Part one of our report on the NW1 festival...

It's that time of year again: the festival season is upon us and Camden is crawling with rowdy revellers. Now in its ninth year, 140 bands descend on 33 bars across NW1 for another weekend of boozy shenanigans.

The streets are awash with gig-goers as they criss-cross a mile-long stretch from Mornington Crescent to Chalk Farm stations to catch plenty of new acts and the odd old-school indie heavyweight.

This time last year it was bloody freezing. But in 2009 order is fully restored as the sun beats down on north London to get the festival season going in full swing.

Over the years, Camden's finest mini-festival has showcased the likes of Kate Nash, Klaxons, Hot Chip and The Cribs, and thrown up some stunning surprises. Example: last year, when Crystal Castles made their bleepy debut in jaw-dropping style. And this year’s fest is bigger than ever, with an extra ten bands and eight venues added to the bill – a far cry from the original one-day bash of 1995.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (pictured) kick things off as pretty much the whole festival descends on the Roundhouse to catch New York's finest. It's a who’s who of indie stars inside, with the likes of Oasis' Andy Bell, Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson, Kate Nash and her other half Ryan Jarman all watching enviously from the sidelines as the enigmatic Karen O struts and writhes under a giant inflatable eyeball. The sound is pretty shocking in the venue to be fair, but somehow the magnetic songstress' vocals still manage to cut through tremendously, as the NYC trio throw out the pulsing electro-heavy 'Zero', the fantastic 'Gold Lion' and the gut-busting 'Maps'. It's a shame they didn't close the night, but then you can't have everything.

Next up we head off to the Electric Ballroom to catch this year's coolest cats The Big Pink, only to find scores of fans clogging the tail end of Chalk Farm Road for ska legends Madness' fourth impromptu gig of the day on an open top bus. You can hardly hear Suggs and co, but no-one cares as the crowd joyously belt out the words to 'Our House' and 'It Must Be Love'.

Back in the Ballroom it's a far gloomier scene as TBP's Milo Curdell and Robbie Furz find themselves bathed in white smoke and blinding strobes as their bulldozing wall of sound gives way to melodic electro beats. Officially the owner of the biggest keyboard in Camden, the duo's knob twiddling mastermind Milo throws out all sorts of stabbing beats as the duo kick out the thudding 'Too Young To Love' and synth-heavy 'Velvet', like James Murphy hijacking My Bloody Valentine. There's a huge crowd to see London's most-hyped electro duo, and you can see why by their impressive feedback-drenched ten-song set.

Over at Koko, headliners Echo And The Bunnymen keep the crowd waiting as the post-punk heroes arrive to huge cheers. Donning his trademark trench coat and dark shades, Ian McCulloch leads his band through old classics 'Lips Like Sugar', 'Villers Terrace' and 'Seven Seas', impressively in between The Verve-esque 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever'.

Now in their 31st year, blinding new track 'I Think I Need It Too', lifted from the Bunnymen's eleventh studio album 'The Fountain', is surprisingly brilliant with its searing guitar riff and uplifting chorus. Easily their best material in years, it bodes well for the future and proves McCulloch and his band still have something left in their locker after all this time.

The highlight of the night as ever is the moody 'Killing Moon', with its brooding guitar line and Mac's heart-choking vocals. It brings the first night of the Camden Crawl to a most unforgettable climax.

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Part two (Saturday) HERE.
Full photo gallery HERE.

Photo by Elinor Jones


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