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Camden Rocks Festival 2019 - Camden, London (UK) - 01-02 June 2019

There were 120 plus bands on the bill for Camden Rocks and so no one review from any one journalist is going to look the same as another. In past years although I have attended the festival there has been a distinctly punky streak running through it. This time around there are recognisably more Hard Rock bands and inevitably I gravitated to those. It was a crazy two days and was impossible to get to everything.

Kicking off the festival for me were excellent newcomers Collateral at the Electric Ballroom. Singer Angelo Tristan is a natural star with big teeth, great Mallen streak hair and snake hips, who sounds fantastic and is unafraid to engage crowds in a way only the truly best showmen do. Ably assisted by great guitar, live the band remind me a lot of Skid Row. Despite the early hour they put on a great show and it was a fabulous start!


camden rocks 2019 live collateral

Waiting for Ginger at the Underworld I caught Japanese all-girl threesome Mutant Monster and they were pretty entertaining in a weird kind of way. Looking like little dolls, they have that Japanese politeness which suggests restraint, but they have an air of jail bait or teenage rebellion about them that has middle aged men queuing up at the front. They can play, and cross early Rock 'n' Roll and a punky poppy sound. They left announcing "Thank you very fucking much!" which says more than I can here.


camden rocks 2019 live mutant monster

Up next were The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing and while their Steampunk theme persists with songs about grave robbing and their classic about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, they seemed to be taking a rockier path. They also had some entertaining interludes informing us that New Model Army have labelled their milk in the fridge and they could not think of anything more Punk Rock than that!


camden rocks 2019 live men that will not be blamed

Ginger took the stage announcing that rather scarily for him he was going to attempt the new Wildhearts album acoustically, without the other Wildhearts. Instead he had two female vocalists and a guy on makeshift percussion and was joined on vocals by Frank Turner for 'Let It Go' to rapturous applause. I have to say the whole thing worked extremely well. The fact that the new album songs still sounded like classics stripped back to basics speaks volumes about their quality. I liked the album even more afterwards and it was really nice to be able to hear all the lyrics.


camden rocks 2019 live ginger

I then skipped across town to the Fiddler's Elbow for Neon Animal. Mark Thorn was his usual vibrant self, hands on hips-akimbo like Mick Jagger he stamps and claps and masturbates his mike stand in an unholy combination and as usual was magnetic to watch. Maybe it was the early hour or the smaller crowd due to the schlep to get to the venue, but the guitarists looked unusually restrained to me and less into it. Even if there was only one person in the audience my advice would be to go for it like Mark myself, but I guess that's easy for me to say.


camden rocks 2019 live neon animal

I made it back to Bar Kolis or the Lounge to hear how good The Tip had been and so made it my business to see them later in the week at the Big Red (see separate review and pics). I caught Rich Ragany And The Digressions who had a couple of extra band members including a female backing singer that reminded me a bit of Anita Chellamah to look at and her high vocals definitely added something good. It was less punky and more Outlaw Country/Telstar than the material for which he is historically known. As well as his musical contribution on electric guitar, Michael Gaffney remains a member of the band and added a little more Rock 'n' Roll eye candy to proceedings.


camden rocks 2019 live rich regany and the digressions

Speaking of which, next up were The Sweet Things with the equally super cute Sam Hariss on bass. Despite their relative youth this band bring real musical chops and catchy tunes like single 'Liquid Lightning', which together with good musical connections in NY should take them far. Keyboards are integral to the sound, although the man on the ivories took a pretty understated visual role. It's a bit the Dolls, a bit the Faces, with a totally vintage feel.


camden rocks 2019 live the sweet things

I then hopped across town to the Stables for The Quireboys who did a set largely of their older material and classics to a packed-out crowd in one of the larger venues on offer. The crowd were clearly already fans and were singing from the off. The stage, however, was so small it allowed for none of the usual acrobatics and mike stand antics from Spike as there was barely enough room for them all to sit down, so he let the emotions of the songs and his hands and face do the talking.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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There were a couple of tracks from the new album, 'Eve Of The Summertime' and 'Dancing In Paris' with its rich tapestry of piano and guitars. By the time we reach 'Sweet Mary Anne' and '7 O'Clock' the energy was super high and it was a really good gig despite the restraints of the stage and the slightly strange long and thin nature of the venue.


camden rocks 2019 live the quireboys

The Quireboys did, however, run late meaning I was late getting to the Dublin Castle for Warrior Soul which by the time I arrived was super hot and sweaty. They were already on a roll and about to launch into their classics. In 'Punk And Belligerent' the crowd were getting so energised it was certainly a bit hectic at the front. Of particular note was a heavier and superb version of 'Losers', a great punky version of 'Wasteland' and the huge song and anthem 'Salutations From The Ghetto Nation' as a dramatic finish. A great end to a great day!


camden rocks 2019 live warrior soul

The following day opened for me at Dingwalls with the Soap Girls. Despite the early Sunday start the venue was packed. It did not hurt that the girls were topless apart from body paint. They're energetic and eye catching heavy, shouty, Punk with Metal-style guitar Rock god moves. Would they be as popular without the boobs? Probably not, but they have carved out their own successful niche so who cares...


camden rocks 2019 live soap girls

From one group of attractive girls to another I then take a short hop to the Stables and Joanovarc. They have a new line up with Kiera of Syteria who also played later at Dublin Castle. There were plenty of big riffs, guitar tricks like finger tapping and playing behind the head and Melodic Rock harmonies. I preferred their original songs to the cover of 'Free Bird' which although it had a great and similar version to the superb guitar solo on that record did not seem a natural fit for the vocalist.


camden rocks 2019 live joanovarc

I then went a little off piste to the Warrior Soul album release party (see separate review and pics) before heading back to the party at the Back Room Bar at the Hard Rock Café catching a little of the Zeppelinesque Howling May Wolf before an excellent set by The Tip which instantly raised the energy and had the crowd rocking and dancing in the aisles. Benny Carl's Rock 'n' Roll harmonica and Rock star good looks added instant charm to proceedings.

Sam Harris was next up with Gyp Casino and Timo Kaltio, formerly of Hanoi Rocks. With a nod to that they did 'Taxi Driver' and one had the sense of a transition from old to new generations, with Gyp and Timo passing the torch for Sam to take the spirit of Glam Punk forward into the future,

Sadly, time was marching on and although they could have played all night it was time for main act The Sweet Things. They have time for a few including 'In Borrowed Shoes' and 'Liquor Lightning', when Benny Carl jumped in on harmonica for a special jam effect. Timo Kaltio joined back in for 'Battleship Chains' before they ended with 'Almost Faded'. It's a shame it was short, but it was very sweet.

When you look back at what you see at Camden Rocks it's always amazing value and you cannot believe you do so much in so little time. There were still gigs I could not make, as well as the Tip, Syteria, Last Great Dreamers and Towers Of London, to name but a few and that is why there's always a next time, thank God!

Review and photos by Dawn Osborne

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