So that was (day one of) the Crawl that was. Sunshine, lollipops, and uh, queues. Many, many queues. If they decide to put Amy Winehouse in the Dublin Castle again next year, I’d rock up there now with a sleeping bag and a thermos of weak lemon drink if you have any desire to get in.
Such is the problem with the Camden Crawl, London’s very own festival in a borough. Put local lass la Winehouse in a tiny pub, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in the only slightly larger Underworld and The Bluetones in anything with a capacity larger than a shoebox and, come the end of your evening, you’re going to have massively skewed weightings of both attendance, and attempted attendance. Issues, in other words.
Last year’s festival comprised just one evening. This year, the event has expanded to not only to encompass two nights of music, but two afternoons of vaguely mysterious activities in a selection of Camden venues. “Industry figures” pontificated at tables, pop quizzes came and went and, here and there, a smattering of unbilled acts attempted to capture their slice of the mayhem.
So, in blistering sunshine, our crawl began early, with Kat Flint amongst a spread of acts playing a “don’t-mind-me” acoustic set in the corner of the Spread Eagle, an uncaring pub full of the hubbub of afternoon-off-work chit-chat. Shame, because as female acoustic singer-songwriters go, and they don’t go far, she isn’t bad.
Next up, a slow stumble to Fallout’s party at the crescent where New Young Pony Club were supposed to be. Sadly, New Young Pony club obviously hadn’t seen that memo, so we arrived to find a pub full of both people, and signs mentioning something about “circumstances beyond control”.
A schlepp back up north was then in order for the tail-end of The Priscillas‘ set at World’s End. Unmemorable, aside from the fact the lead singer was wearing some kind of leather catsuit thing, the sweating logistics of which don’t bear thinking about. Yet now, that catsuit’s all we’re thinking about. Eeeww.
Then came Morton Valence, a band melding electro and indie rock who’ve been on the cusp of leaping up running orders for what seems like too long. Well drilled, with songs to spare, they deserved to be higher up the bill than they were, or at least to appear on it.
The main start to the evening, at least in terms of bands appearing on the flyer, was Cajun Dance Party, a band with a collective age of 17 (possibly) and more column inches than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Incidentally, if you collect 12 column inches does it become a column foot?) With little else to do at the point, and that old hype monkey Fon their backs, the queue for the Electric Ballroom was epic, but the short set rewarded those who stuck it out.
The rather marvellous These New Puritans were next. However, for reasons unexplained, only half of the band were on show – These Two Puritans, I guess. Mind you, it was still pretty good; glitchy, edgy, and slightly unnerving – like Aphex Twin picking his teeth with a hunting knife.
Afterwards something rather different with keytar and drums duo Shy Child, who finally release their album this year. The Statesiders began their set to 20-odd bemused Corona-sippers at the Cuban Bar, but by the close of their set the place was rammed.
At the Earl of Camden, Sweden’s lilting and bemusingly named Loney, Dear were throwing heartfelt shapes of indie and attempting to be heard above the shouting, guffawing and general ignorance of their audience. You felt for them – events like this must test a band’s self-belief to continue playing even though hardly anyone is listening.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the lure of the Winehouse beehive had put paid to any chance of getting in to see iLiKETRAiNS at the Dublin Castle, so it was a case of trekking up Kentish Town Road to see the second best band from Brazil, Bonde Do Role. The three-piece comprise a pile of backing tracks, two enthusiastic Brazilian boys and Cartman’s miniature cousin screaming over cheesy pop classics. This pigtailed delight, at full height, bobbed around the heads of the audience – a live cartoon, or the next big thing? We grinned and waved our hands in the air, whatever.
Back at the Cuban Bar, a one-in-one-out policy was in operation for hooded electro-muppet Calvin Harris, who produced one of the sets of the day to get the place dancing on every available surface. Chairs, tables, backs of chairs – everyone was in party mood, and it was only when some bright sparks decided the best vantage points were to be had by dancing on the bar did the venue people intervene. Acceptable In The 80s, The Industry and Girls were wheeled out in quick succession to leave his audience grinning delightedly.
Elsewhere, Blood Red Shoes laid waste to the Purple Turtle. An innocent looking pair who create a wholly ungodly racket, consider them an evil iteration of Jack’n’Meg created in the image of Josh Homme, and blessed with a Death From Above 1979esque weight to their punch. Phew. And they look like such nice kids…
Of course, the day ended, as it began, with queues. Even at the time she was due on, there was a still a massed throng of, you call them hopeful, we’ll call them naïve, people congregating in a uniform manner outside the Winehouse gig. Or queuing, as the popular parlance goes.
Apparently, she aired her Mark Ronson collaboration Valerie – a cover of The Zutons‘ song – and apparently, although this is just scurrilous nonsense that some bloke swigging a can of Special Brew outside the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet told me, she got really pissed off that no one knew the words to her songs.
Which does make you wonder. Who exactly was stood outside that pub for upwards of three hours if not her fans? And who does drink Special Brew?
The final acts of day one were Ash and The Damned. With the walk down to KOKO for the latter unappealing, and the line of people waiting to get into the former momentous and stationary, we decided to take our leave. Tomorrow would be another day.
• Report by Michael Hubbard and Tim Lee