The fifth annual festival had something for everyone this year, as it served up an eclectic mix at over 20 locations. And it sold out!

Camden Rocks is back for another year, bigger and better than before. With over 200 bands playing at venues spread the length of Camden High Street, it is a tough choice as to which shows to see. Stick with known favourites or take a chance and watch something new? This reviewer decides on a little of each. A sunny, hot day brings people out early, and the queue to collect passes was getting bigger by the minute. After a chat with a few friends in The Worlds End, it was off to start the trail.

It wasn’t far to go to The Black Heart to see JOANovARC on the recommendation of a friend. The room is filling quickly as the all-girl four-piece rock outfit from London kick-started their set with “Live Rock n’ Roll.”

Sam Walker (lead vocal and bass), Shelley Walker (backing vocals and lead guitar), Laura Ozholl (vocals and rhythm guitar), and Deborah Wildish (drums) are a tight unit and in good form. Laura is not fazed by breaking a string in the first song and carries on with style.

Their set continues with their new single, “White Trash,” currently getting airplay on Planet Rock. Sam has great vocals for these songs, and every band member is exceptional. Deborah seems to enjoy herself too much, though, and has a permanent smile on her face, especially when playing a brilliant drum run through “Seeds of Summer.”

JOANovARC played an incredible version of “Purple Rain” in tribute to Prince, where Sam and Laura swapped instruments and the crowd sang along. A great guitar solo from Shelley finished the song before “Jane,” a great country-rocker, ends their set which proved a great start on this festival crawl.

Next up is a trip to Belushi’s to catch the London duo, The Pearl Harts. On a break from touring Europe supporting Garbage, we are lucky to have them here.

Kirsty on guitar and Sara on drums make a big noise for a small band, and launch into “The Chief.” The packed room and fans are rocking away shouting at the band, cheering, and waving arms in the air. “The Rush” is followed by new single “Go Hard.” Sara manages to coax noise from her small kit that you wouldn’t have thought possible.

A mural of legends such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Curt Cobain towers over them. Kristy makes great use of feedback while jamming on her guitar in “Hurt” before playing the Ramones-esque “Hit The Bottle,” their song about “never giving up drinking!”

They save the best for last with an old favourite, “Black Blood.” Sara plays some screaming guitar over looped rhythm. Their performance is amazing; the Pearl Hearts are a band-to-see.

And it is back to the now sweltering and crowded Black Heart for the fantastic Dirty Thrills, also from London. Louis James (lead vocals), Jack Fawdry (guitar), Steve Corrigan (drums), and Aaron Plows (bass) fit together to make a great blues rock band.

Opening with “Rock n Roll,” they set out their stall early. The band is energetic, despite the heat, and are all sweating by the end of it. Louis’ vocal range is amazing as is Jack’s sublime guitar work. They stand out against the solid rhythm from Aaron and Steve.

Their set is well-mixed with tracks from their debut album and both EPs. Fan favourite “No Resolve” is superb, and given a great airing today with both guitarists rocking out while Louis prowls the stage.

Way too quickly, it’s the end of the set, and “Sigh” finishes it off with Louis thanking the crowd. A scorching set by a red-hot band in a sweat-pit of a room packed to capacity; it is every rock fan’s dream.

Next, it’s a mad dash to The Crowndale to interview Adam Crilly and the guys from Ashestoangels for later publication. They are headlining The Crowndale on this night. It is a little light relief before continuing our trek.

Next, it’s right back up to the Monarch to catch The Amorettes, the Scottish rockers Gill Montgomery (lead guitar and vocals), Heather McKay (bass and backing vocals), and Hannah McKay (drums and backing vocals).

Having been at the band’s pledge gig less than two weeks previously just around the corner at The Black Heart to hear new album White Hot Heat played live for the first time, I was looking forward to this.

People were queuing at the door waiting to get in the packed venue. They peered through the window behind the band to see them launch into “Shoot From The Hip” from Game On. The crowd loves the intro and screams for more.

“Get What’s Coming” is followed by a new track, “Let The Neighbours Call The Cops,” set to be the first single from their new album, and already getting airplay on Planet Rock. It’s a rocking, catchy tune that has some great guitar licks from Gill while fans sing along like it’s an old favourite.

Heather rumbles along hammering out a baseline, hooking tight with Hannah’s drum work. She walks behind the drum kit to face the people watching through the window and plays to them; a nice touch!

“Bull By The Horns” has the crowd jumping again before another new track, “White Russian Roulette,” an add-on track not on their set-list.

It’s over all too soon as Gill asks the crowd if they “like it hot,” and if they “like it heavy.” The band closes with their sing-along favorite, “Hot N Heavy.” The audience is in fine voice on the call and response and The Amorettes end spent and elated. This concert is an excellent warm up before their upcoming appearance at Download.

Slightly off the beaten track of the High Street, we find ourselves at 55 Bar for Wakefield’s Louise Distras. She plays solo today armed only with an acoustic guitar.

Like the other venues at the festival, we again find ourselves watching in a room filled to capacity, with people queuing to get in.

Post-punk protest songstress Louise has plenty to say about the state of the nation and life in the 2010s. She opens with “Stand Strong Together” and her message is clear.

The scene is laid out for a great set to follow, featuring stripped-back versions of songs from her debut album, Dreams From The Factory Floor, plus a few new tracks as well. Even with these simplified acoustic versions of her material, Louise stills tells her story and makes her statement.

Having been likened to Billy Bragg, Brody Dalle, and Bob Dylan, the set is built on messages to the poor and downtrodden, inspiring them to stand!

A new song, “Aileen,” is next followed by a trio from the new album. Louise Distras plays “Love Me The Way I Am” and “Story Is Over” and finishes with the title track from the album, “Dreams From The Factory Floor,” a piece of spoken-word protest poetry. The latter is a high-point of her show.

“New World In Our Hearts” and “Outside Of You” give us a glimpse of what is to follow with the second album. Judging by these two tracks, the album will be an excellent follow-up.

“Bullets” and “Shades Of Hate” are next before her rendition of the fantastic, “The Hand You Hold,” which finishes the set with a bang. A great set of fantastic songs with a message to masses told with conviction. One of the highlights of the day.

After a trek to the bottom of the High Street, its Bristol’s own New Grave rockers, Ashestoangels, headlining at the Crowndale. Having seen the band recently in Bristol, this was a must-see of today.

Adam Crilly (vocals), Jim Baber (drums), Adam Falkor (guitars), Josh Jones (guitars), Nikki Kontinen (keyboards), and new man Chris Kiddier on bass are tighter than ever, and Ashes sets are always full on.

Adam Crilly does not know how to stand still; from opener “Horror Cult,” lead track from How To Bleed, he is prowling the stage. “Not In My Name” and “Find Hell” follow, also from their new album, to find Crilly up to his usual trick of climbing on the shoulders of the front rows.

It’s obvious that most of the crowd are hard-core, partisan fans, as they are singing along from the start. A mosh pit forms, too, and the whole crowd is soon transfixed.

The quick-fire set moves on with older tracks “Dorian” and “Living Hell”, before we get “Chases”, from the EP of the same name, another old favourite.

An obvious long-time fan is pulled on the stage before going in for a spot of crowd surfing, aided by Crilly – these guys know how to have fun and let their hair down.

An emotional lead singer thanks the crowd for being part of the family before “Down We Go,” the new single, follows with the masses again singing along. It’s a great song and is followed by another firm favorite, “Six Six Six,” which is the catalyst for another mad mosh pit.

The set is over with “The Ghost In The Machine,” leaving the audience screaming for more and bringing this pub music crawl to an end.

All in all, it is a fantastic day of music with great variety and something for everyone, and fans leave looking forward to next year’s festival. Well done to all involved.

Photos by Donna Coombs.

Camden Rocks
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JOANovARC
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The Pearl Harts
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Dirty Thrills
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The Amorettes
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Louise Distras
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Ashestoangels
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