Festival Frolics: Camden Crawl 2011.

As Will and Kate's faces droop on already-wilting flags throughout Camden, the weekend's more musical festivities swung into devastating effect on Saturday, as N-Dubz was overhauled by this year's Camden Crawl. No longer contained by the time warp that the tourist trap has become, this year's event sprawled and reclined over 1.3 miles of prime North London stomping ground, taking in myriad venues between, around and about Mornington Crescent/Camden High Street/Kentish Town Road. And helping to join the dots were innumerable finger-pricking cutting edge acts, many of which proved to be pretty darn finger-lickin' good.
Quite delectable were, and of course still are, Big Deal, the transatlantic duo comprised of Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe shattering hearts with their wistful take on tales of amorous distraction (Homework) and contemporary breakdowns in communication (Talk). The Black Cap, plastered in patriotic bunting, is packed out by seemingly at least one member of most bands playing in and around the central Camden crossroads, an assortment of S.C.U.M. and a Lulu sans a single lampshade amidst the awe-struck herd to have flocked to bathe in the lo-fi fuzz of Locked Up etc. Backgrounds of intense teacher-student sexual tensions only twang harder on them heartstrings, as their respective gazes barely converge, creating the ambience of a guitar lesson snatched from Wes Anderson silver screen lining.
If Underwood and Costelloe perfectly compliment one another, so too do Laurens Flax and Dillard who, under the CREEP moniker, conjure otherworldly, overwhelming and intermittently unnerving slabs of apocalyptic, if at times seemingly apoplectic, doom pop. Big budget visuals cast aside, the pseudo-regal wallpaper and faux-elegance of accompanying portraits in Annies unsettle further, a Romy Madley Croft-less Days proving a string-laden highlight, whilst a haunting, largely live reworking of Memory Tapes' Green Knight is irrevocably startling. In previously unreleased and consequently unheard tracks aired however, longevity seems almost certain, a lone cellist accompanying sublime MacBook manoeuvres. Over in the Electric Ballroom meanwhile, the quintessential creep you'd do next to anything to have as your wily godparent, Jaz Coleman, guides his Killing Joke through a forty-five minute timeless thrash of belated '80s euphoria, Love Like Blood and of course Eighties itself providing retroistic rambunction of exceptional calibre.
Back over at Annies place, the girls of Wichita, Those Dancing Days, quite literally have hordes dancing in the street, as a throng clamours at the windows for a glimpse of Saturday's highlight as the Swedish quintet bluster through the majority of oneiric, all-too-ephemeral latest, Daydreams & Nightmares with avidity. Powered by jejune enthusiasm and exuberance, and perhaps a splash of ethanol or two in the case of synth whiz Lisa Pyk Wirstrom, opener Reaching Forward instantaneously strips away the cutesy aesthetic of the troupe and whilst all and sundry are, to all extensive purposes all male, there's now an indubitably boisterous raucousness underpinning the gallivanting vigour of Fuckarias and a superlative I Know Where You Live pt. 2. Whilst the testosterone-fuelled front row may swoon in vague hope of the slightest physical interaction, the powerpop outfit now seem hell-bent on grasping scruffs of necks and after a relentless, sweat-soaked set, exhaustion and blisters countermand wilting desires to revel in the countless DJ sets splattered about the NW postcode.
Ski mask stage diving aside, Sunday lumbers into view at a somewhat more slumberous pace. A slim-lined Odd Future/OFWGKTA/whatever sneer and swear their way through more expletives than the entirety of Saturday's schedule, as the Californian teens spit gritty gruesomeness out in the sweltering open Hawley Crescent air. Male adolescents natter about eyeballing Red Bull whilst female contemporaries cower in shaded corners, photographers hurriedly snap away as Tyler, The Creator! threatens to "fuck shit up" and offer no compensation whatsoever. How inconsiderate of him, particularly following his defiant affirmation to have no interest whatsoever in the Royal Wedding. A pioneering rogue in the extreme... Further disappointment ensues, as Cate le Bon bores at the Dublin Castle and Bella Union beacon Marques Toliver, despite his staggering musical capability, and subsequent ability to chop and change between autoharp and violin whilst delivering continuously impeccable vocals, crafts largely tedious, wonky of Montreal-ish material. With added croon. A pitstop at Dingwalls en route to The Lemonheads for the folk stylings of Treetop Flyers, retrospectively, seems highly preferable. Shucks. As for Evan Dando, whilst nigh on every other act anxiously vies for as many bobbing, or at least nodding heads as feasibly possible given some relatively minuscule capacities, the revered, sun-kissed slacker seems largely disinterested in the whole carouse, periodically mumbling and largely hurtling through his quite effervescent back-catalogue. In the wake of a hit-bloated set including Down About It, Big Gay Heart and Into Your Arms, alongside copious amounts of It's A Shame About Ray, by the time Rudderless navigates into earshot, ears are already ringing and many a voice is certainly shattered, lost in nostalgic memory. Voiceless and legless in every sense, Dando's a songwriter heroic enough to conclude any festival, even one as dumbfounding as Camden Crawl proves to be year, upon year, upon year.