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On a mid-April weekend, London’s Camden Town hosted one of the city’s biggest music events for discovering new music. Red Stripe’s Camden Crawl was in effect for its seventh year, and with way too many bands to check out, fans were destined to be disappointed at not getting to catch every act they wanted to see during this two-day festival.

The queue for wristband pick-up on day one stretched over two blocks. After bands and schedules were picked up, the homework began. Music enthusiasts hung outside in the light rain or sat at Wagamama looking over their schedule to plan their two-day gig experience. Below is a countdown to the shows I was able to catch.

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Ipso Facto at Underworld (Day 1)

The line takes a while to grow, but the venue eventually fills up during the ladies’s set. Dressed in all black and lace with sexy eye makeup, Ipso Facto are a dark and moody group, with intense drumming and a super-sexy bassline.

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Hatcham Social at Roundhouse (Day 1)

Hatcham Social is a band I’ve been wanting to see since they’re on Alan McGee’s son’s label. They didn’t interact much with the audience, but it was more about the music. Though there were few lyrics, when they did sing, the vocals bordered on an eccentric British Sea Power style. The music itself was a mix of surf, 90s indie, and wall-of-sound shoegaze. This was definitely one of my favorite bands of the event.

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Rolo Tomassi at Bar Monsta (Day 1)

Rolo Tomassi is not just another screaming punk band. With two vocalists (one guy, one girl), Rolo’s frontwoman had lungs that would put Gallows’s Frank Carter to shame. Bar Monsta’s tiny stage just didn’t seem large enough for this Sheffield act, who undulated, hanged, and climbed the whole perimeter of the tiny stage. Their debut album will be out in September.

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The Answering Machine at NW1 (Day 1)

The Answering Machine performed an intense and sweaty show at NW1. Watching the audience from the side reminded me of the crazed fans at The Wombats last year at the Borderline. The pogoing, moshing, pushing, and stage-climbing lasted all night. This is one band with the potential to be the next big thing, with so many danceable songs, especially the favorite, “Oklahoma”.

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Noah & the Whale at Bar Vinyl (Day 2)

Saturday early afternoon, we caught Noah & the Whale at Bar Vinyl. The band has a love affair with country music complete with a violinist/fiddler who actually plucks. “Mary” is a fine tune that starts off fairly slow, exploding into a burst hoedown-ready energy. The addition of a trombonist and trumpeteer only added to their folk-country tunes.

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First in line and after waiting for over an hour at Dingwalls, with a queue circling the entire courtyard, we were informed that Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong would not be performing, due to the loss of Lean’s voice. I was gutted!

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Drew McConnell of Babyshambles at Dingwalls (Day 2)

However, we were pleasantly surprised with the alternative… Drew McConnell of Babyshambles. McConnell talentedly belted out a few Babyshambles songs with requests by the audience for “Albion”, during which he requested an audience sing-along. McConnell has an amazing voice, (which I personally feel is better than Pete Doherty’s. Just don’t strike me down for saying it).

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The Bookhouse Boys at Dingwalls (Day 2)

On stage after Drew McConnell were The Bookhouse Boys. Their fast, sexy, fun music took on the flavor of the Spaghetti Western. The band seemed to favor things in pairs, such as two singers (a long-haired brunette in a short dress and a 50′s inspired guy who made the best, tortured facial expressions), two trumpets, two percussionists, and two guitarists. All in all, these pairings seemed to make their songs just fuller and richer. Though they may look a little like Glasgow’s Sons and Daughters, they’re unique.

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The Wombats at the Electric Ballroom (Day 2)

Rushing over to the Electic Ballroom, we had no luck getting in to see White Lies, so we waited for The Wombats. People were very protective of their spot in line and would call anyone out who tried to sneak in their mates. The Wombats performed their debut album, A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation, with a brilliant show complete with crowd surfing and sing-alongs. Cherub (their trusty stuffed wombat mascot) was working that night as well, wearing his lovely striped scarf, sitting quietly on that Orange amp. Represent! Though no a cappella numbers were performed, The Wombats’ performance made it a bittersweet climax for this year’s Camden Crawl. 2009 can’t come soon enough.

Honourable mention: The Postelles at the Good Mixer (Day 2)

We missed 90% of The Postelles, who were performing at the Good Mixer. The famed bar was packed with kids spilling out into the hallway separating the stage from the bar, so we listened to the end of their set outside. The Postelles are a definite favorite and have been doing quite a few shows in NYC. Their Camden Crawl gig should create some well-deserved publicity for this oldies-inspired band.

362 more days to the 8th Annual Camden Crawl…and counting.–Tear-n Tan/photos by Tear-n Tan