Camden Crawl, Camden, London
Indie kids are singing in the rain
It was on Saturday afternoon, as a packed and unannounced gig by the Drums at the Barfly began 45 minutes late, that the aura of sunny calm that began the annual multi-venue chaos of Camden Crawl gave way. As the band cannoned into "Let's Go Surfing", outside the crawl threatened to become the front crawl as torrential rain started to fall and luckless fans looking to catch a glimpse of one of the festival's biggest names through a window abandoned hope. Inside though, as tambourines flew, a crammed audience doing their best to pogo along were treated to a glimpse of one of the most authentically hip acts on the bill.
By the evening, the grim prospect of queuing in the rain to see bigger acts like New Young Pony Club proved so unpleasant that there was a healthy redistribution of interest in favour of smaller venues. The Jazz Café benefited in particular. There, Best Coast impressed with a lo-fi chillwave set that momentarily transported the soggy masses to the Californian sunshine, followed by Slow Club, a Sheffield-founded boy-girl folk-rock duo. Later, drum'n'bass headliners Pendulum harnessed the nervous energy of crowds who'd spent much of the day careering up and down the thoroughfares of NW1 up the road at the Roundhouse, where earlier Sugababes had performed to instrumental backing by a guitarist who will have looked familiar to fans of Guns n' Roses. It wasn't really Slash, of course, but then it wasn't really the Sugababes either.
Sunday afternoon saw the outdoor Red Bull stage play host to a visibly tired Chew Lips whose electroclash charm shine through the grey weather, with songs like "Slick" and "Solo" especially wowing the crowds. Enthusiastically applauded by a sea of bobbing umbrellas, it was a fitting warm-up for their full set later on. As the day wore on, like the ravens at the Tower of London, something would have been amiss without north London's music scenes two most totemic ambassadors. As Pete Doherty wandered the High Street but refused to confirm rumours he was to perform, in the Dublin Castle, Amy Winehouse pulled pints for an impressed crowd.
While headliners Teenage Fanclub and Gang of Four were on reliably impressive form, Camden Crawl has always been about the breakthrough acts, some meeting their British audience for the first time. To this end, the second day saw Surfer Blood and Sunshine Underground both packing out their respective venues and delivering solid sets that mark them both out as ones to watch over the coming festival season. A little further on in his career, former Test Icicles frontman Dev Hynes furthered the case for his inclusion in the British indie music aristocracy as Lightspeed Champion played a tight set at Electric Ballroom that saw some virtuoso instrumental work win over a capacity crowd. Later, he popped up at the Roundhouse to perform a cameo on guitar for two songs of We Are Scientist's headline set, which was well received by one of the Roundhouse's largest audiences of the soggy but nonetheless vital event.
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