Photo: Justine Trickett
It’s something of an understatement to say that Camden Crawl is a varied experience. After all, there aren’t too many places where, in the same pub, you can see stripped-back, harmony-laden Swedish folk, followed directly by a sinister robotic cat playing a tiny Casio. However, that’s exactly what Gigwise finds on offer in the early afternoon at The Earl of Camden, where we choose to start Saturday’s crawl.
Linn Öberg and her band kick things off in gorgeously laid back fashion before the inimitable Tim Ten Yen takes the stage. With his cheap suit, omni-directional hair and various stuffed animal helpers, he gives the impression of a geography teacher pushed past mental breaking point by lippy year nines, especially when he dances. His music, however, bares the hallmarks of a pop genius in the mould of Gruff Rhys.
Left in the mood for a bit of fresh air and something a touch more brutal, we head down to the Camden Gardens where, under a railway arch, we find Leeds based upstarts Marmozets kicking the shit out of as many time signatures and hardcore-sub genres as possible in the space of their set time, much to the delight/utter terror of passing pedestrians.
Heading along the canal back towards the loch, it’s clear that the weekend’s increased police numbers have been matched by an increased level of tolerance, with public drinkers given a smiling wag of the finger at worst. After some waterside dining in the company of an insane European couple (clearly in the thrall of “un petit vodka”) we head to the Barfly for Keep Shelley in Athens.
Often compared favourably with groups such as Saint Etienne, this Greek band take sounds familiar from dance music and give them such a melancholy twist that listening feels like recollecting a night out gone horribly wrong, with everything slowed down and shot through with charged emotion. Sarah’s vocals have a similar haunting aspect to those of Zola Jesus, soaring above hazy looped backing tracks and dream-pop guitars, whilst propulsive double bass lends some brawn to the otherwise bitter-sweet, blissed out proceedings .
We drift out of the venue and manage to shake off the impact of the set on the long(ish) trudge towards Mornington Crescent and the opulent settings of KOKO where, if they were still needed, Eugene McGuiness and his band are on hand with the smelling salts to bring us out of our stupor. Presenting a stage persona somewhere between Liam Gallagher and The Fonz, Eugene delivers material that, whilst more focused than his early work, is still brimming with ideas.
Across the road at the decidedly more intimate Purple Turtle, we’re disappointed to find Clock Opera have dropped out of their slot. They’re replaced by fiN, whose sharp, tight attacks are worlds apart from the patient swells of the group they’re in for. Nevertheless, it’s immediately obvious why they’ve garnered their dedicated following.
We arrive back at KOKO just in time to see The Big Pink taking the stage. From our vantage point on the balcony we watch Robbie, Milo and company deliver their stock combination of noisy guitars, big beats and anthemic choruses. Unlike the live shows that followed the release of their debut, they’re no longer using live bass, and have instead added additional keys. It serves the material from their 'Future This' album well, and the group are still clearly feeling the excitement of airing relatively new material live. Even when a half-full pint whistles passed his ear, Robbie can’t help but bounce to the swaggering Hit The Ground.
That said, predictably, it’s old favourite 'Dominos' that gets the biggest reaction from the crowd. As he slashes through the song’s effect-heavy chords, the mirrored scratch plate on Furze’s guitar beams a reflected searchlight into the crowd, picking out fans bouncing with arms linked wherever it strays...
We round off the night by heading all the way across town, weaving through the stable-bound Saturday night human traffic with an efficiency that only comes with knowing that, in your absence, a low capacity venue is all ready filling up. The Enterprise is the destination in question, playing host to Bastille, who, unable to fit on the tiny stage, spill out into the crowd, further adding to the crush.
Their set’s mixture of electronic and acoustic percussion, and its combination of piano tones with harsher synth sounds creates a compelling dynamic between the warmth of the songs, and something deliberately cold and distant in their delivery. New single 'Overjoyed' is a great example (as well as a good entry for least apt song title of the year ) being both mournful and danceable, something like a heartbroken Friendly Fires.