Camden Rocks - Camden, London - 30th May 2015 Print E-mail
Written by Jamie Richards & Dom Daley   
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 03:00

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Another year, and another 'SOLD OUT' sign proudly adorns the Camden Rocks website and, just as last year, the final tickets to this (much more than just) star-studded event were snapped up just the day before.

 

There's some big hitters adorning the poster of the capital's number one rock n roll day out, that's for sure, but as you might expect from an Uber Rock scribe, my day started out by catching a couple of bands who are setting about making their names in the tough, filthy, wondrous world of rock.

 

Across the road from one of London's most famous venues, the Roundhouse, a spit and sawdust establishment by the name of The Enterprise provides me with my first pleasant discovery of the day in the shape of Mercutio, originating from Italy but now apparently located in London. The turn-out is sadly meagre, but the band stick to their plan and deliver a classy set of hard edged commercial rock with tinges of Swedish bluesy doomsters Graveyard, best of British to them.

 

A small walk leads me to a side street in the shadow of Camden's iconic lock, and a traditional London boozer, The Hawley Arms, and in a room upstairs that looks more suited to a quiet pint and a steak pie are crammed forty or so hungry punters. It's not a pub lunch these people are hankering for though; oh no, these are the people that make the effort, the people that read beyond the headlines, the people that know a good rock 'n' roll band when they hear one, and hear one they do in the shape of The Franklys. With a new EP recently released, and a seemingly never ending bout of touring under their belts, the all-female four piece are in great form. An appreciative early crowd greets their Runaways cum Rocket from the Crypt up-in-your-grill-assault with an enthusiastic heartiness, and it's still barely lunch time.

 

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Hot footing it back up Chalk Farm Road to The Enterprise I notice the clientele of The Enterprise have swelled out onto the road, music fans are now out-numbered by football fans on route to Wembley catch their beloved Arsenal FC retain the FA Cup. Upstairs in the venue it's also mightily swollen since I vacated an hour earlier and fifty or so enthusiastic and appreciative true rock fans are treated to a great set from Uber Rock stalwarts Dead Shed Jokers. There's that great thing about the band in this form, it's that classic Led Zeppelin-live-esque quality where everything is so intricately woven that at times it seems like it could all collapse, but so natural and coherent is the team work it never does. There's a skill and a beauty to that feeling in a live rock band, and a tremendous response from those in attendance was all the proof anyone needed that these boys got a little something special about them.

 

With Camden High Street now impossible to navigate in a hurry, making me late for my next appointment, and taking one look at the queue snaking up the road from the Jazz Café it was obvious I wasn't getting near The Graveltones this afternoon. No matter though, this is Camden Rocks after all, there's 200 bands playing so you can always find something worth seeing, and a quick dart to The Electric Ballroom meant I was able to catch the end of an all Ramones set by Richie Ramone. With RR it is what it is, and the hundreds of people packed in seem to have no problem with it, and in honestly it's tough not to find enjoyment in any Ramones song whoever might be singing it, and, hey, if Primark can make money out of the Ramones franchise why shouldn't a guy who was actually part of it for a time?

 

Next up at the Ballroom is a band you'd also have to be a grump not to enjoy, the raucously energetic and unapologetic Black Spiders. The fiercely DIY outfit nailed down a set of crowd pleasers from 'Stick It To The Man' to 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me', each one received enthusiastically by the loyal following: it's loud, it's full-on, there's lots of “fuck you Black Spiders,” the mosh pit is in full effect; blimey, all this rock 'n' roll before 5PM!

 

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Next to unleash an Electric Ballroom blitz on us is Texan freak-alt-prog-core outfit …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, a band I've long since been aware of but in honesty never gotten around to exploring. Now at age 44, and 30 years of gigs under my belt it's not often I'm left awe-struck and open mouthed, but at Camden Rocks I was. The sheer whirlwind of intensity and power, not to mention incredible musicianship of Trail Of Dead was a spectacle to behold, and left me with a lot of catching up to do on the band, simply incredible!

 

Eleventh hour drop outs can be a nightmare for promoters, but when Feed the Rhino removed themselves from the bill late in the week making finding a replacement impossible, it was up to troopers The Graveltones to step in for a second set of the day, this time at the much tinier Barfly. And this time I made sure I arrived in time and, boy, was I glad! With new album, 'Love Lies Dying', fresh out of the box the very next day, the band concentrated a feverishly intense set on the impending release. Energy and power define the performance of this warmest of bands, and a jam packed room of adoring fans make sure every bead of sweat that falls from Jimmy's head is appreciated tenfold. It's a heroic second performance of the day by one of the most skilful and hardest working bands in the country, even a broken string can't stop them, as I said troopers.

 

Now, best laid plans and all that, I was looking forward to Turbowolf all week, and luckily they were to hit the stage directly after The Graveltones but as the band set quickly about sorting their gear out, the distinct lack of breathable air in the room and impossibility of reaching the rear of the room for a cold drink meant I headed down the loading stairs for a much needed gasp of mother nature's finest, unfortunately it also meant I forfeited my treasured place in Barfly! Still, as I said earlier there's always someone else to catch, and a pleasurable saunter through Camden to The Black Heart meant I was able to end the day in the company of Black Moth. The Leeds five piece have been busy building a reputation the last few years with two albums and an array of impressive tour supports, and taking a headline spot in front of an impressive Camden crowd they seemed at ease with the status. Imagine a doomy stoner outfit fronted by a flame haired elfin-like vixen rather than the usual bearded troll, and with a voice more than able to compete with the monster riffs and you get the picture. Another emerging band I was very pleased to have caught and one I was very happy to end the day with. Much needed refreshment flowed into the wee small hours for me at the Black Heart, and Camden Rocks faded into a blur of more amazing memories, easily the best rock 'n' roll day out of the year; put it in your diary for next year people! (Jamie Richards)

 

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My first foray into this year's Camden Rocks sees me at one end of the High Street for the must see Role Models. Joining Rich Rags is Nick Hughes, Simon Maxwell and Daniel Husayn in the dark backroom of Belushi's for some early evening rock and roll and a first airing for new guitarist Nick to put his stamp on the new songs that are soon to be released on album.

 

Promising to get on with business and not chatter so much Rich leads us into 'Little Let Down' quickly followed by the excellent 'Lost In The City'. Time is of the essence and the band sound like they're enjoying proceedings and from the smiles around the room so are the punters. With Rich Jones and Sami Yaffa in attendance there's no pressure, then, when it comes to playing 'Saturday Night Sailor' which is one of the many stand-out tracks on the forthcoming album and the band nail it, seemingly taking the pressure and using it to great effect.  Several other new tracks are performed and the audience reaction is superb and by the time they have to wind up their all-too-brief thirty minute set there is only time for the most excellent 'Reality Holiday', quickly followed by 'Cherry Dear' and the audience is sent packing to the next venue with that warm glow you get from knowing you've just seen a band rip through some most excellent songs and turned in a near perfect half hour set. More to come methinks from these Role Models and their awesome set of power pop tunes.

 

Me, I hobble off to Camden Proud to get my spot for Michael Monroe's band later in the evening and head past the Underworld where I can hear 'Avenue A' rip London a new one quickly followed by 'Who Will Save Rock And Roll'. I'm only gutted I couldn't stay and see the whole set by The Dictators but time and bands on at the same time meant something had to give.

 

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Camden Proud is normally an art gallery set inside an old stable and with oxygen at a premium and space at an even higher premium it was here that I should stay for the rest of the night and, in fairness, Gun were halfway through their set which looked like it was going down a treat with the crowd inside but it was Ritchie Ramone up next and I took my place to catch the set which would be the end of the European stint from the one-time keeper of the drum stool in one of the best bands ever to walk the earth,

 

Getting proceedings underway with 'Durango 95' it came as no surprise that the next hour was always going to be the pick of the tunes performed and in some cases written by Richie during his stint in the Ramones: this brudda also came out of retirement to release a pretty decent solo album as well and ably assisted by Claire and Alex from AntiProduct this was also turning into a pretty decent offering as Richie flitted from drum stool and vocalist to just frontman. It was a great moment to hear 'Somebody Put Something In My Drink' followed by 'I Just Wanna Have Something To Do' and if anyone is entitled to sing these songs I guess it might as well be the guy who wrote them. The band are ripping it up on that stage and turning in a great performance and doing a pretty good job of paying respect to one of the world's best bands. Besides, it's just what a sweaty club needed when it has no air con - 'Blitzkrieg Bop', 'Wart Hog', 'Animal Boy', 'Commando' and 'Cretin Hop' but it was great fun and the band gave it everything they had and songs like 'Entitled' off the solo album stood up well alongside such classics. "1-2-3-4" is always a great rally cry. God bless any of the Ramones, what's not to love?

 

To wind up my Camden Rocks there really was only the one place to be and that was Proud to catch the last minute addition of Michael Monroe and his awesome band. With an hour to perform it was wedged inside the room as the band hammered out a set of familiar number and a couple of surprise additions to the set. Always a great song to open any set with is '78' quickly followed by 'Horn And Halos' and it was obvious that this band is absolutely on fire!  

 

I exhausted superlatives to lavish on this band a long time ago but anyone who questions their integrity or honesty needs to have a good look at themselves. This is blistering stuff as we even get a rendition of 'Man With No Eyes' from 'Not Faking It', but it was perfectly complimented with the likes of 'Ballad Of The Lower East Side' and 'Soul Survivor' from 'Horn And Halos' and it wouldn't be right if there wasn't at least a couple of old Hanoi numbers thrown in for good measure, and the usual suspects from 'Back To Mystery City' were played out along with the amazing saxophone accompaniment.  

 

The whole place was jumping as we were careering to a finale of a set I certainly didn't want to end. The band were just about hitting their stride and having just completed the new album it's a shame we didn't get to sample at least one of the new tracks, but that's okay - I'd settle for this any day of the week.

 

Yaffa and Jones looked to be having a great time on stage right, Michael covered every inch of what stage was available, Steve Conte cooked up a storm of guitar licks to Monroe's left whilst Karl Rockfist kept stoking the fire in the engine room... not that this place needed any heating up.  

 

Before you knew it 'Dead, Jail Or Rock And Roll' was reaching a climax and it was all over. I will await the new album and tour dates and am grateful to have once again been in the presence of such a great band and salute Michael Monroe for keeping it real year after year and never losing faith in what he believes in and never turning in a half baked performance under whatever circumstance. Keep on rocking like fuck and I'll keep on letting people know about it.  

 

Thanks Camden, that was an experience - maybe next time I can perform miracles and be in two places at the same time and get to see more great bands keeping it real and keeping the spirit of rock and roll alive and live. (Dom Daley)

 

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Photos courtesy of Camden Rocks and the always awesome Trudi Knight at https://www.facebook.com/bandsonstage