Day 1 at the Camden Crawl: spoken word, hidden gems and The Futureheads blast the Koko
The Upcoming had an exciting first day at the Camden Crawl, which kicked off on Saturday 5th May from 11am. First port of call was The Enterprise, to join the wordsmiths of Aisle 16 for a coffee at the literary playtime that is ‘Homework’. Spoken word of the most imaginative kind – essays, slam poetry and micro-theatre from this brilliant independent collective.
Straight down the street, on Kentish Town Road, we discover our first hidden gem of the weekend at The Abbey Tavern where Tom Odell and his band were playing an incredible piano-heavy, infectiously energetic set to an enraptured audience. Tom Odell commands the stage, sweat running down his neck, as he thumps his piano at centre stage. The band as a whole is beautifully cohesive, each member displaying perfect mastery over subtly complex songs. A nice touch as bassist Max Goff plays a double bass and harmonises with skilfully high and artistically applied vocals. Having just signed with Columbia Records and currently recording their debut album, Tom Odell is one to watch in 2012.
In Camden Gardens, the incredible DJs of the Red Bull Bedroom Jam played nostalgic soul and hip-hop, and the delightfully weird Japanese art-rockers Bo Ningen play a warm-up gig ahead of their packed performance later that evening at The Monarch bar.
Also stationed in Camden Gardens is the official charity of the festival; Action on Hearing is all over this year’s Camden Crawl with deliberately provocative campaigns to encourage responsibility around loud music. Their message is simple: we all love music but frequent exposure can irreparably damage hearing. According to lead representative Gorki Duhra the response was cynical in the beginning, but people are now becoming more aware of the campaign. The charity is very switched on, getting into the heart of the issue with campaign beer-mats and well-designed shock-factor posters.
Next it was onto Underworld for one of our most anticipated gigs of the day: Brontide. Strangely under-rated, the focus of Brontide is on La Roux’s drummer William Bowerman and it’s easy to see why. Bowerman plays like a caged animal finally let loose. This band, with its unfathomably complex and unpredictable heavy rock, make Battles look like incompetent children playing with guitars. Psychic ability is the only way to explain how a band can play music this intricate live.
After dark at the Camden Crawl is when the big boys come out to play. The first of the big names was the marvellously strange Alabama 3 who pulled an almost-to-capacity crowd at Electric Ballroom. The incredible combination of soul, blues and post-punk hearkened back to the 90s in the best way possible: effortlessly sexy backing singers, sunglasses and tongue-in-cheek synth all the way. Though it should be noted that five-minute diatribes against the BNP do serve to break the mood of an otherwise incredible set – political commentary loses its edge when you’re preaching to the choir.
More caterwauling hyper-activity from Veronica Falls at Barfly. In a musical climate over-run with tiresome ‘quirky’ female singer-songwriters, Veronica Falls is a breath of fresh air with happily substantial tunes of the summery-guitars variety. Veronica Falls sound like the band love-child of Feist and Devendra Banhart. The set slid between beautiful and upbeat melancholia and the spooky other-worldly sounds of tracks like Found Love In A Graveyard.
The only way to finish up the Crawl is at Camden’s staple venue, Koko. Having released second album, Future This at the start of the year, The Big Pink pulled out all the stops to deliver a tireless set of big, BIG pop tunes combined with tastily crisp hip-hop influences on single track Give it Up. The packed-tight crowd saved plenty of dancing-energy for Saturday’s headline act and The Futureheads blasted onto the stage in what felt like a come-back performance. The Futureheads seemed to go into hiding between 2008 to now, but whilst they were hiding away new album Rant was in the making and, after its release on 2nd April, received a rare 8/10 from the cynical pens of the NME. Apparently fuelled by continued success, The Futureheads delivered a characteristically dynamic and energised performance, with the farcical touch that comes from the band’s confident ability to buddy up to an entire crowd.
Find out what else is happening on the Camden Crawl here.
Watch Veronica Falls perform The Fountain here: