Saturday 3rd June
Well we came, we saw and we conquered last Saturday - taking in some of the 250 bands and artists across 25 of Camden Town’s legendary music venues. As we stepped out of Camden Town Tube Station, the place was packed, the weather was kind and we immediately encountered our first gig - a busker doing a great cover of White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' with just his mic and a portable speaker - yes Camden was buzzing. We then passed by the long Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction queue at The Underworld to collect our press passes from The World's End pub before heading towards the Electric Ballroom to catch The King Blues. No queue, but the place was hot, heavy and rocking so we decided to head off and try out one off the smaller venues, namely, Simmons Bar, just around the corner in the High Street where we caught Voksal's sound check and a few of their psychedelic tinged Rock tunes, before we set off for our pre-arranged interview with HVMM (pronounced Hum) at Belushi's at the other end of the High Street.
The band from Worcester first came to our attention after the release of their recent single 'Lacerate' - their unique ballsy, bolshy, raw Rock sound receiving rave reviews with influences of Faith No More, Royal Blood, Band Of Skulls and Zep. We caught up with Andy Teece - vocals/guitar, Ebony Clay - lead guitar, Jack Timmis - bass and Samuel Jenkins – drums outside - before the guys took to a sweltering Belushi's stage before knocking out a very impressive original set that included 'Big Green Joe', 'Lacerate', 'Beggars and Thieves', 'Postal', 'Pummelling A Monk' and 'Modern Pussy' - showcasing not only Teece's unique vocal delivery (think Jack White meets Nick Cave), the swagger of Clay's guitar and the solid unit/engine room of Timmis and Jenkins, but also the reason why they are the first British band to be signed by American label ILA. HVMM release their first EP 'Talk To Me Like I'm Dead' on 1st September and also return to Camden and The Proud in two weeks time. Do not miss them and watch out for that audio interview coming soon.
One of the challenges of Camden Rock's is to ensure that you always leave enough time to get from one venue to the another - a task that get's more and more difficult during the day as you consume more alcohol and try and work out both the map and the schedule. Fortunately enough, we arrived in plenty of time for Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs at The Proud - so much so that we were able to stand right down the front. We had the pleasure of interviewing and seeing BBB at London's iconic 100 Club just over a year ago and it was a no-brainer to catch the big man in action again. Despite playing as a three-piece with no keyboards, their Roots and R&B rocked as usual which began with the brilliantly entitled 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - from last year's album ‘Luxury Hobo’ - with its 70's Rock n' Roll style, big guitar and lyrics, followed by the musical barnstormer, 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', with its brilliant baseline, mean guitar and imaginative lyrics, which Bloater delivered perfectly in a very George Thorogood-esque manner.
'Robot Girlfriend’ further reinforced Bloater's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with a mean Blues guitar solo before BBB&TL’s then went back to their self-titled debut album with ‘Every Path Has It’s Puddle’ which originally featured Imelda May - with its ‘feverish’ drum intro and its “kiss and a cuddle” reinforcing the vocal and guitar quality of Bloater’s earlier stuff. BBB's introduction that "There's nothing worse than when you love someone ... and then they take out a restraining order on you!" ... set the scene behind the groovy ‘I Can’t Forget About You’ before the Rock ‘n Rolling ‘Double Whammy’, taken from their second album ‘The World Explained’. These were followed by ‘Messin With The Booze’, taken us back to Bloater and The City Shakers - Bloater’s guitar a mighty nod to Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Classic! BBB<’s then delved back to their first album with the fast moving instrumental 'Rocket Surgery’, with both a deserved bass/drum solo, and then another fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from ‘The World Explained’. Bloater’s distorted guitar intro saw the set close with the foot-tapping 'LH' opener 'Devils Not Angels' and its killer Rock n' Roll guitar and Bloater’s distinctive gruff but great vocals. What a great song to round off a brilliant set. The highlight of the day. Watch out for BBB<’s at Ramblin' Man Fair in July.
It was then time to make our way to The Dublin Castle in Parkway to see Black Orchid Empire. Oddly enough we had seen BOE earlier in the year in Camden at The Monarch in February - exactly why we wanted to see them again! Bassist Dave Ferguson told us before the gig that they would be playing a heap of stuff from their up and coming new album - unfortunately we got a bit lost on the way, so we ended missing the first part of their set, namely, 'Burn', 'Wires' and 'Mountain' - the latter, the very first song BOE ever wrote, with its eastern mystical feel - duly validating their tag of Alt Rock with Progressive tendencies. When we finally arrived it was loud and proud and appropriately 'Riff Of Death' proved what a meticulous power trio BOE are - not only further evidence of their strength but the fact that they are all riffing from the same hymn sheet. Newbie's 'My Favourite Stranger' and 'Celebrity Summer', duly delivered the assurance that their new album is going to be as strong as its predecessor 'Archetype'. Cue 'Come In' - and if you were in any doubt that these guys weren't all about rhythm, melody and heavy riffs with an edge, then Paul Visser's enticing guitar/vocal intro of their very first single from 'Archetype' followed by a riff to die for plus Billy Freedom's pounding drums - resulted in general head banging all round. THE track that attracted me to BOE in the first place and a great way to end their set!
Time for a pint, as we listened to to Skarlett Riot, and at the same time watched some of the Champions League final before going for a pizza. It was raining as we came out, so we decided to head off home via Camden Town underground. To then have been confronted at London Bridge by that cowardly atrocity was truly shocking. Our thoughts go out to all the family and friends of those who were either killed or injured - on a night when they were simply relaxing and enjoying themselves - just as we had been earlier during an excellently organised Camden Rocks Festival. Such a terrible way to end such a memorable day.