Billy Bragg, Little Boots, Fight Like Apes + more! - Camden Crawl London
I arrived in Camden mid afternoon for the second day of my Camden Crawl weekend. I had hoped to sample some of the afternoon events but it turned into a pointless exercise as everywhere was completely full, with no hope of getting in.
I eventually gave up on being entertained that early in the day, eventually joining the shortish line of people waiting for the Roundhouse to open as I was going to give Little Boots live set another try. I had caught Victoria playing her Electro Pop based output the previous month at Austin's SXSW but hadn't been blown away by her performance.
I was really hoping her Roundhouse appearance would be better but I still came away feeling unimpressed with her set. I seemed to be in the minority though, as although the venue was nowhere near as busy as it was the day before for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs appearance it was still pretty full of fans taking Miss Boots to their hearts, with a few of them even dancing away by the time closing number "Stuck on repeat" came around.
For me the Little Boots phenomena still seems like a case of the Emperors new clothes and media hype with not much to show from it. Perhaps forthcoming single "New in town" will change my mind but I doubt it will!
When I left the house earlier in the day I had no idea how I wanted to spend the rest of my Saturday evening after watching Little Boots set. If truth be told if I hadn't been reviewing the weekend's event, trying to experiment with who I watched I would have just taken in performances from VV Brown and Marina And The Diamonds, the two acts I had really enjoyed the night before.
I eventually decided on trying to see Billy Bragg playing at the very tiny Dublin Castle as it would be more of an "Event" so left the Roundhouse and jumped on a tube to the other side of Camden. Dublin Punkers Fight Like Apes were playing before the bard of Woking and I arrived before the doors opened, with a huge line stretching out in front of me, all trying to get into the intimate venue.
Although I had a media pass it hadn't been a golden ticket to immediate venue access but I was going to ask anyway. As I was making my way to the doorman at the front of the venue a group of drinkers were getting thrown out of the place as they were clearing the bar before they reopened.
I ended up getting stuck in their group and couldn't really move as people began pushing behind me. However as luck would have it my section was let in again within the first couple of minutes of doors opening so I legged it to secure a decent spot in the second row!
I hadn't seen Fight Like Apes live before. I knew their name and had checked out their My Space page on a couple of occasions but hadn't got round to watching a set. I almost made it a couple of times at SXSW but our schedules clashed on each occasion. I wasn't really pulled in by the band's music, with no songs leaving a lasting impression but they did put on a pretty fun performance, with singer Maykay head banging away while thrashing the keys on her keyboard and Pockets gurning and flashing his big belly at the front of the stage on a few occasions!
Most rowdy young bands seem to have to make the obligatory venture from stage to middle of the dance floor these days and FLA were no exception, indulging in a bit of audience tomfoolery, getting piggybacks and singing snatches of songs lying on the ground!
However all good things must come to an end and this was telegraphed when bass player Adrian received a text message during the performance to say they had one song left!! I probably wouldn't rush to see the band on their own again but I would happily spend half an hour in their company at a festival.
The Dublin Castle event was being recorded for BBC 6 Music so DJ Steve Lamacq took to the stage to introduce Billy Bragg.
Billy started his set talking about having first seen The Jam playing at a "secret" gig in a similar sized venue, noticing an older man helping them set up the stage, thinking "That's probably one of their Dads!" .
I could see where this story was going as Paul Weller's father had passed away earlier in the week so some of the audience's laughter felt a bit odd as he continued to talk about touring with the Style Council in the mid 80's, being treated like a family member by John Weller. Billy eventually mentioned John's death, creating a moment of hush from the chatty Castle crowd, dedicating the set to Mr Weller.
Although I can't say I'm a big Billy Bragg fan I am fairly up on his material, especially his earlier output as I had a few friends in the 80's who were huge fans of the man himself. I had last seen Billy live at one of the Little Noise Sessions in 2007, playing a handful of acoustic songs so was looking forward to hear a more electrified solo BB on the DC stage.
Billy had appeared at the front of the stage around ten minutes earlier, proceeding to write out his setlist for the evening. I managed a quick glance of it and was happy to see a lot of material that I did have a passion for. I was really glad I decided to head along for Billy's performance as I was treated to a stunning show, featuring top renditions of the likes of "To have and have not" , "Greetings to the new brunette", "Milkman of human kindness" and a heart stoppin' jaw droppin' "Levi Stubbs tears" that blew me away!
There were a few newer tracks in the mix and lots of between song banter but it was the older material that made my night. Of course no "Greatest Hits" set would be complete without "New England" so Billy completed his performance with an almighty rendition, more led by the crowd than Billy, serenading the poor people outside who couldn't squeeze into the rammed venue.
The crowd were on a roll by now so Billy continued with one final song, a run through of "Sexuality", leaving the stage to roars of appreciation!
I left the venue and headed back in the direction of the tube station. As I got nearer to the entrance I almost felt like going home as Billy's show was a sensational gig but decided to try and find something else to do instead.
After much head scratching I decided just to go back to the Cuban Bar, where I spent a large part of the previous night, especially as I thought it would be fairly easy to get in.
The Wonky Pop people were running a showcase so I thought there might be something that took my fancy. I arrived just as the set from The Cordelier Club was drawing to a close. The London band sounded promising but I didn't really have much time to take in what Alice and Richard were up to so I'll keep an eye out for future performances.
I couldn't be arsed going elsewhere after their set as I had only just arrived so I grabbed a beer and waited to see what Toddla T was up to. I thought he might have been a young rapper but he turned out to be an older MC type, with his set being the last type of thing I wanted to hear, even though the bar's crowd were hugely into what was on offer, so I legged it out the venue heading for the tube home!
Although I may not have seen as many acts that entertained me as the previous evening I still had a great time as Billy Bragg's performance was a show I wont forget in a hurry. If I had watched VV and Marina I wouldn't have ended up at the Dublin Castle so I certainly made the right choice. I'm pretty certain I'll return to the Crawl again anyway as all things considered I had a very good weekend!