Londonist (well, at least three of us) were privileged enough to pop along to the resurgent Camden Crawl, which capitalised on Camden’s indie scene rising like a phoenix from the ashes of its post-Britpop implosion. Overall we were well impressed with the variety of talent on offer, with several acts (Art Brut, the Others and surprise headliner the Buzzcocks) standing out, and we were glad of the chance to reaffirm our own indie cred by slumming it with the hipster kids (for a while there it was difficult to spot anyone over 18).
More thoughts and an hour-by-hour review after the jump.
Londonist had three operatives moving amongst the monged throngs last night – Luke, Alexandra, Mark (and associated posses, natch). These operatives moved independently in order to cover more ground, but the fates decreed that at certain points their paths crossed, so Londonist could offer second or third opinions on certain bands. New hotness or old and busted? Read on to find out.
- 6PM – Londonist arrive in Camden, and despite their tickets claiming thet can get their wristbands at Koko, they are forced to trudge all the bloody way up Camden High Street, dodging dealers and OAPs, to the Buck’s Head. Once there, they breeze through a doddle of a queue to pick up the swag: Wristband, sample CD / schedule, and a nifty flyer twigging that the Buzzcocks are to be the surprise guest at the Electric Ballroom. Opt for a regulation opener pint.
- 7PM – Luke and Alexandra head to Lock 17 (ex-Dingwalls), a surprisingly decent little venue, to catch Art Brut, who, quite simply kick arse. They tear the roof off the joint. Eddie Argos (the bastard lovechild of Emo Phillips and Judd Nelson) enjoins the crowd to go out and form their own bands, whilst ripping off his shirt, falling backwards onto the stage and traipsing through the crowd spreading the love. We like, we like very much. A very quirky live act, verging on the edge of too much winking irony, but rescued by sheer enjoyment on the part of all involved. Luke and friends invoke a one-round-and-we-split rule, though they stretch the first round a bit to catch this whole act.
Meanwhile, Mark and friends head to the Barfly to catch The Others, where despite initial skepticism they come round to acknowledge the band’s quality: “Pretty much from the moment Dominic Masters casts his benevolant smile over the audience the bodies start flying. Over your heads, on to the stage and back again, each one of them guided, helped and greeted personally by Masters. His connection with the 853 Kamikaze Stage Diving Squadron is so genuine and heartfelt that I drain my cynicism with my drink and start smiling. A lot. Musically this is old school punk: thrashing guitars, more shouting than singing and working class social conscience which comes off better live than on record. However there’s no separating band from audience and by the time they hammer through anthem ‘This Is For The Poor’ the band has disappeared behind an ecstatic, smiling stage invasion. Utterly, utterly brilliant.”
- 8PM – At this point everyone individually concludes that it’s Random Time.
Mark and friends head to watch Hard-Fi at Lock 17 and are unimpressed (Luke would interject here that he saw them at Barfly and thought they were alright) – it is here that they twig that it’s unwise to buy pints until you’re sure that you really want to stick around the time it takes to drink them.
Alexandra’s crew makes a break for the Electric Ballroom to see the Towers of London (cute name) and is rewarded for her persistence in pushing her way to the front by having to dodge full pints of beer being chucked at the band… and back at the audience. The 80s-metal-style musos were ready and waiting for the frothy attack, apparently. Mark joins the fun, fresh from ditching Hard-Fi.
Luke and friends decide to go for a total random and see The Chalets at the Dublin Castle. The verdict? Meh. The Chalets were just a bit too, well, cold. The two robot-like women at the front just sapped any passion from the music, and visions of Kraftwerk
dancedstood in their heads. One of them was even playing a xylophone, fer chrissakes. Pints are swiftly finished (see above caution), and Luke’s posse makes a swift exit, heading south.
- 9PM – Mark and Luke’s crews both decide to hit the Koko (what a great venue) to see the Magic Numbers, but not before they have to endure the teen pop sensations Maximo Park. No thanks. In the interim a swift bit of footwork sees Luke & co. up to the barrier, ready to bask in the anticipated glow of the Magic Numbers love. They’ve heard nothing but good things about the live show these 60s throwbacks put on, but once they start up Luke and friends find them just that little bit too mellow, too “ballady”. Good music, but there’s a bit too much of a try-hard Grateful Dead vibe from both band and audience for them to enjoy it. Mark, on the other hand, reckons they’re worth a go, even if they do look like a family of Appalachian bear trappers (Luke would say they look like what would happen if the Kings of Leon swelled). Luke’s crew try to get in to see the last bit of the Black Velvets set over the road at the Purple Turtle, but time frowns on them and it’s a no-go.
Alexandra disappears for a while, we suspect to “negotiate” a little somethin’. Possibly.
- 10PM – Mark and Luke’s folks rejoin and move on to see the Buzzcocks at the Electric Ballroom. Luke and friends had seen them a couple times before and reckoned it was worth the bother (ridiculous wait to get served at the bar, mainly) and were right – the gig kicked arse, and having popped their Ballroom cherries there was much marveling at the size of the place – where does it all fit? Much moshing ensues, even a spot of surfing, but some members of the party are feeling their age as the moshing is interspersed with cooldown periods of wild-eyed hyperventilation. Pete Shelley and the boys put on a much more respectable show than their recent escapades at the Forum, and much merriment was had.
Alexandra struck out on her own and braved the can’t-swing-a-catness of the Barfly to check out Le Tigre, the politico-feminist sample-tastic riot grrls, a band with a lot of buzz behind them. One fan showed up with a cardboard standee of John Travolta which they must have carried around all night – that’s devotion. The band took the inspiration and showed off some coordinated dance moves, with one member going so far as to have her glasses tethered to her necklace to keep them from flying off as she strutted. (apologies for the earlier gender confusion, it was the moustache did it)
- 11PM – Londonist are buggered, not to put too fine a point on it. Too much moshing, beer swilling in bellies and close contact with fellow man has taken its toll, and the imminent closure of the tube conspires with a looming workday (why not do this Crawl on a weekend night) to cut the night to a premature end. Presumably the hardcore went on to see the dawn, but Londonist will have to take that on faith. We all woke up feeling like we’d been on the wrong end of a gang fight as it was.
Was it worth it? You betcher sweet arse. Camden’s back, and it rocks. Let’s do it again next year, but let’s do it sometime when we can all party properly, shall we?