02 June 2019 (gig)
12 June 2019
Camden Rocks is the perfect alternative for those who don’t relish the idea of a muddy, rain drenched weekend living on a campsite and an absolute must for any lover of British guitar music. For the first time, this year’s event lasted two days and featured 400 bands packed into 20 venues all within a tiny radius of each other.
I entered the Electric Ballroom having heard very little of Rat Boy's material and more about the raucous nature of the gigs themselves along with his endearing ‘couldn’t care less, mischievous, teenager’ look which I loved. A slightly disappointing crowd did not distract the loyal fans congregated at the front nor Rat Boy himself who, like a seasoned entertainer, used his charm to ensure that the front half of the hall filled out . Once under his spell, he had them bouncing and bobbing to his eclectic fusion of musical genres, mainly indie and rap but plenty more too. There are certainly some great tunes and it's easy to hear his self-confessed influences of The Streets, The Clash and the Beastie Boys as the tracks alternate from one style to the other.
We quickly pop into the Camden Head which was used as a last minute venue replacement for the previously advertised Music and Beans. There we find Dirty Orange, looking the part and delivering gritty rock 'n' roll in what looked liked your grandparent’s front room.
From there we carried ourselves a couple of hundred metres up the road to The Good Mixer to catch a band who'd been on the periphery of my radar for a few months, Drool. The four youngsters took to the stage with a tactical diamond formation and an air of great self-assurance. Their sound is a mix of melodic, sometimes dark, grunge fuelled garage-pop conveyed with the very distinct and emotive vocals of front man Joey Rogers. There were plenty of highlights in the short set and the boys left the stage to rousing appreciation. Having already released two well received singles ('Fun' and 'Junkyard') since getting together last year and having now personally savoured the full Drool experience, I hope we'll hear a lot more from them in 2019!
A hop, skip and a jump and we found ourselves at Dingwalls for local legend and Camden Rocks' ever present, Carl Barat. An admirer of The Libertines, I'd never kept myself up to date with his solo work and was pretty much on the fence as to what to expect. The punters however had voted with their feet and were out in force for this one. Taking the stage with his usual charisma and cool, Carl immediately let loose but it was when the leather jacket came off that things started getting serious. It felt like the set list had been carefully crafted to get the crowd warmed up early and lead into fever pitch and as the gig drew to a sweaty finale, the mosh pit went wild and beers were sent flying for 'Bang Bang You’re Dead'. Carl embodies the spirit of Camden Rocks and the music it represents. Fantastic performance.
Next up was Red Rum Club who've been causing quite a stir on the live scene with their high-tempo, original brand of epic anthems. The uplifting tunes borne from pulsating drumbeats and exhilarating trumpet leads is something you'd expect to originate from Guadalajara rather than Liverpool. Their look is in keeping with the music, donned all in black to complete the overall imagery. From the get go we are treated to tracks from the recently released 'Matador' album. The Hawley Arms is packed to the rafters which, while disappointing for those at the back, adds to the stimulating atmosphere already created by the band.
We were just in time to catch a glimpse of Outer Stella Overdrive who hold the stage with a swagger. It's indie funk experimental with moments of rap and punk. Note to self to check them out again sometime and that provides a fittingly chaotic finale to Camden's annual celebration of guitar music. I sincerely hope it continues as a two day event!