Live Review

Camden Crawl, Sunday 1st May 2011

It’s a bit scary, but entirely mesmerising.

Note to self: When suffering from the mother of all hangovers, it is generally unwise to arrange to meet people at the Red Bull Arena, wherein a band with the great name of Cerebral Ballzy will attempt to ensure that any pleasurable pain killing effects of the Ibuprofen, consumed earlier with gleeful abandon, is brutally blown out of your system.

It’s worth mentioning that the aforementioned Cerebral Ballzy have managed to pull a rather large crowd. In no way am I suggesting that this is the pre-OFWGKTMA effect. I wouldn’t dare, they look like they could snap me in half with their little finger, and play the kind of loud, screaming hardcore punk that my brain is definitely not ready for.

But there’s a spot in the crowd that we’re unwilling to lose, lest a second is missed of one of the most anticipated gigs of the Crawl, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (to give them their full title) taking to the stage. After the cancellation of their recent London show with no explanation, we still aren’t convinced they’ll actually show, but such is the expectation of the event that, as the PA announces their presence in the ‘building’, the crowd erupts with chants of “Wolf Gang! Wolf Gang!”. Roadies are greeted on stage with huge roars of approval, before the realisation that this isn’t the band hits the crowd, and they go back to the ‘Wolf Gang!” chanting task in hand. If anyone else in the crowd is feeling a bit sorry for the indie outfit Wolf Gang, who must surely be feeling that their choice of band name has been rather usurped, I’m honestly a bit too scared to ask. This crowd looks young and fierce and wound up tighter than a coil.

The eruption when the band take the stage unsurprisingly, utterly insane, Tyler the Creator appears in a fairly scary green balaclava and immediately launches himself straight into the crowd. At this point, in normal circumstances, it would be appropriate to describe Odd Future’s actual music, but I fear I’m going to fail you dismally. There’s so much going on that it’s difficult to focus on that most important thing, photographers in the pit are being threatened by the band (“if you’re still here the next song… your shit gets broken and I’m not paying for it”), security are getting taunted (“fuck these barricades and just knock shit over”) and there’s a constant stream of stage divers over our heads, or being thrown back into the crowd by the aforementioned security. And all that’s ignoring Tyler and Hodgy Beats climbing to the top of the speaker stacks, the latter jumping around fifteen feet, feet first, into the crowd, in what has to be the world’s Most Impressive Stage Dive.

It’s a bit scary, if I’m honest, but it’s entirely mesmerising, exhilarating, and finishes with a band incited stage invasion to rival all other stage invasions, past, present and yet to come. We leave the arena, wondering if anyone will ever book Odd Future for a festival gig again and if they do, who will agree to be security, just as the PA announces that if the crowd don’t get off the stage, they’re calling the police (and they don’t mean Sting – although that might clear the venue quicker). Our hangovers have been well and truly shocked away - Odd Future: Succeeding where Ibuprofen failed.

Deciding where to go from here proves rather challenging. Who or how on earth do you follow that? Should we just go home now? Remembering the joyous mood that Frankie and the Heartstrings inspired yesterday, we decide to trot to the Forum, because that’s whom our programmes inform us is playing next. But in the spirit of the anarchy of the day, the programme is lying, and it’s Benjamin Francis Leftwich, who avid readers of Camden Crawl Day One’s review might remember reminded certain members of the audience of Bryan (not Ryan) Adams’ vocal stylings. A small exodus of disappointed Frankie Fans follows, but those that do stay are rewarded with a heartfelt, honest performance. We stop a while, enjoying Ben working his way through his forthcoming debut album, ‘Last Smoke Before Snowstorm’, but after the afternoon’s madness, it’s a little too soothing, a little too serene.

Mindful that the queues for Mr Coxon might be a little bit on the traditional Camden Crawl side of affairs (oh, how right we were), we decide to head to Proud Galleries and catch the preceding act, The Phantom Band. Having queued to get into Proud, only to discover another queue inside to get into the still closed gallery itself, it’s all getting a little frustrating. None of which is helped by the atrocious DJ, who appears to be labouring under the belief that those who’ve turned up to see Scotland’s finest space rock outfit might really enjoy listening to the Black Eyed Peas as they wait in a corridor, when they could be seeing some actual blinking bands. Ahem.

If you were to attempt to describe The Phantom Band, which this being a review, it seems only fair that I do, you would do so thus: “Imagine that the Flaming Lips wake up one morning, and realise that whilst he’s a nice enough chap, Wayne Coyne can’t really sing. But that Nick Cave bloke’s got some really good pipes on him, hasn’t he? Let’s get him in, instead.” Perhaps more impressive than actually engaging, the band coax some interesting sounds from the array of instruments at their disposal, and whilst anyone playing a melodica is generally alright by me, there’s a lingering sense that much of the audience is employing what must now be known as “Cerebral Ballzy Tactics” (or CBT for short), and merely bagging a spot for Proud’s main event.

Once again, the interim DJ does himself proud (geddit?), spinning three Fun Lovin’ Criminals tracks in the space of half an hour, and creating a stirring audience singalong to Blur’s ‘Parklife’, as we await Graham Coxon; who, if he’s listening in his dressing room must surely be refusing to come out by now. Given that his last release, ‘The Spinning Top’, was an acoustic album of essentially Nick Drake influenced folk, but the number of electric guitars adorning the stage insinuates that this isn’t on tonight’s agenda. Indeed, the opening new track is a world away from acoustic, it’s a guitar heavy, noisy beast, and not dissimilar to that which follows, ‘Standing On My Own Again’ from 2006’s ‘Love Travels At Illegal Speeds’. Proud is, as Proud does, heating up and it’s packed to the rafters, it’s no place for the claustrophobic, that’s for sure. We’ve been promised a special guest, and after rumours of Doherty and Paloma Faith (admittedly, both started by me), it’s Shinghai from the Noisettes, but all too quickly it’s time to bail. If my plan to marry Evan Dando before the night is out is going to stand any chance at all, it’s time to make a mad dash past the massive queue of frustrated punters hopeful of catching the last sniff of Coxon, and back to the Forum as fast as we can to catch the last of the Lemonheads.

Fortunately for me, Dando is as beautiful as ever (although, he could do with a haircut). And for those not being led astray by their hormones, the Lemonheads are finishing up a set of veritable classics; judging from the crowd reaction, there are a lot of ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ fans dancing their little cotton socks off tonight. Admittedly, this appears to be one of the Lemonheads’ more shambolic nights, the timing’s a bit off in places and the guitar falls out of tune a little too easily, but no one cares when you’re ripping through ‘Stove’, ‘Rudderless’ and ‘Drug Buddy’ in quick succession. The crowd bays for an encore but goes ignored, and the house lights are raised to loud boos – the Camden Crowd sure is rowdy today.

Handily for my poor, tired legs, next door at the Bull and Gate, Tyneside’s ‘Let’s Buy Happiness’ are only halfway through their set, and are in the midst of asking the small crowd that has gathered for them to move closer to the stage. If you ever wanted to know what happened to The Sundays, vocalist Sarah Hall is busy channelling Harriet Wheeler’s spirit live on stage, accompanied by a backing track of exquisitely swooning guitars. Sarah’s voice is undeniably the star attraction, as she effortless shows us on set closer and recent single, ‘Six Wolves’.

And so we amble towards the final headliners of the night, not that we’re actually planning on seeing them, but since the announcements that they’re playing have been greeted by boos at various venues during the event (and coupled with “that photo”), there’s a morbid curiosity to see whether anyone has turned out to see Razorlight at the Electric Ballroom. Indeed, turn out they have, the queue outside the already full venue is both insane and hilarious, and a bouncer, confused by the look of joy on our faces as we realise there’s no chance of getting in, tries to push us into one of the two (count ‘em!) queues. Thanks, but we’re good. Grabbing some sustenance to carry us through our final jaunt of the weekend, Simian Mobile Disco at Koko, we listen to the kids, still chanting ‘Wolf Gang! Wolf Gang’, as we join yet a different queue, albeit this time for chips and drinks.

Koko, as it happens, is also rammed, and the floor is slippery with spilt drinks (at least, I hope it’s drinks). It’s very full on, and the kids at the front are busy throwing shapes to ‘Audacity of Huge’ and ‘It’s The Beat’ like there’s no tomorrow. Fortunately, being a Bank Holiday, there technically isn’t. As we decide the time has come to crawl home, rather than round Camden, Simian Mobile Disco are in full throttle, with their impressively futuristic stage set up looking like the TARDIS, if the Doctor was ever to be regenerated as two mad professors of squelchy acid madness. Actually, anyone have the number of Steven Moffat? I’ve had an awesome idea…

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