Camden Rocks Festival took place on Saturday 4th June 2016. With 200 bands playing in 20 venues throughout Camden Town in North London. The venues are all within walking distance of Camden Town Tube Station. 2016 was the fifth event but my first, with so many bands to choose from inevitably there were going to be some clashes but that can happen at a festival with two stages. When I got the stage times I went through and highlighted the bands which were on my must see list, which only consisted of three bands, one of which, I’ve seen many times and two I’ve wanted to see for a while, luckily no clashes there! I then looked at my would like to see list and made a plan so I had some idea of where I needed to be after I collected my wristband from The World’s End Pub on Camden High Street. Bands play from noon until 1.30am, although the majority of live bands have finished by 11pm. If you’re still standing and want to carry on the party there were two official aftershows to choose from, one at The Underworld and one at Proud.
I can’t say this is festival highlights as I only saw 8 out of the 200 bands on offer, it’s a review of the bands I saw, call it a taster of what you can expect if you go along as a punter. I arrived in Camden just after 11am and called in a local cafe for coffee and toast to get a caffeine boost and some sustenance for the day ahead. I found wristband collection a quick and efficient process and once the wristband was firmly secured to my wrist my day at Camden Rocks commenced. As luck would have it the first band I wanted to see were JOANOvARC, an all female rock band from London, who were playing just across the road at The Black Heart and made my way through the downstairs bar to the venue upstairs a small, dark room which was filling up nicely for the first band of the day there. JOANovARC came on and lauched into Live Rock n Roll which I though was a fitting opening for my day as like many of the musicians, journailists, photographers and regular rock festival attendees rock n roll is more than a hobby it’s a way of a life! Strangely when Sam Walker sang the ‘Live Rock n Rolls’ I was reminded of the ‘Come play my games‘ in the The Prodigy’s Breathe. Sam was on bass guitar and lead vocals for most of the set and announced that they were going to play a summer song as they’re going to Israel in a few weeks, the song being Seeds of Summer which is going to be their next single due out in August. Sam and Laura Ozholl swapped guitars for their tribute to the late Prince in Purple Rain and Laura took lead vocals for one song. Shelley Walker was up at the front playing her guitar behind her head towards the end. This hard hitting four piece put on a great show and they all looked to be enjoying themselves, I don’t think a smile left Debbie Wildish’s face all gig and it’s nice to see a band that obviously love what they’re doing.
With the fesival off to a good start I headed down Camden High Street to the furthest venue south The Crowndale (formerly known as The Purple Turtle) on Crowndale Road for London punk rock n rollers The DeRellas who sounded something like the Sex Pistols meet The Ramones even managing to pull the two looks together. Timmy DeRella on bass with his black spiky hair and Sid Vicious sneers and Luca DeRella on lead guitar looking more like a Ramone. Stevie DeRella in an animal print fur coat and shades was dressed for all weathers! When Timmy announced ‘We’re The DeRellas and She’s a Pistol‘ I thought he pointed at me, but my friend claims he pointed at her, so we were both gutted when we realised he wasn’t pointing at either of us just announcing the name of the song! Their set included a punked up cover of Be My Baby by The Ronettes, Rock n Roller Coaster, Freakshow lots of sneers and jumps and even though it was only 1pm, and still light outside, a few people were bopping along to the music. They finished off their energetic and entertaining set with Mutha Fucka.
Then it was a walk back up Camden High Street where we were going to call in the Electric Ballroom to see the end of Evil Scarecrow‘s set but we passed a bakery and got some food for later which we found we couldn’t take in to the venue, even though we weren’t intending to eat it until later. As we realised we would only see the last 10 minutes and didn’t want to hurriedly eat the food we decided not to bother, I’ve seen them before and no doubt will again. Instead we headed to The Cuban, Latino themed bar in The Stables Market to see The Anita Chellamah Band (The Cherry Bombz) on a friends recommendation. Anita was in mid song when we arrived and I picked up some AC/DC style riffage. Anita said how good it was to to be there on stage, and said it was the first time she’d done an electric set for about 30 years. (She has played acoustic shows though). She also said the next song was about a journey as her life changed in ’88 Give Me The Answer, I can’t tell you why, didn’t get chance to ask but the song was a mellow one with an African drum beat like a cross between Kate Bush and The Rolling Stones. We got an introduction to the band with each member playing a bit of a showcase with a bit of a Born to Hand Jive backing beat. Anita encouraged everyone to clap with a ‘Come on don’t be shy. Don’t be too cool for school’ and at the end said ‘Enjoy the rest of festival. Thank you’ Three bands down, so far, so good!
Next it was back to The Black Heart for Dirty Thrills a Dirty Blues-Rock band from London. It was already pretty full when I got upstairs to the venue, it was also pretty hot but I found a little niche by a wall at the back under an air conditioning unit! I didn’t have a great view but I could hear as Louis announced ‘We’re Dirty Thrills from London’ and they launched into their first song, now this is a band I had heard good things about but don’t really know so I don’t know the song titles but the first song had a driving beat and some piercing screams, think of a heavier Black Crowes, then the next song had a Black Sabbath vibe with added screaming woohoos and riffs to match. Suddenly there was a loud scream in my ear, to which someone else nearby said ‘Warn me next time’ yeah please do! Louis then asked us to sing along if we knew the words, and as it seemed to be mainly ‘Oh oh oh, oooh oooh, yeah’ it was easy to pick up if you didn’t! Apparently there was now a queue of people waiting to get in to the small packed room. They played some rocking numbers with a hint of blues which got people clapping and joining in on the audience participation when requested! As Louis pointed out there were a lot more of us than them! They finished off with a number with a Led Zeppelin feel and worked a ‘Thank you guys you’ve been brilliant’ into the lyrics before finishing with the final words ‘Enjoy the rest of your day guys’ The best way to describe Dirty Thrills would be like a Black Crowes/Black Sabbath hybrid. If, like me, you like both it makes for an interesting mix.
Lots of to-ing and fro-ing, luckily I like to walk to keep fit, and headed back to The Cuban for The Peckham Cowboys. I think this was probably the band I wanted to see most, apart from Reckless Love! I don’t know too much about the band’s history only what I can glean from Facebook and their website. On Facebook nine members are listed, on the website six are pictured, and today five were playing. A co-operative and who’s available on the day? I don’t know but I recognised Timo Kaltio on guitar and the drummer, who had both earlier been playing with The Anita Chellamah Band, Nigel Mogg former Quireboy, and frontman Marc Eden who bears a passing resemblence to Quireboy Guy Griffin. The band took to the stage and played an intro before Marc Eden strolled on in shirt and tie, sunglasses, hat and a thick winter coat announcing ‘We’re the Peckham Cowboys’ in a gravelly voice. Songs included Not Guilty and She Do The Twist & Twirl and there didn’t seem to be much room for Marc, Timo and Nigel to twist and twirl! Marc got a bit of banter going with the audience and after South London Thing where he was up close and personal to those at the front. and a round of applause, he said ‘Thank you very much North London. Very gracious of you’ The Debt Collector had a bit of a ska/reggae vibe think UB40 or Popes of Chillitown. Before the last song Marc said ‘We’re gonna do one more then we’re gonna go’ and he’d put his coat back on (so he could make a quick exit?) finishing with a mellower one before Marc’s last words ‘Camden Stables. You’ve been beautiful! We’ve been fucking awful’ and that they weren’t!
Then I had time to call in one of the Stables Market cafes for coffee and cake to get an afternoon caffeine boost and keep my energy levels up ready for a bit of Reckless Love! A band I’ve seen several times who were, luckily, playing in the biggest venue of the festival the Electric Ballroom conveniently near Camden Town tube station. As I’ve seen these a few times I know all the songs too. Thin Lizzy’z The Boys Are Back In Town their usual intro heralded the arrival of the four fantastic Finns who make up Reckless Love. The three musicians took their places then frontan Olli Herman bounded on in tight pants, demin waistcoat and sunglasses and they launched into Animal Attraction with Olli doing some positively feral hip thrusts, drummer Hessu Maxx twirling his stick, bass player Jalle Verne holding his bass aloft and guitarist Pepe with his cool tiger print guitar. The show was underway! Olli then took his shades off to cheers and whoops before So Happy I Could Die which showcased Olli’s powerful screams with Pepe playing some screaming riffs to match before a drum roll end.
‘Good afternoon’ said Olli ‘We are Reckless Love and we’re honoured to be playing here at the Electric Ballroom. Our career started in 2010 at The Barfly’ and aptly for a Saturday they played ‘We Are The Weekend’ from their latest album InVader with it’s fanfare start and Olli throwing a few more hip thrusts for good measure. After lots of cheers Olli donned a leather policeman’s style cap for Monster and I was just making a note of something when I looked up to see Olli had removed the cap and a pigeon was flying up to the rafters. It looked as though it had flown out from under the cap, but it was probably more a reckless bird looking for a bit of love! Hope it didn’t leave a deposit on one of the bands head’s anyway! Olli asked if we liked the new tunes then added ‘How many of you were there when Reckless Love started in 2010′ which received a few cheers indicating that some of the audience were, and they took us back to the first album for Beautiful Bomb with Olli executing a few spins and kicks. After the old song Olli wondered ‘What do you say to a new song we’ve never played in the UK before?’ I’ll Introduce you to the man in the funny hat on bass Jalle Verne, a true Child of the Sun.’ With it’s strong bass beat it had people clapping along. The Bon Jovi-esque On The Radio followed, then it was time to set the Night On Fire and Olli told us ‘On drums we got Mr Hessu Maxx’ who played a jungle drum beat with Pepe adding some screaming riffs. Olli removed his waistcoat to a few screams and everyone was warmed up ready for the last song Hot with a strong bass start and people clapping. Then Olli said ‘Thank you so much Camden Rocks’ and that was the end of another entertaining show from the flamboyant Finns.
My afternoon had gone according to plan and I saw all the bands I’d scheduled in, apart from the end of Evil Scarecrow. I hadn’t made any further plans so now it was time to play it by ear and so look at the schedule and the programme. My friend spotted that New Years Day part of the ‘New Grave’ movement, according to Kerrang! magazine, a band from Anaheim, California, the home of Disneyland were playing in Dingwalls Canalside. Something a bit diffferent from the other bands we’d seen so far and they looked interesting so Dingwall’s was the next port of call. It turned out to be a nightclub venue on several levels, with a glitterball, large bar and dancefloor area in front of the stage. After an eerie intro vocalist Ash Costello bounced onto the stage with a fabulous mane of half black half crimson hair reminding me of Sever from Sumo Cyco. The guys in the band all in black and white make up with black hair, looking like a cross between Kiss and Black Veil Brides. Ash yelled ‘Camden. Are you ready to rock? Get your feet off the ground and your hands in the air!’ Ash really knew how to work the crowd. I don’t think I’d heard of these before but they’re obviously well known and had a fanbase following there, who were fist pumping and bouncing when requested and Kill Or Be Killed with the chorus ‘Sick, sick all of us are sick’ proved to be a popular one with the crowd singing along, bouncing and fist pumping.
Ash said ‘We’ve always wanted to play Camden Rocks! Are you still with us? We need you to sing with us on this one. We’re so, we’re so contagious. ‘Cos we’re all sick in the head aren’t we Camden?’ the song being Epidemic a Rammstein meets Marilyn Manson type number. Then came the title track of their album, the hard hitting Malevolence. Ash then asked ‘Camden are you ready to bounce? We’ve just released a music video. I’m About to Break You‘ and confessed ‘I ask so much. We’re very heavy on crowd participation in New Years Day. I wanna see every single one of you dancing with me on the next song. I wanna hear you fucking scream’ after being asked so nicely the crowd obliged and also joined Ash in waving their arms from side to side. Angel Eyes went out to all the fucked up losers in the room then nearing the end Ash said this had come close to being her favourite crowd and held up her thumb and forefinger to indicate a small measure before urging us to bring it up a notch for Defame Me. Good set from New Years Day who should appeal to fans of bands like Sumo Cyco, Marilyn Manson, Butcher Babies and Stitched Up Heart.
As we were in the market area conveniently close to all the fabulous food stalls it was it was time for some sustenance before the last gig of the day, and for this I picked Ashestoangels, who were the last band on at The Crowndale, as it was close to Morningon Crescent tube station. I tried half a pint of The Crowndale lager which was a bit like Trooper and I took a nice comfy leather sofa at the back of the venue for this one. I had no idea what this band were going to be like, although it transpires that they’re another band from the ‘New Grave’ movement. Even sat at the back I could tell these guys were manic, with frontman Crilly covering the stage well and getting out into audience, very entertaining and also very versatile with songs varying from quite heavy, Motorhead fast, punky, melodic and a more indie/electonic one. Crilly with his boundless energy reminded me of Danny Jones from Deadaudiosaints and Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. The last song title I remember was 666 with a good fast beat thus my first Camden Rocks festival ended with the number of the beast and a pint of Trooper back at my brothers pub!
Clean toilets, plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets, including camping if you wanted but don’t ask me about local campsites I haven’t a clue. No mud! Food to suit all budgets and tastes, Camden market has some fabulous street food. In the venues I bought drinks in prices seemed to average £5 per pint but I didn’t have a drink in all and there are plenty to choose from, along with other pubs and shops. There’s a big Wetherspoons at Camden Locks and there’s nothing to stop you buying a can in a Supermarket and drinking it between venues if you want to cut down on costs.
Some venues wouldn’t let you take food in, even if it was in your bag and you had no intention of eating it in there. Some wouldn’t let you take a bottle of water in. I think it’s a bit unreasonable when you’re out at an all day event you may want a swig or two of water without having to pay for the pleasure! Well I just filled my empty bottle at their taps anyway! Clashes, with so many bands there are bound to be some. Queues, some bands will be more popular than others and the smaller venues will quickly fill to capacity.
My overall impressions of the day. I saw 8 really good bands. Tickets cost £35 which equates to just over £3 per band. I could have seen more, I could have seen less but with two hundred bands playing in twenty venues I only saw a small percentage of what was on offer. I, personally didn’t experience any lenghty queues, although I have heard reports of people having to queue for over an hour to see some bands, I don’t think I would have bothered. There were only three bands I desperately wanted to see but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I hadn’t seen them, although I could have nipped into The World’s End for a drink and to drown my sorrows. At an event like this there is plenty going on and life is too short for long queues, well that’s my philosophy but the festival is for individuals to make there own decisions and choices. Camden was busy, and you had to weave your way through dawdling crowds at times, but London is usually like that anyway, so that wasn’t anything new.
The weather was just right. I wouldn’t have liked traipsing between venues in torrential downpours like those attending Download experienced last weekend, but I didn’t have to. Would I go again? You bet!
Live Rock n Roll!
Note – words by Louise Swift, official photographs by Becky O’Grady both for PlanetMosh. We didn’t see all of the same bands so, not all bands reviewed are included in the gallery and, not all bands included in the gallery were reviewed. The photos of The DeRellas, The Peckham Cowboys and New Years Day were taken by Louise.
Super early bird tickets for Camden Rocks 2017 are on sale at http://po.st/CamdenRocksTix