The Crawl is back in NW1, so get your queuing legs on and your liver ready for the 2007 pre-festival season festival
“Come away, won’t you come away,” croons Pete Doherty in the crammed indie blackhole of Camden, shortly before trashing the venue and lobbing the entire drumkit and himself into the crowd. “We can go to the Barfly, Dublin Castle, Underworld…” he shouts, racing outside to barge aside his police escort so he can try to run over the paparazzi. And so fittingly begins the traditional wild, cider-blootered rock-ride through the scumpits and palaces of NW1 that is Camden Crawl 2007 – the sticky street-fest that has the whole of north London on its knees. It’s one road, two nights, 15 venues, 130 bands, 3,000 punters and queues back to Kentish Town: the Capital’s messiest street party is go.
With thousands of Crawlers turning Camden into an insect pit of frenzied indie scurrying, and with many of the best bands playing ludicrously small rooms, this really is a case of You Snooze, You End Up Watching I Am Kloot. Hence, the first 120 punters who camped out overnight are granted entry to this, the most concise, electric and exciting gig of the Crawl, if not Babyshambles’ entire career (Studio 88). It’s a ram-raid hit-filled set: ‘Fuck Forever’, ‘Killamangiro’ and a sumptuous ‘Albion’ warming us up for a mutinous ‘The Blinding’. The Spirit Of The Crawl is here, and he wears a wide-brimmed hat.
Already drenched in beer, NME is fighting through a legion of queues to catch chipper teen-dream hopefuls Cajun Dance Party (Electric Ballroom). They don’t disappoint. Serving up their swooning indie-pop, they bring outside’s radiant sunshine indoors, with tracks such as ‘The Next Untouchable’ packaging the sound of kissing your first love in the park before spilling cider in their lap.
Over at NW1, Danes The Kissaway Trail charge straight into the sound of The Polyphonic Spree burning churches full of Sigus Rós fans, while the ghost of Berlin-era Bowie goose-steps gleefully through the flames. And when they do crack a pop tune, as on the charming ‘Smother + Evil = Hurt’, it sounds like Gallows eating Keane’s eyeballs.
The blokes muttering “New Order” at the bar must somehow be aurally squinting at the electro kaleidoscope of The Whip (Dingwalls). They’ve missed the Numan, Klaxons, Rapture, Kraftwerk, and Joy Division bits that make them the best thing to happen to dance music since James Murphy’s delusions of time travel.
Contrastingly, Loney, Dear (Earl Of Camden) – essentially Emil Svanängen and his band of smug-looking backing musicians – are acousticy Swedish copyists. Think The Wannadies and The Cardigans, or any other cutesy flatpack indie bands you can assemble at home with a finicky Allen key.
Three teenagers with quiffs swamped with a shitload of gel and prom dresses nicked from the wardrobe department of Grease playing ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ with their dad on double bass. That’ll be Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, who are the sound of a midwest diner in 1956, and thigh-slappingly good.
History remembers the pioneers, never the plagiarists. Foals (NW1) be warned, since there’s nothing in your homogenised electro-punk funk swill that hasn’t been done much better by Liars or !!!. While a band-crushing stage invasion succeeds in burying your lack of tunes beneath an Event Gig buzz, try it in Middlesbrough and they’ll chew your kneecaps off. The NW1 bar is a victim: Foals really are ‘just a band’.
The first night’s closing gig sees the longest queue of the whole event for Amy Winehouse (Dublin Castle), who shuffles onstage half an hour late. “I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting,” she growls sincerely – tits’n’tats on proud display – before jumping into her cover of the The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’, kick-starting a glorious soul-splattered homecoming, which leaves no doubt as to whom the queen of this Castle is. Day one safely navigated, NME retires to sober up for the next one.
Evening two and sore heads greet a smiling Kate Nash (Electric Ballroom). Propped under a giant pink neon sign bearing her name she soothes hangovers with her sparky acoustic balladry, including a cheekily reinvented version of single ‘Caroline’s A Victim’.
With Pull Tiger Tail’s (Barfly) set-list scrawled up their arms and tunes like laser-firing space cruisers launching from their guitars, PTT are the indie arm of Klaxons’ rave-rock battalion – they carve shimmery, steamroller space-pop on songs such as ‘Animator’ to produce a disco Robocop XTC.
Imagine LCD Soundsystem’s less grumpy little brother, who adopts the ASBO look and refuses to take his hoodie off despite the tropical heat in The Black Cap and you have Kylie’s new NBF Calvin Harris spreading the early evening disco vibe.
Frank Turner (Oh! Bar) has stickers reading ‘I Heart Dick’, ‘Reading Is Sexy’ and ‘Cannibal Corpse’ on his acoustic guitar. Frank Turner used to be in Million Dead before he decided to be a protest singer who hates being called a protest singer almost as much as he hates people who protest about things. Frank Turner is Billy Bragg with the rage virus from 28 Days Later. Frank Turner ROCKS.
Over at Dingwalls The Dykeenies’ drummer may look like the unwanted son of the Krankies, but the rest of them are proper, preening, male-model material, which makes it even more bizarre when they come out with epic lightning emo pop such as ‘New Ideas’ that utterly floors the lucky few who’ve battled their way inside.
Far, far better live than they are on record – or should we say YouTube – Scroobious Pip and his laptop twiddler Dan Le Sac are a surprise package (Underworld), with their preachy end-of-the-world breakbeat hip-hop. ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ itself turning into a Kate Nash/Calvin Harris/Hadouken! karaoke stage invasion.
Somewhere in the middle of ‘Superstar’ you can practically hear the KER-ACKKK! of the new generation’s defining movement breaking, and its luminously painted public face are Hadouken! (Black Cap) – the most incredible, inconceivable, indestructible new band on the planet. They’re Rage Against The Machine making evil babies with The Prodigy on a knackered Pac Man machine. They’re your PSP on PCP. You will be consumed.
Less radioactive, The Charlatans (KOKO) know it’s the first (real) festival of the season, so a greatest hits set is more than in order to close proceedings. Plying the hammered crowd with impeccable classics ‘North Country Boy’, ‘One To Another’ and ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’, Tim Burgess and his eerily youthful compadres still successfully fly the Britpop flag. Damn, they fly it high.
And so the curtain falls on Camden Crawl 2007, having successfully graduated from a nifty little piss-up with some good bands to a bona fide two-day annual institution – an urban Truckfest or SXSW with the vague possibility of snow. And, the one festival where you wouldn’t be surprised to be offered a lift to a Dykeenies gig on the back of Johnny Borrell’s Harley. Crawl on 2008.
Mark Beaumont/Leonie Cooper