Camden Crawl is described by it's very own website as "NW1's most salubrious alternative music experience", and having spent an evening venue hopping in the vain hope of seeing as many bands as possible, who am I to argue with them.

The event was launched in the mid nineties, with the aim of showcasing the hottest new acts, putting them alongside more established bands while maintaining an affordable ticket price. After a break of eight years this chaotic night returned in 2005, and a complete sell-out convinced the organizers that this really should become an annual event.

Previous artists to have played in their early years include Snow Patrol, Beth Orton and Mogwai, and last year's fun and games included the likes of Maximo Park, Hard-Fi, Go! Team, Subways and Kooks. Alright so this ain't a guaranteed passage to the top of the charts, but it will certainly be interesting to look back in a year's time to see whether this particular bunch of bright eyed hopefuls turns into a who's who of 2007.

It's fair to say that this is a challenge for all concerned. Twelve venues around Camden, between them hosting fifty bands. In true festival style those who venture in should never expect to see everyone they'd like to, it simply isn't possible.

The organizers add to the excitement by keeping the running order and venue plan a secret until the night, exchanging your 20 entry fee for a CD featuring artists on the line-up, a list of venues with band's names next to them, a wrist band to get you into everything and then stand back and watch the confusion oh what fun they must have!

As if that's not enough excitement for one evening, the headliners remain a secret until the running order is unveiled. This year the star turns were Supergrass, Futureheads and Dirty Pretty Things, three names which are partly responsible for giving this the tag of one of the first festivals of the year. All three played to packed venues, for Supergrass an appearance at the Dublin Castle was their smallest show in over a decade.

The night was launched by two acts who played twice. Wolfmother performed a secret gig at the G-Lounge, yes they do love this hush hush thing don't they. Meanwhile The Fratellis appeared at the Fopp Records store alongside The Delilahs and The Example. It seemed that anyone could get into that one, which was handy as it gave the tout hunters something to occupy their minds. The first secret out of the way, and it was left for the likes of Dogs (at Koko) to get proceedings officially underway.

One of this line-up's most talked about bands in the music press The Young Knives, didn't seem to get the Electric Ballroom rocking in quite the way they might have hoped. I've read reviews of them in the past which talks them up as an excellent live act, but for some reason this time it didn't seem to be happening. To be fair playing early on in the evening at such an event can't be the easiest of gigs, in this case a number of punters seemed to be either an interested by-stander, or trying to figure out what they were going to do next.

Those of them who headed up the road to the small and very sweaty Oh! Bar were in time to catch the Howling Bells play a powerful set in front of a packed crowd. The gig was made up of tracks from the band's self-titled debut album, watch out for single 'Low Happening'.

The Underworld hosted the Kerrang! night. Put off by the massive queue outside the Dublin Castle for Mumm-Ra, the option to catch the incredible 65daysofstatic turned out to be a good one. There was no vocalist, but they still had a mic stand, this is a band who leave you with no choice but to focus on their fusion of melodic pianos and powerful heavy rock.

Meanwhile back at the Electric Ballroom, the extremely funky Larrikin Love had really stuck a rocket up the backside of the audience as the place was jumping for their set. Edward Larrikin was clearly inspired by this as, during the final song, he left the stage and joined those dancing at the front of the crowd.

Many of those inside stayed where they were, anticipating the scrum for Dirty Pretty Things later on, but they missed many a treat elsewhere. To be honest they also avoided a lot of standing outside venues.

Fratellis played their second gig of the night, this time at NW1. This bunch of more punky Libertines drew a massive following, with many having to make do with watching through windows and with what they could hear from the street.

This was followed by one of the many stars of the night, a headline set from Absentee, which included one of the most striking vocal performances of the evening. Their mellow, acoustic based music was topped off by something which sounded like a combination of Jarvis Cocker, Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, Mark Knopfler and Barry White!

This 10.25 time slot was possibly the hardest to call. Aside from Absentee in NW1, Crawlers could have seen Wolfmother at the underworld, Morning Runner down the road at Purple Turtle, or the fantastically energetic, rock rap explosion that was Akira the Don at Dublin Castle. The latter's set included an excellent freestyled version of George Michael's 'Faith', samples from Elastica, or to be properly accurate Wire, and an appearance from a Ninja Turtle, or at least a mask of him.

By this point in the night it was time for those still standing, to decide if they would stay where they were, or attempt to squeeze into somewhere else, as it was the moment for the headliners to do their thing.

It seems the excitement of the occasion got to the electrics at Koko, as the Futureheads set was halted for ten minutes due to a power failure. Those who stayed in the Electric ballroom earlier on were assured of a good position as Dirty Pretty Things unveiled tracks from their forth-coming, eagerly awaited debut album. Those who hadn't gone to Akira the Don would probably have struggled to shoe-horn themselves into Dublin Castle for the affore mentioned, smallest Supergrass gig in years, which featured anthemic classics such as 'Caught by the Fuzz' and 'Pumping on Your Stereo'.

For the real die-hards, or more to the point students who have nothing better to do on a Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the preceedings got underway at 3 PM with various happy hours around Camden, and wound down around 4 AM as many venues hosted after parties long into the night.

The best way to tackle such a vast array of musical talent is to try and see a few songs from as many as possible. The beauty of an event like this is that you pay your fee and can do as little or as much as you fancy, giving you the perfect opportunity to check out bands you've heard or read about to get an idea of what they're like, before going to a full gig or seeing them at a festival later in the year.

The down side is that for the really popular bands, or those playing in small venues, the queues to get in can be massive, and if you're not careful you could spend as much time outside a venue as you do watching who's playing inside.

Having taken a break for a number of years, this event is well and truly back. I would say that 2006 will be viewed as the year when Camden Crawl really came of age, and Camden should be hosting this action packed celebration of new music for many years to come.