Nightmare in Camden Festival
November 1st 2014
Halloween happened a day late in Camden this year, as Nightmare in Camden came to many of the town’s plethora of venues. Louder Than War’s Keith Goldhanger was there to experience it first hand.
Camden Town in North London, between about 23.00hrs on Thursday nights and Sunday evenings can be a different place to how some of us view it at other times during the week. We arrive as the clock strikes Twelve (noon) and already the tourists and Halloween revellers are here in their thousands, eating buckets of paella and bananas with a coating of chocolate sauce that they’re balancing precariously in one hand as they wander along the market in an attempt to purchase yet another Roger Dean poster to put up on the wall when they get home.
On arrival at the HAWLEY ARMS to see LA HORSE half way through their first tune the numbers are thin…actually worse than thin if you don’t include the barman and the soundman. I look around the corner and see another person but realise immediately once I see the whites of his eyes that he is the keyboard player. I’m here on my own for at least five minutes before half a dozen others arrive to save me from having to clap on my own in an empty room. Probably members of other bands and a lone photographer. History will teach us later on today that this is probably one of the days highlights. Bright shirts, inflatable palm trees a few nods to the Flaming Lips and Floyd and a man that sings like Shirley Bassey. Something worth getting out of bed for I hear no one else say as I pat myself on the back and wonder where the rest of the music loving world is and what else lies in store.
On to Dingwalls to catch PLASTIC BARRICADES hitting a long last note whilst the tiny audience claps and then stops clapping when the song stops thus rendering the room in total silence and then a peep through the window (The door had not at this stage been located) at THE SHOW playing what sounded like uninspiring pub rock before sitting down, puffing out our cheeks and wondering why that bloody alarm got set so early….
Fuck it, we’ll have a pint and go to see a band that was decided previously should be avoided like the plague….
There is criteria that’s been considered today regarding all these bands not heard before and it goes something along the lines of no Pub Rock (failed), disregard anything that includes a band member that looks like Kurt Cobain (we also failed on this one right from the start) anyone in a Halloween costume (failed) and anyone that has a bass player that doesn’t use a plectrum gets struck off as well (failed on this one too).
Today, during many moments of not being very inspired it dawned on us that much of Camden’s bad side is on display today. There are people in bands that appear to be very happy just to be in bands and there are people in bands that love playing the songs they’ve written to eradicate all the bullshit they have to do in order to end up on a stage in the hope that people will come along and eventually go home to search out more from that band and continue a wonderful relationship. These are different attributes. It’s noticeable during the day that some of the decent bands on display were spotted at other gig’s during the day, nodding frantically and briskly departing to (it is assumed) catch someone else and then there were those that enjoyed a fag together, posing for pictures with passing tourists and downing pints in unison as they appeared to be living the dream having finished playing in front of twenty people and proceeding to pour lager down their throats as though that is how the rest of the day was always meant to be. Some of these people, well one at least also thinks it’s “Rock and Roll” to trash a mike or monitor and that particular band I’m not even going to bother telling you about which has probably done them a favour, however …….
…..d’ya wanna know about a band that are worse than the Darkness ever were ? –
They’re called DUCHESS (photo right) or maybe THE DUCHESS, I don’t care. They have a front man who dreams of being Freddie Mercury, can’t sing and don’t actually appear to have any songs. At least THREE costume changes, two open fronted cat suits and some on stage press ups …….( I do not make these things up, cross my heart and hope to …well not die but maybe something less like being upended by a fucking tourists trolley say for example outside the Barfly in front of all the fucking security……) ……anyway and the band appear to play out some very long intros to songs that don’t actually exist. We get encouraged to put our lighters in the air and join them in a clap along. There are eleven people in the room and a couple of us having ventured to the front in an attempt to take a picture (and have the singer continuously pointing to us) begin slowly moving as far back as we can, like we’ve ventured a bit too near to some lions whilst pissing about in the jungle. The Darkness actually had at least three decent songs which is three more than we heard today, however I doubt no one plays a meaner air guitar than this man does. A shockingly terrible band that we now imagine some of you may be now wanting to check out and come back telling me I don’t know what I’m on about and that they’re great and then in three years time the bloody singer will be hanging off a wire inbetween two large fabricated breasts during a sold out gig at Alexandra fucking Palace.
Yeah ! Rock and Roll …
THE VALVES are rocking out at the Hawley (gong !) , DEAD are shouting at us in the Barfly (gong!), STAR SCREAM are all in halloween fancy dress and making a racket on a stage lit by sunlight entering through the windows of all four walls (gong!) and then we look up and find IAMINLOVE doing their very welcome not shouting but singing in a high pitched voice like Wild Beasts, Clock Opera or Klaxons and treating us to some pretty cool throbbing electronica back in Dingwalls canal side bar (tick!).This band (who may or may not have had the word “Friday” at the start of their name at the early stages of their existence) have a couple of very ace tunes at the moment like this one and at the time of writing I believe these tunes are shortly going to become some of our favourites. You’ve not heard the last of this lot.
A real winner….
TIGERCUB are also the real deal, pumping out decent slowish grunge tunes that’ll keep us interested in future months and SYKES are also welcome to our ears as they pump out the odd electronic tune that remind us of Bat for Lashes and make us thankful we’ve come across another band who’ll also be investigated further. BRUTAI seem to be growling at us so we head towards a potential highlight that we came across when this event was first publicised here.
He’s a one man car crash who spends the first half of the first song in the ladies toilets whilst outside the door a gaggle of photographer’s point their camera towards the door awaiting his return and then snapping away like he’s the new Messiah (he is in fact just a very naughty boy). He unsuccessfully tries to walk through a wall at the side of the stage and falls on your correspondent from a fairly small but relevant height. He shouts, screams, presses buttons and stands on anything within reach without falling over and is not as scary as we feared. His tunes…? oh they’re the dog’s bollocks mate ….
We caught the last couple of minutes of ALEXA DE STRANGE in the Black Cap and as people went silent when I was overheard mentioning that I’d actually seen someone worse than this during the afternoon they kinda peeted out and I began to think maybe I’d just been standing here for five minutes watching a few people arse around on stage in between acts. There’s something really likeable about the Alexa de Strange tunes we’ve heard but there’s equally something we don’t like about them….I may have to get back to you on that but for the moment there’s a queue forming at the bar and Saturday night is nearly upon us.
Before the pints were finished a young lady who we hope wasn’t in full fancy dress (those tattoo’s won’t wash off we imagine) appeared to scream the house down in the way that only Coutney Love could ever dream of and in a way that Wendy O Williams we thought did many many years ago until we did a bit of research this morning and realised that DEATH KOOLAID are actually playing music we used to have to visit a record shop all those years ago to be proved right or wrong about. DEATH KOOLAID may be perveyours of shouty stuff with loud guitars but they know how this works and take no prisoners as their short sharp intense shouty, hardcore tunes grip our attention and leave us wanting more. That’s good shouty by the way. Good shouty is singing that appears to be on our side and makes us feel that whatever’s coming out seems to be saying something you agree with as opposed to some of the earlier shouty stuff which was directed AT the punter and frightened us a little.
That’s what we decided today anyway.
When we approached Death Koolaid’s singer she didn’t seem to give a fuck about how much we liked it and told us to speak to the drummer. The bass player may not have been English and I always try to put too many words in any audible sentence after a few beers and then the guitarist…
“Oh, I’m just filling in really…”
…..also pointed to the drummer who was still wearing a wrestling mask and packing his gear away. Anyway, I’d made contact briefly therefore I won’t be scared of them anymore. They looked like a heavy metal version of Daisy Chainsaw but as stated earlier, I could not work out whether this band are actually in fancy dress, or always look like this or maybe (more likely) a bit of both.
THE ALGORITHM at the Underworld are the discovery of the festival. One man and a huge heavy metal Slipknot sized drum kit and one man with a couple of small gadgets that he twists and turns in between thrashing at a guitar playing instrumental tunes that actually remind us of Slipknot, Atari Teenage Riot, The Prodigy and one of those mad banging nosebleed techno outfits from central Europe. We get about five seconds of reggae that suddenly goes all nosebleed techno, nosebleed gabba and ends in a simple hands in the air dance anthem whilst down in the moshpit revellers in their metal attaire simply don’t know which way to turn. This is fantastic fucked up heavy metal dance music that flies around the room from all angles and doesn’t disappoint. If only this duo were from NW1 instead of France and we could watch this every week…..
A quick wander down the road to see an enjoyable song or two from AEROPLANES FLY HIGH whose buzzing twin guitar tunes let us down in the “mustn’t sound like Nirvana” category but we leave wishing we’d seen more and pop next door to catch a last tune from KNIFEWORLD who have horns and trumpets on stage and a very decent song at the end of their set that if sung in tune could give the Polyphonic Spree a run for their money.
The Hell are all wearing colourful wigs, tell us a great Halloween joke with a punch line only The Hell could throw at us and scream, shout and tell us we’re all a bunch of dicks. They treat the genre of hardcore with the (dis)respect it may or may not deserve and we all lap it up but we wonder how long this will go on for before they go back to their day jobs of being all serious and singing about picking flowers and falling in love (if you’ve not read about this yet, it was recently reported and then denied that under these half hidden faces and wigs exist the same faces that are known to the English pop world as Kingsland Rd).
The consequences of seeing this band for a second time (and writing about them for the second time) are that we miss a lot of THE TUTS which is kind of inexcusable really because what was seen was the kind of brilliant punk rock show we’d expected since first witnessing these last year and falling in love with the “Dump Your Boyfriend” single that reminded us of those glorious nights in the long and distant past listening to “Girls at our Best”. One day we’ll realise that The Tuts are possibly one of the coolest bands in the world and one day I’ll go and see them again and one day we’ll get there on bloody time.
Remaining in the Good Mixer we hang out to see those kings of Rock and Roll THE DEDWARDIANS who have been one of those bands mentioned over a pint more than once this year who we therefore deemed necessary to have a look at. It feels odd watching a Rock and Roll band in this pub historically renowned for its Britpop ghosts that still reappear before closing time but this lot are a breath of fresh air that know what they want, which are tunes with the occasional nod to the Cramps and we even get reminders of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis in the voice department. There’s a big audience waiting for them out there away from NW1 but finding could be a trek but nobody said this lark would be an easy one. Once they find it they’ll be no stopping them.
KING CHARLES is doing his best summer festival performance in the Electric Ballroom playing in front of a large drunk audience and including Paul Simon’s “You can call me Al” in the proceedings.
We knew BLOOD RED SHOES wouldn’t let us down over Halloween weekend by turning up in jeans and T shirt. This duo make a big slow entrance before a note is played dressed up like Siousie Sioux and a member of early 80’s goth band Alien Sex Fiend. Another two piece band that might not sound so good if there were more members and a set of sounds so honed down and played to their best that are a fitting end to the long day.
As we glance back at the duo before leaving it’s noted that a few years ago alomost everyone used to look a bit like these guys do when we went to gigs and didn’t need Halloween as an excuse either.
Of course, those days are now long gone and we end the day with even more new artists we need to delve further into and wondering if there was anything else amongst the other 120 bands that we missed over the day that may have been as good, or as bad as the ones we took notes on.
A never ending conquest really isn’t it? – And a bloody nightmare !
https://lahorseband.bandcamp.com/releases – LA HORSE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE6DbPge4f0#t=184 – SYKES
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm2d076tP2M – THE DUCHESS (sorry!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZclHgkNFmc – ALEXA DE STRANGE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwG97ah0mEU THE ALGORITHM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAgYuVn0MrY THE HELL
All words by Keith Goldhanger. More from Keith can be found at his Author Archive.