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Live Review: Hevy Festival 2011

Friday (August 5th, 2011)

When Hevy Festival finally gets going on Friday afternoon, most people are still waiting outside the entry gate in the queue. A very long queue as it happens. It’s understandable that precautions are being taken to make sure bags are thoroughly searched but that being the case, surely the gates should either have opened earlier or be letting more people through than they are...

Nevertheless, Max Raptor put on a worthy show to a slowly expanding crowd. They aren’t the tightest live band around but their vital energy benefits all the more for their rawness and ‘The King Is Dead’ provides an appropriately rabble-rousing ending to the set.

Bottlenex, playing on the Macbeth stage, have been doing this long enough to be called veterans, though with little real success. They’re tight enough, if rather uninspired, but with songs such as pun-tastically titled ‘See You Next Tuesday’ really failing to ignite any emotion from the sparse crowd, there’s not even an atmosphere to carry them through.

Harbours, playing on the Front X Etnies stage are amongst the first of the myriad hardcore bands plying their trade this weekend. Their sludgy, almost atonal noise is combative and elicits the first movement from the crowd, an impressive feat considering the time, but that their bassist spends most of the set spitting into the crowd is a slight downer on proceedings, his projectile sputum ending up as a weird and somewhat gross sideshow to their set.

Turbogeist, playing on the Rocksound/Macbeth stage, like Bottlenex before them contend with an almost completely empty tent . They struggle on manfully but one can hardly fault them for struggling to maintain intensity and enthusiasm, more’s the shame because the measure of madness that they bring to proceedings is certainly welcome amongst the ‘srs bsns’ of the hardcore going on around them; after all, from whom else would you hear the words: “This song’s called ‘Song For North Korea’. It’s about Kim Jong Il and how he’s not feeling very well!”

Next up in the consistently better-attended Front X Etnies tent however, are Departures, who really set a benchmark for energy and intensity. Even microphone problems can’t stop them in their tracks and they get an excellent, well deserved, response from the assembled.

Next band up on the same stage, Crossbreaker arrive shortly afterwards to a similarly enthusiastic noise. There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the South Wales band but their chaotic, almost minimalist noise fails to bring out quite the a level of enthusiasm quite matching their hype; another day perhaps

Staying on the Front X Etnies stage, Suffolk’s Basement are the first band of the day for whom the tent could be called truly busy. Comfortable, cock-sure and happily positioned on the melodic side of hardcore, they deliver a storming set with ‘Skiptown’ in particular driving an impressively large singalong from the partisan crowd. As they walk off to the chant of “We love you Basement!” it’s pretty hard to consider it anything short of a job bloody well done; they are, it appears, ones to watch.

Over in the Macbeth tent meanwhile, another of South Wales musical exports, Straight Lines finally manage to bring some people into the thus far maligned Macbeth tent. After walking onstage to the theme tune from the Antiques Roadshow, they launch frantically into ‘Antics’ and deliver a short but rather sweet set that is made by the conga-line accompanied final song ‘Set Me On Fire And Feed Me To The Wolves’ although ‘Ring The Bells’, a track off their as yet undated second album, is also a noticeable highlight.

Swelling the numbers further in the Macbeth tent are Scotland’s Flood Of Red who, as a typical as they are on today’s bill, being neither hardcore nor party rock, provide a real Friday highlight. Their layered sound is mightily effective and, as they switch effortlessly between heavy and tender, they prove that power needn’t be measured in how crushing your riffs nor how aggressive your attitude; fortunately the nuance is not lost on the crowd, who give them a superb reception.

In fact, as far as bringing the party, there are few bands that do it quite as well as Don Broco, who headline the Red Bull stage. Making the best of the horrible PA, they draw a very decent crowd and get them going from the very first song with a huge wall of death that actually sees frontman Rob Damiani trampled underfoot after he trips over a prostate fan just before the waves crash! Thankfully, he emerges more or less unscathed and leaps back onstage to deliver a high energy, high fun set that works its way through their EP tracks and keeps the crowd at their beck and call. It’s been a crazy year for the boys and anticipation is high for the record that they’re currently in the process of recording.

After only moments in the packed, sweaty tent, however, it is clear that today nobody will come close to Lower Than Atlantis, who send the crowd into raptures with an absolute monster of a set. So full is it that, in fact, extra security have to be mounted in front of the sound desk to prevent the barrier crushing the desk itself and, for 15 or so minutes, staff seem totally powerless to stop a cascade of people leaping off the 10 foot hoardings surrounding the central tent poles. Breaking into a Foo Fighters medley mid-song is a bit of a genius move that few bands could pull off, but the biggest reaction is reserved for crowd favorite ‘Deadliest Catch’, which tonight, sounds huge. As the set reaches its climax, Mike Duce sits the crowd down with instructions to leap up as the track drops back in and, for a short while, there is calm before the place erupts once more with glorious abandon. It’s a triumphant performance that shows just how far the band has come in a very short space of time.

Saturday (August 6th, 2011)

As Saturday dawns, and hangovers kick in and it seems the order for the morning for most is a trip to the animal park a mere ten minute walk away from the festival grounds, upon our return Hevy festival kicks Saturday off with a bang, initial confusion ensues as Bastions take to the Jagermeister stage as a swap for the previously advertised Hang The Bastard however they do themselves justice, despite the initial exodus of disgruntled fans, Bastions play an energetic set that provides an apt opener to Saturdays noticeably heavier day on the main stage.

A short walk to the Rocksound X Macbeth stage sees Spycatcher take to the stage in what was one of the surprise sets of the day. As soon as they hit the stage the crowd react brilliantly, and the band put in a serious shift. They have a fair bit of hype behind them these days and based on this half an hour set, it’s easy to see why, with the obvious highlight being “Where Were You When Michael Jackson Died”.

It seemed as if the Rocksound/Macbeth stage was the place to be as perhaps one of the most anticipated sets of the day was about to take place, step up Make Do And Mend because as soon as they launched into “Oak Square” it was clear that the packed out tent were going to be in for a treat, perhaps deserving of a 40 minute slot given that they had flown in from Germany specifically for the festival. It was clear that despite the time constraints they were soaking in every moment of the hectic set, giving it their all with songs old and new. “Nights The Only Time Of Day” was a massive highlight with the majority of the tent singing the words back to frontman James Carroll. It really did provide an iconic festival moment.

As we get to the Front X Etnies stage, All Teeth were around 10 minutes into their 40 minute advertised set, unfortunately they vacate the stage after 20 minutes which makes you wonder whether they’d have been better suited swapping stages with Make Do And Mend nevertheless, they really did the best they possibly could, and while it was disappointing to see them play such a short set, the healthy sized crowd that they had attracted certainly went away satisfied after such an intense twenty minutes.

With the day getting on, it was clear that there was only one place to be, the Jagermeister stage where The Ghost Of A Thousand were about to play for the last time. There was a sense of anticipation in the air and as they took to the stage they gave it all that they had left, despite some complaints that the set wasn’t as shaken up as it maybe should’ve been and the grievances against the much maligned main stage PA. The band did as well as should have been expected, finishing things off with “Bored Of Math” most of the band ended up in the crowd, and as the last notes rang out on them, things got a bit emotional with hugs a plenty on stage, and a feeling of job done drawing the curtain once and for all on The Ghost Of A Thousand.

In one of the biggest draws of the line up, Hevy Festival getting Dillinger Escape Plan on a UK festival exclusive performance perhaps shows how far this festival has come in the short time it’s been around. This always had potential to be the highlight of the weekend, but you can’t help but feel that this band is more suited to a tent, once again the dodgy sound didn’t do them any favors at all and despite the fact they were as energetic and ridiculous as ever with a fairly good set list, it just felt as if things never really took off, it wasn’t nearly loud enough and a lot of the technical side of the music was lost in the muddy sound. The songs were distinctive enough, with opener “Farewell Mona Lisa” providing an apocalyptic start and “43% burnt” ending the initial set with aplomb. It would be unfair to say that this headlining set was bad, because it wasn’t, it just wasn’t as good as many had anticipated.

Sunday (August 7th, 2011)

The sense of excitement surrounding the Sunday line up of Hevy Festival had been building up all weekend. First up were Polar. Right from the beginning of their set, it’s clear that Polar aren’t here to fuck around. When you’ve got a circle pit going all the way out of the tent and back in again the other side, you can’t be doing too much wrong and it’s true that even playing amongst US hardcore royalty today, they more than hold their own. Songs like new single ‘Tonight Matthew I Am The Batman’ are energetic and razor-sharp and their poise is such that it’s easy to forget that these boys are still relative newcomers, which is good news indeed.

Over on the main stage, Man Overboard were just about to get their set underway, coming off a month long European tour to play a festival slot at midday isn’t always going to put you in the best of moods, but they do themselves justice. The band drew a surprisingly large crowd, and despite the sometimes dodgy vocals, of which you come to expect from Man Overboard they still put in a great shift and “Love Your Friends, Die Laughing” proved to be a real festival highlight.

Back at the Rocksound/Macbeth stage, anticipation for Touche Amore is palpable in the packed Macbeth tent as the band step out onto the stage. Their latest album ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me’ barely breaks the 20 minute barrier and yet is as raw and powerful as anything released this year. As incendiary as they are on record, the band gain an extra level live; frontman Jeremy Bolm’s passionate delivery providing a perfect foil for the rest of the band, who set about their task with no-nonsense, focussed precision. The not inconsiderable hardcore fan element front and center of the crowd scream every single word back and by the time the band reach the end of a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Amends’, with it’s memorable, tormented ending, there is no doubt that this is one of the performances of the festival.

Making their long awaited UK debut, Living With Lions get a reaction that I bet they were not expecting, from the moment they launched into ‘She’s A Hack’ the crowd go into full on microphone grabbing singalong mode. The initially tentative frontman Stuart Ross quickly gains in confidence and the performance is made all the better for it, with a set that spanned their three release career. There was something for everybody and ‘A Bottle Of Charades’ may well be the best set closing song of the weekend. It’s no easy feat to get a festival crowd as active as this but Living With Lions do it with style.

Sticking on the Front X Etnies stage, La Dispute are another band whose performance this weekend has been talked about with great excitement. Unfortunately, not long have they been onstage before they are stopped in their tracks by technical issues of the instrument variety. Such is the love of many for the band though, and the relative novelty of actually seeing them live in this country, that even a whole five minutes without them playing a song doesn’t see the crowd reduce noticeably. When they do get going again, even with only one guitar ‘Andria’ is haunting, and when Touche Amore frontman Jeremy Bolm appears on stage for ‘How I Feel’ and ‘Why It Scares Me’ (songs from the Split EP that the two bands released in 2010), the crowd are amply rewarded for their patience. In the end, however, it is left to the marvelous ‘Said The King To The River’ to spark a riotus response from the crowd who immediately send over a cascade of crowd surfers, much to the chagrin of the security. Only slightly marred by their equipment letting them down, La Dispute prove that they really are a band worthy of their reputation.

Back on the main stage and with the festival coming to its conclusion, the crowd was beginning to swell for the run in We Are The Ocean, starting things off with ‘What It Feels Like’ . It soon dawns on you just how far this band have come. They’ve pulled away from the tired Alexisonfire comparisons and have become a force in their own right. The haunting ‘Confessions’ gives a stage to frontman Dan Brown to crowdsurf across the entire audience, while ‘Nothing Good Has Happened Yet’ is probably the best song of their entire set. We Are The Ocean are honestly one of the UK’s biggest talents and are definitely on their way to bigger things.

Sticking with the main stage and with Funeral For A Friend, what you would have witnessed was quite honestly the set of the festival. The band give it their all and it shows. Frontman Matthew Kreye-Davies looks as excited as they come and the line up change, although it took a while to settle in has given the band a massive second wind, with an extensive set that spans pretty much their whole career, it seems they’ve finally found a medium where the newer songs go hand in hand with their much celebrated earlier material. ‘Spinning Over The Island’ may be one of the bands best live songs, while classics such as ‘Juneau’ have the whole crowd jumping and singing in unison, it was truly a sight to behold. In all honesty, Funeral For A Friend would have been much better placed as the headliners. Any aspiring bands need only to look at their set to see how it’s done, they truly are the captains of their industry and it’s going to take something massive to ever dislodge them from that spot, and so it should.

The final act on the main stage was the much anticipated appearance of Four Year Strong but the sad fact is, an unprepared, jet lagged band do not make good festival headliners. As soon as they hit the stage and launch into their first song with their guitars tuned in the wrong key, it set a precedent for the whole set. In fairness to the band, they did explain to the crowd and fully acknowledge that they weren’t at their best but in the same sense it’s also unprofessional to be as sloppy as they were. They sorely missed the energy of former band mate Josh Lyford and to be honest, the set was just a bit disappointing.

Currently over at the Rocksound/Macbeth stage, The Bronx show how a headline set should be. The tent is manic. People were climbing the tent poles and stage diving (including one massively impressive back flip) and the band were absolutely spot on too. The sound was more or less perfect and they were as tight as ever, finishing off with ‘Knifeman’ which was inspired and a massively suitable ending to the festival, that left the whole tent leaving with a smile on their face.

Hevy Festival is honestly one of the UK’s shining gems on the festival circuit. We can only hope they have enough to sustain themselves and that it will be back next year.

Words by Christopher Marshman and Nick Worpole

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