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Camden Rocks 2015: The Big Review

Live Review

Venue: Camden

Bullet For My Valentine pull out the big guns at raucous London all-dayer

It’s 2pm, the sun is shining, and Camden is inundated with a variety of football fans, tourists, miscreants, and rock ‘n’ roll partisans from all walks of life. It could actually be just another Saturday in the beating heart of London’s rock scene. Except it’s not. It’s Camden Rocks 2015, and the scene is set for another almighty annual celebration of rock.

There’s no time to enjoy the nice weather or the plethora of local attractions on offer, however, as Wolverhampton’s God Damn are about to play the dingy confines of Camden’s Electric Ballroom, which seems like the perfect setting for the uncompromising music this Black Country pair supply. Fresh from supporting Foo Fighters at their Old Trafford Stadium show in Manchester earlier this week, they appear dressed like a hillbilly Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee straight out of a modern day remake of Deliverance, after which they proceed to treat (if you can call such an onslaught of noise a ‘treat’) punters to a short but provocative set of monolithic tracks from their astonishing debut album Vultures. They open with an earth-shattering version of Shoeprints and close with the album’s title track, which showcases the band’s fervent ear for melody despite all the distortion and menace in their music. You couldn’t ask for a better, or indeed more ear-bursting start to the day. (MS)

The Barfly is amply full for the heroic return of Attention Thieves. They’ve had a turbulent time lately, with vocalist Alex Green battling prescription drug addiction due to a slipped disc, leading to a heart attack at 27. With arm in sling, Green and his bandmates pull out a storming set, their post-hardcore tinged rock receiving louder cheers as their set progresses.Tracks from their debut album Year of the Jackal soar loud and proud from the PA as the band begin to rewrite their own history; there's a bright future ahead for this lot. (CG)

An overly bassy sound cannot hide the fact that Baby Chaos leader Chris Gordon is one of the finest songwriters of his or any other generation. Neither can the 3pm slot prevent this reunited mob from delivering what feels like an arresting and impassioned headliner set. It's one killer song after another, from mid-90s gems like Sperm and She's In Pain, right up to newcomers like Blackbirds and riotously cool scorcher P P P Peaches. (JA)

Around the corner from Camden Town station, things are hotting up in The Black Heart. People are cramming in to see former Rise to Remain chaps As Lions’ fifth-ever show. Pulling double duty as they take a quick detour from their opening slots with Wovenwar, the band impress with their main-stage ready, festival-strength metalcore. Austin Dickinson is a born frontman (wonder where he got that from?) and his vocals on The Suffering and The Fall sail across the thick chunks of metallic riffery pumped out by the band. (CG)

Another band pulling double duty at Camden Rocks are Creeper. The Stillery fills to capacity and it’s one in, one out on the door as people clamber over furniture – and each other – to see the Southampton goth punks. Their brief set comprises almost entirely of their debut EP, which is sang back to them by the highly vocal audience. VCR is a standout and Novena is a spine-tingling closer, with vocalist Will Gould’s poetic lyrics coming to life through his charismatic stage presence. (CG)

Back in The Stillery, Rival State manage to pull off a raucous set filled with high-octane rock ’n’ roll stompers. Mixing the old sensibilities of classic rock with fresh, low-end riffs, the New Zealanders whip the crowd into a frenzy. Wiry frontman Luke Van Hoof keeps the onlookers wholly entertained as twin brothers Joe and Stefan Einarsson thrash out some momentous riffage on guitar and bass respectively. Tracks like Aces and Modern Living whet the audience’s appetite and the finishing blow of Sweet Talker sees Van Hoof parading through the audience and climbs the central pillar with ease. (CG)

Next up in the town’s old Stable Market, it’s “rock dad” Ginger Wildheart. Not our words Ginger, but the words of Johnny Hall from Baby Godzilla, who’s just one of the countless number of people crammed into Proud hoping to catch a streamlined version of Wildheart’s critically acclaimed Songs & Words tour. Just like in the full version of the show, he runs through acoustic renditions of Wildhearts classics (Turning American, Miles Away Girl, I Wanna Go Where the People Go and Sick Of Drugs) and songs from his numerous side-projects, interspersing them with tales of debauchery from his eventful and prolific career. He thanks everyone in attendance for coming to see him instead of all the other acts on at the same time, and jokingly applauds their “impeccable taste”. With his back catalogue and the respect and admiration he garners from fans and fellow musicians alike (Frank Turner can also be seen in the crowd eagerly singing along), we’re inclined to interpret this jest more as a statement of fact. As ever though, his faux-arrogance is underscored with sincerity and humility as he proclaims, “You won’t find a more grateful motherfucker than me”, and Wildheart proves yet again why he’s one of the most loved figures in rock. (MS)

By the time Derbyshire punk rockers Max Raptor hit The Barfly stage, the venue is at capacity and the queue bleeds out into the street. Those lucky enough to be inside jostle for position as the quartet blast out some politically-conscious belters, new song Concrete fitting in perfectly with underground classics like Obey the Whips and England Breathes. New song Population sees a wall of death break out and The King is Dead inspires a frenzied circle pit that the venue can barely contain. Max Raptor deserve much more prominence in the scene, and hopefully they'll be rattling the brains of bigger crowds when their new album emerges. (CG)

You’d be hard pressed to find a better good time rock ‘n’ roll band on today’s bill than Black Spiders, and the 10-legged party machine take to the stage just as day is turning into night and the time is right to crank things up a notch. By now the Electric Ballroom is heaving, and their outlaw anthems get the room singing, drinking, fist pumping, and generally having a damn good time. Frontman Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby encourages everyone to stick up their middle fingers and say, “Fuck you Black Spiders”, before launching into the anti-authority of Stick It To The Man, and after the frankly genius lyrics of “Eat thunder / shit lighting” in What Good’s a Rock Without a Roll there’s not a person in the place without a smile on their face. St. Peter, Balls and set-closer Kiss Tried to Kill Me round off a thoroughly entertaining collection of tunes that leave the crowd well and truly rocked to the core. (MS)

Next stop is the Jazz Cafe on Parkway, which traditionally houses hip-hop, blues, reggae, soul, and of course jazz music. But we’re here to see Dinosaur Pile-Up and they deal in loud and belligerent rock ‘n’ roll. We arrive as the band performs Mona Lisa and My Rock ‘n’ Roll off their debut album Growing Pains, before going into some brand new material, which frontman Matt Bingland makes no bones about hyping in the intro. They proceed to tear their way through Anxiety Trip and Eleven Eleven – both of which are unfamiliar to the majority of people in the crowd – before putting down their instruments and exiting the stage as the feedback from the amps still lingers in the air. The bar staff appear bewildered and bemused by what they’ve just witnessed, but seemingly grateful for a respite from all the distortion, whilst the crowd look delighted by the stripped back, turned up, no thrills barrage of punk rock unassumingly laid out before them. Top stuff. (MS)

“We'll be playing adult contemporary music for your enjoyment,” explains …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead maestro Conrad Keely as they take to the Electric Ballroom stage. A huge coup for the festival organisers, the Texans proceed to bewitch and bedazzle those in attendance with their complex alt-rock offerings, playing a fiery set that takes in highlights across their illustrious back catalogue. The crowd is relatively static compared to the often frenetic music washing over them, but with a band like ...Trail of Dead, it’s hard to do anything except get lost in the music and simply appreciate every second. (CG)

Over at the Proud Gallery, GUN ensure that Camden Rocks gets an earful of solid, rowdy rock. Tracks from their latest album Frantic like Labour of Life blend well with old standards Money (Everybody Loves Her) and their cover of Cameo’s Word Up!. Guitarist Jools Gizzi belts out solos while his brother Dante’s sultry vocals satisfy a receptive audience. Much like Anvil, they could once have been the biggest band in their genre, yet circumstances led them down a different path. Despite this, they step up to the plate and deliver a worthy set. (CG)

From here we fight our way through the bustling streets to the other side of town to check out Eureka Machines at The Cuban bar. Like his old mate Ginger Wildheart, frontman Chris Catalyst is a man of the people. We just about manage to spot him in his trademark trilby through the packed out room of adoring fans who’ve travelled far and wide to see one rock’s great unsung heroes play another solid set of upbeat, catchy, power-pop classics. He dedicates the title track of his latest album Brain Waves to everyone in the room for supporting live music, but fails to mention the fact that it got to number three in the UK Rock Charts, which is an incredible feat for a band as DIY as his. But he doesn’t need to gloat because the sea of supporters who’ve shown up to see him perform is validation enough, and the way he charmingly refers to everyone as “kids” – despite the fact that half the heads in the crowd are bald – proves that rock ‘n’ roll is the music of eternal youth, and Catalyst succeeds in making everyone here feel forever young. He works outside the system and it’s clearly working for him, so long may his independent reign continue. (MS)


Camden Rocks 2015: Hawk Eyes, Eureka Machines, Ginger Wildheart, God Damn, Skindred
Photos: Alison Clarke

By the time Hawk Eyes hit The Stillery stage at 8pm, the venue has pretty much ran out of booze and there are no stage lights to speak of. Faced with a thirsty crowd, the band play their already chaotic, balls to the wall songs at breakneck speed. Sometimes a wild audience gives a band the fuel they need to ignite a set – and the Leeds quartet deliver a suitably volatile set. (CG)

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