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Sunday, 7 June 2015

A View From Many Rooms: Camden Rocks 2015

Camden Rocks 2015: Various Venues In Camden

So Camden Rocks is the annual music festival in the alternative centre of London, spanning numerous venues throughout Camden and encompassing more than 200 bands I knew I was going to be in for a slog but what better way to see artists that tour infrequently or indeed bands that only play the London area and at £30 it was an opportunity not be sniffed at. Arriving late on the Friday I checked into my hostel in Swiss Cottage (£45 for two nights) and after a few beers with friends awaited the following morning.

So this was the day, packing light and heading on tot he top end of Camden before moving down Chalk Farm Road and onto Camden Highstreet to the legendary World's End Pub to collect my wristband and my press pass. After collection it was band time and back to the top of the street to The Enterprise, first up were London based alternative rockers Mercutio (7) who played expansive driving alternative rock in the style of Radiohead, Anathema or Porcupine Tree with huge bass and guitars and bass from Naz and Staf while Alessio kept a beat and Miriko has a keening, mournful vocals that work as another instrument than overpower anything, meaning that the band have a big sound in a little venue (I mean it was 12pm). Still a great opening band for the day but as soon as they were over it was a brisk walk over to the Stables Market and into Proud Camden from female three-piece The Amorettes (7) who played to a packed crowd, due to their sponsorship from Planet Rock, they play riff-filled Airborne style rock that was good to watch but didn't really do anything new for me as it was all a bit generic, still back up to The Enterprise with all the beer I had drunk coming off with perspiration to catch local lads (well Aberdare/Merthyr) Dead Shed Jokers (8)who yet again played their unique brand of gonzoid rock n roll with big riffs and Hwyl's vocals evoking Nick Cave, Zep and QOTSA all in one mixed in with valleys banter thrown in endearing them to the big crowd that had gathered to watch them in this little venue, well done boyos!!

Straight back down to The Stables Market and to the Cuban for a band that I have liked since their debut was released on Classic Rock magazines long forgotten Powerage records, the band was New Device (8) who usually only play London and play bouncy chart bothering modern metal with a mix of the rockiest tracks from both of their albums. Singer Daniel Leigh was hellishly sick which meant his voice went a few times but with a set full of great songs, a responsive tightly packed crowd and an excellent performance. I do hope this band travel a bit further on their next tour as I'd love to see them do it all over again. However I was about to get blown away as I walked the short distance over to Proud to catch the Wildhearts erstwhile front man Ginger (9) in full flight, as I waited the room filled and filled and filled again until people had to be stopped from entering, Ginger was on his Songs And Music tour which mixes his career defining songs with stories from his colourful history. As he started the set it was all systems go playing a solid 20 minute medley taken from the first few Wildhearts albums which got the entire crowd singing along to every word, as he ended (only reaching 1993) the affable front man the told a few stories from his past, explaining how he got sacked from his record label. Then he proceeded to play another medley that was a run through of latter part of the career. This was the biggest crowd of the entire festival, I personally spent most of the gig in the doorway, but the crowd was right Ginger managed to bring the house down with headline performance in the middle of the day.

Over to the largest venue the Ballroom to catch the rock and roll madness of The Black Spiders (8) who drove through their set with the obligatory "Eat Thunder, Shit Lightning" shtick with their rollicking rock getting the crowd moving to songs like Stay Down, Stick It To The Man, Just Like A Woman and Kiss Tried To Kill Me, there were a few technical hitches but once again Black Spiders showed what real rock and roll is still alive that the Black Spiders are the flag bearers of it. Back over to Proud for Scottish rock legends Gun (9) who showed once again showed that they are one of the most underrated bands in the rock genre, mixing old and new the played classics like Better Days, Money (Everybody Loves Her) fusing them with new tracks Let It Shine (which opened the set), Frantic and One Wrong Turn all of which fit perfectly with their older stuff. All of their songs have huge hooks which is something that one forgets about Gun. Jools Gizzi fits perfectly as their new singer (he was their old bassist) and stamps his Scottish charm all over the songs giving them new life. Ending with their cover of Word Up, the rocking Steal Your Fire and Shame On You to a rapturous applause. A band that I would again in a heartbeat, they were that good. Back over to the cavernous ballroom for While She Sleeps (8) who managed to lay waste to it with an insanely brutal set filled with riffs, breakdowns and screams, the supposed new kings of metal managed to cement their claim to this by causing huge pits and supplying more noise than I'd heard all day, hell they even took a song into the pit an proceeded to start a fight with a punter to protect another, their no compromise attitude was endearing and their songs are some of the heaviest and most tuneful out there.

I'll admit I had a dilemma here as three bands that I wanted to see clashed first was Turbowolf in the Barfly, then Skindred in the Underworld and the reinvigorated Bullet For My Valentine in the Electric Ballroom. Due to sentimental reasons and the band having a special place in my heart, I stuck with the Bridgend massive for Bullet For My Valentine (10). The band were welcomed like returning heroes driving straight into new track No Way Out which is nasty riff filled thrasher kicking off the set with violent pits before moving straight into Your Betrayal which is far heavier live than on record. The gig was their first in over 14 months and saw the debut of new bassist Jamie Mathias who slotted in perfectly prowling the stage along with Padge and Matt Tuck while Moose smashed away at the kit as 4 Words (To Choke Upon) got a huge cheer from the loyal and huge crowd. This was a celebratory, hit filled set that pleased the gathered masses, the pace didn't drop as the band ploughed through Raising Hell and Scream Aim Fire showing that they have arena filling tunes, the band seem to have made transition into a snarling riff spilling beast but also they have managed to merge that with hooks galore that gives them the air of Black Album period Metallica.

Acoustics came out for All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me) before the heavy second half kicked in and any sentimentality was blown away by another new song Broken, on the face of both of these tracks their new album Venom could be scorcher and was swiftly followed up by The Last Fight. Now with a list as long as your arm of songs that they could have played they opted for medley starting with Hand Of Blood, the Room 409, Hearts Burst Into Fire (which had the biggest sing along of the night, your writer included) ending with Begging For Mercy and Riot. As the set drew to a close the heaviness didn't relent as Waking The Demon and Pleasure And Pain ended the main set, thoroughly worn out and breathless it was time for the encore and it was their masterpiece angst ridden ballad Tears Don't Fall which had the crowd in raptures until the very last note. There is a lot of talk about who will be the next festival headliners when Metallica and Maiden stop and many would have ruled out BFMV a few years ago however on the basis of this performance they are definite headline material, their October tour is going to be in relatively small venues across the country see them there now before they finally reach that position they have been aiming for since The Poison. Perfect setlist, flawless performance and Welsh, what more could you want?

They also served as the perfect end to a tiring but cracking day of live music, this is gem in the yearly music calendar and if the acts are as good next year then your intrepid reporter will be amongst the masses yet again.

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