Crud is not happy. No. You see, Crud has recently learnt that,
due to circumstances regrettably out of our control, we shan’t be attending Glastonbury
Festival this year. A dark cloud has descended over our heart – for if an
event which provided the undefeated highlight of all our years (but one) since
1998 is snatched cruelly out of reach, we can only presume there will be no highs,
at all. Just one long monotonous flat-line. And Eavis has dropped a cow’s hide
of salt on the wound by cancelling next year’s too. What we need is a fix, fast.
We need bands, plenty of ‘em! We want wristbands checked, bags searched! We need
to follow a less than perfect timetable, fathom clashes, schedule cunning and
above all meticulous routes between bands and stages, and untimely miss plenty
we really were determined to see!
how exactly does one satisfy that kind of demand on a drizzly Thursday in North
London? The weather’s about right at least.
So, you join us as some anonymous
fairy godmother dumps us up front at the Electric Ballroom, Camden, 6.15pm, reassuringly
overpriced pint in hand, rudimentary timetable in pocket, waiting for festival
faves the 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster to shred the stage at a dastardly
early hour. The return of the practically mythical Camden Crawl could not,
quite frankly, have come at a better time. 40 bands. 10 venues. One postcode.
5 hours. Go! Go! Go! We’re perking up already.
These days 80s Matchbox’s
burlesque silhouettes would be enough to satisfy by themselves, with the band
on mute, and we get a sight-sqiffing eyeful of those immediately. But of course
they also pack a teeth-rattling fist-full of sonic excess. You know the (pneumatic)
drill by now, they’re sometimes ridiculous, always breathtaking, yet still we
wind up shocked by their sturdiness. Tonight makes their frantic and celebrated
early shows seem like a yawning ogre nuzzling a ball of string in a meadow.
there is much to discover, and a fragmented mile of ground to cover, so we can’t
stand still for long. Up the road to Lock 17 then, 7pm, and the righteous indie
larks of Art Brut. There’s a nagging feeling that if this weren’t our first
appointment with the New Cross quintet the joke might not seem nearly as jokey.
But it is, and so we laugh heartily and unashamedly. They’re a veritable right-on
musical Robin Hood, with a bloody sarcastic sneer to boot. They attack, celebrate
and send up popular culture with brilliant nonchalance. They have a standing drummer.
They look like US teen-drama geeks who discovered The Fall, Diana Ross and cherry
coke and vodka all at once. And that is clearly brilliant. We’re all encouraged
to go home and form bands so that next year we can play a much bigger Greater
London Crawl together. But if we did we’d only end up disappointed our band wasn’t
as witty or frivolous or as cool as theirs.
After they’d wrung the hell
out of last year’s genius ‘Formed A Band’ single we stumble across the road into
the pokey Canaervan Castle and are confronted close-up by a funny little bald
man dancing like Tim Booth interpreting Lord of the Dance on fast-forward with
an itch, presumably leading who our timetable informs us are The Infidels.
The Infidels seem to be doing the Senser/ADF thing with a fairly precise aim.
It gets us going, but alas towards the Barfly, where we score max points on our
Camden scorecard by queuing in line next to Danny Supergrass waiting for the Mystery
And the Mystery Jets are winners too, walking away
with Most Lunatic Band of the Crawl gong and claiming a complementary night’s
stay in the nearest rubber-padded room. It’s like Mars Volta with British Sea
Power’s budget. Baby Bowies falling into a box of Hawkwind records. And getting
fished out by their father. Literally. Yep, that’s dad stage-right on the prog
keys and jangly guitar. It’s an awkward and confusing melee all in all, but a
strangely inspiring one. Taking a pit stop in Lock 17 on our way back in a southerly
direction, we are brought crashing down to earth with some faintly regular pop
music from the arms and lips of the lamely-titled Hard-Fi. From the 2 and
a half minutes we caught our notes tell us Prefab Sprout auditioning to get on
a bill with that Doherty bloke. But we have no real recollection of them to back
this up, sorry.
With time to spare we head up Parkway merely to ogle at
the queue outside the miniscule Dublin Castle for Graham Coxon – the most
suffocatingly hot ticket of the night. Sure enough the line bulges expectantly
up towards Regents Park holding at least twice the capacity of the pub itself.
Nobody’s daring leave the venue. He’s not on for 90 minutes. If our ability to
read the lines on people’s faces is accurate they’ve all been there for a very
long time indeed already. 15 quid plus booking fee well spent then, chaps? Sadly
our desire to check out new wunderkid on the block Tom Vek at the Underworld
is also thwarted by a gargantuan queue snaking endlessly round the corner, so
it’s back to the Electric Ballroom for unexpected revelation and band of the night.
The Killers! Oi, The Bravery! Looks like we’ve found the optimum strain of whatever
it is you’ve been looking for in your ill-fitting day-glo suits and pristine haircuts.
The Longcut are both retro and modern, difficult but brilliantly accessible,
loose but staggeringly on cue. It’s like The Faint bear-hugging the Foo Fighters
in the first instance. But then it’s The Rapture garrotted by Sonic Youth’s feedback
drenched guitar strings. No, no, actually it’s a Mogwai you can dance to, a furious
hurricane with a big beat. They sound like most vital guitar bands from the past
15 years with their atoms re-engineered, and though refreshingly separate from
its musical heritage they might just be the most visceral thing to come out of
Manchester since ‘Definitely Maybe’. For the most part, words escape us. We just
A long bloody jaunt down to the other end of the High Street finds
us at Koko, still a little numb from The Longcut, as the Magic Numbers
try to pretend up a little bit of Woodstock. But, as tuneful and snug as it is,
the last thing we need right now is twee, earnest Americana from Londoners pushing
the inbred trailer-trash look. So it’s straight over the road to the certainly
more modest Purple Turtle for refreshments and a breather before Hope of the
An acoustic set from the Chichester sort-of-post-rockers raises
a handful of slightly different fears to the usual ones. A striped bare line-up
of frontman Sam and fiddle player Mike, not to mention an inept soundman, add
a few more. So we know the potential pitfalls, and we know your average HOTS gig
never starts on the sharpest of form, but by the end of new song ‘Bonfires’ things
are already sounding fairly apocalyptic in spite of the basic set up. ‘A Million
Marriages’ (only completed the day before) and ‘Little Silver Birds’ show some
grounded development in their song-writing and Sam’s delivery, edging carefully
with purpose. The latter especially is a gruff, light footed thing of beauty,
not at all dragged down by Sam’s vocal vulnerabilities. In fact you’re behind
him all the way, urging him over the lip of melody hill.
But it could have
been wrong to end such a staggering night of discovery on such a maudlin note.
So to make sure, and with 10 minutes to go, it’s back over the road for the victory
lap, it’s back over the road to Koko and Goldie Lookin Chain. Oh GLC. GLC,
GLC, GLC. Tediously puerile, lowest common denominator, shock-factor all but used
up, yet still in the smallest bursts you seem like the greatest pop creation in
all of smutty Christendom, worth 10 Happy Mondays on any day of the week. And
so it is with a broad grin that we descend into the depths of Mornington Crescent
tube, slightly lamenting the lack of a tent, night-time high-jinx, campfire burning
till the wee hours and echoing “bollocks!” hollers, but not fighting the lure
of comfy chair and cable TV.
Maybe Camden and I will have our own crawl
come the end of June.
James Berry for Crud Magazine 2005©
Janauary - March 2005 - News Archive