Camden Rocks Festival 2019 review

Camden Rocks 2019 (pic Cris Watkins Photography / PunkInFocus)

‘CAMDEN ROCKS’ FESTIVAL, LONDON 01-02.06.19

Camden Rocks Day 1: 1st June 2018

I must confess that the ‘Camden Rocks’ Festival is one of the highlights of my gig-going calendar. Mostly I use it to see newer bands or bands I haven’t heard of. Berries were a particularly good find in 2017 for example. The headliners are usually pretty good too. This years event boasts a very impressive lineup of 400 acts performing across 20 venues right across Camden. Today, I’m spending most of my time at The Underworld, located at 174 Camden High Street. It’s highly unusual for me to stick to mainly one venue, but the bill here today is very good.

Camden Rocks Day 1 pics (top left to bottom right) – Mutant Monster (CW pic), V2A (CW pic), The Filthy Spectacula (MK pic), Angelic Upstarts (MK pic), The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (CW pic), Berries (MK pic)

The action commences with Mutant Monster (1:00pm), who are a Japanese punk band. Initially they seem to me to be something of a junior Shonen Knife, taking the stage holding up a tea towel with their logo on it just like ‘the Knife’ do. Their tuneful pop punk is fairly complex at times, with occasional elements of ska. They’re an ace live band, and if they come back next year I would expect to see them far higher up the bill.

Next up are the truly amazing The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (2:15pm), who take the stage announcing that they play “Victorian punk rock”. Well, there’s really no arguing with that. In fact, to emphasise their Victorian credentials they cover ‘Victoria’ by The Kinks. The song ‘Zombie Albert’ may (or may not) be about Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. However, the absolute highlight of the set is the rabble-rousing ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel’, which not only gets the crowd yelling “Brunel!!!” in unison, but also presents a historically accurate resume of the great man’s achievements. This band can give you tinnitus and educate you at the same time, and if that isn’t something they should be proud of then I don’t know what is.

We stay put in the Underworld for The Professionals (5:15pm), the band formed in 1979 by drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones following the demise of the Sex Pistols. Steve Jones is no longer with the band, although he did guest on their most recent album, 2017’s ‘What In The World’. Tom Spencer replaced Jones on vocals in 2015, and I am reliably informed that he is a much better singer. Having heard him with the Pistols, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. Paul Cook, on the other hand, is on top of his game. I’ve seen him with the Pistols and with Edwyn Collins, and he has been superb, as he is here. The set mostly seems to be from 1981’s ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’ and the aforementioned ‘What In The World’. The band’s heritage isn’t forgotten though as they play the Sex Pistols’ 1979 single ‘Silly Thing’, which was recorded by what became the first Professionals line-up. All in all, this is a rather vital performance, which a band half their age would be proud of.

The final band we see in the Underworld is the Angelic Upstarts (6:45pm), who most certainly do not disappoint. Whilst Mensi has undoubtedly put on a few pounds in the last four decades, the Upstarts’ set features not an ounce of fat. Classics such as ‘I’m An Upstart’, ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘The Murder Of Liddle Towers’ are delivered with 1979 levels of venom, whereas newer songs such as ‘Give The Fox A Gun’ are suitably combative.

We eschew tonight’s headliners and make for The Lyttelton Arms located at 1 Camden High Street to see Berries (9:00pm). I’ve seen this band a few times now and they never fail to impress. They’re a tight three-piece with a high level of musicianship and tunes to match. Their quite funky take on heavy rock reminds me of Jimmy Page’s description of Led Zeppelin: “tight but loose”. They have an album recorded and are looking for a label. So if there are any label bosses, or indeed entrepreneurs out there……..

The final band for us tonight at The Lyttelton Arms is The Filthy Spectacula (10:00pm) whose brand of gypsy rock ‘n’ roll provide a rockingly entertaining finale for day one……

Other bands performing at Camden Rocks on Saturday 1st June that were photographed by us were as follows:

Saturday 1st June:

Spit (Dublin Castle)

MK Ultra (The Underworld)

Bexatron (Camden Assembly)

Pretty Pistol (Lyttelton Arms)

The Five Hundred (Devonshire Arms)

The Bottom Line (Gabeto)

Riskee and the Ridicule (The Monarch)

The Spitfires (Electric Ballroom)

Millie Manders and the Shutup (Lyttelton Arms)

The Hip Priests (Dublin Castle)

V2A (FEST)

Queen Zee (Gabeto)

Towers of London (The Monarch)

You can view 128 stunning photos taken on the day by clicking HERE.

 

Camden Rocks Day 2 – 2nd June 2019

Camden Rocks Day 2 pics (top left to bottom right) – The Howlers (MK pic), Janus Stark (CW pic), Bugeye (MK pic), The Virginmarys (MK pic), Glamour Of The Kill (MK pic), L Sicario (MK pic)

Day 2 of Camden Rocks starts with Glamour Of The Kill (1:00pm) at the Electric Ballroom (184 Camden High Street), who quickly become one of the most annoying bands I have ever seen. Why so, you ask? I shall tell thee.

I have seen the band described as metalcore and post-hardcore. After today’s performance I think that they may have invented the ‘kiddie metal’ genre. Everything is fine until taped music is heard between songs. Initially I assumed that for some reason music had mistakenly been left playing quietly over the PA. However, shortly after the beginning of the next song one of the guitarists bellows: “No! No! Something is going very badly wrong!!!” causing the song to grind to a halt. The music I had heard was in fact a barely audible backing tape that had strings on it. The backing tape was so quiet as to be completely unnecessary.

However, the band announced that they were having ‘technical issues’ and spent several minutes trying to get the backing tape to work. Eventually they succeeded, and a couple of songs later it became apparent why the backing tape was so important. The singer (who also plays bass) abandoned his bass for one song, and his part was played on the backing tape instead. This, in my opinion, is completely inexcusable. For a band to be taken seriously, they need to play their instruments. If a band fails to play their core instruments then their performance becomes nothing more than glorified karaoke. The frustrating thing is, that when Glamour Of The Kill played their instruments, they were actually quite good. However, to say that having a bass or guitar part on a backing tape dents a band’s credibility is something of an understatement. A bunch of young teenagers seem to be enjoying the show. The adults look less convinced.

At the end of the show the singer says that today they only rate 6/10, but next time they’ll “be a strong seven”. That seems a tad ambitious to me. This is not a new band. They were formed in 2007. I’m loathe to give anyone advice, but I would say: restrict the backing tapes to instruments that you don’t play onstage if you want to be taken seriously lads.

After this poor start to the day it’s off to The Good Mixer (30 Inverness Street) to see a band who can really play their instruments. L Sicario (2:00pm) have a fairly rubbish name and all look like they may work in banks, but Jeez they’re good! They dispense riff driven blues rock with such aplomb that it looks really easy. It clearly isn’t. They have great tunes too. A band to watch methinks.

Next it’s off to The Dublin Castle (94 Parkway) to see Bugeye (3:00pm), who trade in angular, spikey but dancey post-punk. They describe themselves as ‘disco punk’, but at times they remind me of The Slits.

Bugeye are followed by Janus Stark (4:00pm), the band formed by Gizz Butt, the live guitarist for The Prodigy. They released one album entitled ‘Great Adventure Cigar’ in 1998, then split up in 2002. They re-formed in 2018 and judging by today’s performance absolutely mean business. Their assured powerful punk rock also includes Gizz indulging in a spot of tapping. Eat your heart out Eddie Van Halen! One of their songs, ‘Every Little Thing Counts’, the title track of an EP released in 1998, is about mental health issues, and is sadly very relevant following the death of Keith Flint. Janus Stark are an excellent live band with a small but impressive back catalogue. Let’s hope they get themselves into a recording studio soon. Britain in the 21st Century needs them.

After Janus Stark we amble down to Dingwalls located at Middle Yard, to catch The Virginmarys (5:00pm). This band were heavily touted in the music press not so long ago as being ‘the next big thing’. Apparently that didn’t happen and the band’s disappointment is palpable. Their modern, tuneful heavy rock (which occasionally veers towards AOR) is certainly marketable, so it’s a mystery as to why it hasn’t sold by the truckload. Possibly it’s a bit too marketable and not sufficiently ‘real’. Whatever, the singer makes a very impassioned speech about the future of rock music, and invites any bands in the audience to “hopefully do better than us”, which to my ears sounds somewhat overly defeatist. Hopefully it’s just a passing moment.

Next it’s off to Amy Winehouse’s old local The Hawley Arms (2 Castlehaven Road) to see The Howlers (6:00pm). This was more of an excuse to visit this particular pub, and just to see the band out of curiosity, but what an unintentionally inspired choice. The Howlers are a young band with a singer / guitarist who bears more than a passing resemblance to Steve Marriott, both in terms of looks and attitude. The band is reminiscent of both The Small Faces and The Who in their prime. To say that this is an enthusiastic and exciting performance doesn’t tell half the story. This band is what used to be known as a power trio. They leave plenty of space for each other and their onstage communication is almost telepathic. They have good songs too. I’m convinced that they would take to bigger stages like ducks to water. Hopefully they’ll get the opportunity to prove me right.

We pop in to the Electric Ballroom (184 Camden High Street) to see Ash (7:00pm), who are dispensing an assured greatest hits set (I mean – what’s not to like???) before heading back to The Underworld (174 Camden High Street) to see Ruts DC (7:00pm). They finish off their set with ‘In A Rut’ and ‘Babylon’s Burning’ before returning for an encore of ‘Something That I Said’. Like the other punk era bands that I’ve seen this weekend, age has not withered them one jot. I’m sure that a lot of blokes in their forties or fifties present this weekend have been given new hope about entering their sixties in some semblance of style.

Talking of blokes in their fifties, the almost 53 year old Miles Hunt leads The Wonder Stuff (8:45pm) onstage. However, tonight he has a surprise for us. As well as Erica Nockalls and the Stuffies’ rhythm section de jour, the band are joined by returning founder member Malcolm Treece on guitar. Milo looks absolutely delighted to be reunited with his old mate. Treece looks less sure, but that’s probably nerves, as (if my maths are correct) this is his first Wonder Stuff gig for at least seven years.

Milo tells us that the dreaded phrase “here’s a new song” will not be heard tonight, and every song that is played will have been recorded in the 20th Century. This is what’s known in the trade as a ‘shameless greatest hits set’, and really, what’s wrong with that? What follows is a set so full of highlights that it’s impossible to mention them all. I would however mention ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ which is damn near incandescent. All in all this is a great gig, and not just because for most of the audience it is something of a wallow in nostalgia. The band are loving it too and are absolutely on fire. Perhaps this is a new beginning for them.

So endeth Camden Rocks 2019, at least for me anyway. This has been another triumphant festival showcasing an impressive line-up of artists past, present and future. The promoters’ choice of artists has largely been excellent. Here’s to Camden Rocks 2020!!!

Other bands performing at Camden Rocks on Sunday 2nd June that were photographed by us were as follows:

Sunday 2nd June:

Polly Pik Pocketz (The Monarch)

Rews (Dr Martens Boot Room)

Arcane Militia (Devonshire Arms)

Youth Illusion (The Lounge – Nightclub Kolis)

Repair To Ruin (Devonshire Arms)

Orchards (FEST)

Shvpes (Camden Assembly)

Boy From The Crowd (The Monarch)

Joanovarc (Gabeto)

Panic Island (The Good Mixer)

Ryuketsu Blizzard (FEST)

Saint Agnes (Camden Assembly)

Greywind (The Lounge)

Colt 48 (The Black Heart)

Wood Burning Savages (Dublin Castle)

Dragster (Devonshire Arms)

Carl Barât (Dingwalls)

Hands Off Gretel (Camden Assembly)

Skinny Lister (Dingwalls)

You can view 127 stunning photos taken on the day by clicking HERE.

Event flyer

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