Back at the beginning of the month, the Camden Crawl took over the many venues of that particular corner of London once again, with a mix of music, comedy and more taking place over three days. Eddy was there to oversee the closing party of the whole event, with a line-up to send it out with a bang. Here he recalls all the goings on, both on stage and behind the scenes.
Three of my favourite new artists and one electronica hero gathered at Koko in London earlier this month for the closing party of Camden Crawl, an event I’d never played before. It’s always exciting to play somewhere new, even if it’s at a familiar venue.
Once I got past the initial organisational problems – “No, you’re not on the list”/”Erm, we’ve lost all your guest passes”/”Sorry, no we haven’t got you down to DJ”/”Til 4am? No it’s till 3am, one of you will have to go home” – and into the venue, I clocked the unmistakeable quiff of Rocky Morris, half of the production duo Pegasus and one third of Monsta. Huge smiles, massive hug, “at last we meet”, but what’s this… a Welsh accent?
“Rocky, where are you from?” I asked.
“Carmarthen, just outside Newport”, he said, with a familiar South Wales twang.
“You’re shitting me!” I bellowed. “I was born in Cardiff! I thought you were Londoners!”
I was so utterly surprised and delighted because I’d assumed, simply because their music is so effortlessly cool, that they’d be from East London, or wherever it is that effortlessly cool people gravitate to these days.
“Eddy!” Came a smiling voice from the other side of the green room, near an incredible picture of my dear friend Matty Gooderson, guitarist of The Infadels, in mid air at a seemingly impossible height above the Koko stage, unaided by wires or a parachute. The voice continued, as a man came rushing towards me: “Bobby Tank – pleased to meet you!”
More hugs and more smiles. It’s funny how it’s quite possible to fall in love with someone without ever having met them. Through their music, then connecting it that post-millennial way, on Twitter and Facebook, you build relationships with people, then realise quite some time later, when you actually face them in the flesh for the first time, that you have such a strong foundation already, despite having never met.
This was cemented when a good looking young stranger in a cool baseball cap walked into the green room and then threw himself on me for a big old man-hug. Stepping back, he announced: “Sorry, I should have said… I’m Rufio!”. It was the other half of Pegasus and another third of Monsta.
I introduced Rocky, Rufio and their Monsta bandmate Bryn, who had also joined us, to Bobby, and reminded them that in a show with Adam F, only a few weeks ago, that I’d only played two new records in those three hours – their current singles – in an otherwise almost entirely retrospective birthday special edition of ‘The Remix’.
Soon I ran into the supremely talented James ‘Mistabishi’ Pullen. James has an otherworldly vibe about him that I’m fascinated by, like he’s some super-intelligent alien here to study us, make sure were OK, spoon-feed us scientific break-throughs as and when they’re needed, and mess with our heads a little bit, in an impish way, while he’s here.
On the stage, I ran into my South London neighbour, the gorgeous Ayah Marar, and after a few introductions, and a frantic 45 minutes looking for the guest passes that had been lost (while Illaman, my MC for the evening, and nine other guests were freezing their nuts off outside), we were ready to roll, and Bobby started shaking the foundations of Koko while The Cribs crowd shuffled out and our lot started bouncing in.
Bobby’s blissful future sounds washed all over the Victorian theatre, which filled up very quickly, and Rufio came over to gawp with me. We both agreed that Bobby was doing something unique, and incredibly – and I hate using this word, but in this context it’s actually acceptable – ‘funky’. But there was also this other layer of something incredibly analogue and 1980s sounding in the synth keys – ‘BLADERUNNER’, we gushed in unison – but done with such a breadth of palate, a glorious technicolor dreamscape. It’s a vision of the future using what’s great about the past. Bobby Tank has a big future making big music.
Ayah sashayed on stage next and belted out five Marar standards, kicking off with the riotous Thunderskank & Trufix remix of her new single ‘Mind Controller’. The crowd lapped it up and by the time she hit the big Camo and Crooked collaboration ‘Cross The Line’, the Koko dancefloor was a jumping, sweaty mass.
Next I played a little set with Illaman (normally Tomb Crew’s MC) to bridge the gap while Rocky, Rufio and the Monsta crew set up the drums and keys.
Rocky plays a full kit, side on to the crowd, like Iggor Cavalera in Mixhell, facing Rufio, and his banks of analogue synths, keyboards, Fender Rhodes. The set up looks like a prog rock one, like Rick Wakeman or Jean Michel Jarre in the 1970s. From the moment the curtain went up and Bryn stepped up to the vocal mic, I was transfixed. Drawn in utterly, by each one of them, and blown away with how magically they gelled together.
Bryn has a soaring, soulful voice, very reminiscent of David McAlmont, Rufio is a phenomenally good keyboard player, and Rocky’s drumming was equally another level for a ‘dance band’. This was serious musicianship. We talked afterwards and it transpires they met at ‘jazz school’. That figures. They came from the musically most rigorous, hardest to play, most elitist and sub-genre-fragmented musical movement. Watching them play was like watching the kind of supreme session musicians Donald Fagen and Walter Becker employed for Steely Dan.
The boys told me a story of how they curtailed their studies because they wanted to pursue something different, and because their teacher told them, without even a hint of irony, that “any form of popular music – other than jazz – is IMMORAL”.
Anyone who has a ticket to this year’s Secret Garden Party is in for such a treat. Make sure you see Monsta on Sunday, they will dazzle you. I guarantee it. Actually, both Ayah Marar and Mistabishi are playing there too, all in the Temple Of Boom. Treats galore come July.
It was Mistabishi who I asked to come and play a live set at the end of the night at Koko. He had this incredible bit of kit on him, a bright blue, metal, multi-dialled sampler, synth-gizmo – for the spotters, a Korg Electribe MX – a glorious bit of kit that pumps out the most astonishingly clear and resonant bass. Armed with only that, and a 1940′s Elvis style microphone, he tore that place a new back entrance.
I was so impressed. He could manipulate the beats and the pads, play more layers over the top, and smoothly switch tempos. I spent the last 20 of his set minutes in the booth, mesmerised by what he was doing. A good bit of kit in the hands of somebody who knows how to use it can be a potent thing. It was as live as that kind of electronic music can be, and more live than most I have seen. I so rarely see him on a bill outside the East London free party scene and that is a criminal shame. James Pullen is an inspiring musician and producer and should really be more recognised as such.
Mistabishi’s wall of bass was the perfect way to end, and The Camden Crawl troopers that kept that dancefloor going until the end appreciated him.
Looking back across the whole night, it was a triumph for new music. Three brand new acts about to break through, and one master who continues to make and release uncompromisingly brilliant electronic music. The whole night felt so euphoric it almost seemed like we were walking out into the crisp, clean air of the first day of the year. Thank you to everyone who came, and to each and every one of those great artists that made the night so special.
Xfm was there recording the night, so you’ll be able to hear all these sets in the near future.