Guy Fawkes lives in Camden. When I was 16, Camden was the coolest part of the UK, merely because Blur, Elastica and, er, Menswe@r used to drink in Britpop haunt The Good Mixer. These days it still retains a certain caché, except that now it’s Amy Winehouse falling out of pubs there rather than Damon Albarn. Here, Guy reveals the duality of the Camden scene…
Like many places, where I live has some advantages and some disadvantages. Among the best things about living in the vicinity of Camden Town is that everyone has heard of it around the world it seems, so enlightening them as to the environs of your habitation is certainly a deed made easier. But most seem to think that living in Camden would be the best thing around.
Suggested listening #1: myspace.com/notcoolisaband
Well they’re just wrong. Maybe living in the capital has made me a little spoilt in terms of music. Granted, Camden is much better than say Crawley or Coventry – but let’s not get bogged down in that. When it comes to the music and the atmosphere, it is certainly not the case that Camden is second to none.
Let’s have a look at some of the more established venues: Roundhouse, Barfly, Electric Ballroom, Koko, Dingwalls. These are full of shirt-wearing, beer-slurping businessmen who would much rather prey on innocent teenage girls and listen to Oasis than whatever poor new band is trying to win their attention at said venue.
They don’t care about the music or creating an exciting atmosphere. It’s a saddening state. Either that or the nights at these venues are all booked up by big promotions companies like SJM who flood the repertoire with tame radio-friendly trash.
Suggested listening #2: myspace.com/chapter24
You will get some decent bands playing now and then but these shows will inevitably be filled with industry. A prime example was The Drums playing the Barfly last year, rammed – not with punters eager to catch them in an intimate atmosphere – but with shedloads of industry figures.
Perhaps this is a good thing – providing up and coming bands with the opportunities to establish themselves onstage with audiences that can propel them to further glory. But it feels like watching meat churning out of the grinder. The Drums were already set for their giddy heights – their set at the Barfly appeared to be little more than a congratulatory self-pat on the back for the industry at large.
Suggested listening #3: myspace.com/fanzinetheband
Walking around Camden is devilish. It is not so much the tourists that are irritating – it is a famous area, rich in history and colour so why not visit? But the people who come down to pretend they were/are a member of a subculture are the most infuriating. Specifically punks who seek to extract money off tourists for photos. How punk is that?
Camden needs a fresh start, fresh venues and fresh promoters. Unless we want to see it become a sordid bastion of “nostalgia” and milking the past, because that’s where it’s heading to.
My tip for finding reliably good music is to check out what’s happening at The Lexington on the nearby Pentonville Road. Always a great sound, always a lovely ambience, seemingly always good bands too. It exudes a great ethos, something that is regrettably clearly lacking in Camden.