Camden Rocks Festival as a whole is much like a live set from a band that is hotly tipped to have the craziest show. It’s chaos; running around, things happening every which way you turn, with the constant feeling you’re missing something because there is just SO much happening. It’s also absolutely excellent, with so much happening in over twenty venues up and down a mile stretch of the main street in Camden, there’s just no second of downtime among the plethora of music going off simultaneously and constantly for the entire day.
A sprint through the whole stretch of the festival all the way down to the Barfly, ensures a raucous start to the day with Counting Days. At first it’s a slow start that sees them twenty minutes late onto the stage- ‘fuck Uber, it’s their fault!’ frontman Thom Debaere chides when they finally get the ball rolling. The room is full, however there’s a sizeable gap down the front, almost as if the crowd don’t quite know what to expect just yet. This is soon rectified, and as the first song drops into its breakdown, people begin to migrate towards the front. There’s elements of all kinds of influences in here, Architects, While She Sleeps and some early Bring Me The Horizon (which is hardly surprising considering the guitarist is Curtis Ward, originally of BMTH fame). Prison Of Misery is the highlight, with a spine-chilling scream to kick things off before- ‘I wanna see the first moshpit of the day!!’ and all hell breaks loose (despite the fact the capacity of said mosh pit still may be a little sparse). (Emma Louise)A little later in the afternoon and it’s time for Chapter and Verse at The Monarch- which is the coolest of venues with an abundance of charm and character to it. Though they may be a fairly new band, they are absolutely slaying it today at Camden Rocks- frontman Josh Carter seems to have endless energy, only fuelled by that of his band, who are unrelenting throughout the entire set. Carter spends much of his time on the floor in front of the stage, getting in people’s faces and delivering vocals that can be described as nothing less than impassioned and honest. Shelf Life is just the right amount of pissed off, while still maintaining quite a poetic, emotional feel, while Slave only builds on the anger and makes for an explosive set closer. Keep an eye out because this band are just getting started, and are undoubtedly going places. (Emma Louise)If anyone was looking for something a little more heavy going, Stoneghost would be just the band to remedy this. Bloc Bar plays host to their set, and frontman Jason Smith wastes no time in getting down with his band’s own groove-laden riffs, partying in the middle of the dancefloor with the crowd. ‘You’re too quiet man, make some noise!’ he yells, as he clinks his water bottle with the beer-filled glasses of the crowd. The vocals seem like they are a little on the quiet side, but he’s giving such a good performance that it doesn’t matter quite as much as it should. Faceless Ghost is very Pantera, with some undeniably cathartic shreds in the beginning- paired with the powerful drums and they’re owning the small-ish room they’ve been put in, that was halfway empty when they first came on. The feeling this band give live is that they’re like a rolling train with absolutely goliath riffs, that picks up the pace and takes a crazy route hurtling down a mountain, before reigning things in again. ‘We’re gonna slow it down now and I wanna see all your asses swinging!’ Smith commands, as Devils Motion drops its opening bars, sounding like a brilliantly sleazy, heavy metal track. (Emma Louise)The moment Yashin take to the stage at the Underworld, amongst flying blow up beach-type balls, vocalist Kevin Miles throws beer all over his entire crowd. Perhaps this is not the warmest of welcomes, but Yashin make it clear they are here to party- which is probably the best attitude to have as it’s hard to gauge the vibe in the room tonight, the only thing that’s certain is a hint of hostility. Sound issues plague the first song, Dorothy Gale; co-vocalist Harry Radford can’t be heard for a good portion of this track. Yashin plough on regardless though and it makes for great showmanship. Renegades puts them right back on track, and the vocal switching between Radford and Miles gives their band a dynamic that makes them unique and able to keep their show at high intensity, track after track. ‘Underworld how the fuck we doing, there’s even fucking pirates and shit here tonight!’ Radford takes a trip into the crowd, presumably to check out the pirates for himself, before being back on stage in the blink of an eye. There is such a strong element of jazzed-up party mode in Yashin’s music, no matter what your opinion of them it’s hard to not have a good time during one of their shows. Their demand for a crowd call and response participation during Play Me supports this, and leaves absolutely no room for sceptics. (Emma Louise)New Years Day, taking to the stage in Dingwalls, are in short, just an unfalteringly good band. They have their sound on point right away, and take no time getting into the show. Kill Or Be Killed is bold opener, and the bridge of ‘sick, sick, all of us are sick’ ensures they waste no time in enlisting the crowd in some participation. I’m No Good has the same effect, with frontwoman Ash Costello giving nobody the choice to stand still; ‘from the front to the back, side to side, I want everyone’s feet off the ground for this one!’ The disco ball suspended from the ceiling in this venue works so well for their set, only adding to their vibe; this band are super dark yet vibrant and definitely something different at this festival. ‘We’re all a little sick in the head, we’re all a little fucked up aren’t we Camden? That’s why we like you guys!’ introduces Epidemic, which is probably as catching as its title suggests. Before Malevolence kicks in, Costello asks her audience to put their arms around each other, and to show people who are new to a NYD show, how they do it. There’s an immense sense of togetherness in the room as the front few rows oblige and are united in going crazy to Malevolence’s jagged, oscillating riffs. (Emma Louise)Back to Monarch now for HECK, who are playing their second set of the day. Monarch is essentially a local pub and has most likely never ever seen a band like HECK play here before. Even in a set list of only six songs, the band make such an impact. “Let’s show this venue what a circle pit is!” bellows vocalist and guitarist Jonny Hall. Crowds are building outside the venue to see what all the fuss is about, which prompts Hall to take himself and his guitar out onto the street. Tracks like The Great Hardcore Swindle and Powerboat Disaster are an absolute treat. The set is carnage but never in a bad way; the band members are able to crowd surf freely whilst still riffing Camden’s faces off. HECK are a definite highlight of the day; incredible chaos but memorable for all the right reasons. (Erin Moore)Back to Dingwalls again now, but for a far different kind of band this time. Queen Kwong are quite unlike any other band; fronted by the multi-talented Carré Callaway and backed up by her band, containing her boyfriend on guitar, who is none other than Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland- they have a primal, sometimes ethereal, but definitely improvisational kind of sound, which is a little crazy and hazy, but mostly just a lot to get your head around. There is an immense amount of energy on stage, especially from Callaway, although their crowd is more than reserved- perhaps this is the kind of music to appreciate and get lost in, while taking in the madness, rather than to go all out crazy to. Some songs see Callaway playing the guitar, while others see her standings on the effects pedals, twiddling knobs and dials as she plays around with the sound of the rest of her band. At times her voice is nowhere near in tune with the guitars, but it’s about embracing the performance as a whole, and it just works so well. Get A Witness is accompanied by some jilting dance moves from Calloway, almost as if she’s possessed, followed by an extremely lengthy guitar interlude in which she messes with the effects until the sound is getting deeper and deeper, resulting in vibrations through the very floor on which everyone is standing. (Emma Louise)
Wakefield’s finest, The Cribs are no stranger to headlining festivals like Camden Rocks and opener Our Bovine Public immediately shows how up for this festival they are. The band of brothers are popular in the underground indie scene, with them never getting the radio play or the credit they truly deserve. Different Angle from new album For All My Sisters is a hit and the energy in The Electric Ballroom is high; a lot of people are excited for this band today. There are chants of ‘Wakefield’ and ‘Yorkshire’ in between songs, which seem to delight the brothers as they’re ever proud of their roots. Mirror Kissers does seem a touch slower than usual, but the energy never drops too much from both band and audience. Back To The Bolthole and We Were Aborted fit well into the hit-heavy setlist but it’s 2005 single Hey Scenesters that gets the biggest reaction of the night. The Cribs love an indie rock anthem and City Of Bugs is just that; with a great accompanying light show the track is definitely a highlight of the set. Everyone can see that this band are great headliners and are musically big enough for the larger venues in the country. The band finish with big hitters I’m A Realist, Men’s Needs and Pink Snow. Men’s Needs is obviously huge but it’s Pink Snow from their latest album that is the greatest performance of the night. There is great depth to the song and again, a incredible light show to match. The riff heavy bridge towards the end which builds and then drops dramatically is matched by powerful fast lighting, then quickly switching to a soft pink glow. The set ends in typical Cribs style by trashing the stage, un-tuning the guitars and throwing the mic stands around. This band are huge and even though their career has been going longer than a decade, they’re not showing signs of slowing down any time soon. (Erin Moore)There is something different about Young Guns tonight. Following the departure of their drummer, Ben Jolliffe, they played their first shows without him last week, which were met by reviews that were possibly not the warmest they’ve ever had. Regardless, here they are today headlining Dingwalls at Camden Rocks- but with a show that doesn’t feel quite like them. Usually a slick, flawless band, this set seems rawer, with more edge that is far less than perfect but far more real and in the moment.
Having shaken up their setlist somewhat, they begin with one of their oldest songs, Daughter Of The Sea from their EP Mirrors, which is a heavy start. This is followed by Speaking In Tongues- a track that has seen better performances than the one today where the crowd are utterly confused as to where half of the second chorus went. However, they bring it back, and brand new song Bulletproof is nothing less than stunning, with an abundance of people singing along, despite the fact the track has been out less than a week. Rising Up tears through Dingwalls, feeling a lot coarser and heavier than usual- never a bad thing.
Meanwhile, Daylight is never anything less than a huge track, which is reflected by the crowd’s reaction as vocalist Gustav Wood stands over them, one foot on the stage and one on the barrier. Older songs such as Brother In Arms and Winter Kiss from even further back are met with fervour, as Wood injects far more energy into their live show than he has in a long time. ‘We’re in a weird place right now, we’re at the point where we’re ready to release our fourth album!’ he tells the crowd, promising that there will be more Young Guns shows on the horizon later in the year. Slowing things down a little with Gravity, it’s a special moment as Camden Rocks festival is gradually coming to a close- it’s probably at this point that the band sound at their best. It’s almost as if the day would never come when Young Guns stopped closing their set with the rock heavyweight Bones, however here we are feeling it in our bones, before I Want Out brings their show- and the last one on this stage tonight, to a euphoric end. (Emma Louise)