Monday, 27 April 2009

Camden Crawl - Day One. 24th April 2009

Me My Head

Hey, hey – it’s Camden Crawl time again. It’s the annual opportunity to trawl through the streets of north London, attempting to catch a load of bands playing in the many small venues that occupy the area. It’s a chance to see someone interesting in somewhere unusual.

Except that this year it is not. The Crawl has got ever bigger and bloated over the past few years, and it has long ago abandoned any pretence of edginess or innovation. This year, the Roundhouse has been added to the roster of venues and this vast shed dominates proceedings, staging a succession of performances showcasing the bland face of staid, safe, lowest common denominator major label radio fodder. It is telling that separate wristbands and extensive queuing is required for the privilege of attending – sucking bodies away from the other events that are going on. Indie landfill (to use the common phrase)has it’s place, but the organisers would surely be better staging these performances as events in their own right at some other time.

Ok, grouse over.

The main Crawl programme doesn’t start until the evening, but there is plenty of opportunity to wander through the various official and semi-official events that take place during the daytime.

I strike lucky right from the off, arriving at the World’s End in time to catch an astoundingly good set from Me My Head, a band that I had previously known and loved as The Moths, but who have expanded and mutated into a five piece who produce some of the finest, adrenaline fuelled pop in the country at the present time. Singer Charlie Moss has a terrific set of pipes, and the band has a real knack for catchy songs. They play for around twenty minutes and blow my ears off. Great stuff and I am energised to go forth and seek other goodies.

Unfortunately, my luck runs out for the next hour or so. I go to the usually reliable Tommy Flynn’s, but run into a couple of nondescript acts, and, heading back whence I came, discover the godawful and ubiquitous King Blues (who are fucking everywhere this weekend) blasting out their derivative bilge. They’re evil, kids, and must be shunned.

My evening’s entertainment starts at the Underworld, where no-frills rock trio Bleech channel the simple pleasures of AC/DC through a female filter and cheer me up again. Their songs are straightforward, crowd pleasing stuff, and it’s good to punch the air and shake my head along to tracks such as ‘Living It Up In London Town’.

Then it’s off up the road and into the Jazz Café for Man Like Me, an act I know nothing about but am eventually completely smitten by. I love acts that relish performance, and we certainly get a show. Ostensibly a three piece, the band have augmented themselves with a brass section and singers, all of whom dance and jive along to a succession of groove-tastic tunes such as ’Carny’ or ‘Single Dad’. The whole joint is jumping, and each song comes with its own dance routine. It’s like an episode of the Muppet Show. This is a good thing.

Off again to Bullet to catch up with Little Death, a band that I knew little about other than what I had gleaned from a quick scan of the internet. The place is about half full, and I get down the front.

This band play a brand of epic, guitar heavy dream pop and they are deafening in this small space. Singer/guitarists Nathan and KC duel with each other, while the metal drummer seems to belong to a different kind of band altogether (He's not mentioned on their MySpace, so this may actually be true). Bassist Julianna lays down a thumping rhythm and hides to one side. I am not diminishing her musical abilities when I say that promoters of this band should make sure she figures prominently in any publicity photos – her legs are longer than my entire body. To quote ‘The Producers’, “If ya got it, flaunt it!”

Down to the other end of town for The Computers at the Purple Turtle. These guys come from Exeter and are strongly tipped. Dressed in matching red shirts, they blast out a ninety mile an hour hardcore racket, that a very small section of the crowd goes mental for, but which seems to bemuse the majority. Fronted by the chatty Alex Kershaw, the band are great fun, but somewhat samey. I also somehow find that excessive friendliness undermines the point of hardcore – guttural screaming seems silly if the next minute you are discussing the fortunes of Exeter City.

Next stop the Underworld for Kasms. This venue is very sparsely attended, and the band seem to have a hard time gathering the attention of those folk who ARE there. Singer Rachael Mary Callaghan pulls out all the stops, crawling around the stage and doing her dancing exercises, but the band don’t really take off this evening. They also suffer from a lack of tunes and all the theatrics in the world can’t cover for this.

Before heading off home, I pop into the Electric Ballroom for the last twenty minutes or so of Wire. They are in their bombastic pomp, apparently seething with rage and making a hell of a racket. They end with a protracted, caustic version of ‘Pink Flag’ with its chorus of “How many dead or alive?”

It’s a question to ponder at the end of this first day of the Crawl. Whether it’s the recession, or the pull of the MTV shows at the Roundhouse, but I’ve not been anywhere today or this evening that is anything like full. Worrying signs.

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