LIVE REVIEW: Camden Rocks (31/05/2014)

On a glorious spring Saturday it appears that the weather gods have decided to shine on Chris McCormack’s inaugural efforts to get the Camden Rocks one-day festival firmly established on the London circuit. Selling out less than 24-hours in advance, the 6000 tickets available certainly didn’t sell-out as quickly as other one-day events might have. Today though, the demand to get in early and enjoy the multiple bands on offer at an overwhelming number of venues means that the queues to exchange tickets for wristbands perform a full ‘lap’ of the block that holds Camden legend pub The World’s End. Suffice to say the influx of 6000 rock fans makes no difference whatsoever to the appearance and crowded nature of Camden High Street on a Saturday afternoon.

Today’s event is all about the guitar, all about the rock and all about the roll. There are very few keyboards to be seen and, thankfully, none of that resurgent 80s synth-pop that has cluttered up so many otherwise enjoyable gigs lately. The bands involved today are full-on, swaggering, hard-working, sweaty rock gods in the making and it shows from the outset… except that for me the ‘outset’ means catching the first of three gigs by The Virginmarys; this one being a solo acoustic set by singer Ally Dickaty that introduces the days overindulgence in a perfectly restrained but still entirely ‘balls-out’ performance.

From then on its a day of assaulted eardrums, howling guitars and guttural bellowing. Some venues quickly fill up and the set by Get Cape Wear Cape Fly is almost in need of the building being restructured, so popular is it and so many fans there are that find themselves excluded. It’s the small venues where the gold is to be found but the larger venues where the classics are on display.

The Howling seem intent on asking the audience to move just that bit closer to the stage but in delivering the message “there’s no need to be frightened – we’re not Lostprophets” cause ripples of laughter and discomfort in equal measure. Dinosaur Pile-Up offer their usual brand of ‘bounce along’ activity that sees some members of the audience actually limbering up in advance of 45 minutes causing mayhem and discomfort in a moshpit that, as ever, penalises those who aren’t quite as large or aggressive as some.

45 CR The Subways  5

By 9pm the Electric Ballroom is packed to the gunwhales as what seems to be the entire population of this small section of Camden awaiting The Subways. They come onstage 20 minutes late (much to my annoyance on the ‘band clash’ front) but, while I’m there at least, show just how much fun it must be when you’re a ‘rock star’. They’re a frenzy of jumping, whirling, laughing and engaging activity and keep the whole venue transfixed. It’s with a heavy heart but eager anticipation that I depart midway through this set for the second Virginmarys gig of the day. This time in full three-piece mode they deliver a blistering performance of old and new material, causing the whole of Dingwalls to reverberate and shake along with them. It’s the highlight of my day and leads me nicely into my final band of the night – The Virginmarys, again.

Just over 90 minutes after destroying Dingwalls, they tear up The Underworld with another set of such devastatingly focused and refined aggression and emotion that I’m left entirely devoid of any comprehension of how these sets could be delivered twice in a single day, let along twice in three hours.

As was heard many many times on this day, we find that as popular opinion would already have us believe, ‘Camden Rocks’. The bar has been set very high and next month’s Camden Crawl has quite some act to follow. Good luck.

View our gallery of Camden Rocks here.