Camden Town has long been the hub of the UK’s rock ‘n’ roll scene. The British music business might largely be run out of plush West London offices, but it’s in the bars and clubs of Camden where the raw talent which fuels the industry is incubated and developed, where the buzz on the world’s hottest new bands is amplified from a whisper to a scream.
Music has played a central role in the Camden community for more than a century. When the Camden Theatre opened at 1A Camden High Street on December 26, 1900, affluent Londoners flocked through its doors to see opera, musical theatre and classical music performances. But it was the opening of The Buffalo Club (now better known as the Electric Ballroom) as a venue for Irish folk music in the 1930s which truly kickstarted the area’s concert scene.
Rock ‘n’ roll took a foothold in the district with the opening of the Roundhouse – a former train shed – in the mid 1960s: in the space of a single week in November 1968 Led Zepplin, The Who, the Small Faces, Joe Cocker and John Lee Hooker could all be found treading its boards. On 4th July 1976, the Ramones made their UK debut at the venue, their speed, energy and raw aggression leaving the watching Joe Strummer and Mick Jones (The Clash), Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten and members of The Dammed, The Stranglers and The Adverts – then still all unsigned bands – slack-jawed in admiration. The following month, at Rehearsals Rehearsals (now part of The Stables complex) a few hundred meters away on Chalk Farm Road, The Clash played their first ever gig. The cover of their incendiary self-titled 1977 debut album was shot in an alleyway alongside the building. Soon enough, Camden was ablaze with a new generation of guitar bands packing out venues such as Dingwalls, the Dublin Castle, the Electric Ballroom and The Music Machine, as the grand old Camden Theatre was now known. Local boys madness paid homage to their Camden roots by posing outside Chalk Farm tube station for the cover of their second album Absolutely in 1980, while The Pogues celebrated the borough’s raucous nightlife in the storming ‘Transmetropolitan’, the opening track on their fabulous Red Roses For Me debut in 1984.
But it was the arrival of Britpop in the mid 1990s which truly cemented Camden’s reputation as a hotbed of musical talent. Bands such as Oasis, Blur, Elastica, Sleeper and Menswear adopted the borough as their home-from-home, taking over pubs such as The Spread Eagle, The Good Mixer and The Dublin Castle with their colourful retinues of record company pals, music journalists, drug dealers and assorted ne’er-do-wells. Camden seemed like the centre of the musical universe. International record companies identified it as the place to break new bands, and in the coming years young acts such as The Strokes, The Libertines, At The Drive-in and My Chemical Romance served notice of their future stardom with thrilling performances at the Barfly.
Now, festival organiser Chris McCormack – formerly the driving force behind Creation Records ‘Britrock’ quartet 3 Colours Red and promoter behind Camden’s finest gig and club nights – salutes Camden’s illustrious past and glowing future with a showcase of some of the country’s finest young musical talent, continuing the borough’s well-earned reputation as London’s most vibrant live scene.
2009 saw The Libertines Pete Doherty and Carl Barat headline, alongside then up and coming talents Nine Black Alps, Young Guns, The Paddingtons, Black Spiders and Sonic Boom Six.
2013 saw Irish Rockers Therapy? play alongside The Rifles, Rise To Remain and Turbowolf as well as a plethora of handpicked new talent. Itch (ex-King Blues) rocked so hard he broke his foot stage diving from the balcony of The Jazz Cafe in to the crowd below. And The Computers could be found still rocking on the bar top in The Wheelbarrow at 3am for those still standing and able to see after twelve hours of rock ‘n’ roll action.
Camden Rocks Festival 2014 grew to take over now twenty of Camden’s most legendary and intimate music venues. Headlined by The Subways and Reverend and The Makers, Orange Goblin, Hacktivist, The Blackout, Ginger Wildheart, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Blitz Kids, Slaves & Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Nine Black Alps and 190 other phenomenal acts big and small rip roared through the streets of Camden Town in one hell of a party.
Camden Rocks Festival 2015 was the biggest yet, topped by a secret headliner Bullet For My Valentine, only revealed two weeks before the festival. Also topping the bill were Skindred, While She Sleeps, New Model Army, Funeral for a Friend, And You Will Known Us by The Trail of Dead, Modestep and much, much more.
This year, Camden Rocks is BACK. Back to shine a light on the next generation of emerging stars and provide a much needed day of essential rock ‘n’ roll action.
Are you ready?