In terms of blogging about Camden Rocks, perhaps an immediate review would’ve been bang on the money. But in terms of reflecting about what makes an event like this a success, I’ve benefitted from a few days to think about it.
I’ve been going to outdoor festivals since I was 16, but it’s only since attending Sŵn after arriving in Cardiff that I’ve been to their indoor equivalents.
First things first – I’m a big fan of outdoor festivals. They’re one of the few times in your life when you’re truly immersed in music with friends over a sustained period. For better (seeing one of your all-time favourite bands) or worse (stinking to high heaven after not washing for 4 days).
But there are some bands that just belong in club venues. The claustrophobic spaces suit bands with big punchy sounds. I saw Dinosaur Pile Up at Reading a few years back, where they were unlucky enough to play to a half empty tent of transient music fans at mid-day. Chuck that same band in the Electric Ballroom with sound rebounding from the walls, and you have quite a different proposition.
There was some time for reflection too – going to the Barfly to see Gnarwolves brought back some good memories from the venue’s Cardiff equivalent. And despite some technical problems, the Gnarwolves brand of epic punk with big and melodic choruses worked a treat.
The Subways are about as perfect a live 3 piece as you’re ever likely to see. Most good live bands have an expressive individual in their ranks, but seldom do you get a band where every member goes hell for leather on every song. Add some big choruses, and you’re on to a winner. The dry production on their first album winds me up (I’ve always wished that Butch Vig worked on their first album too), but live songs like Oh Yeah are given the room to breathe they’re denied on the album.
Whether it’s an indoors or outdoors event, a real festival isn’t complete without a new discover. Bleech were absolutely phenomenal, with a tight but scuzzy sound and lush vocal harmonies, which are almost reminiscent of First Aid Kit (the harmonies rather than the rock).
One of the big bonuses of a day like this is the location. Camden is one of the great UK music communities, and there’s something quite awesome about wandering between classic venue and classic venue. That’s where Camden Rocks came into its own – big sounds in small places.