Camden Rocks Festival is a strange beast. Camden has long since been the music capital of London, and houses some of London’s best rock venues and clubs, as well as maintaining its breeding ground status for new bands and new subcultures. Camden’s all-encompassing music spirit is something you feel the second you step into the street, and its irreproducible history weaves itself seamlessly into the present.
When Chris McCormack started Camden Rocks in 2009, he picked the perfect location. Tons of venues, music on literally every corner, and a population of true music fans. Camden is home to such iconic venues as the Underworld and Electric Ballroom, which have housed some of the greatest and craziest gigs of all time. So it’s a no-brainer to host such an event here, with an over 200 bands across 20 venues. While the bands may all be “guitar bands” (we do not endorse that phrase) the range of musical styles and influences is unbelievably vast. From the indie mainstream stylings of The Subways to Mia Klose “the Swedish bombshell of rock”, to Welsh party-rock The Blackout, there really is something for everyone. The vibe in Camden on any given day can’t be recreated.
The atmosphere on the sunny Saturday afternoon (31st May) when we arrive is one of anticipation, and it’s busier than ever in NW1. Talented buskers congregate outside the tube station, as queues form outside all the nearby venues for whatever can’t-miss band is playing next, despite the temptation to stay within the confines of a (reasonably) quiet pub, we decide we should probably put down the Jack & Coke’s and have a look at some of the acts on offer.
An FVK acoustic set is a pretty odd thing to behold. Renowned for their intricate musicianship and full-on noise, it’s going to be a tough one. Keeping the energy up in the room however proves to be no problem at all for the Camden regulars, as they dive head-first (and seemingly relaxed) into a brilliant half an hour’s semi-acoustic entertainment. A stripped back set of new songs (‘Danger’) & old faves (‘Bite Down On My Winchester’) proves a delight to their adoring fans, who are fresh from the news that FVK’s highly-anticipated second album is on the way (finally). The Forge, a trendy bar nearer to Mornington Crescent than anything, is proving popular with people’s mums who just want to sit down, but even they are taken in by the gothic glory of FVK. As the set closes and their fans rush outside for selfies with the guys, FVK have proven that eyeliner-rock still rules the day, even un-plugged.
Everyone’s favourite lads (and resident party animals wherever they are residing) Blitz Kids, unabashedly bash the fuck out of the huge room that is Electric Ballroom, with a pretty electrifying set of their own. Smoothly transferring between genres, from pop to Muse-like influences, to pop punk, Joey’s vocal prowess can’t be tamed as the boys rip through a set including ‘Sold My Soul’ and ‘Run For Cover’. Blitz Kids never stop, and this translates to the stage, as Jono and Joey keep the energy and involvement going (a tricky feat at 4.30pm) despite losing Nic momentarily when he is engulfed by an over-zealous dry ice machine’s deadly cloud. He recovers enough to address the crowd; “I hope you go home tonight and think ‘I had a nice time’”. We’re pretty sure they have.
Ending with ‘On my Own’, Joey invades the crowd and becomes lost within its jumping walls as the chorus kicks in, reminding us all why Blitz Kids are absolutely fucking everywhere this year. Salutes all round.
Now for something completely different. Within the dark, hot, and yes, purple, walls of the Purple Turtle, Generation Graveyard take the stage, and we mean take. Described as death punk, mutant punk, and everything in between, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole exactly what GenGrave are. Elements of Amen and The Misfits keep the spirit of punk alive whilst the crowd pulverise each other and spill their semi-expensive drinks all over the sticky floor. Songs about drug abuse and other real life experiences are met with an understanding crowd, as singer Max’s brutal delivery shakes them to their core, alongside guitarist Arno’s reckless execution. Having played with everyone from The Misfits to The 69 Eyes, Generation Graveyard are harsh and dark, and watching them play is like witnessing the apocalypse – in a good way.
There’s something Glam about the proceedings, lot’s of blonde perms bob up and down in the crowd (men AND women), and the whole room is a sea of denim and leather. But despite fashion choices and hairstyles, which have fuck all to do with music, there’s no denying this crowd are as dedicated as the band themselves to honest punk music. The full room is a testament to the ethos of the punk scene, and we’re under no pretence that everyone here doesn’t know the band personally, or at least knows someone who does. That’s the beautiful thing about the London music scene. Beyond all the shit-talking and cliques, there’s still a sense of belonging and harmony within the different genres, most of which are on show right here at Camden Rocks Festival. With Generation Graveyard’s new EP ‘Lonewolves’ about to drop, they’ve established themselves on the LDN circuit, now it’s time to plant themselves firmly on the world.
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