This year the Camden Crawl returned from its 2013 Dublin excursion a slightly different animal from the one that was last seen sprawling over the eponymous London borough in 2012. Here are eight highlights from the two days.
1. “Which stage should I go to?” is now a question of the past. This year the two-day event operated on an EU-style wristband system, which allowed free movement of people from venue to venue. Use your travel card between gigs! Buy beers from off-licences! Freeedoooom!!!
2. Orienteering! Although being a skilled orienteer isn’t a requirement for going to Camden Crawl, it’s certainly helpful. You may want to have at least have done the Duke of Edinburgh if you want to make the most of the 22 venues which span a range as wide Mornington Crescent to Kentish Town East.
3. Cymbals played twice over the weekend, at 6.00pm on Friday and 10.00pm on Saturday – effectively opening and closing the weekend’s live music. What an honour! A shiny synth-pop foursome with catchy hooks and some comfortingly misanthropic lyrics, they come highly recommended.
4. The Camden Town Brewery is a great place to see live music, grab a drink (obviously) or just hang out. Soaked in sun, and tucked under the overground train lines and fermentation towers, bands play to a crowd made sate and lethargic in the afternoon glow by the combined produce of the Bitchin’ Burger Company’s freshly sizzled meat (among the sauciest patties I’ve eaten) and the dozens of different beers crafted on site.
5. I’ve finally decided whether I like Yuck or not. Here is a band which I have mixed feelings for, kind of like the Bonny Prince Charlie of UK alternative music. Unofficial heirs to the Cajun Dance Party throne (or at least containing two former members), and despite looking like a capable bunch of trendy young guys’n’gals, they’ve never quite managed to sail across the channel and claim their place among the high-energy, wistful indie bands that CDP seemed to be heading for before they fell through a crack in the road (or whatever happened to them). With its scuzzy 90s guitars and beautiful/tragic vocal harmonies, the whole set was like the conclusion of a film whose denouement was a different scene in which singer Max Bloom decided he doesn’t want the life Cajun Dance Party will bring him (lodged between Los Campesinos and Two Door Cinema Club) and decides to emulate his closet-hero, Thurston Moore.
6.The Black Tambourines are comprised of four young men who terrorised a willing audience at The Good Mixer with their youth, anger and energy. They hammered out a breed of surfer, stoner and punk rock which had feet jumping and heads banging to rubber-neck levels.
7. Since three of them are related, Cattle & Cane are basically the Hamill family band. Hailing from Middlesborough, they play the kind of americana-folksy-country guitar music that Ed Helms probably listens to on long drives. They are thoroughly impressive instrumentalists, equally good songwriters and can all sing beautifully. Gimmie some of those Hamill genes…
8. I have a new favourite artist. His name is Jeffrey Lewis. He’s from New York. He can’t sing, but he sings anyway, damn it. His songs are original, intelligent, entertaining and even educational. He writes long narratives about his life as a poor artist in America and his lyrics are absolutely inspiring. He also writes and illustrates comics, and combines music and comic on stage, using a projector to spin sublime stories before our gleeful eyes. Jeffrey Lewis puts storytime back on the agenda, teaching us about Vietnam, American counter culture and the importance of Pussy Riot. What a hero. Go see, and damn the expenses.