Renowned as London’s borough of live rock and metal music, there’s no better place in the Capital to host a festival than in Camden. The annual Camden Rocks Festival was upon us at the end of last month, completely taking over the venues across Camden High Street and beyond – here’s how we spent our glorious Saturday afternoon!
It may only be midday, but that doesn’t stop dirt being back on form as they take to the Purple Turtle stage all the way across the other side of Camden. Despite the early hour (come on, it’s a Saturday…), this five-piece are making waves as much to this somewhat sleepy crowd as they would for one of their insanely packed out shows that we’ve seen in recent months. Thankfully, by the end of the set, it’s simply not possible for anyone not to have their full attention turned to the stage, and when vocalist Alistair Keenan literally climbs the riggings, dirt have sealed yet another stellar performance.
Heading back up to the centre of Camden we take a trip into the Underworld, one of the darkest and dingiest venues that the borough has to offer. Inside is rock trio Beasts, who fill the venue with their slick guitars, groovy basslines and vibrant percussion, not to mention their powerful, rock-driven vocals to deliver a refreshing, grunge-laden sound. Playing to a full room, with no doubt some curious onlookers who are witnessing their set for the first time, Beasts successfully impress with their singles Annie and My Girl Is A Serpent, as well as the likes of Everybody Knows. If this trio aren’t already on your radar then we’re more than certain they will be in no time.
Broken Witt Rebels played to a packed out Jazz Cafe and entertained the crowd with their unique twist on blues and good old fashion rock and roll. Lead vocalist Danny Core fills every nook and cranny of the room with his powerful voice comparable to the likes of Caleb Followill of Kings Of Leon fame. We’re aware this is a bold statement, but check these guys out and you’ll see what we mean.
God Damn on the surface seem to be another of those two-membered guitar and drum combo bands that seem to be all the rage nowadays. However there’s a massive difference with these guys. The guitarwork is nasty and dirty and the drums are deafening. Their grungy alt rock sound definitely sets them apart from the typical trendy two-pieces, as Thom Edward snarls and screams his way through a beautifully heavy set. Their riffs are reminiscent of CKY and have a certain charm to them that get you headbanging along with them.
Brawlers on the other hand have a completely different take on music. It’s loud, it’s angry and it’s fuelled with punk rock sensibilities and a hint of jarring indie guitars. The whole band cause a right ruckus, throwing themselves around the stage. Harry George Johns feeds off an excited crowd through tracks Drink and Dial and I Am a Worthless Piece of Shit and even joins the few that dare to mosh at such an early hour of 3pm. Regardless of this, the lads from Leeds crack open a few beers (over the crowd of course) and continue to cause havoc by jumping into the crowd once more and even scaling the metal racking in the room for title track of the new album Romantic Errors of Our Youth, before questioning the crowds belief in the power of rock and roll. Brawlers are out to make a statement and will be hard to ignore with their beautifully brash style and frankly we can’t get enough. Look out for them in a city near you.
Also lugging their kit down the road for their second set of the day is Funeral For a Friend. Previously playing the tiny Black Heart pub, the Barfly upstairs is not much bigger and treat the crowd to another blinder of a set. The Welsh warriors have still got it after all these years and instantly get the crowd opening up a circle pit nearly as wide as the room. Nostalgia smacks us right in the feels with a triple whammy of hits from their album Hours with Streetcar, History and Roses For The Dead back to back. The crowd instantly bellow the lyrics back and honestly, we mentioned nostalgia but it’s not the only element fuelling the positive atmosphere in the room. Funeral For a Friend genuinely are a fantastic live band and continue to hammer through the hits just as perfectly as they did back in the day. It just leaves us thinking, what have they got up their sleeves for their final set of the day?
Upstairs in the dingy Black Heart pub, Funeral For A Friend have played a packed out room and intimate set. However Freeze The Atlantic do a stellar job of keeping hold of some of the crowd with some rifftasty tracks from second self titled album, including the single Stompbox. It’s nice and loud as it should be with the hardcore fans bouncing along down the front, even more so when they burst into old favourites Loses All The Romance and Volcanoes. Freeze The Atlantic have an impressive collective CV between them hailing from the likes of Reuben and Hundred Reasons and it’s evident from their song writing skills and impressive live performance. They’re certainly a band deserving of more recognition.
By the time Black Spiders take to the Electric Ballroom stage, the party is in full swing. Crowd? Check. Beer-fuelled fun? Check. Band full of good old rock-n-rollers? Double check! There’s just one thing missing… originality. Okay, sure, we can’t blame them for acting in a way that’s now synonymous with their genre, but we can stand up and say it doesn’t have to be this way. Musically, and atmospherically – yep, it’s on form. However, we can’t help but feel like it’s getting a little… tired. Regardless, despite the overtly testosterone fuelled ‘banter’, we still manage to have fun, and it looks as though the majority of the crowd do, too.
Astroid Boys may not be strictly ‘rock’, ‘metal’ or even crossover like a lot of the acts on today’s bill, but that doesn’t stop them from bringing their cards to the table. With an evening set (the likes of which we haven’t seen personally for a little while due to a spot of trouble with the law…), the boys manage to crowd out the room and get everyone moving. With the edgy-grime sound of the lads on form tonight, they may even have won over a few unexpected faces in the crowd.
The One Hundred could make a storm in a teacup, and whilst The Stillery is hardly a piece of fine crockery, it’s been well and truly shaken to its core by this grime-metal outfit. With an infectious sound that makes everyone want to get up and jump, this is truly a band who doesn’t want to sit still themselves. Frontman Jacob Field runs around the place like a madman, even getting up on top of the bar, while delivering an impressive performance across the board. This band are truly making a name for themselves, and today, at Camden Rocks, they do not disappoint.
Is there anything that While She Sleeps can’t do? The past few years has seen them absolutely dominate festival bills up and down the country and indeed across the world, and when tasked with commanding a crowd who could easily have gone to any other of several stages, they rise to the challenge head on. This Yorkshire lot have certainly got the attitude to bring the metal to the Electric Ballroom, but they’ve also got the repertoire, stage presence, and most importantly, the talent to make them well and truly the full package.
Written by: Liam Ruane, Claire Louise Sheridan and Hannah Gillicker
Photos by: Elliot McRae