Article and Photos by: Tash Chloe Greene
London, England – On Saturday 3rd June, Camden Town was host to the annual, musical assortment that is Camden Rocks Festival. The streets were buzzing even more than they usually are and were filled with excited festival goers, sporting band merch and sunglasses – really the only way to turn up to a festival on a sunny day!
My day of shooting started off at 1pm, seeing Veridian’s set in Be At One. They were a great opener, performing to a packed pub with funky lighting illuminating their presence. It was a bit tight fitting the 6-piece into one area, and so one of the guitarists was dealt the card of being ‘side stage’ a bit further away from the other members, but of course, still delivering his talent to as high standard as the rest of the boys. The set was packed full of enthusiasm and talent, and highlighted their hunger for breaking into the industry after just a mere year of being formed.
1:30pm: After spending an embarrassing amount of time looking very confused outside the closed down Simmons bar near Mornington Crescent Station, I eventually found the one that was still very much open for business near Camden Town Station, and was greeted by 3-piece band Vertebrae; they very coolly lured in fans with their tunes, confident stage presence, and colourful lights (that I took advantage of with a few multiple exposure snaps – as you can see in the gallery) for the entirety of their gig.
2pm: I bumped into the lovely Max Raptor boys hanging around outside Dr Martens store and had a quick chat before making my way in to see Asylums, but not before initially being rejected by the security guy because the venue had hit its capacity. Eventually, flashing my press pass and exchanging a few quick words with him (that sounds dodgy, but I just explained that I was there to do my job!) did the trick and I was in. The room was packed with energy and fans mesmerised by blissful yet energetic bassist Michael Webster, lead singer Luke Branch and his glorious afro, the wacky moves and literal melting into the floor of guitarist Jazz Miell (see photos), and drummer Henry Tyler, whose great facial expressions conveyed that he was absolutely loving life – and too right with a turnout like that!
2:30pm: Secreted away down Castlehaven Road, was in fact a hidden gem, in the form of Willow Robinson at The Hawley Arms. A wonderful and powerful acoustic set by him was a very welcome break in the nonchalant and spacious upstairs of the pub, surrounded by classic tall, wooden walls and a large cluster of old and new fans.
3pm: At the Electric Ballroom, The King Blues made an eye-catching entrance by congregating centre stage under a spotlight and hypnotising everyone with their harmonies of ‘If I Had A Coin’ and finger-clicking. The group then broke away and lead singer Itch began walking back and forth on the stage, riling up himself and the crowd. One of the set highlights came on the 2nd song in (bless the band’s choice of setlist and the 3-song rule for me being in the photo pit!); the beefy and political ‘Off With Their Heads’ was played out as Itch executed (yes, a deliberate choice of word) a cutting motion across his neck, followed by crawling into the crowd and standing up with the help of fans, while both parties furiously belted out the lyrics; this solidifying the fiery spirit for the rest of the show.
3:30pm: I had been waiting to see MassMatiks live for quite a while, and as expected, they did not disappoint. The very sweaty and adrenaline-fuelled band had complete power over The Crowndale and its occupants; confidence and swagger filled the stage throughout the set, and the much-anticipated ‘4AM’ took the energy of the room to a whole new level, as the crowd (myself included) aggressively sang along. All the boys, especially lead George, lapped up their reception, and rightfully so!
4:30pm: A very hot 15-minute walk from The Crowndale brought me to The Monarch, where Fizzy Blood entertained a packed-out room of supporters. Banger after banger, including ‘Animals’ and newly-released ‘Pawn’ were performed, and if you were there and read my event precede article, the promised whipping of Ciaran Scanlon’s hair was in full force, accompanied by the raging vocals and instrumentals of Benji, Paul, Jake, and Tim, as they played like the well-seasoned band that they have rapidly become.
6pm: Fast forward an hour, after strolling through the market with the sun beating down on me and treating myself to a much-needed and slightly-overpriced 99p ice-cream (£2.50!), Leeds lads Brawlers took hold of The Lyttelton Arms with a performance packed with punch and a declaration that the old Brawlers were dead, and their pumped up broken hearts were their new musical ecstasy. Fist-pumping and [good] angry fan involvement ensued, and guitarist William took full advantage of the adrenaline by waltzing into the seating area and perching on a table, whilst a guy out of the group there poured beer into his mouth – definitely one of my favourite photographs captured on the day! The show ended with one fan who had drank a little too much happy juice bouncing onto the stage and dancing with William, before lead Harry guided the man off.
6:45pm: A swift walk across the road transported me to the famous glowing lights of Koko, where Reverend & The Makers lit up the venue with vigour, passion and my favourite lighting set-up to date; just like the vibrant colours, the band engulfed the stage, and their well-known hit ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ was of course one of the first songs played. Frontman Jon McClure was beaming ear-to-ear as he waved his hands in the air and encouraged the already-chanting crowd to fully immerse themselves in the set (not that they needed telling), and a full-to-the-brim Koko unsurprisingly remained alive and kicking for the duration of the set.
7:30pm: Max Raptor were my next victim to shoot, and I was already mentally and physically prepared for the crowd chaos that is consistently brought when the band deliver their fantastically-written, venomous songs. Once more, The Crowndale was heaving with fans and the boys relished the atmosphere that they had created, so much so that lead singer Wil crowd-surfed across the room, to the delight of the fans, who had already swarmed together for multiple intense moshing purposes. As per, I found myself photographing until the end of their set, pushing through the pain of a cut and bruised ankle after being caught up in a mosh and shoved into the steps – oh well, all in the name of punk rock!
9pm: As my evening started coming to a close, I walked down to the Electric Ballroom to photograph 1970s rockers The Damned. The band showed more their experience than they did their age, and worked up an audience full of the young and the old(er) with ‘Melody Lee’, ‘Born to Kill’ and ‘Disco Man’ – just to start with! Quirky outfits, classic tunes and members with bundles of verve were spread across the stage, and brought more joy and nostalgia to their adoring, chanting fans than you could ask for.
9:45pm: The final act I went to see were Welsh legends Feeder, who put on a predictably mighty performance at Koko. The band were welcomed on stage with screaming and wooing, and the first song played nicely into followers’ hands as the headliners jumped straight into ‘Universe of Life’. Koko was bursting with enthusiasts, and Feeder managed to bring both drive and an essence of cool (not the arrogant type) to the venue; their performance was slick, and served up favourites such as ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘Buck Rogers’. Like their sound, the atmosphere was electric throughout, and the head-banging, effervescent ‘Just a Day’ ended the setlist encore.
My day ended there and what a great one it was; this was my first time at Camden Rocks Festival and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph and write about up-and-coming and well-established acts, and world musical legends. If you’re looking for an event to throw you into festival season, this is the place to go next year! The sun was shining, lively buskers filled the spaces between venues, ice cream vans had tactically placed themselves around, delicious street food was at discount, and a variation of incredible talent had been sprawled across the diverse and enticing Camden streets – what more could you ask for?