Eoghan was one of two reviewers we sent to the first ever Camden Crawl Dublin last weekend – here he puts his own festival experience into some perspective, with the benefit of a few days’ distance
Eoghan’s review of Day 1 of Camden Crawl Dublin here
Ronnie’s review of Day 2 of Camden Crawl Dublin here
Full lineup by Curator here
Photos: Bríd O’Donovan
1. The Dublin Crawl was a success
There were about 100 bands/artists playing the inaugural Camden Crawl Dublin in 13 venues spread around the city. The chances of seeing anywhere near a sizeable portion was not going to be possible. This writer got to see 14 bands, though a few of those were only snippets of sets. Was it a success? From what I could see, yes, it was a brilliant weekend that brought a tingle of festival excitement to the streets of Dublin just for a few hours.
To the uninitiated, the Camden Crawl has taken place in London for the last 11 years and the idea – lots of ‘new’ bands playing in lots of venues around a city with one ticket to get access to all the gigs – was imported to Dublin for 2012. Lisa Paulon writes in the official Dublin Crawl programme: “We were looking to launch a Camden Crawl sibling event in another city for quite a while.”
I haven’t been to the London event so I don’t know what it’s like, but the biggest gripe here seemed to be that the programme was only released an hour before the first band of the weekend started – this is what happens in London, we were told. If this is the biggest gripe that people had then it’s a minuscule one in the grand scheme of things.
(My biggest regret of the festival was that at one of the fringe venues, JJ Smyths – a class, old-man place – two acts switched around but nobody was told. I had been dying to see Tara Masterson Hally, a teenage singer-songwriter who hasn’t played live often yet. She had swapped sets with Dott because they were arriving late from Galway. Though Dott were good in a ‘they’re not Best Coast but they’ll do’ sort of way, I was gutted I missed Hally. It took me a while to get over that one.)
2. In the battle between old and new, old won
Would people be willing to fork out money to go to gigs at 6pm by bands many might not have heard of, and where the biggest ‘headline’ bands are Mystery Jets and We Are Scientists, groups who have hardly been in the ascendency in recent years? Apparently they would and the crowds flocked to the aforementioned groups. The idea of the festival was that you might discover a new band to fall in love with, but you wonder did people actually explore or were they simply waiting for We Are Scientists and Mystery Jets? On at the same time as the crowdsurfing We Are Scientists on the other side of the city was Dam Mantle, an English electronic producer. Not a name I am familiar with, I took the festival’s apparent raison d’être and went in search of something new, mainly due to him headlining Grand Social curator Nialler 9’s night. You wouldn’t have been surprised if tumbleweed was rolling around on the floor in front of Mantle, such was the attendance.
Mystery Jets the following night packed out the Button Factory. But were the people in here fans or simply because this was ‘the big one’? The chatter drowned out the sound near the back of the venue, where you could barely move. The band never really got out of first gear, either, simply ploughing through some new tracks (their latest album was released last week) before playing the ones people might know. Yet even then, ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’, which Mystery Jets readily admitted the crowd would know, were barely received with enthusiasm. It was a yawnsome set with a crowd that seemed to be there just because it was an international band. In the battle between finding new music and watching something a little stale, it seemed the latter had won.
3. Venue Curators didn’t really do anything
Apart from Aoife Barry’s Saturday night event in The Workman’s Club and Richter Collective’s Button Factory raucous the previous night, I don’t really know what the point was of the curators for the festival. Aoife has championed Toby Kaar before anybody else (Plugd Records in Cork were also early on the case – Ed.) and it was nice to see him pay tribute to her during his set (more of which later) while And So I Watch You From Afar and Jogging are both Richter Collective bands. Maybe it was so people would say, as I did myself, “Oh, they’re playing Nialler 9’s night so I should go check them out.” But the curators didn’t introduce any of the bands, and some weren’t even at the festival, let alone ‘their’ venue: Jim Carroll/On the Record was at The Great Escape in Brighton over the weekend but he was a curator on the Friday night. Hardly a vote of confidence in the bands playing ‘his’ night…
4. Toby Kaar is going to be massive
Aoife Barry had been bigging him up before everybody else caught on, but on Saturday night at the Workman’s Club, for over an hour, Cork producer Toby Kaar left jaws on the floor along with dancing shoes. He started by saying: “We’ll start with the new one. I fuck this up half the time.”
He didn’t mess it up – he didn’t put one step wrong all night. And he’s become much more confident on stage, too, dancing around to the beats, offering the crowd a drink and even coming back for an encore. Nothing new here you might think, until you realise that Kaar has not released anything physically, bar perhaps one or two songs here and there. He exists only via Soundcloud and Bandcamp but through 18 months of word of mouth he’s already reached the stage where drunken girls are clambering up onstage to dance with him and ask for a shout out. Imagine what the crowd will be like once an album arrives. Though you wonder if he even needs it.
(The band who almost stole the weekend was Come On Live Long, playing the opening slot at Whelan’s on Friday night. It may not have been busy, but the five-piece put on a show full of energy, one they will build on as they release more than just the two EPs they have under their belts to date. If you were in search of a new band to fall in love with, Come On Live Long were it.)
5. The ‘Alternative Music’ landscape continues to deepen and widen
On show over the course of the two days was heavy instrumental music, indie, pop-rock, pop, post-punk, folk, electronica and gospel. There were probably even more, too. It’s difficult to say when you’re listening to to new Irish electronic music on headphones from your laptop, for example, whether it will transfer to the stage. But as Toby Kaar proved, if it’s done right, they will come. Though not on the same stage as Kaar yet, fellow Cork producer Bantum played a blinder at the Mercantile on Saturday night, mesmerising the growing crowd of onlookers for about 45 minutes. Having seen him open for Kaar in The Pavilion in Cork just after Christmas, Bantum seemed a little lightweight in comparison at the time (Kaar pretty much sold the place out), but it was clear he’s already stepped it up. SertOne played the same venue later the same night, also drawing a very busy, very talkative crowd that was eventually won over.
We Are Losers and Girl Band, meanwhile, are on the other end of the scale, playing loud, noisy pop-rock songs. No keyboards are on display but both add something new to the scene. Everybody at the Losers show on Saturday was left wanting more thanks to Gavin Elsted’s easygoing, carefree stage persona that culminated (almost) in a cool throw-your-guitar-away exit. Girl Band wowed simply by virtue that the lead singer didn’t lose his voice such was the screaming. Not the most original sounds in the world but We Are Losers and Girl Band (who played before Toby Kaar) certainly make music fun.