London, Saturday May 19, 2018
Camden Town is one of the landmarks of British music history. Camden High Street and the surrounding streets have been the ‘scene of the crime’ for many shennanigans; whether it’s Madness playing The Dublin Castle, The Clash playing The Roundhouse, or Britpop-stars getting wasted at The Good Mixer, this little corner of London has attracted all kinds of musicians and performers for decades. So it’s no surprise that many buskers have tried their luck here also. They are pretty much guaranteed a crowd, and since, because of the market and shops, people primarily come here to spend money, it seems like a good place to try and make a few pennies.
This Saturday, on the day of the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, street musician Cam Cole has set up shop, just around the corner from the tube station, a stretch of pavement where anyone coming to Camden Town will most likely walk past.
Cam Cole has a sizeable crowd. Maybe not as big as the crowd watching the Royal wedding on TV screens around the country, but this is not a televised Royal wedding, this is a street gig, Some of the crowd sit down on the pavement, others stand, and most are just passing by on their way to somewhere else, but stopping for a minute or two to check out the music.
And those who stop are treated to the sounds of a great musician and singer. Playing the drums with his feet, and picking his battered guitar as if he’s picking a fight, Cole sings with a howling voice, that would feel just right in a whiskey-soaked, cigarette-clouded bar after midnight. But even in the middle of a sunny day, the bluesy music works a treat. Cole sells CD’s of his music (a bargain at £5) and many of his listeners (myself included) treat themselves to one.
It feels good when you come across a great street musician. Often going to concerts can be expensive – and here is a great player who reminds you that music is by the people, for the people. It should be including, not excluding, and its a form of expression that can suck you in and make you feel like you’re not merely a spectator, but a participator. Music doesn’t need a venue or a stage – music belongs to the streets, gutters and pavements alike.
So here I stand on a pavement, on the streets of Camden Town, listening to a street musician, who could quite frankly have been an incarnation of Jack White. He certainly has the talent; his guitar playing is impeccable, his singing is right on point, and taking care of the drumming with his feet, he serves as an ultimate example of a one-man-band.
After he finishes his set, I make my way down Camden High Street. As I pass by the pub, The Elephant’s Head, I see people sitting inside watching the Royal wedding on TV. Why people choose to watch a wedding of two people they don’t even know, I have no idea. Between a Royal wedding on TV and a sublime musical performance on a busy street, the street gets my vote every time.
Cam Cole setlist