Camden's annual chance to be even drunker and indier than normal. Various venues, London (April 18-20)
Last year’s Camden Crawl occurred in the middle of a heatwave which saw limp bodies sweltering around venues across two boiling days. This year? Nah. It’s windy, freezing and the threat of rain looms over NW1. It’s fitting, then, that the maudlin Ipso Facto kick off proceedings at the Underworld with occult rock almost as foreboding as the sky. With the band elegantly supping glasses of red wine, it’s the live debut of math-blues ‘Circle Of Fifths’ – during which keyboardist Cherish Kaya snake-charms with a melodica – which is the dark highlight.
A much jauntier affair is Florence & The Machine at The Crescent, comprising south London’s Florence Welch and her backing duo of two tall, handsome, denim-clad chaps she refers to as her “lumberjacks”. Mixing stand-up comedy, an outrageously soulful alto wail, and acts of sauciness – she snogs a girl in the crowd during the rampant ‘Kiss With A Fist’ – she’s a star. And possibly a lunatic.
On to The Earl Of Camden, where under her trilby and Farrah Fawcett feather cut, Ladyhawke is literally the coolest New Zealander this side of Operator Please’s Amandah Wilkinson (who’s playing the NW1 bar across the road). Ladyhawke’s smash ‘Back Of The Van’, with its spangly power chords and reverb-y vocals, could be the best song of the whole festival. Next it’s straight up rock’n’roll from The Fratellis at KOKO, who command a squash-pit with impressive ease. The Glaswegians find that newies ‘Mistress Mabel’ and ‘Acid Jazz Singer’ receive the same frenzied crowd reaction as ‘Chelsea Dagger’.
Robyn follows the stinky boys with pitch-perfect intelligent pop as edgy as her trademark asymmetric fringe. Vogue-ing away to the likes of ‘Handle Me’ and ‘With Every Heartbeat’, she slips in Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ under KOKO’s massive mirrorball and the crowd go nuts. It’d be a fitting end to the night but for rumours of a Future Of The Left gig at a house party on Camden Road. The sight of a worried flat owner trying to curtail the numbers of people entering his place confirms the event. NME manages to squeeze in for utter carnage as the band duly arrive at 3am to play a 20-minute set of fury amid the furnishings. It’s against health and safety but is a fittingly chaotic, Crawlian end to the day.
“Alex Turner secret gig,” goes the text on Saturday. “Sometime tonight, not sure where.” This is the Camden Hunt: several hundred scoop-chasers desperately clamouring for a glimpse of the year’s hottest ‘happening’. So, giving the workies a whiff of ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ to get Alex’s scent, we follow them scampering down to KOKO, which is rammed full of Crawlers at 6pm. They obviously know something we don’t…Namely, that Los Campesinos! are a lot less annoyingly perky live than on their album. All pink tights, xylophones, melodicas and boy/girl shouty bits, they’re the ADHD kids throwing a tantrum in the school instrument cupboard. Singer Tom squirms awkwardly through ‘Knee Deep At ATP’ like a child forced to recite a nursery rhyme in front of the whole class and a bloke down the front is wearing a balloon giraffe on his head. All we need now is the bar to serve pints of jelly and ice-cream.
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No sign of Turner though, so we hot-foot it to the Dublin Castle where the vague ‘TBC’ have a slot at 8pm and the queue is round the block. ‘TBC’, however, turns out to be the fabulous Pull Tiger Tail doing an ecstatic ‘It’s About Destruction’. Who’s on next? Rosie Oddie & The Odd Squad? Made-up name! Turner alert!
RO&TOS are, with crushing disappointment, a real band, so we race to catch Future Of The Left again at a rammed Bar Monsta, praying for a Last Hardcore Muppets collaboration. Unlike last night’s crush, we retain some of our senses and instead thrill to pummelling Viking-punk brilliance like ‘Plague Of Onces’ (the song Gallows are practising to write) and ‘Manchasm’ (a Miami Vice theme for zombies). Alex Turner probably peers out from the wings and then thinks better of his solo acoustic set.
A hundred yards up Parkway, Does It Offend You, Yeah? are crash-landing the burning Daft Punk spaceship into the NW1 bar, sparking a full-on riot on the swamp-slippy dancefloor from song one. Morgan scales the bar for ‘Let’s Make Out’ and Ministry-meets-!!! electROARnica threatens to rip the place from its foundations.
As we stagger, body bruised and brain battered, to the aftershow at Dingwalls to watch Paul Kaye’s comedy creation Mike Strutter and his band doing Ramones covers, word comes through that Alex Turner was never in Camden at all, opting instead for a quiet night in drinking tea and writing more generation-defining songs.The big loser.
Leonie Cooper/Mark Beaumont