The Camden Crawl’s tenth anniversary was dominated by one name: on the crowded tube, in the local boozer, and in the Red Bull open-air arena, the entirety of Camden was buzzing to the words “Wolf Gang”.
A laid back party atmosphere had already descended on Camden but as Sunday morning turned into Sunday afternoon the tension picked up, the buzz approached frenzy, the whole affair suddenly became serious.
When Tyler The Creator, Hodgy Beats and Mellowhype stepped on stage the jam packet crowd’s anticipation transformed into an unbridled release that compares only to Arctic Monkey’s legendary set on Reading’s Carling Stage in 2005.
Odd Future were quick to capitalise on the momentum of the already feverish crowd dropping “Sandwiches” to open the set. It was an inspired choice, with the crowd exploding into a variety of pits and pogo-fests as they howled “Wolf Gang”, even Tyler’s faltering microphone couldn’t halt the momentum as the crowd were more than happy to scream “Kill Them All” with throat shredding aplomb.
The Odd Future crew were clearly taken a back by the crowd reaction. Tyler looked visibly shocked when he poked his head around the curtain just prior to his performance, and the band wore huge smiles throughout the entire set. Tyler eventually declared “We’re from so far away, and you’re all loving this shit…we’ve got n****s allover the world, we love our London n****s.”
Make no mistake however, the mood may have been one of communal celebration, but there was an undercurrent of violence and aggression. Tyler directed his vitriol towards the security, constantly demanding that the audience invade the stage (they didn’t at first, that came later).
The showmanship was second to none, as Tyler and Hodgy Beats climbed the mammoth amp stacks and delivered their raps in mid air while Mellow Hype opted to crowd surf during “Fuck The Police” (and yes, he kicked me in the face). Antics or not, this set simply couldn’t fail, the hits were too strong and the crowd knew everyword, “Yonkers” was drowned out by a feverish ovation, “Splatter” induced the most visceral pit of the day, and “French” got the kind of sing along treatment usually reserved for “Sex On Fire”.
All those negatives, all the detestable aspects that define Odd Future down; the juvenile lyricism, the homophobia, the ultra violence and the immaturity disappears in the live arena. Replaced by the enthusiasm of youth and a wide eyed charm that breaks down the barrier between the artist and audience.
Naturally enough that symbolic kinship between audience and artist was literally shattered when Odd Future closed their set by dropping “Earl”. Earl Sweatshirt wasn’t in attendance of course; instead they led the crowd in a sing along and invited the entire audience to come and dance onstage. This time the security receded and a mass invasion ensued.
Strictly Our Opinion: OFWGKTA killed it, plain and simple, they owned the day, and they owned the stage. As the security and MCs slowly cleared the fans from the stage, Camden became engulfed with chants of “Wolf Gang”, “Swag” and fans even exchanged rhymes as they left the arena (the favourite being “French’s” opening gambit; “Got All The Black Bitches Mad, Because My Main Bitch Vanilla”).
On this evidence Odd Future will be this year’s must see act at Reading and Leeds and knowing the Reading crowd they may very well destroy the NME tent. Every Odd Future show feels like an event, and Reading and Leeds will be no exception.
Elsewhere On The Bill:
Having narrowly missed the final chimes of Dinosaur Pile Up I arrived in time to see the energetic and diverse styling’s of Engine Earz Experiment who were cruelly let down by technical issues. Their lead singer defiantly declared “This Is Bass Music”, sadly every time the band got the crowd engaged and prepared to drop a killer bassline their kit broke down.
It was a real shame. As a band Engine Earz Experiment are nothing special, but they had the fun in the sun energy that was perfect for this kind of occasion. Sadly the electronic mishaps forced the lead singer to deliver one of the worst free styles in human history (“I’m The One Like Neo”). Thankfully the genre hopping band’s female singer picked up the slack, and their set, for all its failings, provided an ideal warm up wining over a skeptical crowd.
S.C.U.M were simply the wrong band in the wrong place. Playing to a crowd waiting for Odd Future, their subtly textured post-punk proved completely lost on a disinterested audience. The band appeared equally unenthused despite delivering one of the day’s best and most polished sets.
Cerebral Ballzy on the other hand were not to be denied. Arriving through the crowd, entirely blitzed, the lead singer declared: “I’ve been drinking for three days, yup” and forced the skeptical crowd to have a good time. Honor duly dived into the crowd mic in hand, forcing the crowd to form a circle pit around him.
Truth be told it was one of the worst pits I’ve ever seen, but it was a lot of fun to watch, the highlight saw a small Asian teen fly kicking a girl in the head (she was okay don’t worry). Cerebral Ballzy weren’t tight, they weren’t professional but they were a hell of a good time.
After being kicked in the face during Odd Future and having enjoyed a few relaxing beers I returned to the band trail in time to see Mirrors at a jam packet Camden Rock. Marrying the sounds of Neu! and Kraftwerk to 80s post-Joy Division synth pop they put together a crowd pleasing show. Originality was scarce but with a entrancing video screen and a nerdy charisma Mirrors undoubtedly triumphed.
The same can’t be said for Friction. Playing at The Purple Turtle they drew a big crowd, and while their intricately layered bass driven attack deserved praise, it was instead met with bemused boredom by a lad heavy crowd. Cloud Control faired better at Dingwalls drawing a big and enthusiastic crowd their pleasant tones went down a treat.
The Phantom Team, Dingwalls last train home headliners, had to watch a mammoth crowd dissipate in the half hour before they were due on stage. While a 22:30 stage time may appear ideal on paper, in reality going head to head with Tinchy Stryder, The Chapman Family, Cerebral Ballzy and S.C.U.M is more of a curse. Not deterred the happy Scotts won over a small but appreciative audience with a bombastic mix of classic riffs and big bass samples.
Strictly Our Opinion: Another year, another great crawl. Odd Future may have stolen the show but S.C.U.M, The Phantom Team and Cloud Control could all easily slot onto the Festival Republic stage this summer. While Cerebral Ballzy are as likely as anyone to be involved in tonight’s Lock Up announcement.