Part two of our Crawl coverage...

Day two of the Camden Crawl, and most people are still recovering from the excesses of day one and easing themselves into this, the second and final day. With so many pubs hosting relaxed daytime events and secret gigs, though, the key to a good experience is to get stuck in early.

A quick comedy set at the Oxford Arms starts us off, then on to the overflowing Camden Eye that hosts an acoustic afternoon. A local unsigned band, The Standards, go down well with their surf-pop harmonies. So well in fact that the stack of free demos they leave on in front of the stage has people clamouring to get a copy.

Up at the Constitution, Island Records host an afternoon party celebrating 50 years of the legendary label. First up, The Rumble Strips generate the first queue of the day, but fans stuck outside still get a good view through the windows. They do, however, quite possibly oddest cover version of Chaka Demus & Pliers’ 'Tease Me' (yes, I had to look that up). Probably an Island Records tribute, and that's fair enough.

Frankmusik does a short semi-acoustic set featuring his current top 30 single 'Better Off As Two' plus a cover of Pet Shops Boys’ 'It’s A Sin'. Poor Vincent Frank doesn't look too happy though, and urges everyone to come see the full band tonight at Koko.

There's only time to catch two songs from fantastic reggae-rockers The King Blues in order to get to the worst kept secret of the day: Graham Coxon doing and impromptu gig in the Spread Eagle pub at 5.30pm.

Arriving 40 minutes early means I'm able to shoehorn myself in to see this extraordinary gig. The guitar virtuoso looked relaxed and happy throughout. Coxon and his two bandmates play songs from his new album The Spinning Top – 'This House' and 'Look Into The Light' - in an eventful 40-minute set. The size of the queue to get in, the number of people pressing against the windows and then the power of the band causes the recessed lighting above the bass player to drop from its fitting and hang there precariously for the rest of the set. There is also a love note branded "To Graham" (seriously, hearts and kisses included) passed from the back of the room mid-set and kindly delivered on stage. Such was the heat of the well-over-capacity room, with people standing on chairs and tables, it became too much for some. The festival atmosphere prevails and despite the conditions this was a collective special moment had by all.

Up at the Roundhouse, it's Little Boots who up the glamour, dressed in a backless blue sequined mini-dress for her indie-pop-cum-dance set. Her latest single 'New In Town' in a setting as good as this makes you think some of the hype is actually deserved.

The Maccabees headline the early session at the Roundhouse with an immense set mainly from their new album ‘Wall Of Arms’. Opening with new single 'Love You Better' they're sounding heavier and more accomplished these days. Again, it seems extra special due to the amazing venue which they say they're proud to be playing. They throw in a few old tracks, including 'Toothpaste Kisses', for the delighted crowd.

As afternoon turns to evening, thus begins the endurance test to see as many bands as possible before the night is over.

It's up to the Bullet Bar next for Kasms. The self-styled "shriek-beat" quartet give us indie-garage with a goth-punk twist. Former Test-Icicle Rory Brattwell is on drums and a banshee-like genius comes from frontwoman Rachel Mary Callaghan, who explores the audience and climbs atop the bar mid-set. Their first single 'Taxidermy' sold out all 2,000 copies almost immediately, and with such free-form style, a refreshing lack of attitude and a new single 'Male Bonding' out in May, expect to see more of them on the live circuit soon.

Dashing over to the Electric Ballroom to catch the second half of The Joy Formidable is well worth the effort. The outstanding post-rock trio include 'Austere' and recent single 'Cradle' in their set, but it’s the closing song, and next single, 'Whirring' that takes fuzz-rock to another level. Intense, atmospheric, utterly epic and definitely the set of the day. This is possibly the largest venue this band has played in their career to date. They should get used to it.

Next, it's over to Dingwalls for South African four-piece BLK JKS. Sadly, I miss three songs due to being stuck at the bar behind Jack Peñate who, although not playing the Crawl this year, seems to be buying a round for the entire venue. Finally, with Mr Peñate's friends fully Jäger-bombed up (to be fair, they were very nice people), I'm able to get down the front for a unique taste of southern hemisphere art rock. BLK JKS have broken down barriers in their homeland by playing rock instead of traditional African music and, surprisingly perhaps, going down quite well. Take out the politics and their raw sounding dub-rock/psych mix is well worth investigation soon. With a UK album release slated for autumn, they're bound to be in much larger venues when they return.

Another frantic dash down Camden High Street to Koko and a trip back in time to acid house and Madchester with 808 State. The second summer of love veterans still sound great and appear to be enjoying it even more these days. When they kick into their 1989 top ten hit 'Pacific State' the happy house atmosphere in Koko is as if the last 20 years never happened. Welcome back Graham Massey and friends!

And finally it’s a quick hop next door to the Purple Turtle for Three Trapped Tigers. Chief songwriter Tom Rogerson's classical music training is obvious as they blur the lines between electronica, indie, prog and jazz-rock. With all songs almost completely instrumental, the trio - keys, guitar and drums - appear to be playing an improv’ competition against each other that goes from subtle to down right rock. Whether improvised or planned to detail, the outcome is fully accessible and unpretentious pop that works very well. Theirs is a sensational noise and a wonderful end to the night.

Forget recent criticism that the Crawl is getting too big, too many queues, et cetera. For the true music fan, where else can you see 12 bands in ten hours and not one of them be crap. That is what we call a good day.

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Part one (Friday) HERE.
Full photo gallery HERE.

Photo: Steve Asenjo


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