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Camden Rocks founder Chris McCormack offers his top tips to getting the best out of this year's festival

02 May, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Camden Rocks founder Chris McCormack (second from right) with The Professionals

THERE’S only one month to go until the Camden Rocks (June 1-2) takes over our venues – and our streets – for a whole weekend.

And this year festival organisers are offering a 25 per cent discount for Camden locals.

Resident rock fans can access the reduction by entering the offer code NW1LOCALS into the ticket site to uncover the discount.

In the meantime, with so few days to go until the festival proper takes off, we have gone to the source – DJ, musician (3 Colours Red/The Professionals) and festival founder Chris McCormack – to ask for his guide to Camden Rocks 2019.

Desperate Journalist

What preparation do you guys still need to do to get Camden Rocks ready?

We’re currently advancing all the bands and venues, making sure everyone involved knows what’s going on and what to expect on the day.

How big of an operation is the organising of Camden Rocks?

It’s twice as big this year with 400 bands over two days. It’s something like 3,000 musicians and crew to organise – musicians are generally the best people at retaining information!

What does it entail?

I have no idea how many staff we have on the day but it includes sound and lighting crew for 21 stages, production staff, security, wristband checkers, box office staff and humpers.

There’s only a small team working on it up until the latter stages of the promotion. We order over 4,000 bottles of water to quench the thirst of musicians performing over the weekend.

It’s vital that we keep the backstages in the smaller venues flowing with so many people involved, so we don’t do riders in the venues where it would just add to the chaos.

Why did you decide to make it two days?

Booking 200 bands for the one day has always been quite a daunting task. I must have had a moment of madness this time round. I’m not going to lie, it’s totally consumed me over the past six months and I’m not sure I’d book as many bands next time around.

Any more announcements to come?

We’re announcing things as they come in with only four weeks to go. There’s a couple of slots I’ve kept for any last-minute surprises but we’ll have to see what comes up. I never know.

Will you be playing?

Pretty Vicious

I’ll be playing the Underworld with the Professionals. I’m on tour with them now in Spain heading to Madrid for a festival. I basically work constantly when I’m not on stage, either on the tour bus, hotel rooms, dressing room… even on the toilet!

How have you adapted with the loss of Koko?

It hasn’t made that much difference really, with us extending the festival over two days. Obviously, I love having Koko involved as it’s such an iconic venue and a huge part of Camden Town. It’s currently being renovated and will be amazing when it reopens next year. I know they’re investing a lot into it which can only be a good thing.

What new venues have signed up this year?

Only Music And Beans, which is a new place that only holds around 80 people in a tiny basement on the high street. I quite like those venues as that’s where some of the best shows are.

Can you tell us about the variety of music on offer?

I book energetic guitar bands so that literally goes through all the genres. I put on regular shows in Camden all year round and pick the best bands from those to include in the festival.

It could be anything from indie-rock to death metal, as long as the bands take it seriously, put the effort into their shows and play well, we get them on board.

There’s a great artist previews page on our website that you can use to plan your day. It’s a great way to quickly listen to what’s on offer – I’d give these bands a listen: Pretty Vicious, Desperate Journalist, The Last Internationale, REWS, The SoapGirls, Strange Bones, Rascalton, Orchards, Heavy Rapids, King Nun, The Wood Burning Savages, ROE, Modern Error and Faers.

Which established artists are on the list?

I’m really pleased to have Frank Turner, I love Frank’s music and he’s become a great friend over the years. I always ask him but he usually has his Lost Evenings thing at the Roundhouse. This year it finally came together and we got it to work.

New Model Army

I think it’s important to have some of my favourite heritage bands play, like The Wonder Stuff and New Model Army. Also it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have a couple of Sex Pistols playing – the greatest band that ever walked the Earth

Camden is where all these great bands cut their teeth and what makes the place so historically important. I’ve lived in Camden most of my adult life and have been to so many life-changing gigs there.

I don’t think I stayed in during the first seven years I moved here, there was always so much going on.

Any Camden Rocks survival tips?

It’s a long day, so pace yourselves. There’s a lot of alcohol consumed during the weekend but never any trouble.

Everyone is generally really well-behaved and there’s a great sense of community. We’ve been very lucky with the weather too – the sun always seems to come out over this weekend which turns Camden High Street into this great carnival vibe. I love that.

Do some research through our website and plan your day with our planner we release leading into it.

Try to see as many new bands as possible. The line-up is jam-packed with great emerging artists. Come down early and make a full day of it, is the best advice I could give.


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