Monday 2 May 2011

Camden Crawl - 30 April 2011

This is the 10th Camden Crawl. The idea is well over a decade old, (it began in 1995), but it discontinued due to apathy for a few years. It was re-launched with much fanfare, big bands playing in tiny venues and what felt like a massive overselling of tickets. It was not a particularly enjoyable experience.

Not so this year. The organisers have learned their lesson and, broadly, no band is playing in a venue that is too small for them. There is virtually no queuing. The problem is this – in the year that the Crawl is run right, the numbers of people attending are dramatically reduced.

I hope that this is due to a sensible ticketing policy and not due to the recession, but it is very noticeable that the Crawl is substantially less busy this year. If this was not anticipated, the future does not look too rosy.

Those that are not here are seriously missing out. Not least on some of the tiny fringe shows during the daytime.

The Camden Arms has an exhibition of silk screened rock posters (which are ace) and is also playing host to two tremendous bands.

First up we get Great Ancestors, a spiky yet tuneful hardcore outfit who tear through their set as though their livelihoods depend upon it. Maybe they do – the singer is here prior to working an eight hour stint at a Camden bar. He’s not happy about it.

The second helping of afternoon delight is the wild and untamed Sauna Youth, who are less a band than a cartoon explosion with arms, legs and microphones sticking out of a cloud of dust. Somewhere within the flailing limbs, wrestling with mates and general mayhem is a red hot punk band. ‘Bone Lawn’ is one hell of a tune.

I take about a hundred photos of the singer and I think that he actually appears in about two of them. The other pictures are of the gap where he was standing a split second ago.

I trot off to the Electric Ballroom to catch the Japanese Voyeurs. While they have undoubtedly toughened up and improved since I last saw them, their dull grunge doesn’t do much for me and I head up the road.

Divorce are three Scottish girls who look as though they’d be handy in a scrap and a drummer who may pass his time moonlighting in 1970’s Scandinavian ‘Special Interest’ movies. They are a phenomenal band, with huge metallic Sabbaff riffs, frantic drumming and a singer who is on and off the stage bent double in apparent agony. They are everything that I love in a band and I recommend them very highly indeed.

Unlike Visions Of Trees, who I catch at the Black Cap. This duo plays an unremarkable brand of euphoric trance music. They may well sound good on record and when remixed, but they do nothing for me live.

However, I then see The Good Natured at The Monarch and my spirits are restored. What a voice Sarah Macintosh has! Looking like they have just tipped out of the Blitz club in 1981, the band has hair that looks like it has been assembled by Frank Lloyd Wright rather than a hairdresser.

Macintosh has a unique take on the whole ‘singer invading the audience’ thing. Instead of leaping about, she parades slowly and elegantly throughout the venue, her arm raised as though beckoning a party of tourists to follow her.

The songs are epic Eighties flavoured pop songs and are instantly catchy and memorable. I’m certainly seeing this lot again.

I poke my head round the door of the Barfly to see Cate Le Bon. Her brand of very Welsh psychedelic folk is an acquired taste that I thought that I had acquired. I was wrong – she’s certainly interesting, but there is rather a strangled cat element to her voice tonight and in deference to the frantic pleadings of the people I am with, I let her get on with it.

I pitch up at Dingwalls for the last knockings of the execrable Kong and prepare to treat myself to the guilty pleasure of the reformed and re-invigorated Ultrasound.

Age has not only not dimmed them, they sound better than ever. Or else everything else has diminished in their absence. It is so good to hear the combination of great crashing guitars and beautifully sung epic songs. They are still preposterously overblown but absolutely great. I throw my head back and bawl along with ‘Stay Young’, ‘Same Band’ and ‘Floodlit World’. They are so powerful they almost blow you out the back of the venue. Magnificent!

That’s me done for the Crawl this year. I had hoped to come both days, but the bastards who run First Capital Connect have decided that a Bank Holiday Sunday is not a day on which they wish to run trains into London.

I’ve enjoyed myself more on the Camden Crawl this year than for quite some time. Long may it continue!

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