Festival Review: Cro Cro Land 2019

Cro Cro Land

Urban Exchange Hub, Croydon, 6th April 2019

Words: Nick Jacques
Photography: Jon Mo & Jamie MacMillan

Cro Cro Land festival is the creation of Bugeye’s Angela Martin and the Croydonist’s Julia Woollams (dedicated online cultural magazine about all things offbeat in Croydon). They pointed out in previous interviews that they wanted to give Croydon a much-needed injection of musical identity into its forlorn tracks and promote gender equality at the forefront. And what an absolute godsend this festival turned out to be! It had a strong sense of union, community, acceptance and most of important of all it rocked Croydon to its bare bones in spades!

Arguably, this is Croydon’s biggest festival to have happened in years and with a line up packed with variation and flavour; from the cult psych punk of The Lovely Eggs to the soulful bombast of Bang Bang Romeo, there was truly something for everyone to have a bite of!

Prior to the festival, having lived in the local area for a few years now, I was intrigued to see how the festival would operate and look – to my delight I was really pleased how the festival flowed and how the calibre of the acts just kept on giving and illuminated the sometimes murky confines of Croydon to a beacon-like status.

Pretty much every act I witnessed over the 3 stages (Town Square, Concrete Playground and Tram Stop) were brilliant and had the attitude and ability to be given headliner status – the quality of the output was that impressive.

I managed to catch the first band – a Bristolian punk-rock 4 piece called The Petties – their no nonsense, angsty vibes really caught my attention straight away. To have a band on that early and impress turned out to be a highly positive indication for things to come. The serotonin levels were already beginning to flow nicely.

Jemma Freeman. Photo Credit: Jon Mo

A last-minute cancellation from the much-touted Scarlet were replaced by the irrepressible Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something – this band had character and skills by the bucketload. Tight angular rhythms, guitar aerial assaults and Jemma’s boiler suit and feathered cape combo were a joy to watch!

Female duo Arxx were for me the surprise package of the festival delivering lashings of DIY punk and fearsome vocals, they raised the bar even higher!

Amongst all the buzz and movement of the interchange, bands continued to give their heart and soul for the occasion. Pink Cigar’s brand of pumped-up classic rock had guts, passion and sweat all rolled into one! Frauds intertwined dirty scuzzy rock, political commentary and deadpan humour effortlessly. Kath & The Kicks got their groove on with a compelling blues rock work out.

There were so many bands to keep up with! This was a festival that just kept on giving and giving! I didn’t want the surprises to stop! Co-founder and curator of the festival Angela Martin and her band Bugeye were undoubtedly another highlight of the festival. Their incisive and sharp Sleater Kinney/Pixies indie rock nuggets rocked our socks off in the main room!

Nova Twins. Photo Credit: Jon Mo

Nova Twins casted their slick razor sharp brand of rap infused heavy rock over the audience – there were nods to Rage Against The Machine which brought about a refreshing noise to the proceedings – including a security barrier breach which some excited punters took advantage of!

Weekend Recovery were sounding like a tighter and more refined unit than when I saw them rocking out at Camden Rocks festival last summer and Were Cats provided sassy punk with bite and swagger.

God Damn It Jeremiah, Marth Makes Mistakes, Riya and Kristina Stazaker all impressed in the Tram Stop room. The line-up consisted mainly of acoustic acts and it brought a lovely remedy to the otherwise loud venomous raucous of all the other bands. MMM and Kristina Stazaker in particular took their acoustic rock sets to another level!  

Unfortunately the pace took its toll on me and I needed a breather in the Tram Stop stage area – as a result I missed the much touted bands Berries and Bang Bang Romeo. The realisation of this left me close to tears and I felt like confiding in one of the many lovely stewards who were duty.

As I wandered wearily, I suddenly felt resuscitated when I heard the glorious racket being churned out by Couples – I was alive and good spirits!

Sisteray. Photo Credit: Jamie MacMillan

Headliners Blood Red Shoes, The Lovely Eggs and Sisteray all rocked – They all performed to the top of their games. Pure, simple and true cracking stuff!

This was a benchmark for the music scene in Croydon. The original home of punk has over the last 5 years or so made way for other music genres to come through like grime and dub-step but much like other towns and cities, a lot of the live venues have had to close down and this has left gaping hole in the local music scene. Local bands and acts haven’t been given the exposure which they deserve and I think Cro Cro Land festival is definitely helping to fill the void that has been increasing and giving the scene a new lease of life. The fact they are also involving community organisations like Lives Not Knifes speaks volumes about the lengths they are prepared to go to help and promote the wellbeing of the area. This festival is more than just about the music, it’s a message filled with defiance, to keep the community spirit alive and kicking!

Its been a success and there was a buzz and cracking atmosphere throughout. A truly memorable experience here in the heart of Croydon. Cro Cro land has finally given the town its mojo back!


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