With the Camden Crawl being so geographically close to us in Brighton it’s a wonder that we haven’t been before, but then again we do have a rather giant new music festival on our doorstep coming up in a few weeks. Armed with little more than a cursory glance at the schedule and a brand new DSLR camera we headed up to London. We were quickly made aware that unless we wanted to see heavy rock and metal the Red Bull Bedroom Sessions, (the only billed daytime music on the Saturday), required swerving and so we opted to get to the HMV Forum HQ for 5.30pm. We collected our press passes, were handed some free drinks vouchers and decamped to the balcony to plan our evening and revel in the perks of being a VIP – something that comes to a blogger with an equal sense of gratitude and due reward for all our otherwise unpaid work on these online pages. It was here that we caught our first band of the weekend, Frankie & The Heartstrings.
Being fans of the album, it was disheartening to see them fighting a valiant but losing battle with the sound-system. Their attempts to reproduce the jangling, light hearted melodies of their debut regularly falling foul of the set-up. On stage their antics were enough to make up for it with frontman Frankie energetically prancing around the centre whilst the guitarist threw bucket loads of enthusiasm into our peripheral vision. The crowd seemed to be happy enough with the performance as the forum rapidly filled through the first few songs. The set climaxed in Hunger, the penultimate song and stand out track from the album, with the now full venue contributing enough oh-oh-oh-o-woah-oh’s so that Frankie could feel confident enough to climb into the crowd – microphone outstretched – and let them do the work. Not a bad start to the proceedings but the next act we wanted to see was DELS and we’d got a long walk down Kentish Town Road ahead of us.
Entry to The Jazz Cafe was easy, however, manoeuvring through the assembled crowd to see DELS was less so. After jiggling into a semi decent position to get some photos he appeared on stage backed by a live band. We were slightly surprised by his stage set-up as what we’ve heard so far lends itself to beefy beats and wide synth lines. The band provided a nice live feel that wouldn’t have been achieved with a backing track but in turn lacked some of the punch and party atmosphere of his recorded work. Considering the man is so visually creative – his exceptional self-designed videos being a good example of his immaculate attention to detail – it was odd to see him in a plain T-shirt and jeans combo. If anything the scaling down of aural and visual expectations served to highlight his lines which were delivered with punch and passion. This created an interesting shift in attitude from the strong lyrical delivery that wasn’t matched by the banter between songs where his confidence seemed to dissolve. In fairness the crowd weren’t giving a lot in return, although the response to his singles was good, but with the album not out until the following week it’s understandable that his other material garnered less appreciation. With a train to catch in order to return to our beloved Brighton coastline for DJ duties it was a shame to have to leave a venue that was to have MNDR playing in it later that evening.
Some food was in order and after that a few minutes of S.C.U.M, before we beat a hasty retreat to Brighton. Unfortunately our new camera, which had up to that point just been a physical burden, now became a legal one as we were declined entry to the Electric Ballroom without a specific photographic media pass. Not being prepared to leave our new toy in the less than careful hands of the door staff, we hightailed it for the tube. Meh.
Following the same logic as the day before (and only having only previously been given a program for Saturday) we arrived at the Forum at 5pm to find out that we’d just missed Odd Future (OFWGKTA) at the Red Bull stage! Fuck! Kicking ourselves so hard that it hurt, we attempted to numb the pain a little with some more free drinks on the balcony. Frankie & The Heartstrings were on first (again?) and it sounded like they’d resolved the issues from the day before but having already seen them we headed next door to the Bull And Gate.
On show were the excellent Dutch Uncles. From the promos we’d heard, we were expecting a slightly tweaked version of Libertines-influenced indie from a few years ago. It became immediately clear that this wasn’t going to be the case. The vocals stood out first, sounding like they’d been lifted from a Wild Beasts song; high pitched, wavering and delivered by an awkwardly twitching front man who made Ian Curtis look like a picture of confidence. Their songs have a far more intelligent structure than we had given them credit for. Catchy indie riffs are succeeded by intricately plucked counterpoints of guitar melody. Both guitarists playing similar parts at offset times to create interwoven lead lines under which the bass and drums locked into a propulsive groove. When not twitching or being strangled by his (very high) waistband, front man Duncan Wallis was accompanied on some of the songs by a large and retro-sounding keyboard. Despite being a shy band and having long periods of silence between songs they managed to inform us that having a mere five musicians on stage wasn’t enough to fully do justice to their album, Cadenza (released six days earlier). They would be playing a gig at the end of the month at XOYO with plenty of guests. Considering we had thoroughly enjoyed their interesting set in a supposedly stripped-back form we can’t wait to hear it as its supposed to be played.
We set off on another hurried walk down Kentish Town Road and across the lock to The Monarch venue with the intention of catching the end of Bright Light Bright Light. Having had them play at one of our Recommender Parties we knew it’d be a good show and we could save our legs as the next band we wanted to see, We Are Animal, were on afterwards. Through a strange mix up on the timetable, which we’re yet to understand, we alarmingly reached The Monarch in time to see We Are Animal frantically ripping through their final song. From what we’d heard, they’d swapped out some of the rhythmic groove from their recorded material for more balls out thrashing and were attempting to take the roof off of the venue. The synth player had joined in with the percussion and clearly took serious offence to the wood block, hammering it hard as everyone else took to sweating – a lot. Going on the final applause we’re gathering that the earlier half of their set was just as loud and rousing. In an attempt to cheer ourselves up after the programming fuck up, we took to rather an obscene amount of Dim Sum and headed for the Dingwalls venue.
Here we caught the performance of the weekend. It’s fair to state that Cloud Control were absolutely mind-blowing. Alistair Wright’s voice is astonishingly good and the amount of noise four people can create from just a guitar, synth, drums and stick-beaten flight case felt like a bit of antipodean sorcery. There was definitely magic in the air as the Aussie band produced dreamy melodies injected with just enough energy to keep the crowd going. The venue was full and the band were dappled in a kaleidoscopic light that lent a slightly psychedelic feel to the performance. We left feeling that they are definitely going to be a very successful band when their album finally comes out in the UK. Fusing the intelligence and complexities of bands like Animal Collective with irresistible pop melodies and breathtaking vocals. Ours ears would happily have taken more, but alas their set had finished and Sunday service on tubes and rail meant Brighton was beckoning yet again. We considered two lessons for next year; get on top of the programming and find a way to stay the night over in Camden. These negative thoughts weren’t pondered for long though as the lasting melodies of Cloud Control danced around our thoughts all the way home, marking something of a perfect way to end the weekend. (MA)