Live at Camden Crawl, 2012
Echo Lake - Camden Crawl 2012

“The Camden Crawl is the one time you will see middle class families shopping, surrounded by teenagers racing around on amphetamines!” quips a fringe comedian on Saturday afternoon. And so goes the old adage that this early summer showcase is a fare of oddities and juxtapositions.

First up is the dense, reverb-laced drone of Echo Lake. Clearly aware of the importance of such a showcase they deliver a performance fully justifying the attention currently surrounding them. The first queue of the night is negotiated upon entry to The Barfly to see the “shambling” indie jangle of Veronica Falls. Though criticised in some quarters for having a derivative sound, they are the first act of the weekend to conjure the sort of dirty underground vibe Camden is synonymous with and it goes down a treat with the sweaty, leather-clad throng.

A change of pace follows as strings are traded in for the mixing decks of The Cuban. The main draw being the exceptional Actress whose latest offering ‘R.I.P.’ has dropped to critical and mainstream acclaim alike. Arriving ten minutes before Actress is due on there is initial confusion followed by the gradual realisation he is completing the last moments of his set and handing over to the night’s closing DJs. There is disappointment across many faces and a distinct shadow is cast across what was hoped to be the highlight of the evening. Hopes are high that day two will have better things in store…

Nursing heavy hangovers Saturday’s disappointment soon leads to optimism as a quick glance at the schedule discloses an extensive and impressive assortment of acts to guide the way through to the close.

A brief muse at Fiction in the Purple Turtle precedes a dash up to Dingwalls for the orchestral techno of Brandt Brauer Frick. The German three-piece huddling behind an array of electronic inputs creating classical timbres more often associated with Mozart than Krautrock. These they craft into pulsating beats and stomping rhythms guaranteed to move even the most steadfast of techno ravers. If hunting out the little gem is what you are after, these guys are arguably the find of the festival.

And so how to finish? The mainstream money is on The Cribs but this reviewer takes the controversial decision to check out Belfast quartet And So I Watch You From Afar. A happy decision it is too as they thrash out a consistently epic hour long set of angular math rock riffs intertwined with ambient, shimmering breakdowns and crushingly ferocious drops. It is the first time all weekend a band have been so in touch with their audience with no preening or posturing, just a no frills focus on the music. At a festival sometimes derided for pretention it is a timely and welcome reminder of how gigs should be.

There is no avoiding the fact the Camden Crawl is an odd beast of a festival: the only thing you can ever guarantee is an inconsistent experience. But this downfall is equally its great asset. It is a place that you leave with your expectations in tatters, and yet your desires are still fulfilled and if approached in the right way, this festival will reveal its many secret treasures. On that basis this year’s Crawl has delivered with aplomb.

Words by Chris Wash
Photo by Chris Todd

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival, featuring Echo Lake, TOY, Spector and more.

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