Camden Rocks Festival 2014 - Highlights

As the sunshine cascaded into the streets of Camden Town, 8000 rock fans emerged to embark on a day packed to brim with bands, bands, and did we mention, more bands? Spreading across 20 venues from Chalk Farm to Mornington Crescent, the day brought today’s finest in an overwhelmingly huge rock scene, celebrating Camden’s renowned musical past. With no mud and grass in sight, it may not be your typical festival, but its ability to give bands of any size a chance to impress, it might just be our new favourite event.

First up was The Underworld to check out local based five-piece Sondura who had to tackle the awkward first slot of the day; a difficult feat for any act. Although at first the crowd wore thin, this didn’t stop their authentic gritty tonality to propel through the room. As their set drew on, vocals from frontman Tom Watson took upon more people under his wing through an undeniable hard-rock melodic Alter Bridge influence. Their fresh mentality towards rock infused with the odd scream to pack a heavy punch saw the head bangs materialise. But their true musical artistry came alive in their clean guitar elements that added a fresh atmospheric edge.  From new tracks to old, their chunky riffs and energetic persona was hard not to be impressed by. 8/10

Next up was a different change in pace in the form of The Peckham Cowboys at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. Ragged, trashy and quirky, these London based rockers proved that a shambles isn’t necessarily a mess. Hailing material from their album Flog It, their scatty persona made for a comical and enjoyable set, unlike any other act on the Camden Rocks bill. With vocals making their way from the depths of rock in the 70’s and 80’s, and trumpets making their mark above the typical guitar tones, this band can only be described as an experience. All be it mentioning the word ‘painkillers’ confusingly too many times to mention, it raised the room’s spirits that its never too late to rock out. 7/10

After a quick dash to the top of the festival map, it was time to explore the smaller venues in the presence of Avosetta at The Enterprise. This alternative rock quintet had a tough challenge competing with likes of the ever growing popular Verses, but held their best efforts to flourish in a room that was hotter than Ibiza. Their fun, lighthearted spirit shined through their musical dynamics in track ‘Wait Your Turn’ as frontman Sam Gibbons did his best to engage what was a tiny crowd. Although their set was at times repetitive and arguably nothing mind-blowing, their abilities to fuse pop and rock on a stage laden with sound hiccups was admirable. 6/10

The next band we caught was the notorious musical convention breakers Fearless Vampire Killers, in their acoustic stance at The Forge. Stood in front of what was an obscure but grand light wood panelling; it was a delight to catch a band who are known for their hectically energetic electrical live set-up mellowed down leaving only their softer savvy side to show. Tracks such as ‘Fetish For The Finite’ and ‘Could We Burn, Darling?’ saw the vocal talents from Kier and Laurence to glimmer, proving that this five-piece are certainly nothing mundane. Whilst it must be said their electrical sets are where their musicality really comes into play, their acoustic performance impressed on a grand scale. 8/10

From delicacy to brutality; we caught Birmingham based melodic metalcore quintet Cytota next in The Monarch. The small setting was packed out for the band who recently supported Memphis May Fire on their UK tour, and they didn’t disappoint. Despite the difficulty being able to hear clean vocals, screams from Joby Fitzgerald more than made up for it. The combination of merciless vocals and metalcore guitar technique saw for a sterling crowd response. Crowd favourite ‘Between Jokers & Jesters’ and new track ‘Generation Scared’ loaded the room with no less than a ferocious five-piece breakdown synchronization. Their darting, sudden shifts from melodic to metal are ones to be watched. 9/10

It was time to head back over to the bigger venues and see Blitz Kids tear up the Electric Ballroom. After releasing their debut album The Good Youth earlier this year, the Nantwich rockers’ musical career has gone from strength to strength, and the venue turnout spoke for itself. As soon as their effervescent pop-rock energy flooded the stage, the crowd were animated, whether it be jumping around or ‘ahhhing’ and ‘oohing’ at the command of frontman Joe James. Although their set was predominantly new tracks such as relentless energy booster ‘Run For Cover’, the oldies didn’t stop fans from cheering ‘Blitz Kids will never die!’ and that they won’t. Although it seemed that the younger fans were more interested, their liveliness, self-assured vocals and oozing positive riffs showcased that this band belong on the big stages. 8/10

It was back over to The Underworld for electronic infused rockers The Howling which had drawn a very sweaty, hot and packed to the walls room. Today’s rock and metal scene is arguably a wash with many bands who carry a similar stance within their sub-genres, but not this four-piece. Their bass lines, punk riffs and synth technicality was both addictive and awe-inspiring to watch. Lead vocalist Blacky added his moments of humour too to the set; ‘This song’s about me, it’s called Champion’. We’ve got to admit though, he’s right. The band’s ability to hit various genres made for an unpredictable set as their in your face attitude lead to the set’s closer ‘Beat The Planet’ all too quickly. Our one criticism? We couldn’t get close enough to the stage to see properly. Its not too bad though when you’re treated to half an hour of adrenaline fuelled punk rock. 9/10

After what was an exceptionally packed day, we managed to catch West London based Hang The Bastard as our final band of the day at The Barfly. The metal four-piece have been hiding away this year crafting their new album, but returned to Camden in what can only be described as in a bloodcurdling outlandish fantastic way. Under a cover of permanent red lighting, the band’s approach to the live stage is one that is refreshingly dark. No props, no gimmicks, no talking, just pure music. Their sludgy, dooming vocals and musicality dipped their toes into the gorges of hell. If you thought you were in for a lighthearted affair, Hang The Bastard delivered the opposite. Screams from Tomas Hubbard were ruthless and attacked the walls of the mosh pits that emerged. Their immensely merciless live sound left the ear in metal despair after half an hour, but in a way that addicted you for more. 8/10

Ultimately, our views on Camden Rocks Festival? Its no less and pure awesome. Although in only its fifth year, its simple concept and value for money entry fee will allow the festival to continue to prosper and thrive for years to come.

Scribbled by:

Music Journalist to be, gig-goer and mosh-pit enthusiast, who will head bang to any heavy riff you throw my way. Basically, if I'm not listening to music, then I'm doing it wrong.

Follow me on Twitter at @emyoungerr