It’s time for North London’s annual rock jamboree, Camden Rocks Festival, when artists of all genres of the rock umbrella descend onto the area’s music venues to wreak havoc.
From the Underworld up to the Assembly, over 200 bands will play over the next two days – and, given it’s the hottest of the year so far, it’s set to be an absolute scorcher of a weekend.
Artrockers Asylums  from Southend are certainly bringing a large dose of energy to the Fest stage, as frontman Luke Branch bounds around the stage like a gazelle. In fairness to him, it’s difficult not to move your feet to the fuzzy grooves of ‘When We Wake Up’ and ‘Alien Human Emotions’. There’s a delightful ’00s feel to their music – every song feels like it could easily soundtrack an episode of The O.C., and in this glorious June weather, you can’t beat it.
Gold Key  have packed out the dingy upstairs room of the Camden Assembly. The indie rockers have found themselves on festival line-ups all over the country this past year, and it’s not surprising that they’re making a name for themselves – they’re made up of ex-members of bands like Gallows and SikTh. They mix ambient, proggy guitars with indie rock swagger, resulting in them sounding like a fresher, moodier Muse. The moody ‘Creep In Slowly’ in particular sounds like it’s made for bigger rooms.
Back at Fest, you might think you’ve never heard of Undead Raisins , but it’s actually Colin Doran and Andy Gilmour of Hundred Reasons, playing acoustic renditions of some of their biggest tracks. If you managed to catch the stripped back Hundred Reasons set in the woods at 2000 Trees a couple of years ago, you’ll know that their early ’00s post-hardcore/emo sound lends itself surprisingly well to acoustic versions. The room is unsurprisingly packed out, and mass sing-alongs break out during the likes of ‘I’ll Find You’ and ‘Silver’, the memorable riff of the latter still sounding remarkable on an acoustic.
It’s unbelievable how many people have managed to cram themselves into The Good Mixer to see Funeral Shakes , but you needed to get down early if you wanted a good view. Word has clearly spread since the release of their debut album last year, and the room is so packed that revellers are standing on tip toes in doorways or peeping through windows to get a look in. You might not be able to see frontman Calvin Roffey, but you can practically feel his gritty, abrasive vocals ricocheting off the walls during the punchy ‘Over You’.
Love him or hate him, Frank Turner  has completely packed the place out for his headline performance at Electric Ballroom. It’s one in, one out, with the queue stretching round the block long before he’s even due to take the stage. When he finally does, it’s with the cheery ‘Don’t Worry’, the opener from his latest album ‘Be More Kind’, and Turner looks as eager as ever to be on stage for his two thousandth and… whatever number we’re on now, show.
Though a Frank Turner show always has its more sentimental moments – a poignant performance of the always heart wrenching ‘Long Live The Queen’ appears surprisingly early in the set – it’s also primarily one big party, and he pulls out plenty of anthems perfect for dance-alongs as well as sing-alongs: ‘If Ever I Stray’, ‘Photosynthesis’, and the glorious celebration of music and the joys it brings that is ‘I Still Believe’. Fans tonight are also treated to the premiere of a new song from Turner‘s forthcoming album: ‘Jinny Bingham’s Ghost’ is a hearty slice of folk rock fanfare that fittingly name drops famous Camden haunt The Underworld.
When done playing a good chunk of his hefty catalogue, Turner briefly leaves the stage only to return with Macclesfield rock duo The Virginmarys, as they proceed to pump out a medley of punk rock classics. ‘Pretty Vacant’ by Sex Pistols, The Undertones‘ ‘Teenage Kicks’, and ‘London Calling’ by The Clash are all slightly karaoke-ish, but great fun, and fun is the name of the game tonight.
Kicking things off in the Underworld are Glaswegians Lotus Eater , with a set of no holds barred brutality. If you’re still brushing off the hangover from last night, then you’re in the wrong place, as they’re keen to hit hard and heavy first thing. Fresh from appearing on stage with Bring Me The Horizon two days earlier, frontman Jamie McLees has no shortage of energy as the band rampage through tracks with titles that, frankly, speak for themselves: ‘Break It’, ‘Thug’, and ‘Yuck’. Need to let off some serious steam? They’re right up your alley.
They’re followed by Our Hollow, Our Home , who aren’t quite as brutal an assault on the senses. The UK metalcore up-and-comers have gone from strength-to-strength, and whilst they don’t really bring anything new to the genre per say, they do showcase what it looks like when it’s done well. Plenty of breakdowns to keep moshers happy interspersed with soaring hooks on the likes of ‘Wraiths’ and ‘Speak Of Sorrow’ ensure that their appeal is wide, as proven by the reasonable crowd they’ve drawn so early in the day. The next Bury Tomorrow.
Over in the Camden Assembly, there’s sadly less promising things from SHVPES . The Brummie rap metallers have been snatching up tour slots with everyone from Trivium to Of Mice & Men, so they’re doing pretty well for themselves. However, it’s unfortunately a pretty mediocre set, with the chunky riffs of ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Undertones’ sounding muted and dull in comparison to on record. Frontman Griffin Dickinson seems to be doing his best to channel early Papa Roach style nu-metal vocals, but it’s a bit cheesy.
If cheese is your thing, however, head on down to the Electric Ballroom. Despite not having released an album since 2005, A  draw the biggest crowd of the day so far, and seem set on having nothing more or less than a light hearted, old-fashioned, good time. It’s like you’ve jumped in a time machine and jetted straight back to 2002 as they rocket through track after track from their hit record, ‘Hi-Fi Serious’. Now with the addition of Dougie Poynter (McFly) on bass, the likes of ‘Nothing’ and ‘Starbucks’ retain their nostalgic joy, while simultaneously not feeling dated. There’s no lack of energy or enthusiasm from the band or the audience, and it’s enough to make you hope these guys return to the scene properly.
Delaire, The Liar  have some very rowdy and enthusiastic fans packed into the tiny bar of the Dingwalls. It’s understandable, really, given that the two-piece always put in a performance of wild, unrestrained chaos. Frontman Ffion Colley seems to ooze confidence, and the duo don’t seem to care so much about being polished as they do about absolutely letting loose. That said, they’d be even more captivating if they tightened the screws just a little here and there. Whilst they undoubtedly have fans here, they have a divisive style that most will either love or hate, and more still just won’t really get it.
Upstairs in the Black Heart, Acres  have attracted themselves a small but eager crowd. Unfortunately, their set is marred by the venue’s characteristic poor sound, making their hearty post-hardcore riffs sound muddy and bass heavy. That said, the band still give it their all. There’s something very organic and natural about their set – vocalist Ben Lumber seems to be pouring his heart out into tracks like the melancholic yet infectious ‘Lonely World’, and it makes them very likeable. A band that are definitely worth a watch – just in a better setting.
Deaf Havana  haven’t quite packed in the numbers that Frank Turner managed last night, but those that are here seem keen. They’ve come a long way from the post-hardcore sound of their debut album, and those expecting to hear ‘Friends Like These’ or any of its ilk will be disappointed with tonight’s set. However, their alternative rock sound is fresh and exciting, and seems to fit them well, as they demonstrate by opening on the poppy ‘Fever’. Shortly after, ‘Mildred’ sweeps up the crowd with its massive hook.
Frontman James Veck-Gilodi looks happier than ever when playing the new tracks, which are much cheerier these days – even ‘Fear’ is upbeat and dance-y despite the darker content of the lyrics. There is some older material peppered throughout the set to keep long-term fans happy – ‘Leeches’ sees one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night, and ‘Hunstanton Pier’ has lost none of its sincere, heartfelt charm – but as a whole, it seems the band are heading down an entirely different path that actually seems better suited to them. Ending on the very The 1975-ish groove of the undeniably catchy ‘Sinner’, it’s refreshing to see a band who’ve broken away from the mold and appear to be doing all the better for it.