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Live Review: Hevy (Port Lympne Animal Park, Kent)

An animal park, a lovely summer’s weekend, lots of wasps and plenty of heavy music were the sum parts of the sophomore Hevy Festival. Kent’s loudest festival took place in Port Lympne and saw the festival stretched across four stages over two days. For a festival still in it’s infancy, the line up and organisation was impressive to say the least and the coup of securing Glassjaw’s only UK festival performance marked the icing on the cake.

Saturday - August 7th 2010

Canterbury’s Predicting The Fall (2/5) are given the unenviable job of opening up the festival, on the small but ideally placed, Local Heroes stage. They do a good job in terms of energy and enthusiasm, but fail firmly in the realms of talent. Not entirely sure whether they are a pop-punk or screamo band they suffer badly in the vocal department, and their ill-advised and poorly executed cover of Rihanna’s ‘Drive’ is a particular low point. Luckily, the main stage’s opening act Feed The Rhino (4/5) are nearly flawless. Another Kent based band, their brand of bile-fuelled hardcore is exciting and rapturously received. Despite the slightly ropey sound, the energy of the band, particularly frontman Lee who works the crowd like an organ-grinder, ensures the band gather a number of new fans. The Local Heroes stage was located directly next to the main stage, which ensured local acts got the opportunity to play to a bigger crowd than they would if they were off in a tent somewhere else. That said Take Courage (4/5) don’t have the biggest audience, but this doesn’t seem to effect the band as they put everything they have into their performance. They play straight up hardcore, and the small group of people watching respond with mic-grabs and pile-ons galore. They were an exciting band to keep an eye on.

Next up were North-West Kings TRC (5/5) who appeared to have brought a fair following of their own with them, and by the end of their set had gained a few more fans. Despite vocalist Chris Robson’s suggestions at them being confused about their main stage billing, this didn’t show in their performance. They rattled through crowd-pleasers like ‘Bastard’ and ‘Sweatbox’ and even played the odd song off of their debut. ‘Define Cocky’ might be the reference point for a lot of their haters, but off the back of this performance you can understand the perceived arrogance. It was up to newly-reformed post-hardcore outfit Jairus (3/5) to follow that performance. Unfortunately for them, not only did the majority of the crowd wander off elsewhere, but those that did stick around seemed pretty unenthused. The lack of crowd response was a shame, as the bands Refused-meets-Thursday tunes were actually pretty good. Hopefully this won’t inspire the band back into retirement.

There is a big sense of anticipation around the main stage before the arrival of Dead Swans (1/5) on the main stage. However the combination of technical issues and the band coming across as awkward and uncomfortable on the main stage, leaves a feeling of disappointment all around. It is left to Santa Karla (4/5) to pick up the pieces. They are recent additions to the Thirty Days Of Nights roster and play like they have been a band forever. Their apocalyptic metal-tinged hardcore garners quite a reaction from the faithful, as the two-steppers strut their stuff, and it’s hard not to pay attention even as a casual observer. The doom-laden ‘Iron Skye’ provides the perfect set closer.

It’s then time for a brief walk to the Red Bull Tent to catch the up-and-coming Hearts Under Fire (3/5), who appear to be genuinely overwhelmed by the opportunities they have had over the past few months. The band start well with their refreshing take on melodic punk coming across as urgent and powerful, however after a few more songs, its very apparent that all there songs sound the same.

The first really big crowd of the day gathered for experimentalists Rolo Tomassi (4/5) though their take on tech metal wasn’t really my thing, it wasn’t hard to appreciate the band’s command of the stage and enthusiasm. The response from the crowd was huge, and the few tracks that were just straight up hardcore were superb. In Eva Spence, the band have a versatile and enigmatic front woman who dominated the stage and was matched in enthusiasm by guitarist Joe Nicholson. Alaska (5/5) all look about fifteen, except the guitarist, but that doesn’t stop them dealing out some of the most exciting and relevant hardcore of the day. Vocally superior to many of their contemporaries, they are definitely another Fist In The Air records act to watch out for.

The set from Toronto’s Fucked Up (4/5) is an odd-one; on the one hand their punk ‘n’ roll tunes to the un-initiated are mediocre at best and the musicians of the band’s stage presence is zero; on the other hand the full-on approach by vocalist Damian is sensational. He spends the majority of the set in the crowd, and somehow manages to keep on top of the vocals while being manhandled by the crowd, making for a thoroughly entertaining performance.

The Zao-like metal tendencies of Local Heroes’ act Breaking The Day (4/5) goes down a treat with the growing numbers of hardcore and metal fans in the vicinity. They incite the first big pit of the day at the Local Heroes stage, and their bludgeoning metal is full of energy and promise.

Comeback Kid (4/5) are one of the biggest pullers of the day and they play a set that covers all of their albums. Classics such as ‘Partners In Crime’ and ‘Wake The Dead’ are lapped up, and the one song aired from their new album sounds equally as impressive. It is left to Kent cult heroes, Pay No Respect (5/5), to close the Local Heroes stage and they close it in style. Despite the fact that due to medical reasons, usual vocalist Joe is forced to take on second guitar duties, stand in vocalist George Noble does a sterling job, and riles the crowd up nicely. Closing their set with fan favourite ‘Game Over’, there are no fewer than fifty people two stepping by the end.

And so on to Saturday’s headliners Gallows (3/5), entering to a Right Said Fred tune and Frank Carter’s usual banter, the band seemed ready to destroy the festival. Despite being able to command one of the biggest circle pits ever, as well as playing some of their better songs, there was something about their performance that seemed a little half-arsed. The fact that they barely played ten songs in a set that was an hour long might have something to do with it. Frank’s continual bickering with the audience soon got tired, and his vocals on the whole were sloppy. Gallows certainly have the songs in their catalogue to really fire a crowd up, so it was a shame to end what was a great day on this tepid set.

Sunday - August 8th 2010

Arriving later than planned resulted in missing the opening two bands, and The Startover (3/5) began their set just as we entered the festival. They play straight forward pop punk by numbers, with catchy melodies and lots of hooks, a solid if unspectacular start to a beautiful sunny day. The first act on the Rock Sound Stage this afternoon is Leeds’ Chickenhawk (4/5). There has been a lot of hype about this band in the musical press of late, and this is reflected by the full tent. The band themselves don’t seem phased by the size of the crowd and are full of defiance as they explode into their set of driving punk ‘n’ roll that’s reminiscent of Cancer Bats and The Bronx. The energetic stomp of ‘Lets Have Some’ is a great closer and they have gone some way towards justifying the hype. Next up are another UK band full of promise, albeit from a completely different scene.

The increasingly fashionable Bury Tomorrow (4/5), bring a set full of Alexisonfire-influenced metalcore, which is lapped up by the hoard of people that fill the Rock Sound Tent. The driving angst of the heavy vocals and the perfect pitch of the clean lend pop sensibilities to massive tunes such as ‘Her Bones In The Sand’, and help the band to overcome the persistent sound problems. With all the backing of the Artery Foundation behind them, expect to see more of these guys soon. From one hype band, to the hype band, Young Guns (3/5) burst onto the stage with all the aplomb of Bon Jovi. There’s no attempt at credibility here, these boys clearly have stadium-filling ambitions, and if there stage presence and effort is anything to go by these ambitions could be realised. However, save for the very catchy ‘Crystal Clear’, Young Guns seem to be lacking in the good songs department, which puts a damper on today’s set.

There is barely room to breath in the Rock Sound Tent as Devil Sold His Soul (5/5) take to the stage. Devil Sold His Soul fall into the same metalcore bracket as contemporaries Architects, but there is a further level of maturity to their songs. Not only do they bring the ‘mosh’ and the hooks, but they also create amazing soundscapes within their songs. When vocalist Ed screams, there is anger and emotion, and they serve as a siren to the swirling movement of the crowd. The crowning moment of an already awesome set is when Comeback Kid vocalist, Andrew Neufeld joins them onstage for one of their songs. Devil Sold His Soul are absolutely flawless and leave the stage to hundreds of happy faces.

It appears to be all about the UK music scene at the moment and the Red Bull Tent is absolutely rammed for Throats (3/5) to the point where I can’t even get inside. Still from the outside of the tent, Throats’ short set (it clocks in at about 15 minutes long!) is obviously rapturously received. Frenetic and fast are the best terms to use when describing Throats’ hardcore, and judging by the deflation on the faces of the people leaving the tent, it’s over far too soon. The briefest of sets by Throats, allows ample time for next band, Lower Than Atlantis (3/5), to set up. The band share a lot of things in common with last night’s headliners; they are both from Watford; they both play a brand of punk ‘n’ roll; and they both have frontmen with ridiculously overplayed ‘mockney’ accents. This shouldn’t be an issue, but the extent to which Mike Duce does this, makes it a focal point. The band as a whole aren’t bad, and the crowd love it (they carry Duce out of the tent in appreciation at the end of the set), but you can’t help but feel they would be better if they weren’t fronted by Nasty Nick Cotton.

The fact that the Red Bull Tent is now running nearly half an hour ahead of schedule, allows us to take in the second half of The King Blues (4/5) set. As ever they bring the party, plenty of up-beat social folk-punk tunes accompanied by witter banter and a stage full of people. A crowd-led run through of ‘My Boulder’ is the highlight of the performance. It’s back to the Red Bull Tent for Polar Bear Club (5/5). Whether it’s tactical or not, the band starting fifteen minutes early is a Godsend. The five-piece from Rochester, New York are on impressive form tonight and so are the crowd. The level of enthusiasm for this band is surprising, though totally deserved. ‘See The Wind’ causes a mini-riot in the crowd as surfers and dancers collide in support of the track; ‘Chasing Hamburg’ sounds even more epic in the fading light; and the choice of ‘Most Miserable Life’ to end the set seems perfect. They are on top form tonight, and their star seems to be in the ascendancy.

The prime booking for this festival, was always GlassJaw (5/5) and that’s clear by the shear number of festival goers who await their arrival on stage. They eventually start playing at 9.15 and don’t leave the stage until 10.40, way past their billed time. Daryl, Beck and the boys are perfection tonight and provide the perfect soundtrack for this summer night. Everything they play sounds polished and huge. ‘Pink Roses’ is anthemic and ‘Ape Dos Mil’ sounds massive. The band look like they are enjoying themselves and they sound more polished than ever. When they finally finish the demand for more is testament to the quality of their stage show, and it is petty when a few choose to ‘boo’ the bands failure to return. They serve as the perfect cap to a brilliant festival, which will be hard to top. A big congratulations and thank you to the festival organisers for creating something so wonderful.

Words by Dan Issitt

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