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Festival Review: Camden Crawl

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I have no evidence or research to back this statement up but I am pretty sure Camden as more live music venues per square metre than anywhere else – there’s loads of them!

Camden CrawlThis fact makes multi-venue shindig the Camden Crawl a no-brainer, especially considering the new, two-day lease of life it has been given for 2014. Bigger, better and with more bands.

For the Saturday we embarked on a ‘crawl’ (later into the night quite literally a crawl) of new music around the fabled London district. This is what we saw:

Jeffery Lewis and the Jrams

Quirky New York alt-troubadour Jeffery Lewis has another new band backing him! There’s literally a new one every time I see him. This time it’s a garage-rock trio with Caitlin Gray and Heather Wagner.

There’s little of the old anti-folk meanderings, instead today’s afternoon set is an exercise in stripped back rock n roll taking in some Lewis ‘classics’, new tracks and quality covers of The Fall and Crass.

He is still one of the world’s most charming and intelligent artists and performers, take as an example his ‘comic book’ rundown of the history of the French Revolution which is the funkiest history lesson ever.

The glorious sunshine matches the sunny disposition on stage and this slice of rock n roll authenticity is a grand start to the day.

Farao

On record Farao is forging an otherworldly and complex sound.

While this early set at Camden Brewery points to her potential, being stripped back to just guitar and vocals it lacks something needed to engage with the audience. Sure the vocals are mesmerising and the songs are beautiful but there’s little depth.

A cover of Queen’s Of The Stone Age’s ‘Go With the Flow’ could be incredible but it becomes repetitive and a little dull. Not to be too harsh; I am certain her full-band show later in the evening will be a festival highlight – unfortunately this is not one.

Kinnie The Explorer

Brighton’s Kinnie The Explorer are sitting on a ton of potential. The first thing you notice about their set is just how tight they are, producing perfect renditions of their recorded sounds.

There’s little in the way of rough edges or energy, just a meticulous reconstruction of their work. They don’t put on a show so much as simply play, which works perfectly for their atmospheric dream-pop that is fraught with dense layers of sound and an underlying pop sensibility.

They are definitely one to watch for future glory.

Titeknots

Festival scheduling can be a baffling affair. Just why brilliant house producer Titeknots is inside at Proud at 19:15 instead of either outside, or on much later is anyone’s guess. His genre-jumping sounds fall flat to an empty room that should be heaving with sweaty, dancing bodies.

This is one of the best parties at Camden Crawl and everyone is missing it!

Femme

Femme could be a star. She is clearly pushing for that, it’s her whole schtick – being a pop star above all else.

In a packed Beatrice we are witnessing the work of a calculated pop artist complete with every pop cliché from the 80s to now.

She has the voice but there is no show, just a pop narcissist prancing on stage to a backing track (there is a DJ but he isn’t really doing anything). Femme is there to be seen not perform. Her set today is little more than better presented karaoke.

This is pop – soulless, calculated and all about the style. It’s going to be huge!

Spit Shake Sisters

There’s nothing at all calculated about Split Shake Sisters who are currently losing their shit in a sweaty explosion on garage rock. There’s not an original note in their whole set, but this doesn’t matter when rock n roll is played with the abandon with which it was intended.

It’s not big or clever but Spit Shake Sisters bring the kind of party that rock n roll has rarely had since the original sounds they are ripping off. This is basically what small music venues were made for. Go see them.

Novella

Rock n roll abandon is not part of Novella’s carefully constructed persona. They have assimilated cherry-picked elements of cool from C86 and late eighties/early nineties alt. Rock. On record and in their grainy videos this works a treat but in the live space there’s something forced and unnatural about their performance.

They are a shadow of that they feel a great band should be, not a shining light of what a great band they could be. The renditions are note perfect and their sultry stage presence is has its appeal but they could benefit of giving a little more of themselves to it.

They are simply the sum of their parts. 

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut are one of the UK’s most wonderful bands, which makes their esoteric existence a bit of a conundrum.

For the few who have been beguiled by their idiosyncratic sounds it feels like a special club and one that tonight witnesses them performing in a alcove in a church (they tend to play a lot of churches).

Their fully live, instrument swapping instrumental wonders combine folk, electronic, classical and French movie soundtracks to produce a sound that is wholly their own.

The Derbyshire trio have become a great live band and the new material tonight proves they have made leaps in their sound.

Their modesty on stage coupled with the flawed aspects of their performance (basically mistakes are made) only makes their performance more charming.

A Haiku Salut gig is a smile-inducing, warm blanket of sound from a truly interesting, ambitious and unique group of musicians.

Mouse on Mars

My eyes and innards are currently vibrating due to the sheer force of the bass from German electronic legends Mouse on Mars. This is a fairly brutal end to the day.

Still through the blitzkrieg of bass the duo’s ability to blend different genres into their own unique template is incredible and dance-inducing.

After this that’s the end of our Camden Crawl, well in memory at least. Things did happen but nothing that can be reported.




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