Sunday 22 June 2014

Autobahn, Jeffrey Lewis and the Jrams, Bad Wolf - Camden Crawl 2014 - Day Two - 21 June 2014

Autobahn at Lock Tavern :pic by Keith Knight (after JJ Abrams)

Day two of the Camden Crawl starts in fire. It’s blisteringly hot outside the Camden Brewery and a small crowd is sweating in front of a tiny stage awaiting Jeffrey Lewis and The Jrams.

Jeff is in festival mood. After an extended workout through ‘Water’ he praises Letitia Sadier and leads the band through a Stereolab number. Later on, he’ll smash through an enthusiastically haphazard version of The Fall’s ‘Cruiser’s Creek’, with bassist Caitlin Gray doing the Brix Smith yelps.

A highlight is an impassioned version of old favourite ‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’. It’s a great start to the day.   

Rather strange scenes follow at the Roundhouse Studio, whereThe Magic Lantern (musician Jamie Doe) is trying to entertain a crowd with his sweet voice and affable folksiness. For reasons known to themselves, the venue is now set up with rows of seating. People come through the door, can’t find anywhere to sit, stand around awkwardly, get moved on by ushers and generally disrupt the mood in their confusion.

I head to the Monarch for Kinnie the Explorer. They are the first band of the day, but are so late coming onstage that I only get a chance to nod past them as I press on to the Enterprise for Primetime.

To say these four women are shambolic would be to do them a service. This is real old school crash bang wallop with two drummers and frequent collapses into fits of giggles, missed intros and good natured confusion. They are shouty and silly/serious and I like them a lot. This is also the only gig I’ve seen temporarily stopped while a drummer decides to fix her hair.

From here I pile into the Lock Tavern for my secondencounter with Autobahn. In this confined space it’s like sharing a room with a Saturn V rocket.

Craig Johnson is a natural front man, expansive gestures, full-on howling. The stage is so cramped and hot that the drummer has his tongue out panting like a puppy and at least one of the guitarist looks set to pass out. The band roar through tracks like ‘Ulcer’ and ‘Seizure’ and there is nothing better in the world than being right here, right now.

After a quick break for food in Camden Market (I had the “chicken”) it’s down to Beatrice for Farao and her band. This is a gentle Norwegian singer and right from the off it becomes clear that this is not the best venue to catch her. It’s all very well being wistful and sensitive in the corner, but this is a busy pub that is full of people shouting their heads off. She’s all but inaudible and doesn’t have the stage presence to make herself the centre of attention.

So I head to Koko for the last half of Steve Mason’s set. He’s bold and confident and has a real swagger. His band look as though they may have played at Methuselah’s wedding, but with age comes experience and this is as professional and well done as you could possibly want.

This show illustrates what may be a financial problem for this year’s Crawl. It should be one of the biggest draws of the night, but I doubt this big venue is even a quarter full. Whether it’s the World Cup, ticket prices or the death of indie music, but there are very few people about. It was even less busy on Friday.

I finish off the night in the sweltering hell hole that is Belushi’s to catch rock trio Bad Wolf. They are very loud, very heavy and are playing to a small, very drunk bunch of family and friends. The band aren’t subtle, but it would be hard to find a room where people are having as much fun.

Singer/guitarist Simon Harris has a cheerful desperation about him. He knows that everything could collapse in chaos at any second but will hold everything together through sheer enthusiasm. Where the band score is that through their bombast, they have some proper tunes not least of which the big finale ‘Bull Jazzed Up’, which sees Harris off the stage, instrument and all, his microphone wrangled by members of the audience.

Today started in fire and ends in sweat and a puddle of alcohol. It’s been a great Crawl. Roll on next year.

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