by / May 10th, 2012 /

The best bands at Camden Crawl London 2012

As we’re sure you’re aware, tomorrow sees the start of the Camden Crawl Dublin festival across the city. Last, weekend, however, saw the original Camden event take place over three days in 45 venues. State’s London team was out and about and here’s their pick of what was on offer…

And So I Watch You From Afar (The Electric Ballroom)

It takes a band with considerable presence to impact the vast cavern that is the Electric Ballroom, but of course ASIWYFA is that band. Any worries about the lineup change are quickly abated as the Belfast four-piece tear shreds out of the room, proving they’re the technical, cohesive machine their fans know and love. ‘Gang’, ‘7 Billion People Alive All At Once’ and ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ stood out in particular but throughout it was all very much business as usual. (JC)

Barbarossa (The Earl of Camden)

Red-bearded (you know, like the name – it’s Italian) London-based singer/songwriter James Mathé played this brightly-lit Camden pub on Sunday afternoon as part of a Fence Records showcase. Like his labelmates, King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, Mathé creates carefully constructed folk. The analogue-loving musician is accompanied today by a band who provide soulful male harmonies, dancing the line between folk and casiotone pop sensibilities. (LM)

Belakiss (Dingwalls)

“We’re Belakiss!”, one or other of the two guitarists in this high octane rock band shouts after each song. Despite some Spinal Tap-esque banter – maybe it’s the accents – this north-west London quartet have got the rifts and the moves. With plenty of posturing swagger, it’s not hard to tell that these three lads and gal are fresh from a tour with Kasabian. They have the same apparently rough yet perfectly polished demeanour, backed up with a couple of storming, guitar-heavy songs. After a relatively laid-back day, it’s surprisingly nice to be blasted with a bit of proper rock. (LM)

Cymbals (Underworld)

A room will seem half empty or half full depending on whether the crowd languish at the back staring into their pints or cram to front spilling said pints on their shoes as they dance about. Cymbals’ joyous noise facilitated and received the latter effect. They abate the charge that indie pop is a stale format, playing a set of fresh and catchy tracks with charm and confidence. ‘Summer Escaping’ is a particular standout, bringing their knack for a memorable melody to the fore. (JC)

Disclosure (The Monarch)

Leading the vanguard of youngsters who grew up on Kaos pads instead of guitars, these young south London brothers are the hot rave act of the day. Initially The Monarch’s relatively wee dance floor seems limiting but one or two songs in and the crowd are moving as one to the electronic grooves being conjured from an arsenal of sonic weaponry. Tracks such as ‘Blue You’ and ‘My Intention Is War!’ are staples on London dancefloors and are a delight to hear recreated in what’s turned into a little boutique rave. Expect greatness from these dudes. (JC)

Dutch Uncles (St Michael’s Church)

Appropriately enough, there is time for a little bit of church on a Sunday. Manchester’s Dutch Uncles play in a tiny alcove in this not particularly formal church on Camden Road (there’s a record fair & posters on sale where you’d usually expect some pews). The alcove is filled to bursting and people peer over walls and stand on chairs to catch a glimpse of quirky goings-on within. Though dressed like a New Romantic, frontman Duncan Wallis leads the band in a performance of atypical time signatures, swooping prog-pop and abandoned dance movements. New material is showcased alongside second album songs such as ‘The Ink’ and ‘Cadenza’. “That song is actually about being in a church,” Wallis notes afterwards. “Well, about trying not to have pornographic thoughts in a church,” he elaborates with a smile. Afterwards, it’s hard not to feel energised, that is unless you’re the possibly homeless fellow having a snooze down the back, but there’s a little something for everyone at the Crawl. (LM)

Fever Fever (The Monarch)

Hearing hype about girl bands “with balls” ruins any proper discourse on bands with girls in them that play heavy music. Fever Fever created a gritty racket that shook The Monarch and had the usually stoic London crowd moving as a mass unit. While new single ‘The Chair’ is subdued in parts, the majority of the set features poetic shouting, distorted rumbling guitars and and powerful rhythm section. Singer Rosie shouts and sings in a strong English accent that will grate on some listeners, but all the more power to her for adopting a more palatable drawl. If that’s not an issue and an abrasive punk attitude aren’t an issue Fever Fever should do the business for you. (JC)

Fiction (Roundhouse)

In London at least, this tropicalia-tinged indie four piece have been making waves among the taste makers. Playing the first of two shows over the weekend, this early evening slot in the Roundhouse is a perfect opportunity to see the band in a not so crowded room. Catchy guitar pop such as last year’s ‘Big Things’ sits well alongside the Caribbean sounds of a newer track, underlined by the fruity, calypso of a steel drum. Except of course it’s not an actual steelpan rather a keyboard that mimics the sound, but it’s fine – Fiction still manage to drop in a touch of the exotic to what would otherwise be pleasantly straightforward indie. (LM)

Jape (The Cuban)

Bopping back and forth like a nodding dog on speed, an ecstatic Richie Egan storms through a supercharged set of tracks from all three of his albums. He and his band managed to make each well-known song sound like a completely new club track fresh for the Crawl. It seems a bit of a corn to declare one of our own to be one of the best acts of the festival but simply put, he is. A group of girls push to the front to dance manically to ‘Floating’ while an older couple sway back and forth to ‘Ocean of Frequency’. A new tune, ‘Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon’, fits in perfectly in a set that Egan claims to be his best ever London performance. (LM)

Johnny Foreigner (The Wheelbarrow)

In the packed, and not wholly-appropriate surroundings of the Wheelbarrow, it’s hard to tell where the CD ends and the band starts. There’s a soft tinkling and some kind of quiet commotion going on down the front, but unfortunately we’re too short to see it. Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern of riotous indie-punk trio Johnny Foreigner are on the floor amidst the crowd singing their little hearts out in a slightly a capella fashion. Such a gimmick would be fantastic for those up front but for the majority of us at the back, it’s a touch weak. But strikes a furious contrast for when those guitars kick in, Berrow & Southern growling down the microphone. There’s a touch of Seafood, a smattering of Blood Red Shoes and a hell of a lot of energy pounding from the three-piece as they shoot through a noisy set. Three albums in and the hype is building for the Birmingham band – barely five o’clock & there’s a jostling queue pressed against the windows of this tiny venue. (LM)

Micachu And The Shapes (Jazz Cafe)

Within the sterile confines of the Jazz Cafe the crowd is suitably subdued. That they remain so throughout Micachu & The Shapes set doesn’t surprise. Their sound lends more to standing in appreciation at how strange and strangely compelling they are as a live act. Their set is comprised mainly of more recent material, which has really nailed the narrow line where pop intersects with rampant experimentalism. Bjork recently announced that she’s a fan which makes perfect sense watching them noodle through bursts of two minute blastbeat art pop songs. (JC)

Rubberbandits (Purple Turtle)

That Blindboy Boatclub and his mate Mr Chrome ever transferred their humour out of Limerick county never mind to the UK is always something of an astonishment. But to see the hip-hop duo, alongside sidekick Willie O’Dea J, receive such a rapturous response in London is immense. Perhaps it’s a touch of the émigré syndrome that gets this ex-pat – and indeed the mainly Irish crowd in the Purple Turtle – going, but the atmosphere is fizzing. “Play ‘Horse Outside,” cries a girl in the crowd, before she is berated by our foul-mouthed twosome. The equine-powered love song gets a spin but not before a rattle through Bandits’ such as ‘Black Man’ and ‘I Wanna Fight Your Father’. There’s even a song for the English, a lovely ode to hardman, Danny Dyer. Charmingly offensive lyrics, occasionally a front for social commentary – though it’s hard to consider the likes of ‘Bags of Glue’, satire – bounce over derivative, funky beats as Willie O’Dea J drops his pants in the corner, and snake-hipped Mr Chrome shakes sweat from his bagged face. Basically, it’s wonderful. (LM)

Stealing Sheep (Barfly)

Steeped in a ’60s mythology of psychedelic guitars and droning synth, this Liverpool trio blend pastoral folk with haunting harmonies. They stand in a line onstage – keyboard, drums, guitar – no one more or less important than the other. The hypnotic female three-piece are charming and understated, allowing their surreal, Wicker Man-esque melodies to speak for themselves. This is a band who have perfected their sound through extensive gigging, favouring the live experience over studio repetition. Previewing their new single, ‘Genevieve’, a sweet, contemporary electro-folk ditty, the band find the song slips easily into glorious set awash with resonant guitar and enchanting vocals: ‘Bats’ and ‘I Am The Rain’ two perfect examples. (LM)

Toby Kaar (Heroes)

Initial technical issues and an initially nonplussed crowd didn’t seem to phase Toby, who once underway is ducking and jiving behind his mound of pads, mixers and buttons. In no time the pub packs out and a genuine excitement takes hold, unsurprisingly given the quality of what he plays, chopping between fuzzy electronics, Afro-beats, sax lines and house rhythms while maintaining a warm and comforting aura. More than once I spot folks turning to friends with an excitable look on their faces, like they’ve happened upon something very good, because they have. (JC)

Reports by Louise McHenry and Josh Clark.