Friday at The Crawl. Another chance to stand in a line and fail to see the bands you wanted to see yesterday but couldn’t. Still, the weekend was approaching, the sun is still shining, and there is absolutely no chance of Pete Doherty failing to turn up for something. So screw the queues. Of course, a punter tried that last year, and the authorities had quite a lot to say about it.
It was easy to spot where at least some of the longer waits would be. Scottish Radio 2 bothers Travis had nabbed Amy Winehouse‘s late evening slot at the Dublin Castle, and while they presumably wouldn’t have the lure of the Countess of Camden, it nevertheless looked like one with “get there early” writ large on it.
Pull Tiger Tail‘s general aceness, and the new-rave bandwagon Hadouken! would be riding also marked them out as possible points to watch those without VIP lanyards sauntering past queues of unhappy punters to ask bouncers for help identifying who they were.
But that was the future. The present began with the doors of the Electric Ballroom being flung open for the hordes to welcome Kate Nash to her largest gig to date. Complete with a fetching pink neon sign (which did looked pretty odd juxtaposed next to headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s death’s heads backdrop), she gamely skipped through a pretty enough set to general murmurs of approval and a few loud conversations of couldn’t-care-less-ness.
Forgoing the populist appeal of the young Ms Nash, the criminally under-attended Hafdis Huld offered something far more appealing. Yes, she’s from Iceland, and yes, she’s kind of kooky, but she’s nothing like their most famous citizen, so let’s stop the Leifur Eiriksson comparisons right now. She is, however, quite like Björk. But Björk before she got all serious and weird, and back when she was just playful and weird. Couple that to a hilariously unassuming wit guiding between songs banter and a Hafdis Huld set makes for a pretty special thing. Gorgeous versions of Velvet Underground songs, pink flying-V ukuleles and the lady herself decked out like a pink Christmas tree, it was all rather wondrous, and a world away from anything else we saw.
It was at least 55 years away from Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Three kids and their parents doing songs in a style that originally happened when the jitterbug was merely a larvae. It was, uh, strange. And Lewis’ jacket was at least three sizes too big for him. Not that it wasn’t momentarily distracting, but with the wide open spaces of Koko barely filled and that undeniable whiff of oddity floating in the air, that moment was always going to pass relatively quickly.
Returning the evening to a closer decade, and a Nordic flavour, Denmark’s The Kissaway Trail arrived with a great deal of promise due to a rather smart debut record. And for three or so songs, the barrage of guitars emanating from the stage was hugely appealing.
But then after ten minutes of ears being pinned back, the thought could help but occur: no subtlety, no variation, no hurdy-gurdy. Live at least, The Arcade Fire can rest easy.
The Crawl’s northern-most venue, the Enterprise, was playing host to new Memphis Industries signings Bricolage. Not for the first time that day, as we hoofed it from Mornington Crescent to Chalk Farm, did we long for a Camden monorail. By 2016 there’ll be a tram, says Red Ken. Will Bricolage still be around then? We caught the last two songs of their packed-to-the-gills set, just enough to suggest that we need to hear more of them before deciding, but that we really wanted to hear them.
A distinct change of pace brought us to a packed Earl Of Camden to see Akala. Although our appearance was marked by a mass waving of single fingers in the air, probably just incidental, although it has been happening a lot recently, his charged hip-hop managed to carry its political message well, despite the sun-fueled party atmosphere.
Speaking of carrying your political messages well, here’s Billy Bragg! What an institution. What a fella. Just a man, a guitar and some socialist leanings. He came, he saw, he covered Bob Dylan and The Carpenters, he waxed lyrical on patron saints, and the Electric Ballroom was left entranced, emboldened and enamoured.
His appearance also led to the fairly bizarre spectacle of Peter Hayes from headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club thanking the bard of Barking for playing. Which isn’t something any of us could have imagined seeing in our lifetimes.
Despite that, the dark-clad avengers from the planet Shoegaze were on spectacular form. A fuzzy ball of nihilistic energy, Berlin and Weapon Of Choice from the new album sounded monumental, and Whatever Happened To My Rock’N’Roll prickled with enough intent to scare the Beejesus out of any MOR Scots who happened to be plugging their dullard trench less than half a mile away at the Dublin Castle.
Run, Fran Healey! We’re coming for you!… Our basest music demons satisfied, all that was left was to work out exactly how many cans of Red Stripe you could drink before falling over. The answer to which is seven. Hic. See you next year…
• Report by Michael Hubbard and Tim Lee