Festival Frolics: Saturday, Camden Crawl 2012.

Optimistically touted the 'first major festival of the summer', with the Saturday of this year's Camden Crawl quite factually cooler than Christmas the notorious bank holiday blowout gets off to a somewhat slow and strangely tepid start. Three Trapped Tigers bemuse with virtuoso, if exquisitely accomplished aspirational unpleasantness that's ultimately as insipid as an infinity wired into Xfm, whilst Samuel Manville's Hymns breed a reedy unholiness in the grim depths of The Underworld. Its newly snazzed exterior belies its inner filth, just as Manville et al. negate any originality through the assimilation of the loud/quiet dynamics that rendered Brand New's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me such an invigorating listen as it effortlessly transcended both genre and narrowly focussed preconception. Their persistently vacuous yowls of "Yeah!" only exacerbate such impression. Thus the prospect of a weekend on these grot-ridden streets initially appears an essay of endurance and enough so to make any Glastonbury bender seem as leisurely as a gentle amble up toward the Tor, for Camden environs seem intrinsically infuriating; laced with an endless idiocy as blank CD-Rs and tickets from touts of comparably vapid expression are flogged off to the uninitiated at ludicrous expense.

Indeed to a reasonable degree the 'festival' concept seems something largely lusted for and the aesthetic is scarcely forged, if forcedly so: unnecessary smalltalk surrounding previous festival attendances and brainless, fancily dressed bravado abound. However as the incontestable original 'Metropolitan Festival', if awards and the nominations for may dictate that it may no longer be Britain's finest then venue proximity thankfully remains a priority. For when the re-sugaring of the datedly saccharine pop propensities of Scandipop staples The Concretes and Shout Out Louds starts to decompose yet further as it does during Simian Ghost's dry ice-infused stint at the Electric Ballroom, a plethora of other stages and sounds are but a hop, skip, and/or jump away.
It ought to be said that although Sebastian Arnström's touch may be slight, within a live context it is, simultaneously, remarkably spine-tingling with Wolf Girl providing one of Saturday's more summery instances. Like the most meteorologically unfulfilling of estival seasons, it's tinged with a wilting melancholia and fleets prior to ever hitting full swing before they dawdle off into territories evocative of Peñate circa Everything Is New, guitarist Erik Klinga's majestic whiskers finely attesting to such condemning parallel. "Love songs are quite offensive", Arnström proffers prior to a gently rousing As You See Fit and that's quite patently an amorously apathetic mentality to which Sex Hands subscribe.
The Manchester outfit ram out The Black Cap with their jingle-jangle raucousness, the stench within almost as putrid as the moniker itself. Live, they sound considerably more akin to Two Gallants than they may on split 7", albeit were the San Fran pairing to steady roll all the way over to Dalston only for the wheels to promptly stroll away from loose axes. Jay Reatard didn't die for this although it smells as though he may well have been hacked up and housed beneath lager-soused flooring. Thank Reatard – or the Lord – therefore for Race Horses whose wondrously Welsh, quirky Gorky's schtick proves incontrovertibly outré yet immediately engaging. At a festival essentially geared toward the mystic concept of 'new music' it's their retrospective shimmy that shines pretty radiantly in such otherwise gloomy surrounds.
It's consequently slightly counterintuitive that Domino singer-swooner Eugene McGuinness – who collarless and quiffed looks of another aeon – then overdoses on pomp and scrimps on endproduct. Like Miles Kane pissed up on the repugnantly undiluted essence of brothers Gallagher in place of faux-Scott Walker suavity, irregardless of the impressive snarls of comeback single Lion his swinging limbs and wiggling hips reek of pastiche, as does the nondescript thwomp of Sugarplum. It's also devastatingly apparent that if organisers may this year have approached the booking agenda with a glass-half-full approach (the line up's exceedingly plentiful and the venues plenty), the reality is that certain scenarios are half empty at best. Amongst other reasons, that the Abbey Tavern's veritably heaving makes it an inordinately more bearable place to be. That, and they're blaring Grimes' Oblivion over the PA.
And Norwegian sweethearts Team Me are hastily arranging their gear onstage and off it, bits and pieces sprawled across laminate decking. Bassist Simen Schikulski inadvertently becomes unorthodox bouncer for their lamentably concise set, as spatial deficiency sees him resorting to propping the door open with a Fender headstock and a bounding headband. So youthful do they seem that on first glimpse they'd perhaps better resemble school trippers than emitters of the great elation they conjure (they barely look of legal drinking age) and indeed the exuberant Schikulski isn't the only one bouncing about unrestrainedly as they jump and perspire profusely en masse. From the explosive orchestrations of Patrick Wolf & Daniel Johns, to the swooping gushes and sonorous drums of Weathervanes and Chemicals, to the irrepressible jouissance of Dear Sister they exude an infectious wonder that seems an uncannily direct equivalent to Those Dancing Days' show down the road twelve months ago. As their Nordic counterparts did way back then, they too stand out as the team worth siding with and supporting come hell, high water or this drearily hellish weather.
It's then the turn of Baxter Dury and, for a festival which prides itself on the jotting down of 'Heritage' artists (alas, these are nigh on nonexistent this time around beyond The Raincoats), his reinterpretation of his dad's stuttering speak-sing narratives seems as apt a way to conclude the day as any. Aside from a wildly infuriating goose chase in rabid hunt of Actress of course. If references to the Blockhead honcho are intrinsic yet implicit, those to his mother are substantially more heartfelt: "I love you mamma" he increasingly insistently decrees, the intensity of his evident emotion only diminished a touch by his humorous between-song interjections. Whether branding the thing "Crawl Camden or whatever it's called" or pleading for another whisky as he scrabbles for shrapnel, he's an unarguably "cheeky chappy" yet one with enough soothing musical stuff caught frog-like in throat to allay any gimmickry. Whether it be the spring-loaded guitars of a particularly boisterous Trellic; or the humid sentimentality of Leak At The Disco; or the sardonic, rather premonitory sighs of Claire, against the quintessentially London backdrop of kebabs and cabs he seems the city's absolute raconteur.