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Camden Rocks Festival

Saturday 2nd June 2018

Camden, London

Well the big day duly arrived - and once again it didn't disappoint. Yes the Camden Rocks Festival literally Rocked as over two hundred bands played over 21 venues from Mornington Crescent to Chalk Farm via Camden on Saturday. Indeed it was hot and crowded as queues greeted me exiting Camden Underground station - although the welcome sight of a WRC t-shirt outside The Underworld was the perfect excuse to have my first pint of the day with Phil C. and his better half Sandra in The Camden Eye before things got underway at midday. In fact this was already a microcosm of the rest of the day - hot, crowded, drinking and great conversation - now just bring on the bands!

As it turned out, a consensus of opinion concluded that we actually saw the best band of the day, first at The Underworld, at midday! The last time we saw London based Rock group Dirty Thrills was last September at a special launch party for their latest album, ‘Heavy Living’ just down the road at The Crowndale (formerly the Purple Turtle) - where these guys proved once again that they are well and truly on the up. Indeed, we first saw Louis James - lead vocals and harmonica, Jack Fawdry - guitar, backing vocals, Steve Corrigan - drums and Aaron Plows – bass, back in August 2015 plus we also saw them on the Ramblin' Man Fair Rising Stage in 2016, and in 2017 they returned to Ramblin' Man on the Grooverider Stage - affirmation if needed that Dirty Thrills were going places.

We actually saw Louis and Aaron descending into The Underworld with their gear half an hour before they were due on - so it wasn't much of a surprise given the day's quick sound check turnarounds that James had a few microphone issues early doors - although he did seem a bit more concerned about having a 'Lenny Kravitz moment' with his tight leather trousers. They needn't have worried as half way through their half an hour set, not only were the packed sweaty crowd already singing along happily with James but it was also an opportunity, given the driving intensity of his guitar, for Fawdry to go bare-chested. But Dirty Thrills do indeed have charisma in abundance as testified by the engine room of Corrigan who seemed to savour every beat and the manic moustachioed/scarf Plows - his style very much reminiscent of Andy Fraser. Praise indeed. In true London style it was all a bit of a knees-up, the on-stage animation, energy and dirty Groove Rock Of America's Crobot, who Dirty Thrills supported when we first saw them at Islington's O2 Academy, leaving an indelible legacy. A set obviously mainly taken from 'Heavy Living', also included a cover of 'Foxy Lady' - although the stand-out for mine was Louis' Plant-ish vocal gymnastics on the short 'Interlude' - its mystical path leading to the riffing barn-stormer 'The Brave' - the connection between the two tracks more palpable live than on the CD. Awesome. And If you want some more short Dirty Thrills then do not miss them on The Orange Amps Stage at The Stone Free Festival on Saturday 16th June at 2.30pm.

Talking of Stone Free, the next band on our itinerary at The Dublin Castle were a band that we saw at Stone Free last year - Aussie rockers Tequila Mockingbyrd. In fact, after that set we also managed to interview new singer/guitarist Louisa Baker, new bassist Jacinta Jaye and original drummer Josie O'Toole - who was understandably the spokesperson for band. Looking forward to reacquainting with the girls - imagine our disappointment when spotted the understandable queue to see them. A bit like football I suppose, tactics are all very good down on paper but can you put them into practice? Hence an early change in our itinerary to move on to see Doomsday Outlaw at The Good Mixer - unbeknown to us at that stage - itinerary changes would become the order of the day! Strangely enough both Dirty Thrills and Doomsday Outlaw feature on a free 'New Breed' Sampler CD produced by their record label Frontiers Music. Doomsday Outlaw is a ten-legged Hard Rock, Blues tinged juggernaut based in darkest Derbyshire. The good news was that we bumped into our mate Gary Levermore from Frontiers in the Good Mixer - the bad news being that we could not count their ten legs as it was packed out and we had to settle to listening to their set from afar! To be fair, coupling huge riffs and killer grooves with soaring, soulful vocals, Doomsday Outlaw duly delivered their distinctive sound to the Hard Rock faithful present - either side of the bar - drawing on 'Hard Times’, their new album released last month - including 'Fallback' which is also on that sampler. Indeed the guys commented after their set that they "had an absolute blast" and the good news is that with a ton of live gigs locked in, including a string of Summer festival appearances, that we should literally be able to see the guys in the not too distant future.

As we said - it was becoming a day of sacrifices. Colt 48 were next on our agenda at The Electric Ballroom - just over two months since we reviewed the duo at The Borderline. Lead singer/guitarist Adam Jerome and vocalist/drummer Matt Saviniheir Nu-Metal Heavy Rock sound with powerful riffs and good melodies coming across loud and clear, as it does on their latest EP 'II'. Anyway, we said in our Camden Rocks countdown "Do not miss them", however, due to time constraints, we decided to sacrifice them in order to see the celebrated British Industrial Alternative Rock quartet Sulpher at The Black Heart, albeit via a swift pint at the Spread Eagle. Decisions, decisions. Fronted by former Marylin Manson/Gary Numan/The Prodigy guitarist Rob Holliday, their new album ‘No One Will Ever Know’ is due to be released in late August through Oblivion/SPV. Since reforming in 2016 with drummer, programmer and fellow founder member Steve Monti, guitarist Andy Spillane and dreadlocked bassist Davey Bennet, they have clearly dusted off and modernised their unmistakable signature sound, melding massive doses of Rock, Metal, a little electronica and neo-psychedelic shoegaze elements. Slam dunk winners of the best tats on display at Camden Rocks, their atmospheric set included seven songs, 'One Of Us' , 'Unknown', Follow You Down', 'Used', their excellent and very first single from the album 'Take A Long Hard Look', 'Scarred' and 'Spray' - the title track from their 2002 album, testimony to the time when they were voted ‘Best British Heavy Metal Band’ in Metal Hammer. Holliday (think Daryl out of 'The Walking Dead') is the perfect frontman for their brand of passionate, unconstrained anger that morphs into melancholy toughness that meets a Metallic dirtiness, although Rob did show his lighter side by lobbing some merchandise into the crowd and shouting "nice catch!" Don't forget to watch out for their new album plus Sulpher are also playing the Amplified Festival in Cheltenham on Sunday 8th July.

Unfortunately for Rock On The Ridge favourites At The Sun, we decided to miss out on the five-piece Heavy Rock band at The Dev (although we would be spending a lot of time there later) and given that we had missed out on the delectable Tequila Mockingbyrd earlier, we though we would head towards Camden Lock and Dingwalls to see the Revolt Rock of The SoapGirls who recently released their new album 'Societys Rejects' which comes highly recommended by our mate Matt Reynolds. Would they fulfil Matt's recommendation of their perfect balance of attitude, swagger and raw rasping vocals, full of straight up rock’roll songs - tons of energy, flashes of anger and serrated guitar-driven angst. Nothing can stop The SoapGirls inevitable rise to the top? Well unfortunately no - as Dingwalls was hot, heaving and full to the brim. Time for us to take evasive action as we headed towards the bar and stumbled across Dame Jean's sound check at Dingwalls Canalside next door. Now this really is the stuff that festivals are legendary for - by pure chance you end up in a venue with a band that you haven't planned to see and come away thinking - they were good. Cue Indie band Dame Jean, as frontman Sammy Crocker proceeded to perform rattling three-minute rock songs, whilst his bandmates lay slick foundations and rocksteady riffs. This was good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll including their recent single 'Wasted Love'. A really refreshing addition to our Camden Rocks experience, and despite them being surprisingly quiet on social media, we do know that the guys are aiming to bring out an EP relatively soon. A big thank you also to Isaac Watson for letting us have some photos from Dame Jean's set.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Phil C. was taking in an acoustic set by British Folk Punk group The Men They Couldn't Hang at the Gabeto - which took me back to the time I saw them play the Bexley Festival in Danson Park in the 1990's - can anyone remember that? Anyway, it was now half way through proceedings and time for a well overdue food refuel which again meant we sacrificed The Electric Ballroom and The Professionals - formed from the ashes of the Sex Pistols, namely Steve Jones, and who had recently released their new studio album 'What In The World', to critical acclaim - in fact Vive Le Rock made it their album of the year. Doh! Following our grub pitstop it was time to wander across the road back to The Dublin Castle for sensational British Hard Rock quintet 10 Gauge, who are unmistakeably seeking to continue the broad-shouldered and durable sound of the late 1980's and early 1990's. Based on the outskirts of North London, the band consisting of Rob Jewson - vocals, TJ - lead guitar, Kieran Best - rhythm guitar, Gareth Dearing - bass and Neil Felgate - drums are poised to unleash their slick and heavy-set debut EP 'Rain's ’Comin', due for public release on Monday 18th June and the guys duly dipped into that in their short but explosive set including their cool Rock ballad 'Hand You're Dealt' - think Black Stone Cherry meets Alter Bridge. Make a note that 10 Gauge are playing The Great British Guitar Festival at Leos Red Lion, Gravesend on Saturday 7th July.

Whilst Phil C. was watching Blood Red Shoes at The Electric Ballroom, an alternative Rock duo from Brighton, consisting of Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell, we decided to stay at The Dublin Castle and catch a piece of Greyhaven UK in advance of walking down to see Hollowstar at The Dev at 7. It was all swings and roundabouts again as this meant we would sacrifice two heavyweights - Massive Wagons at The Camden Assembly and Raveneye at Dingwalls. Hey ho. Featuring Sam Paterson - vocals, Alex Hills - guitar, Adam Sutherland - guitar, Jack Hudson - bass/vocals and Connor Tate- drums, Greyhaven UK are an alternative/modern Rock band and they recently released their EP 'Breathe'. Unfortunately we missed the end of their energetic set but you can catch the guys again at London's 229 The Venue on Tuesday 24th July.

We wanted to see Cambridgeshire-based Rock band Hollowstar on the back of their recently released new single “'All I Gotta Say”' and it was easy to see during their set how they take inspiration from Blackstone Cherry, Thunder and Slash; influences that are evident in the music they create. "Has anyone seen us before?" enquired singer/bassist Joe Bonson, as a fair few Dev hands shot up into the air. During the set, which included the aforementioned single, Joe poignantly dedicated one of the tracks to his friend Kyle - with guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett plus drummer Jack Bonson subsequently doing their friend proud. Hollowstar have also unveiled a slew of tour dates throughout the country, joining the Graham Bonnet Band for four shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Louth and Newcastle as part of his UK and Ireland 2018 tour from 9th-12th August. The lads will also be making an appearance at the Wildfire Festival on Sunday 24th June, before joining Dan Reed Network and King King at the Cambridge Rock Festival, running from 26th-29th July.

At this time Phil C. was enjoying a bit of Melodic Blues, Folk and Grunge acoustic !therapy from Wicked Splinters at The Brewdog, whilst we were up for something a bit more heavier - step forward Black Orchid Empire at The Dublin Castle. A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to attend their Album Listening Party for their new CD 'YUGEN' at London's The Ship in Soho in advance of its official release date the following Friday, before the band headed off on tour to support Black Map in Germany! Not only did we talk to the band: Paul Visser (guitar/vocals), Dave Ferguson (bass) and Billy Freedom (drums), but we also had the pleasure of meeting up with BOE fans Kevin and Dianne. Needless to say they were both there at The Dublin Castle and they had also seen the very impressive Massive Wagons earlier. As expected Black Orchid Empire's set was mainly drawn from 'YUGEN' but they did include the awesome 'Riff Of Death' from their previous album which resulted in a bit of moshing (despite my bruised rib) - well we had been drinking since midday after all! It didn't quite shade Dirty Thrills but it was an awesome set that dissolved into yet another beer and more conversation in The Dublin Castle bar afterwards.

By now our proposed itinerary was in tatters. Plans to see Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors at The Camden Assembly, British Sea Power at Dingwalls or Black Map at The Monarch were abandoned as we headed off to The Dev for the final time, if not just for the music but also for the craic of their friendly regulars. Suffice to say that as we walked in, raw Metallic Hardcore outfit, Confessions Of A Traitor frontman, Steven MacConville, was standing on the bar, rockin' the joint! They duly passed the rock baton on to Yorkshire's very own 'As Sirens Fall' - their style of aggressive Pop bringing a brilliant day to a fitting end Despite the heat and the crowds, Camden Rocks Festival 2018 was a great laugh with great bands and great people. Let's give it 10 out of 10 not only for its organisation but also for the number of bands we managed to see in the same number of hours! Methinks we need to set a more realistic itinerary next year!


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