Arts: Pop: It's Camdenonium for musos and wannabes

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The Independent Culture
CAMDEN MAY not be the most glamorous place in London. But its concentration of pubs, clubs and live venues make it a haven for up-and- coming and not-a-dog's-chance bands to tout their wares in front of inebriate swarms of music lovers. They come, equipped with Dayglo wristbands and a hearty thirst, to conduct a tour of the area's venues.

Formerly known as the Camden Crawl, Camdemonium is now an annual affair and showcases a collection of semi-familiar acts - the kind that you might recognise from billboard posters, small ads in the music press and garbled recommendations - and has become a rite of passage for self-respecting wannabes. The crowd are notoriously difficult to please, often more interested in their alcohol consumption than the music. With its bafflingly packed programme, it is also possible to get through the Crawl without seeing a single band, and judging by the blank-faced groups huddled over credit card-sized maps at street corners, this was indeed the fate of some punters.

But the event offers an interesting insight into tomorrow's bands - previous Crawls have thrown up the likes of Beth Orton, the Lo Fidelity All-Stars and the Sneaker Pimps - and offers rich pickings for passing A&R persons.

Judging by this year's crop, the future is in guitar-crazed indie-punk bands. First up were Seafood, an engaging though unremarkable quartet of mop-topped Sonic Youth devotees, who attempted the stroppy rock star act when they half-heartedly threw their guitars to the floor and waggled their bums at each other before leaving the stage. On to Magoo who, signed to the ultra hip Scottish label Chemikal Underground, were the biggest disappointment. Their high-pitched vocals graduated into a head-shattering whine and sent us scurrying out into the night in search of something a little more earthy.

Perhaps the biggest name on the roster were the much-trumpeted Tiger. This was their second shot at Camden, which might suggest that this is about as big as they'll get. Still, they packed out Dingwalls. Their folky appearance - all tambourines, print frocks and au naturel hair - was tempered by their bedraggled but lively vocalist, blatantly modelled on The Fall's Mark E Smith.

The Crocketts were wonderfully raucous with their snarling, punk rock banter. Their frontman, Davey Crockett - no, really - is not someone you would like to encounter alone in one of Camden's dark allies. His rockabilly appearance and demented demeanour, suggestive of the Hicksville madman usually associated with David Lynch, had the crowd laughing nervously and loving every minute of it. It seemed too good to be true when he revealed a couple of missing front teeth.

Weirdos were also in abundance at the superbly named Brian Jonestown Massacre, seemingly led by a tambourine-shaking acid casualty with agrarian sideboards. The singer lurked at the back, upstaged by the profusion of hair in front of him. This band could go far.