Camden Rocks - London - 31st May 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Jamie Richards   
Friday, 13 June 2014 03:00



There was magic in the air in North London on this sunny, springtime Saturday, the line-up assembled for this brainwave of a festival as varied and exciting as they come, something for everyone you could say.


Indeed, on exiting the historic tunnels of Camden Town tube station it seemed like ‘everyone’ might well have been in the vicinity! All manner of music fans, all making their way around pavements already heavy with tourists and street entertainers, all basking in the early afternoon sunshine, and feeling pretty pleased with themselves to have shown support for the festival and invested in their ticket prior to the day, because around 8PM the previous evening the organisers had taken well-earned satisfaction in announcing that the event was completely sold out!


With such a number of bands there were bound to be clashes throughout the day, so it made great sense to scour the running times, and indeed the map of Camden that displayed the participating venues, in order to plan a day that would lead to maximum rock ‘n’ roll pleasure; and without getting ahead of myself, my planning would lead to exactly that.


Camden Rocks April poster


First up, we leave the sunshine behind in favour of a sparsely populated Electric Ballroom where we find the Peckham Cowboys ‘enjoying’ a public sound check before they treat us to a lunch time set, that just seemed way too early for singer Marc Eden to get his head around. Still, despite the ungodly hour these party boys had been asked to play, they managed to get through it without turning to dust, and sent a fortunate hundred or so punters back out into the daylight feeling pretty satisfied that they’d made the effort. With a half hour set drawn from their two uber-approved albums, it was a successful foray into the daytime for their Stones-meets-Creedence-meets-Chas ‘n’ Dave, rock ‘n’ roll charm; Geezers.


With a couple of uber-exciting interviews lined up (of which you will find out more pretty soon) making the afternoon hours something of a premium, I opted for a wander down to the Forge to cast an eye over a beat combo I had been tipped off about, delivering an acoustic set. Unfortunately for me though, Blitz Kidz were simply not in the region of the rock ‘n’ roll park that I like to spend my recreational hours. A packed house would suggest I was simply sold a bum tip off, but nevertheless, I finish an expensive beer much quicker than is financially viable and beat a hasty retreat mid-way through the second song.


After some time spent hob-nobbing in the press bar for a meeting with one of today’s big name acts, it’s a frantic dash down Chalk Road in NW1 to catch two thirds of a set by South Wales bred maniacs Exit_International. Flinging open the door of Purple Turtle to see the place busting at the seams, and throbbing at its foundations to the sound of 'Chainsaw Song' from the band’s glorious debut album, 'Black Junk'. This is a band in fine form, barely stopping to draw breath as they punish the ear drums of all in attendance with their electrifying low end assault; top class.


Arriving at our next eventual destination, the t-shirts emblazoned with Wildhearts logos adorning a fair percentage of the people making up the long queue that snaked around from the Jazz Café onto Camden High Street, gave away a good hint at what these people were standing in line for. The beautiful individualism displayed at Camden Rocks meant that the minute the band currently performing in the building ended their set, the place emptied, as those who were once on the inside made their way quickly to their own next chosen destination, and artist. Ten minutes later the room is crammed once again, and our all-conquering hero Ginger Wildheart appears. The sound check is long, with Ginger intermittently apologising, and dropping the occasional whimsical thought to keep the assembly entertained. The acoustic set by the self-titled “wandering minstrel” is worth every second of the waiting, hit after hit after…(you know the rest) followed, and the faithful did not disappoint as every word was sang loudly in accompaniment. 'Sick of Drugs' brought a tear, to my eye at least, and surrounded by sing-along gems like 'Suckerpunch', 'So Into You' and 'Geordie in Wonderland' it was a set-list built to please, and it did just that….and Ginger, all smiles, admits he’s “just a little bit drunk, and to be honest, until someone comes along and tells me to get off the stage I’m gonna just keep on playing.” No one there was complaining; except maybe the next band up?


Truthfully I don’t think so though, because barely half an hour after Ginger exits the stage, one of the most ferociously potent new rock ‘n’ roll bands in the UK, The Graveltones, unleash a set so mind blowing it’s hard to see them not becoming one of the biggest acts in the country, well, any day soon I wouldn’t mind betting. Throwing in a handful of new songs to go with instant classic from last year’s debut album, 'Don’t Wait Down', their set hits like an indoor tropical storm, and the force is completely unstoppable. Jimmy O has a voice with a dexterity only out-stripped by the speed and skill of his fingers, and as for Mikey Sorbello, looming over, and punishing his kit with a thump that could press the face onto a one pound coin, it makes for quite an amazing spectacle. The bond between the two pals on stage is instantly obvious, operating on a seemingly telepathic level they off-load 45 minutes of the purist, heaviest, and downright catchiest hard rock you could ever hope to witness.




The Jazz Café empties as quickly as it had done after the previous performance, each lucky attendee now in need of some precious fresh air; I head up Camden High St. yet again to the Electric Ballroom, which is now completely full, for a triumphant, return to the stage by The Subways. With a fourth album imminent, the Londoners knocked out an energetic set of their infectious pop-rock hits to an enthusiastic packed house, again no risks on the set list (whilst I was there anyway) and why would you on such a joyous occasion?


We stand on the fringes unable to gain much of a vantage point through the masses, and make an early exit for yet another dash through Camden, to a smart pub called the Monarch, whose entire staff really seemed to have had no clue of what was about to happen to inside their establishment; ladies and gentlemen I give you, Baby Godzilla. When we arrive the place is already on the verge of carnage, the Nottingham four piece are unleashing an extra special dose of holy fuck. By-standers are trying to stay safe in secluded corners, gazing on open mouthed as band and audience become as one with a series of the most couldn’t-give-a-fuck stage dives, crowd surfing, wall climbing and, erm, chandelier dangling! Door men are in a state of panic (as is the poor sound man) to the point where one pillar of the establishment is actually seen to attempt to carry one of the guitarists out whilst he continues playing! He relents and sets him down to scurry back onto the stage where he immediately climbs a guitar cab and launches himself once more into the baying hordes. It’s how I imagine very early Soundgarden gigs would have been in Seattle: energetic, raucous fun accompanied by crushingly heavy, almost claustrophobic riffs; “like monkeys on speed” as one onlooker summed it up.


It’s been a long old day, but what is Uber Rock about if it’s not about staying the distance? So, back to the centre of Camden it is, for the after show gig, where an assembly of artists who had played throughout the day, and hangers on (like me) got to check out The Virginmarys, who are about to play their third set of the day! The bar at the Underworld is busy with chatter of a triumphant day, but it’s all hands into the venue proper as the band hit the stage. Not showing any signs of jading after their busy day the hotly tipped three piece belt out a serious set of their pummelling indie-grunge. There’s a hint of commerciality in the songs that make it easy to see why this band are flying up the ladder, but it’s not to the detriment of the sound by any means, and everyone in attendance seems very aware of the songs from the debut album 'King of Conflict'. It’s a triumphant knock-out punch from the band to an audience whose legs are already a little wobbly, there’s no need for a ten count; they’ve done us, it’s goodnight. Travelling in the back of a London taxi to the hotel it’s difficult to remember when (if ever) I have enjoyed a ‘festival’ anywhere near as much as this one, a simply amazing rock ‘n’ roll day in the capital.