Camden Rocks 2015 - Camden, London
If truth be told, I didn't have high expectations for 2015's Camden Rocks. I'm a regular attendee of Austin's venue-hopping SXSW and spent three wonderful days at Brighton's Great Escape earlier this month, but the thought of 10 hours in Camden brought to mind the hideous queueing and cramped venues at the numerous Camden Crawl's I attended over the years! With this in mind, I decided to limit my choice of venues to the bare minimum, spending my afternoon at Proud with a 1pm set from The Amorettes.
The Scottish female three piece had pulled a large crowd for their early afternoon performance, so the place was sweltering. The audience didn't seem to mind as they roared their approval through the girls' full-on set, with many knowing the songs that presumably came from the band's album Game On. I was really impressed with the tracks on offer, with many bringing to mind the likes of Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett.
London four piece The Turning were up next, producing a storming 60s-tinged rock 'n roll set, with frontman Luke Mclaughlin paying homage to his Derry roots, with a blistering cover of The Undertones classic 'Get Over You'. Love Zombies meanwhile had lead singer Hollis J leading the group through an infectious New Wave/pop filled showcase.
Ginger Wildheart had managed to pull a large crowd for his 4pm slot, with the singer joined by a fellow guitarist for an acoustic run through of a few choice cuts from his life in music. With the aid of a backing track and slides featuring album covers, Ginger took the audience on a musical journey from his early days in The Wildhearts to his recent crowdfunded work, in a sort of "Ginger on 45" style! With several medley sections accompanied by engaging tales of life on the road between tracks, this proved to be an engaging set.
I seem to remember owning a couple of Wildhearts albums in the 90s but they're a band I've never given much thought to in the years that have followed. Ginger's Proud set showed how many hook filled gems he's written in his career, so I'm going to investigate his back catalogue with a fine tooth comb in the next few days!
I hung around after Ginger for my final Proud act, staying for a chunk of ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock's solo acoustic stint. It was worth staying as I managed to catch renditions of a couple of Rich Kids songs, including a tremendous 'Ghosts Of Princes In Towers' and a rip roaring run through of The Pistols' 'God Save The Queen', backed by a crowd clapped rockabilly beat!
I had decided a couple of hours earlier to take a trip to The Underworld, to check out The Dictators NYC, and I'm glad I did, as they were a fun band to shoot. I can't say I'm well versed in the group's output. I've known about them since their appearances on early punk compilations back from when I was a kid. I was certainly a fan by the time I left the venue as vocalist Handsome Dick Manitoba led his merry men through a highly charged performance that had the crowd lapping it up.
The Dictators NYC
I was tempted to leg it to Dingwalls to view a bit of the Anti Nowhere League's set but decided to play it safe, arriving at the Jazz Cafe to a couple of hours early, to hopefully get a decent spot for my final act of the day, New Model Army.
The place was pretty empty when I arrived so managed to get a front row spot during Little Comets set. It was the only time my day dipped, as I wasn't a fan but they went down a storm with the audience, so if you like your music travelling a similar path to Vampire Weekend they're worth checking out.
NMA's venue of choice for shows in the capital is usually The Forum, so it was a bit of a surprise to find them headlining the intimate Jazz Cafe, especially as it's a venue without a barrier, leading to fans being far closer to their long followed musical friends than would generally be the case.
The band have been around for almost 35 years in one form or another, so it's nice to see them pretty much at the top of their game currently. 2009's Today Is A Good Day was their best album in a couple of decades, while 2013's Between Dog And Wolf and 2014's live / studio recording Between Wine And Blood both showcased fresh ideas and seemed a real turning point in the group's career.
It takes a brave band to disregard their past at an event that draws in the curious as well as the faithful but NMA left the majority of their 'hits' in the back of the van, focusing instead on their recent releases. Tracks like opener 'Stormclouds', 'March In September' and 'Angry Planet' sounded tremendous, while 'Devil's Bargain' showcased their drum heavy sound, with bassist Ceri Monger thumping on an additional drum to build on drummer Michael Dean's already heavy beats.
The band seemed to be loving the intimate experience as much as the audience, as I imagine they don't get to play shows like this much anymore. Singer Justin Sullivan seemed to spend much of his time grinning from ear to ear when he wasn't singing, possibly due to the crowd's reaction, with a major mosh pit (only years of gig going helped me retain my front row spot!) The show was utterly chaotic and a fantastic end to what turned out to be a pretty decent day!
New Model Army