Hevy Festival 2011- Port Lympne, Kent, UK (5th-7th August)
Since its inception in 2009, the UK's Hevy Festival has grown to be an integral part of the UK scene's summer festival season. This year's festival spanned three days and four stages showcasing a massive range of acts, from international big hitters like headliners The Dillinger Escape Plan and Four Year Strong right down to the cream of the UK's unsigned talent on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage.
A Hevy wristband granted access to the nearby Port Lympne Animal Park, making Hevy the only festival where you can see a red panda (quite clearly the greatest animal ever) and 20 minutes later be watching your favourite band tear it up. Perfection.
I headed down to get overexcited about both the bands and the animals. My thoughts are here:
Despite the first few bands playing to thin crowds due to a three hour queue to get into the festival, the Front & Etnies tent filled up nicely in time for Basement's excellent set. From rousing opener "Crickets Throw Their Voice" right through to the last note of "Plan To Be Surprised" the energy of both band and crowd never dropped, making for a cathartic, full tilt set.
Straight Lines produced one of the UK's best albums of 2010 in Persistence In This Game, which made the small crowd that assembles for their stint in the Rock Sound & Macbeth tent even more infuriating. However, the diehard few who do turn up were treated to a marvellous display of angular rock, encapsulating some brilliant sounding new material and culminating in a tent-wide conga to closer "Set Me On Fire And Feed Me To The Wolves".
A little later, Scottish outfit Flood of Red delivered a solid burst of their brand of atmospheric post-hardcore. The band have had a rough time over the years, but songs from their debut full-length, Leaving Everything Behind, simply sang; the excellent "Little Lovers" was a highlight of the entire weekend.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding Lower Than Atlantis in the UK. Singles from the band's critically acclaimed album, World Record, have had lots of airplay on national radio and the general consensus is that LTA are about to go stratospheric. It's no surprise then, that the Front & Etnies tent was packed to the rafters and then some a full 15 minutes before Mike Duce and co. take to the Front & Etnies stage. It doesn't even matter that frontman Duce's microphone cut out throughout the set, as every word of "Motor(way) Of Life", "Far Q" and the all-too-poignant "I'm Not Bulimic (I Just Wanted To See How Far I Could Stick My Fingers Down My Throat" is screamed back twice as loud. Other highlights include the sound desk being crushed by people, three metre stage dives and two superb mini-covers of Foo Fighters' "Everlong" and "The Pretender". By the end of final track "Beech Like The Tree", the band had proved that every last bit of the hype surrounding them at the moment is justified.
Following a Saturday morning trip to the zoo, I returned to the arena just in time to see Spy Catcher doing a brilliant job of waking up a tired early afternoon crowd in the Rock Sound & Macbeth tent. Sounding like a drunken night between The Gaslight Anthem and 1980s punk, the band wasted no time in cranking out tracks from their superb debut album, Honesty. Anthem "Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died" was phenomenal, as was the synth-ridden "Honesty" and closer "Don't Like People" which sound much more venomous live and show that this band is destined for big, big things.
Next up were cult pop-punk heroes Me Vs Hero, who bounded onstage and launched into a set filled with breakdowns and gang vocals. Around 30 minutes and a brilliantly shambolic human pyramid later, the tent is a sweaty, happy mess. While it wasn't the tightest set ever, the unbridled joy that the band brings to the table in songs like "Days The Shape Our Lives" and "Can You Count, Suckers?" is infectious. Check them out live.
Make Do And Mendare currently on a European tour with Hot Water Music, so had a 4am start and a flight from Germany to deal with even before their early afternoon slot. Despite this, the band acquitted themselves well with a high-octane performance featuring a perfect blast through "Oak Square". The fact that MDAM will make a 12 hour round trip to play a half hour set to 250 people is admirable and was certainly appreciated by the assembled masses in the Rock Sound & Macbeth tent.
The Xcerts are one of a crop of great, young British bands at the moment, so it was a shame to only see a handful of people turn up to see the grungy Scottish trio in action. Nevertheless, the crowd were treated to a turbulent, enjoyable set featuring a jubilant romp through "Scatterbrain".
Forget headliners, forget everything else that happened last weekend. Around 8pm on the main stage came the clear moment of the festival. Take note of the time, it was when UK hardcore heroes The Ghost of a Thousand bowed out of their last ever show. As the final strains of "Bored of Math" faded out, band and crowd alike simply grinned from ear to ear. What preceded that moment was special; a fitting end to a glorious seven year career, taking in highlights like the ferocious "Left for Dead", massive singalongs through "The Last Bastion of Heaven Lies Abandoned and Burning" and an electrifying stomp through AC/DC's "Back In Black". I can't speak highly enough of this band or their final show. If you've never heard them before, don't hesitate to check them out.
Despite the massive draw of TGoaT, the Rock Sound & Macbeth tent is nicely filled for the back end of Title Fight's set. "Shed" is the highlight of a particularly venomous quarter of an hour, fuelled by anger at the festival's sometimes heavy-handed security.
Architects' set is an odd one. The (admittedly massive) crowd don't seem too hot on material from the band's most recent album, The Here & Now. Nevertheless, by the time old favourite "Follow The Water" kicks in, the crowd were fully won over courtesy of frontman Sam Carter's excellent crowd interaction and a guest appearance from Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato during "Year In Year Out".
While the sound for Saturday headliners The Dillinger Escape Plan wasn't brilliant, the band still delivered their trademark - a gloriously frantic, unhinged set. Fittingly enough for a show at a zoo, frontman Greg Puciato prowled around the stage, barking at both crowd and soundman, before he and his band systematically destroyed the stage through a superb set. Architects frontman Sam Carter and The Bronx's Matt Caughthran make an appearance to join in with Dillinger's painstakingly organised chaos. Hard-hitters like "Milk Lizard" and "Panasonic Youth" are note-perfect and go down a storm before the band are cut off prematurely. Uproar ensues before the band continue destroying the stage while leading the crowd through a mic-less, disorientating, punk-as-fuck cover of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings". What a show.
After spending a little too much time at the animal park (I can tell you that they have a snow leopard called Marta and possibly the world's fattest lion). Ahem. I saw New Jersey's Man Overboard pop up early on the main stage to deliver a typically loose, energetic set. While the band doesn't really suit an outdoor venue at all, the five-piece blasted through fun renditions of "Al Sharpton" and "She's Got Her Own Man Now" before a triumphant singalong to "Love Your Friends, Die Laughing".
Polar Bear Club were asked back for 2011 after a memorable performance at least year's festival and duly delivered an exceptional set. From the opening notes of "Living Saints" through a breakneck run through "Parked In The Parking Lot Of Your Heart" to brilliant new song "Screams In Caves", the band appear genuinely thrilled to be here, which rubs off on the crowd and makes for a terrific half-hour.
Over on the Rock Sound & Macbeth stage, Touché Amoré were mind-blowing. Complete with a guest appearance from La Dispute's Jordan Dreyer and a crowd in the mood for general mayhem, TA were at their visceral best. Vocalist Jeremy Bolm ended up at the top of the lighting rig for stirring singalong at the end of closer "Honest Sleep"; a 'hairs on the back of neck' moment which summed up the past 30 minutes perfectly. What a live band.
Living With Lions' appeared at Hevy as part of their first UK tour. You couldn't tell. Sprinting through a set taken mostly from latest album Holy Shit, it seemed like the band have been playing shows over here for years. "Honesty, Honestly", "Regret Song" and "Maple Drive Is Still Alive" in particular sounded great and packed much more of a punch live than on CD. Judging by this performance, it won't be too long before the UK see Living With Lions again.
My notes for While She Sleeps' set read just two words, written in capital letters. These were: "HOLY SHIT." It was that kind of show. The latest in a long tradition of Sheffield metal, WSS only have one mini-album out up to now, but could've filled the tent twice over for their very high second stage slot (above Touché Amoré). Frontman Lawrence Taylor was everywhere, always demanding more from a crowd that seemed to move en masse through a ferocious "The North Stands For Nothing" and "My Conscience, Your Freedom". Final track and anthem "Crows" was a jaw-dropping representation of all that this band is about; passion, fire and grit. Simply incredible.
Not much could top the performances by Touché Amoré or While She Sleeps on Sunday, but La Dispute gave it a mighty go. They started well enough, with a beautifully chaotic meander through "New Storms For Old Lovers" before technical difficulties hit. Nobody seemed to care too much, mind, so the band ploughed on with an appearance from Touché Amoré's Jeremy Bolm, Jordan Dreyer's frantic vocals and stunning runs through songs like "Andria" and "Said the King to the River" to save the day.
Welsh legends Funeral For A Friend were on top form on the main stage on Sunday; from frontman Matt Davies-Kreye's onstage banter ("turn the smoke machine off, we're not fucking Spinal Tap") to mammoth singalongs to the band's seemingly endless back catalogue of brilliant songs. Ranging from the decade-old "Juneau" to songs taken from their latest album, Welcome Home Armageddon, everything went down brilliantly; newer song "Sixteen" was filled with youthful exuberance, "Roses For The Dead" was as poignant as ever and "Escape Artists Never Die" brought to an end a classic set that leaves many wondering why FFAF didn't headline that night.
It's fair to say that Sunday headliners Four Year Strong weren't at their best as they closed the festival. After a mammoth journey from the US just to play this one hour, the band were clearly tired, had equipment issues and took a while to get going in front of a largely unresponsive crowd. When they did get going, however, FYS peeled off "Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die" with precision and powered through summer anthem "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)" to end the festival on a high and prove that even on autopilot they are a force to be reckoned with.