This weekend, the UK’s rock fraternity descended upon the capital once again for one of the largest inner-city music festivals in Europe – Camden Rocks.

Over 400 bands performed on Camden’s bustling high street. Spanning twenty different venues including many iconic establishments such as the Electric Ballroom, Dingwalls and the Dublin Castle, no matter where you were in the Borough this weekend, you were never too far from the action. With its two day duration, the festival is now double the size and twice the charm. 

It Turned Into A Ballroom Blitz

Before the festival had even started Brit rockers Collateral had already proven that they have the X Factor. The group beat some stiff competition to win a prestigious midday slot on the main stage at the Electric Ballroom.

It’s never easy to be the first band on, but it’s fair to say that on Saturday afternoon Collateral embarked on their own Ballroom blitz and their set was pretty ‘Sweet’ for sure.

Everything about this band is Electrifying. The band’s effervescent frontman Angelo Tristan has the charisma and energy of Jon Bon Jovi and Joey Tempest rolled into one. Likewise, guitarist Todd Winger dishes out more licks than a puppy in an ice cream parlour. Rounding out the band’s talented lineup is their very own Nikki Sixx – Jack Bentley Smith on bass and tub-thumper extraordinaire Ben Atkinson. Combined these Brit rockers are a force to be reckoned with.

Collateral showcased many tracks from their forthcoming debut album including the hard rocking “Big Shot”, the incredibly catchy “Merry Go Round” and the band’s potential next single “Promised Land”. Each of these tracks sat alongside their recent radio playlisted numbers such as “Midnight Queen” and “Lullaby”. Like a shot of rock and roll infused Red Bull, the latter is going to do anything but send you to sleep.

The Ramsgate rockers most certainly raised the bar very high so early in the festival, proving to be a difficult act to follow on Saturday.

Jumping For Joy

The beauty of Camden Rocks is the variety of artists on display, which in turn covers a vast musical landscape. And with so much talent on the bill, there are surprises and new discoveries on every corner.

Having wandered into Fest on Saturday afternoon, a chance encounter with zany art rockers Asylums was one of the finds of the festival for this writer. With their wacky onstage antics and relentless energy, the Southend based quartet had the room in the palm of his hand from the off. The band’s frontman Luke Branch leapt about the stage like an Olympic high jumper. Asylums are as entertaining visually as they are musically.

Highlights from the set included the likes of the explosive “Napalm Bubblegum”, the incredibly infectious “Joy In A Small Wage” and their frantic fuzz fuelled single “When We Wake Up”.

Asylums new album Alien Human Emotions is out now via Cool Thing Records.

Punk Rock Ain’t Dead

Frank Turner may well have topped the bill at the Electric Ballroom wearing a t-shirt declaring ‘Punk Rock Ain’t Dead’, but those who had witnessed Strange Bones set at Dingwalls on Saturday afternoon were under no illusion that this was true.

The Blackpool based four-piece delivered a high octane, mosh pit inducing set of unrelenting Punk Rock that encapsulated the attitude, energy and image of their 1977 peers whilst bringing to the table a contemporary sound that perfectly represents the genre in 2019.

Tracks like “Snakepit”, “Energy”, and their take on The Prodigy’s “Breath” certainly whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The band’s fearless frontman was off the stage almost as much as he was on it, whilst simultaneously orchestrating the madness in the pit. It goes without saying that crowd surfing ensued.

Strange Bones have a rapidly growing a following, and on the strength of their Camden Rocks set it’s easy to understand why.

A Blinder of a Set At Dingwalls

A last-minute addition to the bill saw Blinders call into Dingwalls on Saturday afternoon as a replacement to the previously billed Pretty Vicious. The arrival of the Doncaster based trio appeared to cause quite a stir, with the legendary Camden venue packed to the proverbial rafters to witness Indie rocks next big thing.

The Doncaster based outfit has a dark and sinister garage rock undertone that sits somewhere between Killing Joke and the Arctic Monkeys. Their distinctive brand of hypnotic guitar riffs, glam rock beats and poetic lyricism captivated the Camden crowd from the off. The band not just sound the part their stage image also sets them apart from the rest.

With so much new music out there right now it really takes something special to break through, but Blinders have certainly got what it takes to make it to the next level.

Two’s Company Three’s A Crowd?

As the old saying goes two’s company and three’s a crowd, but try telling that two Rews. Following the recent departure of one half of the group by way of drummer Collette Williams, the band has returned with an all-new line-up.

Obviously, it’s always hard to replace original members, especially for a duo, but when you see the group’s new three-piece incarnation it feels like a bass player was definitely the missing piece of the puzzle. The newfound energy and stage chemistry between vocalist Shauna Tohill and her new bandmate Ele Lucas is simply a joy to watch.

Performing tracks from their debut album, Rews wowed the packed out crowd at Dingwalls on Sunday afternoon. To coin an old phrase, sometimes you’ve got to take a step backwards to move forwards, and this unexpected change has certainly paid off for Rews. Just like De La Soul once said ‘Three – That’s A Magic Number’.

Girls Wanna Rock

Its all been happening for JOANovARC of late. The group released their eponymous sophomore album this weekend, and to boot, the band have now got a new line-up featuring drummer Ellie Daymond and bass player Keira Kenworthy.

The band’s appearance at Camden Rocks being one of their first appearances with their revised line-up. Riding on the crest of the wave of their new album the band trounced their way through a set packed full of anthems including the likes of the frantic “Live Rock n Roll”, the groove-heavy “Waiting For”, and fan favourite “Jane”. And of course, a rock festival would not be complete without an airing of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Free Bird”.

In their short time together  JOANovARC 2.0 seems to jell very well onstage. Exciting times ahead for this British four-piece.

The Southern Sun Sessions

Just like the line from The Virginmarys classic “Just A Ride” there was ‘traffic on the Northern Line’ as hordes of revellers made the trek north across London via the underground to Camden Rocks at the weekend.

The Macclesfield based trio’s set was without a shadow of a doubt one of the highlights of Camden Rocks. Dingwalls was packed to the rafters for the band’s late Sunday afternoon show.

The Virginmarys passion for their art is unquestionable. They play every show as if their lives depended on it. Not only this but there is a real sense of community at each of their shows. There is no them and us, there are no barriers between the band and their fans – everyone is in this together.

The band released their new album the Northern Sun Sessions last year, but with the temperature in the high 20s in the capital, the show at Dingwalls may well be renamed to the Southern Sun Sessions.

Several tracks from the VM’s latest offering featured in the set including the likes of “Look Out For My Brother”, “S.O.S.4.U.N.I” and “Step Up”. It goes without saying, the band’s third album Northern Sun Sessions is arguably one of their strongest releases to date. When you add these tracks alongside old favourites like of “Motherless Land” and “Bang Bang Bang”, you’ve got a special show on your hand indeed.

The general consensus after The Virginmarys set at Camden Rocks was that the band would be a very difficult act to follow on Sunday evening. We’ve said it before and we will say it again – those that have had the pleasure of witnessing the band know that The Virginmarys are one of the best British rock acts on the touring circuit right now.

Flying High With The Flight Brigade

British five-piece The Flight Brigade are getting ready to release their sophomore album this summer, and on the strength of the material presented on Saturday afternoon at the Monarch, it’s set to be one to watch out for. With their dreamy synth melodies, vocal harmonies and dramatic violin-infused soundscapes the group have a contemporary sound that conjures up images of the likes of Arcade Fire. Recent single “Fury Road”, was one of the many highlights of the band’s 30-minute set.

Flight Brigade have a genre-defying sound that will certainly appeal to a wide cross-section of music loves. No matter what you are into they have something for everyone.

Camden Rocks!

The great thing about events like Camden Rocks is that it gives people the opportunity to catch bands that they might not necessarily have seen otherwise, due to the sheer number of artists on display and the varied and diverse line-up, there’s something here for everyone. With so many hotly tipped acts featuring, the festival punters get the opportunity to catch the next big thing before they break. Roll on Camden Rocks 2020.

Camden Rocks Festival
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Event Date: 1st & 2nd-June-2019

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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