ending to an amazing weekend, the streets are quiet and shutting down and to be fair we’re exhausted but on an absolute high, thanks again Camden Rocks, you up your game every year!