Live Review: Camden Rocks Festival – 30/05/2015

In our preview, we highlighted how Camden Rocks has proven itself to epitomise the veritable hotbed of rock music that NW1 has become over the decades. With over 200 bands on offer during the day, it might never have been a more fitting statement than since Camden Rocks Festival began. With the live return of Bullet For My Valentine heading up the one-dayer’s most formidable lineup yet, it was certainly down to be one of the busiest days on an already stacked festival calendar.

Having excelled at Nightmare Festival six months back, Star Scream (4/5) kick off our day and there is likely no stage more appropriate for them than in a bar opposite Cyberdog. The afternoon starts in the most fitting way you could hope for, with one of the day’s most unique bands in terms of both sound and look belting out a superb half hour set. The only complaint is that a midday set is perhaps not the best time to let a band like Star Scream loose, but soon enough it’s the turn of Victory Heights (3.5/5) who certainly thrive in their early afternoon performance. The Colorado metalcore troupe have had a raucous UK run, and their second Camden show in the space of a week goes down a treat as they warm the stage for the likes of Fearless Vampire Killers and Modestep later on.

In terms of each stage’s openers, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the combination of Lock & Key (3/5) and God Damn (4/5) setting the Electric Ballroom into motion. God Damn have found some serious momentum in the past year alongside the likes of Turbowolf and Hawk Eyes, and their first set of the day was certainly a strong statement that 2015 could be shaping up as more of the same. The Stillery is a far less accommodating venue to a large crowd than the Ballroom, but EofE (3.5/5) still make the most of their placement, thrashing out exactly the kind of set that has them sharing a stage with the likes of A, the One Hundred and God Damn at Download Festival this year. Another band taking that stage later this month is Creeper (4/5), who follow EofE with a great showing on the Stillery stage. The outfit have clearly progressed from the band we caught at Takedown back at March, and while their showing at the Great Escape may have the edge over Camden Rocks, the stock of the Southampton quintet is rising considerably fast this year. You’re going to want to catch them before 2015 is out, even if just for the strength of ‘Novena’ as a set-closer.

One of the big stories of the day is whether Ginger Wildheart’s (5/5) set would gather the same packed crowd as in the Jazz Café twelve months prior and, come on, of course it would. Proud is at capacity before the Tyneside veteran even takes the stage, and an abridged version of his Songs & Words tour is almost worth the festival’s admission fee on its own. It’s hard to decide which half of the show has the edge, but the stories that provide the respites within Ginger’s whirlwind tour from 1993 to the present day go down just as well with the partisan crowd as the songs themselves.

It’s a rare occasion that would have us choosing anyone over a Max Raptor Barfly performance, but the St. Pierre Snake Invasion’s (4.5/5) Hawley Arms set had “chaos” written all over it from the start. The atmosphere is damn near unmatched on the day, and frontman Damien Sayell revels in the insanity. The vocalist has a lot to get off his chest and the likes of ‘Call the Coroner’ and ‘If the Only Way is Essex You Can Kill Me Now’ only just begin to scratch the surface. It’s a standout performance and just the kind of pace that will serve them superbly in the coming months and, perhaps more importantly, see a lot more free beers passed their way.

There’s a bit of a break before we dive back into Dingwalls to catch Fearless Vampire Killers (4.5/5) turn up the heat. ‘Neon in the Dance Halls’ is as powerful of an opener as ever, with ‘Batten Down the Hatches’ and ‘Brave the Night’ also standing out, proving that the anthemic alt-rockers are doing just fine as they regain their momentum from a turbulent 2014. LTNT (4/5) are equally on form and met with an even more raucous response, and ‘Body Blood’ is the same piledriver it has consistently been in recent months.


View more photos here.

Back in the Stillery, everything is hitting a crescendo and despite the room’s layout proving more of an obstacle than anything, The One Hundred (5/5) have rarely sounded better. With some onlookers practically climbing the walls to get a full view of the carnage, as the quartet continue to hold a strong middle finger up to any kind of genre classification, in favour of pure musical venom for which Camden goes wild. There are few acts on the lineup that could follow them, but Hawk Eyes (4.5/5) aren’t just anyone on the British rock scene these days. Ever since ‘Ideas’, the Yorkshiremen have been a different kind of beast, and on multiple occasions the crowd have to be reined in slightly as their own brand of chaos spills onto the stage numerous times. ‘Witch Hunt’ and ‘That’s What This Is’ are highlights of the day for sure, and with the Barfly, Ballroom and Underworld all completely packed out as the day nears its end, you certainly couldn’t ask for a much better conclusion if your day was to wrap up here.

But there was one more major port of call before the day would ultimately conclude, and the onset of Bullet for My Valentine’s (4.5/5) return got the whole Electric Ballroom buzzing. With recent tracks sounding better than ever along with favourable ‘Poison’ classics, it was a great way to top off the day. The more recent addition of new bassist Jamie had proven a bit of a throw-off vocally, but all in all the performance from the band was superb. Not many would have expected Bullet to make such a resurgence, but with ‘Venom’ on the horizon and a return show like this to build from as more dates loom, one of the biggest question marks of modern metal seem to have finally rediscovered their exclamation point.

Camden Rocks Festival proves year on year that British rock and metal is alive and well, and as the generations converged once more you couldn’t ask for a more powerful reminder. The St Pierre Snake Invasion were kind enough to officially thank Royal Blood for saving rock music, but all joking aside there is a whole lot to shout about every time the Camden Rocks Festival rolls through. 2015 was no different, and right now, it’s hard to imagine 2016 being anything less than a much-see day of rock and metal that you could possibly hope for.

Overall: 4.5/5

Words by Antony Lusmore. Photos by Connie Taylor.

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Camden Rocks Festival here

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