Blogging about the London rock scene from the baggage-claim hall of Washington’s Dulles airport might seem a bit incongruous, but it’s here I find myself doing so, halfway to Nashville with a cancelled connection, a pocket full of complimentary $15 dinner vouchers from United Airlines, and a bellyful of belligerence. I’m due in Nashville for an interview with the White Stripes about their raucous, if slightly Anglo-confused new album, Icky Thump (the phrase is from Yorkshire in the north of England, and the press shots have them dolled up as a Cockney pearly king and queen from London — located in the south of England — and several songs are all about, um, Scotland). Not to mention that the Stripes are from Detroit. But I’m keen to dissect these surrealist blues ditties about Mexican albino beauties (”Icky Thump”), greedy junk scavengers (”Rag And Bone”) and having the shiniest shoes in the graveyard (”300mph Torrential Outpour Blues”). Yet rather than glugging C&W cocktails in the shadow of the Old Opry, I find myself at the centre of an impromptu community of journey-ruptured travelers trying to organise a tequila party in the Dulles Holiday Inn bar as soon as we all can get there.
Although, frankly, it’s just a relief to be anywhere but Camden today. For back home, this week saw North London rocked to its liver-bloated core by the Camden Crawl, the annual orgy of bad cider, brilliant bands and venue queues visible from the moon. A simple yet genius concept: one ticket gets you access to 12 venues around London’s rock Mecca where around 120 bands perform over two days and nights. Add in daylight hour panels such as ”Indie Idle” (an American Idol-style contest to find the best unsigned band in Britain) and for two days the streets of Camden are overrun by A&R folks and new ravers rather than cyber-Goth and blokes selling chunks of car tyre as ”drugs.” It’s like South By Southwest with threat of drizzle constantly looming overhead.
And this year the kids owned the thing — lines snaked halfway to Birmingham for a clutch of bands juggling the rave-punk sound with their high school exams. Pogoing out of the Way Out West all-ages club nights in West London, the scarily youthful likes of Cajun Dance Party, Jack Penate, and Late Of The Pier dragged their sunny garage-pop fuzzbombs into the world of those legally served lager and, frankly, if they hadn’t rocked so much, we’d have notified social services. Meanwhile, in glammed-up gay haunt the Black Cap (transformed into a rave-rock paradise for two days by the female DJ duo The Queens Of Noize, Houdoken — practically the pensioners of the scene, having finished their college dissertations two days ago — played from behind a Great Wall Of Bouncer as a turbo dancefloor riot threatened to engulf the stage. But that’s what you get if you manage to sound like the Prodigy, Rage Against The Machine, the Klaxons and a knackered Pac Man machine all having a knife fight in the eye of Hurricane Katrina. The future? It’s being evicted from a dorm room near you soon.
And while the NME office is abuzz over the arrival of new LPs from Björk, in which she seems to be beating Massive Attack about the face and body with old Peter Gabriel albums, and Queens of the Stone Age, in which they play musical Tom & Jerry again, chasing some petrified tunes around for an hour with guitars made of brimstone, this writer stumbles into the Dulles Holiday Inn to find a full-on auction of dog accessories under way outside his room. Hey, who needs to get to Nashville when there’s a White Stripes song going on in the corridor…?