Camden Rocks 2018: A celebration of new and established talent at London’s most authentic music festival
Annual North London music festival Camden Rocks celebrates the best in British talent, showcasing some of the biggest names in punk and alternative rock scenes, alongside lesser-known acts.
Los Angeles rap rock band Crazy Town take the Electric Ballroom stage, playing to a rather full crowd. The music produced by Battle Cry leans toward a metal sound, away from their nu metal and hip hop roots. A stark contrast to the most famous single Butterfly, the crashing drums drown out lead singer Bret Mazur, making his vocals difficult to decipher. Come Inside, from band members Mazur and Seth Binzer’s early collaborative project The Brimstone Sluggers, takes a melodious turn, but the audience remains largely unmoving. People begin to bring out their phones when the riffs to Change plays, anticipating Butterfly, with the bassist bending over backwards and Mazur stepping on the stage speakers, real rock star vibes. The LA group displayed vigour, but their rap rock tracks are definitely stronger than the thrash rock.
London band Eliza and the Bear have the typical indie equation of vocals, guitar, bass and drums, but would probably prove handy in gig and festival line-ups as a good support act. If their set is any indication of the festival, it’s that earplugs are a must. The teen rock is pretty run-of-the-mill, the band performing well, but not standing out. An experimental riff of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust is cool, but the four-piece have to evolve musically if they will stand a strong chance in the music business.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Harry Pane plays the acoustic venue at Brewdog. Although the bar is cramped and spectators stand on stairs, the artist’s vocals more than make up for it, stunning and heartfelt, carried all around the small venue. Ghosts is a stand out track, the musician’s acoustic guitar and the accompanying double bass producing shivers; it’s clear we are watching a flourishing talent. Fletcher Bay – a display of the vocalist’s delicate song-writing skills – is a sombre yet uplifting track, dedicated to his late father and their trip to the spot in New Zealand. Pane’s set is one of the festival’s highlights, and he is surely an artist to watch.
Scots Twin Atlantic give a performance that is truly electric and entertaining. Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator takes the Koko by storm, from 2016’s GLA. Valhalla’s verse is unmistakably similar to that of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box, and it’s easy to see their inspiration from the 90s grunge rockers as well as English rockers Royal Blood. It’s heartwarming to see fans singing along with Make A Beast of Myself, a nod to American emo pop. Singer Sam McTrusty’s vocals are rough, but Craig Kneale’s drumming overpowers almost every song. Ex El is a nice choice, with its varying rhythms and verse progressions, while the sparseness found in Crash Land – with only McTrusty’s vocals and electronic cello – is special, the Glaswegians able to perform both hard rock and acoustic-style tracks well. Male fans continually attempt to crowd surf and unable to reach the stage, they are carried off by security like adult babies. McTrusty also ventures into the audience, keeping the hit Heart and Soul for the finale. With this genre of rock it’s hard to stand out, but Twin Atlantic have possibly garnered more fans through their new releases, as well as this set. Rough and roaring, they don’t disappoint the crowd.
Gordie alternative rockers Maxïmo Park make their much-anticipated entrance with Graffiti from their debut A Certain Trigger – arguably one of the most fun songs of the mid 2000s – with Paul Smith eclectically dressed as ever in a purple suit and leopard print shirt, complete with signature fedora hat. Throughout the set, they dip in and out of this LP, performing I Want You to Stay, The Coast is Always Changing and the encore Apply Some Pressure. Performing a selection of tracks from all their albums, Maxïmo Park have come a long way from playing one of their first gigs in Camden’s Barfly, Smith declaring his appreciation to XFM DJ John Kennedy by saying, “if this didn’t get played, no one would’ve paid any attention to us,” before diving into a rendition of the nostalgia-induced Going Missing. It is a shame the group hardly ever give live renditions of Acrobat, a poignant spoken word track from A Certain Trigger, but nevertheless, the Newcastle rockers certainly know, how to put on a memorable show.
It’s nice to attend a festival where shows are held indoors, but Camden Rocks is sadly one of the poorer UK events. As summed up by an attendee describing the lineup as “really weird,” the day fails to capture the true depth of rock genres, sticking with what can only be described as thrash rock and metal. The acoustics were good on the Brewdog stage, the rest of the performance spaces achingly loud. Perhaps next year will have a better offering, though Maxïmo Park did hold up the festival to some extent.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit Camden Rocks Festival 2018’s website here.