Review of Camden Crawl Festival 2012

Although no longer the epicentre of London's hipster scene - the rise of Shoreditch and Dalston in the east part of the city has seen to that - Camden still holds a degree of sentimentality to those with a soft spot for Cool Britannia. It's perhaps fitting, then, that one of the curators at this year's Camden Crawl is Steve Lamacq, a man who epitomises the scene and cultural aesthetics of Camden's first wave of popularity. Now in its 11th year, the Crawl may have been superseded by other multi-venue events such as Brighton's Great Escape and Liverpool's Sound City in recent years but it still holds a special place in the hearts of old romantics such as yours truly. Regular visitors will have noticed that it has now become the Camden/Kentish Town Crawl although that could quite easily be replaced by the word "Queue", as some of the smaller venues prove a tad challenging to access. Still, there's a selection of musical highlights to keep even the most cynical observer entertained and despite numerous minor setbacks, here's the best of what Contactmusic saw over the course of the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Camden Crawl

Proving themselves to be one of the better attempts at sounding like this year's Magic Numbers, Edinburgh's Kid Canaveral fitted the 2 girls/2 boys bill at least, only slightly less appealing to look at (yeah, I know!). However, their charming, upbeat indie pop seemed to win over the swelling crowd at The Earl of Camden and was fittingly timed to offset the mood outside the venue as the rain returned.

With Dog is Dead being one of the most hotly tipped new bands for commercial success, it was surprising to arrive at a virtually empty Ballroom only 20 minutes before their set time. Rest assured though, punters trickled in thick and fast and the band delivered the tight and accomplished set we've come to expect from the Nottingham five-piece, all but one of whom have played together since the age of 15. Their five-way vocal harmonies, part Larrikin Love, Mystery Jets and Mumfords inspired sound has the potential to appeal to a mainstream audience, with latest single "Two Devils" being the highlight in a set bound for glory during this year's festival season.

Playing the same-billed slot at Koko, Spector really have the hard-core fan base nailed and final song, "Never Fade Away", sounds like the perfect follow up to "All These Things That I've Done" by that band we all once liked. Spector could easily reach the same level, especially with a front man as unashamedly charismatic and energetic as Fred Macpherson. Brandon Flowers, watch your back!

After stumbling in on a mid-afternoon Glasvegas acoustic set in the press area and hearing a beautifully haunting and reverb laden version of 'Geraldine' for my troubles, it whet the appetite for their full set that evening. Bemused to arrive to find the front three rows of Koko packed with young females, I instantly thought the same stage manager from last year's V Festival had been employed (where Glasvegas went on instead of Peter Andre - it didn't end well), but no, they were here for the Glaswegian four-piece.

Seemingly humbled by last year's backlash and subsequent dropping from their label, it was pleasing to see them back on form. Gone is the misjudged Johnny Borrell inspired white attire, Freddie Mercury poses and arrogance from James Allan circa 2011 and back is the guitar, the black and the passion. It's always nice when a band knows which are their best songs and their fifty-minute set is near flawless with the usual closer of "Daddy's Gone" as heart-breaking as ever.

Everyone loves a spanking new pair of shoes, right? Not when they're Converse you don't, so what better way to wear them in (or should that be destroy them?) than amongst the sweaty throng of teenage bodies that made up much of The Cribs audience? After making several comments recently stating that they were glad to get back to a three-piece, it was strange to see a second guitarist join them uncomfortably at the back for the whole gig. Barely adding to the sound, his appointment seemed questionable. Johnny Marr he was not. The Cribs unflinching rawness doesn't bode well for showcasing new songs live but old favourites including "Hey Scenesters" and "Another Number" still sound as thrilling and anthemic as ever. Ultimately, its moments like these which still make The Cribs one of the most exciting bands to see when under the influence and a fitting close to a messy weekend.

James Pain

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