June 4th 2016.
The prospect of 200 bands across 20 different venues is one that conjures giddy feelings amongst any music fan, but to have the backdrop as Londons Camden town sets Camden Rocks is simply the icing on the cake. The only problem is an issue of logistics, meaning unless youre some sort of demi-God that can be in numerous places at once, its a difficult decision to decide how your day will be spent, it ultimately came down to seeing new acts or those that I knew already. Being somewhat cautious, or in other words a bore, I opted to see those acts which I knew already, although its safe to say I wasnt disappointed.
I decided to spend the early part of the day wandering around Camden, soaking up the atmosphere and getting a feel for the festival. The vibrant diversity that leaks from the brickwork and market stalls of Camden was very much alive, with festival goers flooding the already busy streets, cramming into venues such as Proud, Barfly, Electric Ballroom, The Underworld and more. The simplest way to describe Camden Rocks is as the music-lovers festival, the sham pageantry of other festivals wasnt present, it was a day that was simply about music and enjoyment of such music.
After enjoying the people watching for what I realised was far to long, I headed off to Prod for the question-and-answer session with Billy Bragg about his new book A Lover Sings. Despite some members of the audience demanding for music, Bragg stuck to his guns and provided the audience with an interesting and insightful appearance. His rousing oratory surrounding the EU referendum was, in typical Bragg fashion, a cry for unification not division, most importantly a vote to remain. A view that was clearly shared by the audience, and as he launched into a passionate acapella version of The Internationale with his fist raised, it was hard not to feel inspired.
Next, I headed of to see M O S E S, a band who were unknown to me, but on hearing the hype that surrounded them I felt as though I should probably check them out. Their energy was unmatched as they took to the stage and blasted through their high impact set with the prowess and stage presence of a band that had seen thousands of stages. With a slot at Download Festival and the incredible performance at Camden Rocks, this is a band who are likely to be seen on many a festival line-up in the coming years and, if their infectiously energetic set at Camden Rocks is anything to go by, will be making many a stage their own.
The following act, Carl Barat and The Jackals, was one Id been looking forward to since the line-up was announced. A long-time Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things fan, simply being in the same room as Carl Barat was an experience in itself. Like many a fan in the audience, the recent Libertines reunion had inspired hopes among many and there were murmurs amongst the crowd suggesting that the infamous Pete Doherty may make an appearance. Unfortunately, this did not occur, but in no way ruined the set. Carl took to the stage with his usual flair with the entirety of the Electric Ballroom in awe, performing pulsating Jackals songs such as Glory Days but treating fans to Dirty Pretty Things songs, including my personal favourite Gin and Milk, the classic Deadwood and Bang Bang. For those disheartened by the no show of said surprise guest, Libertines favourites Death on the Stairs and I Get Along made an appearance in a ramshackle romp of the classics. Carl Barat and the Jackals were certainly a highlight of the day, and paved the way for the headliners The Cribs.
The Electric Ballroom was packed out by this point, after nipping out for a fag and a Red Stripe, I pushed my way back to through the crowd in an attempt to find a decent position for The Cribs. The Jarman brothers launched into a set which was seemed to provide a brief history of the band in an intimate setting. The indie background of the Cribs set them out from the rest of the line-up of the festival, but their raunchy, grizzly guitar and unpolished vocals emanated throughout the crowd as they performed hits such as Mens Needs, Cheat on Me and Come On, Be a No One. The Cribs provided Camden Rocks with an alternative headliner to the bands that had been present throughout the day, and this did not go unappreciated by festival-goers. The energy from The Cribs was still present as people shuffled out the Ballroom, into tube stations, taxis or on to continue their night.
This being my first experience of Camden Rocks I came away with a definite desire to go again. The format is excellent, the setting is uncanny and the acts are expansive and inclusive. For fans of rock, metal and punk this festival is a must!
Words Ash Brooklyn
Pix Erol Birsen, http://www.theupcoming.co.uk
Thanks to Dave at Division PR for