Camden Rocks 2016 (Live Review)

When the word festival springs to mind, I’m swamped with images of wellington boots, seas of water-logged tents and the world’s most abhorrent toilet facilities. Camden Rocks festival however, is a bit more in touch with our modern high maintenance needs, and the one-day event is set over 20 Camden venues instead. In its usual fashion it played host to a soiree of tantalising rock delicacies, and here’s how it played out for me.

Due to unwise planning on my part, my afternoon got off to a slow start after experiencing a lacklustre metal band named Continents at The Barfly. With every stereotypical hardcore/metal cliché in the book, the band fashioned a recycled sound into a 30-minute set and left me feeling a bit cold at the lack of passion that they breathed into their music. Admiration must be given to Phil Cross’ stage-energy, but I’ll pass on the fake emotion thank you.

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Surrealism was also in high order after a bizarre performance from Damn Dice at The Electric Ballroom. The hairy metal five-some were set to entertain with their matching leather jackets and overblown stage demeanours, but there was nothing particularity likable about their set or the way that they desperately yearned for the audience’s attention. Also, I wasn’t entirely amused by the side-orders of entitlement and arrogance that came with them.

Yet it wasn’t all bad! The day’s set of genuine novelty came from the unlikely loveable band Evil Scarecrow at the same venue. Yes, their act was doused with a sentiment of gimmicky show boating, but it was done so without a crumb of egotism, and they happily supplied a room full of beaming faces at their requests to robot dance, ballroom dance and thrive in the company of 7-foot robot invading the stage. Not only were they amusing to observe though, but each and every band member seemed to be in love with their own performance, and honestly, that’s what it’s all about, right? The group dub themselves as being “The finest heavy metal band ever to write a song about a robot!” and frankly, I have to agree.

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Novelty performances aside however, there were also acts of great calibre without the added hilarity. In the suitably cosy downstairs venue at The Barfly, Samoans filled the room with offerings of soft, beautifully articulated rock elegance and left the audience in a state of rare peace at the hectic event. Some may say that their stage-presence was a touch boring, given that the band boast of their exhaustive energy. Yet I have no qualms about the intimately delicate dynamism that they exhumed. They weren’t mind-blowing, but they were still a pleasure to listen to.

In comparison to soft tones though, the event also played host to more experimental music. Filling the venue of Camden Underworld was French curiosity Rémi Gallego, demonstrating his project The Algorithm. With an intelligible amalgamation of electronica and progressive metal, he displayed his talent to an audience who let their hair down and danced until they were lagged with a glossy second skin of sweat. Naturally, it all became a bit monotonous after about four tracks, but it was an interesting genre diversion and I have no misgivings with having witnessed it.

Following on in Camden Underworld were alternative-rock legends InMe, and shattered illusions were the name of their game. After having toured with the likes of Deftones, Limp Bizkit and Staind, I expected a set that would stay with me for the rest of my life. The reality, however, was quite different. Dave McPherson couldn’t sing live, and that is something that I say with a heavy-heart. There was absolutely nothing pleasurable about watching him strain his way through his set-list, and if anything, I resent having gifted my time to the performance. What a disappointment.

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My festival highlight came when Black Foxxes graced the stage at Dublin Castle. Armed with a passion that exceeded all other acts, the fiery three-some implemented a set to leave following bands feeling worrisome and queasy in their wake – and the awe-stricken crowd certainly agreed.

Complete with an innovative cover of Bowie’s Suffragette City, the group demonstrated how to consummate scorching talent and hunger, and to bear witness to Mark Holley’s tremendous vocal range was a spectacle all in itself. They may have had minor sound issues initially, but nothing could take away from the soulfully heavy rock offerings that were energetically thrown to the crowd. Mark my words, these guys are on the up, so catch them while you can.

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Admittedly, it wouldn’t be a rock festival without a cheesy dose of glam metal, and Reckless Love made sure that we had every possible cliché straight out of the 80s hair-metal bible. With the car-crash mentality of not being able to look away, the aging group delivered an eye-popping, borderline-embarrassing performance that will be firmly burnt into my retinas for the remainder of my life. Their outfits were tacky, their songs lacked every form of substance imagination, yet for the amusement factor I have no regrets about seeing their spectacle of a set – even if I won’t ever forget the sight of singer Olli Herman’s crotch in the world’s tightest leggings.

Older, more established bands like Reckess Love were certainly on the prowl throughout the day, yet it just so happens that an unforeseen emerging rock band surpassed their sets. When Moses first infiltrated the stage at The Electric Ballroom I wasn’t so sure what to think. Their ravenous, dizzy-to-observe stage-energy was unlike anything I’d seen throughout the day, but after a couple of contagious songs had rung out, I knew that I was destined to become a devoted fan. With a tight band presence and uniquely high vocals that make their resonance unforgettable, the group claimed the stage and delivered something unquestionably impressive.

Despite the impressive accolades though, the event played host to a set of surprisingly disappointing acts also. Yuck had been gifted with much anticipation, yet failed to live up to the expectations. Instead of the quirky indie vibes that I was hoping to receive, what was sloppily handed out was, in fact, rather tedious and mind-numbing, with their tracks merging into one long continuance of the same guitar-tones and flat vocals. Perhaps I expected far too much, or perhaps the hype surrounding the band is merely undeserving.

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Young Guns and SikTH may have been headlining other venues, but closing the night, for me at least, were metal-core heavyset band Norma Jean – and I have no regrets about my choice. With an angst-driven yet humble attitude, the renowned band conveyed a closure to the evening that was suitably bursting with stage-dives and sweaty, beer-soaked music appreciation. Songs old-and-new were ringing throughout the venue and the destructive performance gave The Barfly a legendary night for all its occupants to remember.

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What a festival!