This year’s Camden Rocks was the expected assembly of the great, the good, the spectacular, the amazing and the downright unexpected. On a sunny Saturday, our extravaganza commenced at the Hawley Arms with the dreamy pop of Lots Holloway – a gentle and laid back introduction to a day that this warm and dreamy music was perfect for.
Trying to get into the Dublin Castle we were turned away as it was already at capacity so sensing an unexpected adventure, the recently reopened Good Mixer was our destination, but we’ll talk more of that later.
The sun was shining and the atmosphere was growing as we eagerly anticipated Echobelly, playing at an unexpectedly early time slot in the day but, having a relaxed enough time to really enjoy their set; Sonja the epitome of Britpop cool and understated elegance.
Suitably entranced, we strolled to the Camden Assembly to be subject to the violently enjoyable and downright aggressive intensity of Ryuketsu Blizzard – their approach clearly being to shock people into submission with distortion and thrashing around, while having more fun than anyone we had yet come across.
As the day wore on, the frenetic intensity of 17.00 to 18.00 was approaching – a canter through Sonic Boom Six’s bouncing party, and onto Asylums head-bobbing, open-mouthed and sweat-soaked inspiration delivered us to Blood Red Shoes who out-cooled Echobelly, out-distorted Ryuketsu Blizzard and delivered equally dreamy sounds as had opened our day.
On to Hands Off Gretel, and the prize for most people moshing while fixated by a vocalist was won in a heartbeat. The dark side/lightside appearance of singer Lauren Tate might just have won ‘Biggest eyes in Camden’, such was the piercing nature of her gaze. However, it’s the band’s crowd that just shaded that award, following Lauren’s every move akin a hummingbird seeking nectar.
We catch (from afar) the last few minutes of Twin Atlantic’s energising set and await Koko’s headliner, Maximo Park. Anyone who has seen them will know what they can achieve when they’re playing live. On the other hand, anyone who hasn’t can’t appreciate the sheer effervescence of their performances by simply reading words and seeing photos but, tonight as with every night, singer Paul Smith has us in the palm of his hand to lead, cajole, encourage, inspire and take us to new heights. Maximo Park remain one of the best live bands this country has produced and it’s a fitting close to the live sets on offer before the aftershow parties commence.
In case you’d forgotten, we then went back to the Good Mixer where “this venue will do if the Dublin Castle is full”, which produces the highlight of my day. ‘Elswhere’ (sic) are a band with little online presence, no pretension whatsoever, and a spirit and aura that reminds me of the early days of any burgeoning music genre. Check out Elswhere’s debut single below.
Singer Ethan Smith has a voice that can shake the rafters, and some guitar riffs that can rupture your beliefs, all the while surrounded by band members who simply look a little too shocked and delighted by their surroundings. It’s the perfect combination of musical accomplishment, childlike naivety, and vigorous enthusiasm that, for me, was the highlight of my day.
This is what makes Camden Rocks Festival so special – the unexpected gems that truly inspire you to keep seeking out the new and the untried.
Camden Rocks moves to a two-day experience next year. Early-bird tickets are already available and I can only hope that more gems and diamonds are on display… with the scheduling gods smiling on us as much as they did this year.
Video content accredited to Camden Rocks Festival.