Camden Town has been the haven of the others since Pink Floyd played their debut show at the Roundhouse in 1966. It’s venues are host to the best gig’s in the capital all year round but on June 2nd they joined forces for the seventh Camden Rocks Festival.
For one glorious Saturday, Camden Rocks took over more than 20 venues from Crescent Coffee in Mornington Crescent all the way down the high street to The Fiddler’s Elbow in Chalk Farm.
The line up boasted over 200 acts made up of not only rock chart toppers but the most promising newcomers from the city and beyond.
Festivals like Camden Rocks have become one of the most crucial forces in the British music industry due to the spotlight they shine on the venues they inhabit. Locals and regulars to the town had begun to fear for the future of The Good Mixer on Inverness Street since it’s doors closed in January and the site became vulnerable to developers.
Luckily, the new management team has promised to stick to the boozer’s musical roots making it a sheer celebration to watch Marshall Record’s latest signing, Elsewhere, in the main room.
Discovered by the recently founded label whilst participating in a Milton Keyne’s Battle of the Bands, Elsewhere are at the very beginning of a journey that is sure to be an extraordinary one.
The alt-rock quartet gave a performance far beyond their years with tracks that portray intimate experiences of loss and tragedy. That raw emotion is already being put to good use by vocalist Ethan who has personally encouraged fans struggling with mental health issues to use the band’s Facebook page for support.
It was a promising start to Elsewhere’s career and and the best way to kick off a packed day of rock music.
Over the road the allusive Sleep Token were kicking things off in the appropriately somber Electric Ballroom.
Sleep Token are an entirely anonymous and masked collective of musicians who worship the deity ‘Sleep’ – ‘an ancient being that is given power by those who believe’.
Following a stunning support run on the Holding Absence/Loathe co-headline tour earlier this year, audiences now expect to be captivated by Sleep Token’s approach.
To achieve what Sleep Token are trying to do takes huge attention to detail. Theatrical and dramatic performances have always caught the attention of fans, especially in the metal sphere where the likes of Slipknot and Ghost have become iconic due to their back story.
But today, the attention was lacking. A Nike tick here and a mask’s visible label and barcode there and the whole thing lost it’s panache. It’s exceptional that Sleep Token are trying something different – and there was certainly nothing quite like them on this monster line up – but once you’ve seen them at their best you can easily see when standards have slipped.
Over in Mornington Crescent, KOKO was almost ready for the festival’s biggest names.
Fresh from touring with the sensational Don Broco, The LaFontaines have turned more than a few heads across the UK this year. The Motherwell lads have turned their rock/rap hybrid into a suave artform – switching from brutal riffs to nightclub beats in a split second.
This former theatre fits The LaFontaines perfectly. There’s a polished and glamorous style to both but every week KOKO descends into one of the filthiest club night’s in the capital.
Eliza and the Bear were another highlight for the KOKO stage this afternoon – and certainly the most upbeat. The London locals have a joyfully infectious sound that sold millions of bottles of cider all over the country.
As much as KOKO was immediately brightened by their set, Eliza and the Bear beg to be seen outside, especially on a cold beer drinking sort of day like today.
Mallory Knox, however, have just the right mood to fit right in. Having completed a hugely successful tour following the departure of vocalist Mikey Chapman, Mallory Knox are in the form of their lives.
Bassist and now-vocalist Sam Douglas has certainly settled into his new role with grace whilst simultaneously winning the respect and hearts of fans everywhere. The band blistered through four new songs and eight slightly remastered Mallory Knox classics before leaving the stage thoroughly victorious.
Festival appearances like this one are creating more than a little excitement for Mallory Knox’s new album which Douglas assures us all is their best yet. He claims that any hint of lazy song writing has been completely eradicated and that all four remaining band members are working towards a pure Knox record.
At the other end of the high street something at the other end of the rock world was happening. The Urban Voodoo Machine.
The Urban Voodoo Machine are London legends. They characterise themselves as ‘Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’Stroll’ but this extravagantly eloquent description still doesn’t really do them justice.
They’re influenced by blues, punkabilly and mariachi (are you still with me?) and have a back story that includes eating parents, the Norwegien army and a cabaret night which you should definitely look into.
Despite the tragedy of losing two band members over current years, The Urban Voodoo Machine are still fighting and tonight they claimed Dingwalls and in the process succeeded in making everybody else look completely fucking boring.
Completely hysterical, entirely unqiue and just a little bit terrifying – these guys were the perfect way to end Camden Rocks.
Right about here we should have been crowded in The Hawley Arms to see the sensational Dead! Unfortunately, Dead! is, well, dead. The boys have decided to call it a day and have cancelled all planned summer festival appearances.
They were hugely missed at this festival, as they will be at many others and forever more. We can’t wait to see what they have planned next.
Camden Rocks proved to be just as packed with highlights as the setlist threatened to be with a genuine mixture of bands AND venues with precisely NO mud, NO overpriced traders and NO sun burn (well a little while we were trekking up and down the high street but that’s ALL).
It’s only festivals like Camden Rocks that are keeping the true music world alive. On behalf of all of the venues, artists and fans that benefit from the extensive hard work: thank you for the celebration.
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