It’s 9pm on Saturday night and I’m in dingy Dingwalls, all geared up for one of the most-hyped draws of the Camden Crawl: Best Coast. After months of reading they’re going to save the solar system with their 60s garage rock I’m expecting something special.
Except it’s awfully quiet for one of the weekend’s most talked-about gigs. And why are there four Japanese men with Kimonos and flowing hair trailing at their feet walking on stage? I’d always assumed Best Coast involved an American teenage girl. Am I about to have my preconceptions shattered? Is this my Susan Boyle moment?
Er, no. After a minute of pure obliterating noise rains down from the stage it becomes clear that I’ve gone to the wrong venue and I’m actually watching Bo Ningen, a London hardcore band who make Fugazi sound like Kate Nash.
They’re actually quite good, if you like the sound of having your lobes pierced with a M4 Assault Rifle, but after a few “songs” I leave, as NME’s insurance no longer covers ear drum rupture after an unfortunate accident involving Steve Lamacq and a pair of tweezers in 1992 (yes, that’s why he looks like that).
I see the real Best Coast in the Jazz Cafe sometime in the early hours. As I expected, they’re a pair of Californian teenage girls. By this point they’re rather excitable, running round the dressing room waving a piece of paper. What’s that? “It’s Male Bonding‘s phone numbers. They’re sooooo hawt. We just went to see them. They’re sooo cool. They’re sooo punk rock.”
The two Male Bonding songs I saw would support those claims. There is something effortlessly bad-ass about their slouchy flith-punk and they were one of the few bands of the weekend to really rile a crowd.
I would have stayed for the whole set had it not been for a call from an answer phone message from Summercamp frontwoman Elizabeth Sankey. On discovering I was planning to see Male Bonding instead of her band, she left a persuasive plea on my voicemail sung to the tune of ‘Copacabana’ by Barry Manilow (the opening line: “His name was Sammy, He was a Teenwolf”).
It was pretty compelling stuff so I legged it back to the Jazz Cafe. Glad I did because they had one of the best shows of the weekend. Their lo-fi teen-movie pop takes on a slightly goofy quality live and they play like the band Al from Happy Days gets in when Weezer aren’t available.
Sunday began with Gaggle proving that more is more with a terrifying display of 23-part scream-choir punk and Eliza Doolittle launching herself as a “new” artist for the third time in as many years. I’m sure if it doesn’t work out this time she can don a cloak and some fancy headwear, call herself “clunge” and Gaggle will welcome her with open arms.
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Some seriously slim pickings in the 9 and 10 slots at the Crawl, especially with Villagers cancelling. I end up getting KFC with some straggling Gaggles who are staying to watch Gang Of Four and talking to Stricken City about what an awful place Camden actually is.
The night ends up with Yuck in the Camden Rock. Everyone’s pretty drunk by this point and so probably wouldn’t notice whether they’re paying homage to early Pixies and Sonic Youth or just playing their songs. Either way, it’s very accomplished and there are some moments, particularly when guitarist Max Bloom takes the vocal lead, of real beauty.
I suppose I should finish by saying something about queues and rain and how punters are treated like shit by the organisers. But you might as well read Jaimie Hodgson’s review of last year and know that nothing’s changed.