Review written by Tom Donno and Gerard Durkan
Camden Rocks Festival. An event we've been covering now for many years, watching it truly grow and cement it's place in the festival calendar and consistently attracting swathes of punters. As ever, the festival ended up being absolutely bathed in sun which only enhanced the overall atmosphere of a truly 'feel-good' event.
Whilst we've been covering it for years, this year's review is unique in the fact that we've never really kicked things off by talking about an opening band who in the same breath were also our act of the day. Sleep Token (11/13) are a mysterious outfit, a band who have only really got a handful of live shows under their belt, yet they're a group who have seriously garnered some attention recently due in no small part to the quality of music they're creating. Operating completely anonymously, the leading vocalist graces a stage bathed in almost complete darkness with his somewhat ominous mask shimmering in what limited light glazed across the Electric Ballroom, only proving to accentuate his generally bizarre demeanour as a performer. To put it briefly, it's difficult not to be absolutely glued watching this lot. Musically they drifted from some intensely heavy moments to soaring, heartfelt splashes which had the whole venue absolutely rooted in excitement. They've not released a lot of music but it was encouraging also to see a handful across the floor either singing along or fully 'in the know' for each twist and turn the band led the audience down. Genuinely invigorating to catch something this exciting so early on in the day at a festival.
Staring down the incredibly difficult task of following Sleep Token were Colt 48 (8/13), a band who gave a hell of a lot in energy but didn't quite maintain the engagement with the audience throughout. The two-piece from London certainly bring a bit of a racket but their absolute strength lies in some of those choruses. If they hone some of the rougher edges together a bit we could be seeing Colt 48 around for quite a while.
Heading in to The Underworld for the first time, Brigade (8/13) packed the place out, delivering a strong set which will almost certainly have earned them a fair few new followers. After taking time out for a good couple of years, the post-hardcore alternative quartet are still finding their feet somewhat but the talent is clearly there for them to be able to have a real go at taking it further.
Next up for us were Press To Meco (8/13) which required a bit of a stroll in the sun towards Dingwalls. Similar to Colt 48, their power comes with their huge choruses and with the volume at which said choruses were being sung back at them from a crowd which gradually increased in size throughout their set said it all about their rise in stock in recent times.
Moving back across towards the main central hub of the festival, The Bongo Club (6/13) proved to be one of those bands on the line-up who you immediately become drawn to because of their name but just as quickly lose interest when hearing them musically. The Swedish outfit have their moments and certainly have the energy but needed to bring a whole lot more.
Driving towards the business end of the festival, The Underworld housed an absolutely chaotic performance from the excellent Hacktivist (10/13). Pounding through their set with a truly infectious level of energy, the Hacktivist crew curated a set-list which seen them rail through their bigger hits alongside some deeper cuts for some of their long-term followers. Whilst of course the show is driven by both Jermaine Hurley and Jot Maxi, it's the band's tightness and constantly impressive crushing levels of heavy which keep the punters on board throughout.
Following on from them to a depressingly small crowd were the legendary Sikth (11/13). Absolutely launching in to the almighty Philistine Philosophies they wasted little time throughout the set to plough through as many of their heavy as fuck tracks as possible. Musically the band sounded absolutely flawless, with Dan Weller being the shining light on this particular occasion. Vocally Mikee and Joe Rosser struggled quite a bit with some sound issues with Goodman in particular being forced in to a ball of rage as his tech problems apparently went completely unsolved throughout the set - certainly added an extra level of rage to some of those screams! Closing out with Bland Street Bloom the few that were left on the floor erupted in to a pit around the big pillar. What a band.
Closing out our day then, we headed across to the check out the headliners of The Electric Ballroom in the veterans PiL (5/13). As cool as it was to see John Lydon on stage, that spark quickly faded. He's a legend, absolutely no doubt about it, but watching him having to read his lyrics through a pair of glasses from a small lectern felt somewhat discombobulating. Literally the only highlight of the whole set came right at the end because lets face it, all anyone wants from John Lydon right now is to be told ... and from the bottom of my heart, FUCK OFF!".