When asked about where to go see some good music in the UK, a lot of places come to mind. Leeds has a great music scene, alongside the rich history of Bristol. But, of course, the main crucible of the music scene is the majestic London. With such a varied tapestry of genres, live acts on every night and always a new talent to be uncovered, it easily takes the crown for the top spot. It’s no small secret that there are plenty of festivals across the capital throughout the year, each catering for different tastes and acts.
For us last week, we went to check out the Camden Rocks festival, a single day festival covering all of central Camden Town with a veritable plethora of bands coming from all across the UK. Having previous heralded headliners such as Pete Doherty, Sonic Boom Six and Therapy?, the festival serves as an excellent platform for breakthrough acts to have their faces seen. This year proved to be no different with more bands than you could shake a drum stick at, all for the ridiculously modest price of £25. Here’s some of our highlights from the festival this year.
Wandering around the high street, there was plenty to appease the senses. Camden Town is a wonderful place to get lost in, even more so in the sunshine we were met with. Plenty of bustling markets, lots of people, more Chinese takeaways than you could ever conceive eating at and pubs everywhere. Today at the Camden Rocks festival, these pubs are transformed into venues stretching as far as the eye can see, with a new opportunity to see some raw talent around every corner. While walking between guitars and drums in the Stables Market, one band caught some attention. Drawing in an impressive following, Panic The Vulture took to the stage at Proud.
A band hailing from Hertfordshire, Panic The Vulture oozed that old-school rock and roll vibe we all know, with the guitarist and bassist both donning black leather jackets, stretching to sunglasses indoors. From the word go they threw energy into the room, their frontman Jed definitely showing his crowd pleasing side with moves that are reminiscent of a Kings of Leon show. Their sound was somewhat a sleazy rocker vibe, but by no means is that a bad thing. Consider the same description of the Eagles of Death Metal or Royal Republic. They were slick, well practised and versed in what the room wanted, with clear hardcore fans singing along all the way. They certainly looked the part and lived up to their image, with each band member enjoying the show, showing their experience on stage compared to some of the newer acts. Overall it was an entertaining find, after all – who doesn’t like a good bit of rock ‘n’ roll?
Panic The Vulture
Perusing the other venues of the festival we came across some interesting sounds. Metal, acoustic, and some almost swing sounding rhythms that drew us inevitably over to the Jazz Cafe. It was here that one of the sub-headliners was performing, the mighty Ginger Wildheart. Most well known for being the front man of The Wildhearts, this man has been around the block – which is also where the queue was going as we entered the venue. He took to the stage as if it was simply a small pub, with no air of nerves but with no arrogance that could easily have been applied to a man of his career. It was refreshing, with even the sound check being a bit of fun and banter with the audience.
While his band prepared (he seemed to delight in introducing each one), the crowd crammed in. It was superb to see the variety of the crowd reflecting the variety of the day, with all manner of ages coming to watch the acoustic set. It was an hour or so of sing alongs, shouting and dancing, with the whole room joining in for every single chorus. There are few acts that I’ve seen with such an enthusiastic crowd, certainly so in a jazz venue. His down-to-Earth aura and heartfelt lyrics were nothing short of a joy to behold, with this easily being capable of becoming a staple of the festival.
With no time to spare, the headliner was upon us. A fun (and frightening) fact about them, their first album came out 9 years ago. If that doesn’t make you feel old then nothing will, because we can all remember the jam-packed album Young For Eternity, care of The Subways. Their arena tonight was the infamous Electric Ballroom, a modern day institute of Camden hailing back to the early 1930’s. Back then it was used as an outlet for Irish folk music, with it now being THE place to play in Camden Town. It’s still just as underground and intimate of a venue as you could hope to see a headliner in, with an impressive sound coming from the stage.
In terms of ‘where they are now’, The Subways have been slightly quieter in recent years after their widely successful debut. But they still know how to get a crowd moving, with crowd favourites being thrown in throughout the set. It’s always pleasing to see a band take centre stage to a larger crowd, and even more so when the crowd fits exactly the mood of the band. There was plenty of movement, dancing, jostling but no aggression, no punches flying and no one being crushed. It was like being transported straight back to being an early teenager, which is actually a perfect way to describe the entire festival.
While not being a typical layout for a festival (you’ll find no tents or fields here), there’s everything that you could possibly want. The intimate style for each venue is as close as you could hope to be to some of the larger acts, The Blackout have certainly taken to bigger venues before as have Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., so this is an excellent way to even meet some of these bands. While enjoying the afterparty at The Underworld (an underground club situated next door to The Worlds End pub), we happened across one Ginger Wildheart himself who was more than happy to indulge us in some friendly conversation on bands, life and the festival experience for him. It all tied together to make this festival feel truly independent in its style, but with tremors of the larger ones in its veins. We can’t wait to return next year!
Photos by Laura Mackie