Live at Camden Crawl, 2012
Niki And The Dove - Live At Camden Crawl 2012

This cold, rainy Saturday sees Camden’s very British take on SXSW: The Camden Crawl. It’s also the FA Cup final so pubs are teeming with rowdy, beer-swilling supporters. Huddled upstairs, on a tiny stage in The Enterprise, are Melodica, Melody and Me. The room is full and bustling with chirpy punters. It’s one in, one out. Downstairs, the final fifteen minutes of the match play out and momentary cheers disrupt the peaceful refuge. Thankfully as the band begins to play, their soothing folk-reggae sound dispels thoughts of the rabble beneath.

Playing with only four (though billed as a six-piece), Melodica, Melody and Me have a simplicity that makes them wholly watchable. Greta Eacott beats a humble rhythm with brushes whilst singer, Huw Williams warbles. His vibrato quality is reminiscent of an old record. The performance is decorated with a taste of Latin America, as Rudi Schmitt switches from the band’s namesake Melodica to the Charango – a ten-stringed ukulele-sized instrument – on which he plays a captivating solo.

‘Ode To Victor’ has a juxtaposition of influences. It has the structure of an old folk song with a repetitive two-line chorus: “His song was gentle, his song was strong.” Williams sings this with an affected Irish accent. The middle eight, however, is once more Andean and then the reggae beat emerges: a fusion of styles which is hearty and pleasant.

Indeed, ‘Pleasant’ is the perfect way to describe ‘Melodica, Melody and Me’. Their gentle sound is pleasing and yet they lack a certain pizazz. After several songs of a similar tempo, the call of the bar is too tempting and it’s time to crawl on.

In contrast, Sunday’s highlight is Niki and the Dove – a Swedish collective with their feet firmly planted in electro-pop, and an abundance of zing. They are first on the bill at KOKO, which is relatively empty when they begin their set. The stage is awash with neon pink light as front woman Malin Dahlstöm takes her place in an equally pink t-shirt and matching rave paint. She strikes a pose with hands crossed like the wings of a dove. Dahlstöm is joined by a trio of blonde bearded men: two drummers and co-founder of the band, Gustaf Karlöf, with his bank of keyboards and synths.

It is immediately clear that Niki and the Dove is another band adhering to the current musical fad of “retro” 1980s sounds. Dahlstöm’s voice switches between a shrill Kate Bush tone and a silkier Madonna sound. Fever Ray is a notable influence too. Occasionally Dahlstöm samples and loops her vocal, layering it and squealing over the top. She beckons the audience to clap along, arms held high, as though this were a stadium gig.

Karlöf rings out catchy electronic keyboard hooks. He looks focussed as he pushes buttons and moves seamlessly between keyboards. The first drummer provides copious bass whilst the second jumps about, pounding a set of floor toms. The dance floor fills quickly and it is impossible not to move with the beat.

Niki and the Dove build the final song to a powerful climax, sampling and layering their electronic sound until the wall of noise is all-encompassing. Eventually all sound cuts out, save the echo of the last dregs of keyboard, and the audience showers them with applause. Dahlstöm summons her band mates to the front. They hold hands and bow – a theatrical gesture to compliment the extravagance of their performance – though a little pretentious considering they are first on the bill.

The beauty of the Camden Crawl lies within its arbitrary nature. The ability to stroll between venues and take in such a broad spectrum of music is wonderful. The fact that each venue is a pub or a club does mean a lot of alcohol consumption and with the FA Cup thrown in the atmosphere isn’t always idyllic, but hidden gems like Niki and The Dove make it all worthwhile.

Words by Becci Ride

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