Camden Crawl Festival, 5 – 6/5/2012

May 11, 2012 by  

The Cribs, by Richard Johnson

Sprawled all over Camden town and taking place on May’s Bank Holiday, the Camden Crawl seemed generally smaller and quieter this year. Still, a host of bands showed us what they were made of, and will keep us coming back for more.

Day One
It’s 3 o’clock on Saturday and with my pass secured I have my eye on Ghetts playing at The Cuban for Urban Nerds that evening. Looking around this crowd it just seems like they want to get wasted and jump around – do they even know or care who is playing tonight? Well, we do.

At The Cuban, MC Durrty Goodz wastes no time stepping up to the mic and delivering his sermon, a sign of things to come from the ‘urbanisation’ of this year’s Crawl weekend. Highly energetic and confident, he has real stage presence even with just a backing track. Next up are The Milk: they’re British, but you wouldn’t know it from their old school Rock n Roll, blues and soul sound. Another very energetic performance with loads of crowd participation, these lads had me clapping, snapping my fingers, squatting down to my knees and up again (a full work out!).

Me and my mate foolishly pop out to get food and miss the first couple of tracks from the new darling of UK hip-hop, Ghetts. We walk back into the confusion of a mid-set sound crisis; there’s a bit of panic on stage and you start to see how inexperienced the man of the hour is when dealing with it. After a few minutes he’s back on track though and gives a performance elevated to another level of aggression. With a full backing band it becomes a new genre all together: rock rap (not to be confused with rap rock). While the latter fused rap vocals and hip-hop beats with some rock elements, Ghetts’ style is full-on heavy rock fused with grime and topped by his scream rap vocal. Might be starting a trend here, good or bad…

Day Two
I head to the Rockfeedback stage at Jazz Café to catch Binary, an indie/post-punk outfit who use a lot of reverb (drowning out most of David Troster’s vocals) but risk sounding like white noise after a while. Not one song stands out and I leave halfway through to walk the short distance to Electric Room, where it looked like Ghetts is performing to half a room of people.

There’s been a lot of talk about the lack of queues for this year’s festival, and it raises the issue of whether people are suffering from pre-festival fatigue or being put off by wristband price tags.

Next I’m on to the XFM Stage at Koko for Spector, one of the most talked about new bands of recent times who will no doubt grow in popularity in the coming year. Their performance is electric and, yes, they start a mosh pit (which I avoid from my balcony spot). They close their set with ‘Chevy Thunder’, one of their previous hits, and get a great reception before Glasvegas take to the stage.

The glam-indie four-piece are probably one of the most underrated bands around. In short, their performance is sublime (plus I’m a bit in love with their girl drummer Jonna Löfgren: she always makes drumming look cool). James Allan’s voice is captivating – he is mostly motionless on stage but who needs movement when your voice can carry the show? A personal highlight was the crowd singing ‘Daddy’s Gone’ back at him. Beautiful.

On next are The Cribs, who describe themselves as “a bunch of weirdos from Wakefield”. We’ll take that. They play a set of fairly straight-forward, punk rock, with that indie touch: whatever you want to call it, it’s gut-busting fun. They close the festival in style.

Despite the downturn in the turnout, this year’s Crawl was successful in terms of the variety of acts that the organisers booked, pulling together a cross-section of people who normally would not be in the same gig venues at once. In particular, the grime and hip-hop acts playing with bands were all a revelation. All in all it was a job well done for the festival organisers, and I’m looking forward to next year’s already.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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