You really do need nerves of steel to brave a stage at the Camden Crawl.
It’s like a traditional festival in one respect, as most of the punters who pitch up have probably never heard of you. Worse, they’ve usually been queuing for ages too, and so are liable to pick on any interesting costumery or facial furniture you may be sporting.
“Shave your tache!” shouts one such chap, packed somewhere amid the throng at The Monarch on an already boozy Saturday evening. His target is James Steel, frontman for rockabilly types the Brute Chorus, whose lustrous under-nose foliage has already won many an admirer during their short career. “If it wasn’t for this tache, I wouldn’t be standing before you now,” responds Steel, who goes on to play a rollicking good set.
Johnny Flynn is somewhere behind an impenetrable wall of people at the Barfly, sadly, so it’s off to the Underworld bright and early for kooky Swedish potential pop-star Lykke Li. She has a tough act to follow, as the DJ drops Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac beforehand which is so splendidly out of context that crazy dancing ensues. Li has a useful weapon of her own though, busting out a kazoo a few songs in, which isn’t something you see every day. Not that a gimmick is really needed, as she and her band are enormously watchable. The crowd even hang around after she’s played her quasi-hit Little Bit, which is rare.
On a similar, if noisier, theme, it’s off to Dingwalls next to catch the last knockings of Norway’s Ida Maria. She’s clearly been thoroughly enjoying herself and her scarlet tunic is positively soaked by gig’s end, as are most of the baying crowd. It’s very moist in here. Unlike Li she leaves her big tune, Oh My God, til last, and brings the house down, almost literally. Either Ida brought a load of fans along or has made a lot of new ones tonight.
It’s hard to guess which acts are going to be popular at the Crawl. Earlier we’d tried to get into the massive Electric Ballroom to see White Lies but failed miserably. Now we swan straight in to witness The Wombats, one of the bigger bands taking part. They’re a bit of an odd fit at such a London-centric event, in truth, but are energetic enough to carry it off.
More at home but also slightly out of place is Kano, who’s at the other end of town at the similarly sizeable Koko. He may be a Londoner but looks a little awkward strutting his stuff for this sea of middle-class indie kids. “You all fucking drunk?” he bellows, between songs, and it’s a fair question. The frantic venue-to-venue and queue-to-queue nature of this fest means that Crawl punters tend to get much drunker than normal gig-goers, or hardly drunk at all. Do you get one in, knowing that you may need to down it, or wait until the next place, where someone better may be playing? Decisions, decisions.
Slow Club, at the Oh Bar, don’t look old enough to drink, or perhaps the saccharine folk-pop keeps them looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed. They’re probably both about 37. Endearingly ramshackle, Rebecca Taylor has a few technical difficulties midway through their second song, which is a bit odd given that she’s just banging the back of a wooden chair with a stick. They soon get going again and it’s all a bit sugary for the bitter and twisted Clash ears, although let’s hope it cheered Steve Lamacq up. He was the man behind this bill and looked absolutely knackered.
No such worries for his BBC colleagues the Queens of Noize, who are running the show at the Black Cap and dancing like nutters behind Metronomy. And who can blame them. The solo-act-cum-quartet play a winning brand of funky, chunky synth-pop and have a similar effect on the hips of those of us crammed into what is basically a long corridor down below. The Cap is usually a gay club, but Christ knows how they manage to do any cruising up and down this tight passage.
Next up, Crystal Castles are the best live band in Britain. Well, the best live Canadian band currently playing in Britain. Admittedly we are basing this on half a show at Dingwalls, but what a show. Bloody hell. There are already several bouncers on stage trying to protect Alice Glass by the time we worm our way in, and the tiny Torontoan is going apeshit at either them or the sweat-drenched throng surging forward like a skinny-jeaned tidal wave. The Dingwalls’ moisture gauge is now off the scale, and the bedraggled mob streaming out afterwards look like they’ve just been white-water rafting. Magnificent stuff.
Then it’s off to the Underground to round off the evening with a bit of early-hours dubstep, courtesy of Kode 9. Not that he calls it dubstep, but, hey, we’re too shagged to care. Time to crawl home.