Regarded as the start of the UK festival season, the showcasing mammoth that is Camden Crawl takes place every May. This year a total of 27 venues treated revellers to 16 hours of entertainment, on both days across the weekend. We sent along Managing Editor Cynthia Franklin to cover the following aspects of the festival.
Overall I enjoyed my time at Camden Crawl, however amongst the high praises, I also feel that there a few minor improvements to be made, that could finesse a long standing and respected event
On arrival, if you had not known that the festival was taking place, you could be forgiven for just assuming that it was a busy weekend in Camden. It’s not until you reach the actual venues and are checked for wristbands, that the festival has a physical presence in the area.
Still, once immersed in the crowd you really feel the excitable variation of attendance, from international visitors to the loyal and annually attending locals.
This isn’t the kind of festival I would attend in a big crowd, as the sheer number of people can get a bit overwhelming, this is more the kind of affair to enjoy with those two or three like minded mates, who either know their music, and/or mirror your opinions and tastes.
Camden Crawlers are a friendly bunch, as although I attended by myself, I wasn’t short of people I got into conversation and spent time with, which I think compliments the attitude that many take with them when attending.
VENUES, ENTERTAINMENT AND LIVE ACTS
There really is a great variety of places to visit during the festival, from venues to pubs right down to St Michael's Church.
Some venues worked great, such as the Camden Gardens, where the stage is set up underneath a bridge alcove, which makes a great acoustic sound which is usually difficult to perfect outside. Of the acts that I caught, those that impressed me where Young Fathers along with Clement Marfo & The Frontline.
Young Fathers are hard to stick in one category, with a hiphop meets electronica sound that also dabbles in other genres. They were followed by Clement Marfo & The Frontline, who have to be seen to be believed, as throughout the day I struggled to find a similar live act , who matched their infectious ability to hype up the crowd with such contrasting class and edge.
Enjoying the company of both the band and the crowd they attracted, I decided I had to go for round two at The Barfly, to which they did not disappoint!
Back to discussing venues it goes without saying that The Barfly was another favoured venue of mine. The upstairs is that perfect sweat box vibe you expect and secretly want to find at those kind of venues.
I also loved spending time at The Black Heart pub, based literally round the corner from the tube station, it was a great place to start of my first day. Reasonable prices and friendly staff, upstairs had a great programme of comedy.
Of the comedians I saw one that stuck out for me was Joel Dommett, it took a little while to warm up to him, but his jolly toff boy routine was silly in a really endearing way.
Everybody loves a comedian who is willing to take the piss out of himself and I loved it when was telling a story about his girlfriend, at which he interrupted stating “I’m not gay, it’s weird, I know what you’re thinking”.
With live music and comedy covered I also had a bit of a browse at the other types on entertainment on offer. I particularly enjoyed the swing dancing workshop in The Cuban resturant. For those who wanted to learn, the amicable London Swing Dance Society were on hand to teach and dance with you, for those who didn’t fancy learning, you were still welcome to join in at your own pace and do your own thing.
Some venues however were a bit too small for the event, myself and friends ventured over to The Wheelbarrow to catch Bastille on the Sunday, which proved to be a pointless venture, as both people at the bar and those watching the acts were borderline spilling out of the door.
One thing I would recommend to anyone attending this festival, is that if there is an act you are painfully desperate to see, get to the venue as early as you can, as one reveller said to me “I wouldn’t bother trying to get to KOKO past 6pm, the queues are ridiculous”.
You really couldn’t complain of boredom at the this festival, as while I took a breather from rocking around the clock to Swing music at The Cuban, I had a look at all the other non live music entertainment on the line-up I had missed out on, such as hip hop karaoke, hula hoop lessons and displays, spoken word performances, The Crawlternative Media Expo, right down to Art History at The Enterprise pub.
FOOD AND DRINK
Booze wise you’d expect to spend between £4.50 - £5.20 for a cider or a glass of white. Drink prices tended to be higher in the club venues which is to be expected, having said that various venues had deals and special drinks or shots on.
Food wise you had the choice of the usual variety to be found in the Stables market, there is also a petrol station and a few supermarkets around for quick bites and essentials, and if you fancy a sit down there are plenty of restaurants tucked away down side streets and main roads near the station.
The group I was with on the Sunday stopped off for Tapas at a lovely restaurant down the road from the Jazz Cafe. So in regards to food and drink you can’t complain.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
On the first day I attended I spent some time with some lovely fellow attendees, who let me hang out with them for most of the day, one infuriating downfall we experienced was in collecting their tickets.
After collecting their tickets from the box office at the Roundhouse, we were wrong in assuming that we could collect their wristbands in the same place, as they were later told that wristbands had to be then picked up at the wristband exchange in the Camden Gardens.
It would have saved a lot of people time and hassle if the box office and wristband exchange were in the same place, or at least if the two could be collected together, separate from those who had received their tickets earlier, as we overheard many a pissed off attendant in the queue at the exchange.
One other thing I would recommend for further events is the introduction of the occasional manned information points dotted around the festival. Understandably there was a very clear and concise map provided with the programme, but the last thing you want to do when moving through a busy and painfully odd paced crowd is fold out a map.
I found I could only map read when inside a venue, or tucked down a side street, after which I’d try to memorise where I was going best once I set foot into the mayhem.
A flipbook type programme would have been less stressful for this, As I found that enjoyed myself more on the Sunday when I was with company who knew Camden very well.
Those issues aside, I enjoyed the bands and variety of entertainment I got to see at The Camden Crawl. As someone with only a brief knowledge of the area it was great to get around and experience it under dfferent circumstances, I also loved the fact that the crowd wasn’t too trendy or too limited to one age range.
The variety of venues made for a great visual as well as an interesting audio experience, I’m glad I stuck with seeing mostly lesser know bands, as you get to see how at heart, this really is a music festival for the curious and eager to explore music types.
I come away from the event with new acts to follow and a taste of other things to check out, in terms of would I atttend again, I would say yes, but possibly with someone who know the area well, that would certainly save me a hell of a lot of time.
Until next time Camden Crawl, thanks for the fun weekend.
(check out our below video of our personal favourite moment at this years event)