With twenty venues and two hundred bands Camden Rocks is London’s full-on one day festival for rock lover. Taking place last Saturday, it was headlined by Bullet for My Valentine, with Skindred, While She Sleeps and New Model Army also on the line-up. In total there was non-stop music for twelve hours from 12pm until midnight – with an after-party at Proud until 5 am for those with the energy to push through to dawn.
Dead Zombies at Proud
Sensibly for a British May weekend the venues are all undercover. However this year It was a sunny early-summer day and Camden was heaving even more than normal. The venues are spread out along Camden High Street and Chalk Farm Road from Purple Turtle at Mornington Crescent to The Enterprise opposite Chalk Farm tube. It isn’t hard to find the next venue you’re looking for – as you walk up the street the music draws you to the right door, as does the direction of T shirts emblazoned with classic band names such as Iron Maiden and Suicidal Tendencies.
We started the afternoon at Dingwalls, which has two stages. The early gigs are usually the hardest to fill but in the Canalside bar wild thrashing from Bad Sign had found an appreciative audience. The main stage was harder to find, not being visible from outside. Here the lighter sound of Flies and Flies hadn’t attracted many punters. They were missing out, the electro/cello mix and appealing vocals making a good start to the Fest.
Timings all day were well arranged. Most venues had a half-hour set on the hour, whilst a few had them on the half-hour. So you could spend all day listening to music if you were prepared to walk a little amongst the crowds. Of course with twenty venues there were going to be unavoidable clashes but the schedule was both clear and accurate and the map gave an easy means of judging distances between venues.
We headed to Barfly for head-banging experts High Hopes and their charismatic front man, who eschewed the stage and cavort directly infront of the crowd. And there was definitely a crowd, with more people surging in as the songs went on. Upstairs at The Enterprise the walls were covered in pasteups, there was a grimy ceiling and one crushed pink Smartie brightening the floor. If Hugo Ball had walked in dressed in cardboard and recited a nonsense poem it wouldn’t have been too peculiar. But today The Assist were giving full-throttle to their appealing anthems. A four-piece with a refreshing stock of fast bass driven indie tunes.
Camden Rocks isn’t all thunderous metal and electric guitars. Fifty Five Bar just off the main drag on Jamestown Road featured acoustic sets all day. We caught singer-songwriter Adam K’s guitar-backed songs filled with personal lyrics in their intimate upstairs space. Later on they were having sets from Ducking Punches and Masakichi.
Showman of our day was Hollis J, lead singer of Love Zombies who played at Proud in a gallery of New Order photos by Kevin Cummins. Under the huge glitter ball she launched herself about the stage like a high energy Courtney as the band attacked their instruments with glee. Later at the Hawley Arms the all-girl Fourfits threw themselves into some punchy indie, giving memories of Justine Frichmann in her pomp.
The bands continued playing all evening, with the award for Best Band Name on the Bill going to Ginger WildHeart, or maybe Demob Happy. With a sunny backdrop and an easygoing Camden vibe Camden Rocks is a fun introduction to new names and a chance to hear established bands in smaller venues. When 2016 rolls around don’t forget to get a ticket early on – by the day they were all sold out.