Live Review: Camden Rocks Festival 2016 - 04/06/2016

Camden Rocks Festival, you beast! That was by far the longest but most enjoyable day I have had in a long time.
With over twenty venues to choose from and over two hundred bands with ska, punk, hardcore, indie and spoken word all as an option at the same time, Camden Rocks is a festival that will definitely keep you on your toes.

Getting off at Camden Town Underground Station early Saturday morning I could already sense the festival vibe. From the lost musicians trying to find the venue they are playing later to the queue that had formed outside the World's End Pub, which was the festival headquarters and wristband pick up centre. Looking at the time schedule for the day, there were a few clashes but this does not matter, firstly because I planed to see as many bands as my legs would allow me, but also the amount of talent on offer at this festival was unreal.

I started off at the famous Barfly to catch the guys in Continents and I'll be honest, to open up a festival like this at midday can be dangerous, but it was amazing to see a queue already forming outside before the band had even started playing. With a nice turn out, the hardcore five-piece tore up their midday set. I then skidded across the road to the incredibly sweaty Good Mixer, which was by far the most humid venue of the day. But once again it was nice to see the venue so packed that early in the day for the punks in Drones who barely took a second to catch their breath as they smashed through a brutal, raw, set.

The biggest venue in the festival's armour was the famous Electric Ballroom, so to open the venue up as the first band might of seemed a bit worrying for hair-metal band Damn Dice. However, despite playing to a half full room, Damn Dice showed it is all about quality not quantity as they brought some showmanship to the table.

Proud in Camden Stables I have always found to be a strange venue as it is a bit wide, so you can loose a bit of the atmosphere when it comes to live music in there. This doesn't stop Chasing Cadence as they take the party to the audience face on.

I then sprinted across town to catch the last of Shields' set at the Monarch, which was a venue choice I felt didn't suit them. The sun was shinning through behind them, and it just felt a bit off. I've seen them tear apart venues before, so despite the venue their performance was nothing if not beyond perfect, tight but raw at the same time.

Bad Sign ticked all the right boxes downstairs at Barfly. Their sound is monsterous for such a small room. You can fully understand why they are working the festival scene this summer, Bad Sign are just made for bigger sounding venues. Next, I found myself in Underworld to catch Zoax. The buzz around this band was unreal.The lads absolutely tore the place apart, bed post to bed post, and lead singer Adam tells the audience “Don't worry, I will come out and meet ya!”. And within a couple of songs he is head first into that crowd!

Up next I saw Create to Inspire at the quirky little venue that is Bloc Bar. Create to Inspire are on form and their energy sets the room on fire. I left during their last song to try and catch Youth Club, However, the venue was so busy I could just about get past the main entrance. It sounded like the band was playing an amazing set and everyone was dancing along.

Seeing as I couldn't get into see Youth Club, I decided to try and catch Cold In Berlin at The Dublin Castle. Their dark mysterious sound brought some witchcraft to my day. Following that was Fizzy Blood at the Hawleys Arms, normally a trendy scenester pub however for Camden Rocks it was hosting the festival in its upstairs room. With no stage, there was an amazing amount of intimacy during Fizzy Blood's energetic set. Now I was ready for some SKA! Bring on Sonic Boom Six, by far the happiest band I had seen so far. Their energy transferred to the audience and everyone jumped up and down to their set in Dingwalls.

Underworld had a permanent queue to get into the venue all day, so I was lucky to get in for Yashin's set there. The lads are clearly used to playing bigger venues and Underworld seemed as though it could just about contain them. Beer was up in the air, pople were crowd surfing and inflatable bouncy balls were all over the place during their set. My second trip to Electric Ballroom was to catch Moses, a band I was unfamiliar with, but everyone else in the venue seemed to know who they were and the vbuilding was filled with screams as they took to the stage. If they can fill Electric Ballroom so comfortably like they did, the only way is up for them really
I the moved on to see. Vukovi, playing at Bloc Bar. They have been working hard this year, with a few releases out on Lab Records and a nice tour run, so it was about time the guys relaxed and enjoyed themselves. At Camden Rocks, they certainly did that. Embracing the festival vibe and throwing a hell of a performance.

Then there was Heck and there comes a moment in every Heck set where you feel you are about to die. Catching these guys at the Monarch was by far the performance of the festival for me. “Thank you to the Monarch for being stupid enough to invite this freak show back” the band say to the crowd, as they tear it apart limb by limb, like a spider's legs being picked off one by one. The band climb up whatever they can get grip on, and at one point a microphone stand gets lost, so they ask the audience where it is. And a little voice comes from the venue staff:

“It's behind the bar!”
“What a coincidence!” The band reply back.

How was Heck? Heck was absolutely bloody mental.

Rushing off after that buzzing set, I sprinted down to Electric Ballroom to find it rammed. The Cribs were about to headline and as they hit the stage the place completely exploded into chaos. The band are not your typical headliners, but as soon as they crashed into that first song you completely understand why Camden Rocks had the confidence to book them. They are not the only headliners I planned to catch at this festival though. I got over to Dingwalls to catch Young Guns ripping the venue a brand new one, the tiny stage in there looks to small for them and at one point it looked like the barrier separating the crowd was about to give way!

With one more band to tick off, I finished my day at the Dublin Castle, catching the end of the delightful Goldray's set as I waited for Johnny Foreigner. With a rare introduction from Thax Douglas which included some poetry, the band burst into their yelping indie punk that we all love them for, and it was an ideal way to end the day.
And as I sat there on the last train home, drained and borderline emotional, there was no denying what an incredible day this was. I can't wait for 2017 to do it all over again!

Words & Photography of Ant Adams
Zoax - Camden Rocks