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HEVY Festival

When your guitar feedback section is so long that your guitarist has time to have a crafty check of his iPhone, maybe it’s time to just get on with the song already.

HEVY Festival is HUGE. This review is fittingly GARGANTUAN.

Of Marmozets and Mixtapes

Essex post-hardcore outfit Never Means Maybe bring a great combination of big choruses, melodic vocal harmonies, twinkling lead guitar lines and energetic stage presence to the Red Bull tent. They’re not doing anything new, but they perform their tunes with the kind of talent, passion and energy that you can’t help but enjoy.

Blacklisters, on the other hand, are a mess of droning vocals from a singer who looks so wasted he can barely stand, repetitive songs structures and dissonant guitar lines that are performed with a total lack of enthusiasm. There’s some good stage banter and the odd good hook, but by the time they roll around the weird mix of Converge and Limp Bizkit is just grating.

Thank God for Mixtapes, then, whose energetic, dirty pop-punk combines sugary sweet Pixies-esque guitar melodies, storming choruses, and the faux-innocence of the Moudly Peaches. Male and female vocals are both top-notch here, and the sheer sense of fun these guys bring to the stage is unbelievable. Definitely an early highlight.

[box] no melodies, just brutal, low-end chugging and throat shredding vocals [/box]

It can be a challenge getting the crowd going this early on the first day of any festival, but Last Witness already has the crowd tearing each other to pieces. There’s no letting up, no melodies, just brutal, low-end chugging and throat shredding vocals as breakdown follows even heavier breakdown. The band give a hell of a performance, and the audience love it.

If you like your hardcore technical, challenging, and just a little bit jaw dropping, you need to check out Marmozets right now. Frontwoman Becca Macintyre alternates between utterly brutal harshes and soaring cleans, while the guitar work has that dazzling Dillinger Escape Plan touch that leaves your jaw on the floor.

The band are technical insanity and unorthodox song structures meet excellent hooks and crushing breakdowns. It’s a shame to see them leave the stage. Glasgow’s own Bleed From Within bring a different kind of intensity with their old-school-Architects brand of crushing metalcore, which follows the tried and true open chugging and tapped leads formula.

What really impresses is the band’s sense of dynamics, as quieter, almost ambient passages erupt into massive climaxes that see frontman Scott Kennedy right on the barrier screaming his lungs out. The band are fantastic on stage, and in a festival where virtually every band has a screamer, Kennedy really sets himself apart with the sheer quality of his vocals.

At first listen, The James Cleaver Quintet sound like a poppier Every Time I Die, between the frontman’s Keith Buckley-aping cleans and the slightest hint of Southern rock in their post-hardcore riffing. The sound guys aren’t really on the ball for this one, and it’s kind of hard to make out a lot of the nuances of the band’s sound, but their performance sells it. There’s the odd bit of perplexing synth work that just kind of sounds out of place, but they bring it all together nicely for a big proggy finale and end on a high note.

‘Groove’ is the first word that comes to mind when Reign Supreme kick in with their fat low end breakdowns and headbangable Southern riffs. The songs begin to blur together, but the crowd love it and the pits are huge. There’s very little else to say to describe the band, but this isn’t a group that’s looking to challenge people musically; they’re here to make the crowd go nuts and beat the living hell out of each other. Mission accomplished.

[box] boring and monotonous[/box]

Sharks are samey in a completely different way. Their fun and airy brand of post-hardcore covers melodic singing and jangling guitar work, and throws in some fun climaxes for good measure. They’re a nice break from the relentless parade of hardcore bands, but their stage presence is lacking, and by the end of their set they’ve become a little boring and monotonous.

And then Lower Than Atlantis bring pretty much the same thing to the table. This is the stadium-rock end of post-hardcore, in all it’s toothless, watered-down glory. The band bring the goods, with the crowd singing along to the pretty vocal melodies, but there’s not a lot else on offer, and the moderate tempo alt rock they’re peddling feels like a wash-out next to the variety Hevy has offered so far.

[box] muscles, tattoos, and most importantly, fun[/box]

So just as things are getting a bit too chilled out, here come Deez Nuts, with their huge New York Hardcore sound. Heavy, bouncy rhythms meet gang vocals and shoutbacks in a blur of high energy insanity. The band are all muscles, tattoos, and most importantly, fun. They have a massive crowd, and they most definitely please.

Headliners Deaf Havana close the night with their infectuous power-pop stylings. The band are polished, professional, and passionate, with hook following hook following hook. The songs are infectious and well written, with a great knack for when to bring it down, and when to throw in a stunning crowd-pleasing singalong. They sure as hell don’t fit in with the Hevy moniker, but they own the stage and put on a performance to remember.


The Andrew WK Debacle

Everyone’s a bit knackered after that Friday night of hardcore and partying, so The Social Club bring not only their own excellent take on power-pop to wake you up with some sweet vocal harmonies and some killers hooks, but also a couple of guys behind the barrier making toast for people in the crowd. There’s jam, peanut butter and marmite on offer. The audience can’t help but grin along as the four-piece genuinely look they’re having the time of their lives on stage. And then they cover Pantera‘s M’outh For War’, with the shredding guitar solo played entirely on synth. It’s as baffling as it is brilliant.

And that’s about all the reprieve we get before Hevy throws Campus at us, with all the throat rending screams and relentless drumming you expect from the modern hardcore scene. There’s the odd melodic riff and vocal line, but they don’t do much to differentiate themselves from other hardcore acts on the line-up. Maybe 11:30 is just a bit early for this.

Crocus on the other hand, employ some unique breaks and bridges, change tempo on a dime, and showcase some great instrumental prowess to differentiate themselves from the rapidly blurring hardcore pack. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a band taking the modern hardcore sound and really adding something to it, and these guys really push themselves with their songwriting. ‘Who wants to get fingerbanged by five guys in Hawaiian shirts?’, ask The Safety Fire.

The five-piece flip between spazzy mathcore, catchy vocal hooks, ambient quiet sections, and the kind of tapped guitar work Sikth would be proud of. At a festival where virtually every band is chugging low end power chords, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a band who are as technically accomplished as these guys make some jaws drop.

Adelaide are at the poppier end of the post-hardcore spectrum, bringing big energy and catchy tunes to the Red Bull tent. Smooth and polished lead melodies over driving power chords make the perfect bed over which to lay some excellent vocal harmonies, with the set fading out on a quiet note with some entracing fingerpicking. The band echo Funeral For a Friend at their most accessible, without sacrificing any of the energy the Welsh boys lost during their major label days.

[box] watching paint dry[/box]

Whereas watching Sea Haven is an experience that is comparable to watching paint dry. They’re pedalling post-hardcore without any climaxes; power pop with no energy. Predictable song structures and no real hooks render the band passable at best. So then it’s back to the Red Bull tent for the pleasant surprise that is I Divide. Melodic hardcore done right, the band throw out song huge singalong choruses and bounce all over the place like kids on a sugar high, flipping into the occasional breakdown, only to bring it back to the kind of hooks no band this young should be able to employ this frequently.

The cover of N-sync’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’ impresses where it could have fallen flat in lesser hands, and the band end a truly triumphant set on a great note. It’s at a curious crossroads between modern hardcore and good old NYHC we find Feed The Rhino, with the kind of balls out breakdowns you’d expect from the former meeting the energy you’d expect from the latter; there’s even the odd Southern metal riff to headbang to. The band have the crowd in the palm of their hand, as half the tent crouch down at their command, only to jump up when instructed for the big breakdown.

Metalcore has been noticeably absent from all the various branches of hardcore we’ve seen so far, so Bury Tomorrow come kind of out of the blue. Screamed verses, clean choruses, breakdowns, and some tasteful metal riffing are all put to good use here. Their set is delayed by some technical difficulties, but they make the most of their time and play an absolutely stunning, energetic show.

We’re back to fast and heavy hardcore with Golden Tanks. Weirdly, the band manage to be intensely catchy despite vocals being almost entirely mid-ranged screaming. Some excellent riffing and speedy lead-guitar work mingle with a little Southern groove to really create an excellent party metal vibe that you can’t help but nod your head to.

Time for another slower band, Balance and Composure bring that quiet/loud, mid-tempo post-hardcore back to Hevy’s main stage. Their sound alternates between quiet and vulnerable to loud and emotive, but they still manage to be kind of dull. They’re polished and professional, and they get a decent crowd response, but they’re also the kind of band you forget as soon as they finish playing.

It’s a crying shame when Devil Sold His Soul get cut off before they can play their last song, as their onslaught of build ups and breakdowns is flawlessly arranged. Where so many bands work the quiet/loud dynamic in a predictable, pedestrian fashion, the combination of huge guitars, clean interludes and atmospheric synth work the band employs come together beautifully. Intense screamed vocals cut to powerful cleans as the band build from one crescendo to another, always one-upping themselves with every successive tune.

[box] When your guitar feedback section is so long that your guitarist has time to have a crafty check of his iPhone, maybe it’s time to just get on with the song already. [/box]

Pianos Become The Teeth are one of those bands that focus almost entirely on the dynamics of their sound, with feedback drenched breaks blasting into furious hardcore and back. It’s spacey and ambient in places, and utterly crushing in others, but for the most part the ambient sections seem to drag. When your guitar feedback section is so long that your guitarist has time to have a crafty check of his iPhone, maybe it’s time to just get on with the song already.

They’ve kind of become legends in the British scene, Rolo Tomassi, and when you put out an album like Cosmology you probably deserve it. What the band don’t deserve is the absolutely shocking sound quality the Hevy soundguys give them today. Bass drowns out pretty much everything, and half the set we can barely hear the guitar. Vocalist Eva Spence dances and screams like a demonic Betti Boop, before giving us a taste of her ethereal clean singing in the melodic sections of tunes like ‘Kasia’ and ‘Sakia’.

Brother James co-fronts the band fantastically, shredding his vocal chords and cranking out his snaking synth arpeggios. But even the pair of them can’t make up for the terrible sound, or the utter lack of stage presence their bass player brings, stood front and centre and looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here. Thankfully, the sound is sorted by the time This Is Hell take the stage with their excellent crossover hardcore.

Big energy and bigger grooves are spiced up by some tasteful metal riffing and beautifully chaotic guitar solos. The band play the kind of ninety second NYHC tunes that despite being relentlessly fast, are executed so well they never even border on monotonous.

It’s weird seeing A Wilhelm Scream, with their 90’s skate punk clothing and ‘fuck you’ attitude towards the trendy music scene, come out and play to the ironically-moustachioed and skinny jeans Hevy crowd. Landing somewhere between Protest The Hero and Sick of it All, the mindbending technical ability and intensity they showcase is matched perfectly by the kind of fantastic stage performance that’s wonderfully typical for this band.

Odd time signatures, harmonised guitar work, and lightning fast solos fly past, all stopping and starting as if the band members shared some kind of hive mind. It’s a great performance of fan favourites like ‘The Horse’ that’s only marred by another poor show from mixing on the sound board.

There’s nothing new to say about Municipal Waste’s live show. It’s ball-to-the-walls thrash metal, with all the buzzsaw guitar work and shouted vocals you’d expect from these guys. They’re typically on form; they know what their crowd want and they deliver a storming set of hits like ‘Sadistic Magician’ and ‘The Bangover’. They’re another odd choice amidst all the hardcore, but even the most hipster of bro-core fans must have a hard time pretending not to enjoy the show these guys put on, as they get one of the most insane crowd reactions of the weekend.

[box] Every note, every scream, every double kick oozes professionalism and experience. [/box]

Outstanding as usual. It’s all skinny jeans and chugging with Norma Jean, but it’s done with the kind of finesse you’d expect of a band that’s risen to the top of the modern hardcore scene. The songwriting blows most of the imitators out of the water, knowing exactly when to bring it up with a harmonised melodeath riff, before plunging into a pummelling breakdown. Every note, every scream, every double kick oozes professionalism and experience.

There’s a certain kind of joy from watching virtually anything done skillfully, and the audience certainly enjoying watching the masters at their craft.

How the hell Meshuggah ended up on this bill is a mystery. That’s not to say they’re not an excellent band; their brand of polyrhythmic drumming complemented by 8-string chugging and demented screaming is as mechanically perfect live as it is on record. What’s weird is seeing five massive, for the most part long-haired and bearded, Swedish guys take to a stage to play technical metal to a crowd of hardcore kids. They tower over the audience like a real-life Dethklok, all brutality and technical ability, that seems kind of lost of guys in skinny jeans wanting flail their arms about randomly.

You can tell the band are a bit baffled by their surroundings, but that doesn’t stop them putting on a monster live show for their fans.

So if Meshuggah can look past being out of place on a bill and just be professional for their fans, what the hell are Glassjaw playing at? They wander on to stage late, play for less than thirty minutes of their billed fifty minute set, and then disappear with barely a word to the audience. Speaking to various festival goers, the consensus is that it’s almost an insult, a kind of middle finger to everyone who came all the way down to Kent to see them headline Hevy in the first place.

The band’s attitude aside though, what a thirty minutes it is. Musically tight and vocally emotive, the band’s all-too-short but sweet set covers the big numbers from Worship and Tribute, and ends on a massive high with ‘Siberian Kiss’. Daryl Palumbo is all the rock star, flying about the stage, while Justin Beck’s unique guitar work shows why this band has inspired virtually everything post-hardcore in the last ten years.

If only they were as happy to see us as we are to see them.

So here we are. It’s Saturday night, we’ve had the build up, the lights are down, and we’re all ready for the headliner. Quite why that headliner is Andrew WK is still a mystery. The band explode on stage in an absolute mess of noise. There are eight people on stage total, with Andrew and what you’d be forgiven for assuming was a female wrestler that had accidentally wandered on stage handling vocals, four guitarists playing the same three powerchords (none of which you could actually hear – thanks again Hevy sounguys!), a bass player, and a drummer.

It’s a shambles. This may be largely the fault of the sound desk, as the bass, drums and vocal renditions of ‘Party Hard’ and ‘She is Beautiful’ go down well despite the fact the guitarists might as well not have bothered to come on stage. It’s a shame, because Andrew himself is as energetic and fun as ever, and you really want to just get into the performance and watch this white-clad madman alternate between yelling about partying and performing short classical piano solos.

Where the weekend really kind of falls apart is when the sound is cut off for curfew thirty seconds before the end of the last song. The band are visibly annoyed, but play through the monitors for the last few seconds. When they clear the stage, the crowd spend a good ten minutes chanting ‘we want fun’, but no encore is forthcoming. Not that the band don’t want to; they’re hovering round the stage, and one guitarist in particular looks halfway between furious and devastated that he can’t come out and play for the fans chanting for his band.

[box] Hevy actually had a chance to do something rock ‘n’ roll and just sort of pissed it away[/box]

‘We want fun’, honest to God, becomes a chant of ‘fuck you Hevy’ as the crowd voice their displeasure. In a weekend full of posturing, dodgy fashion and the same breakdowns over and over again, it’s sad that Hevy actually had a chance to do something rock ‘n’ roll and just sort of pissed it away. The cutoff followed by the denial of an encore leaves a sour taste that ends the night on a bit of a downer, which is a massive shame.


The Best of What’s Left

To Hevy’s credit, you could hardly find a better band to shake off a hangover and the bad taste from the AWK Debacle than The Jellycats. Fun and bouncy female-fronted ska, with insanely catchy tunes, some great stage banter, and the good vibes of a band that’s just flat out happy to be here and play to everyone. Single, ‘T-W-A-T’ is a highlight, but only marginally when the quality of songwriting is so strong throughout.

Well worth beating the hangover to come and check out. How they’re not on the main stage when a band like Mallory Knox are is baffling. They play the kind of stock poppy post-hardcore that covers emo lyrics, half hearted breakdowns and flat hooks. It’s all a bit Hawthorne Heights, and God knows that’s not the best thing for a Sunday morning hangover.

Attack! Vipers! are on a mission to wake everyone the hell up, with their intense brand of spazzy hardcore giving way to accomplished quieter moments. Their singer in particular sells the show, foot on monitor and mic stand in hand, looking every inch the rock legend, getting a great reaction despite the small crowd.

It’s a criminally small crowd that witnesses what Mecahnical Smile have to offer. Their blend of female-fronted alt-rock and grunge is entirely out of place given the rest of the line-up, but despite this they play a great set of interesting tunes and give us a show while they’re at it. They’re young and raw, and definitely don’t have the kind of polished sheen you’d expect on a festival line-up, but there’s a hell of a lot of potential here to watch out for in the future, best showcased in some excellent emotive climaxes to their tunes.

Going for spacey Deftones-esque ups and downs, Night Verses largely find the downs. There’s the usual echoey lead to crushing hardcore formula we’ve seen peddled so much this weekend, but here every quiet section fails to entrance and every climax sounds the same. Listenable at best.

If you’re going to do power-pop, do it with a big cheesy grin while you’re jumping up and down; which is exactly what Reachback do. They’ve got this whole pop-punk thing down, with plenty of great hooks, great on stage energy, and some great crowd interaction. There’s still that kind of local band element to them in that they’ve not quite got the formula down to Blink 182 levels of proficiency, but they’re well on their way.

It’s back to the main stage for Cruel Hand, who blast through some crossover hardcore that benefits nicely from some flashy lead guitar work and solid, driving beats under the typical thrashy yelling. Entertaining, but nothing particularly special to set them apart from many of the other bands playing.

The Smoking Hearts are equally dull, playing more generic and dull kind of hardcore that touches on the punk ‘n’ roll scene Gallows broke out of, just without the songwriting and musical ability. It’s loud and monotonous. They put on a great show, but without great music it’s nothing to get excited about.

Having over thirty years of experience means 7 Seconds have been going since long before most of Hevy’s audience was even conceived. They show all thirty years of experience in their songwriting, and bring the kind of energy to the stage that most bands half their age can’t even hold a candle to. They’re humble, they’re mature, and they’re meticulously practiced, yet still an absolute blast to watch.

Next up, melodic hardcore meets skate punk with Ignite. Harmonised vocal hooks couple with furious drumming to give that good old Pennywise vibe as the band tear through a fast and energetic set of extremely well crafted rock. Polished and professional, but still dripping with the kind of raw punk energy that sets the apart the great bands from the good.

[box] some much needed rock swagger to the bro-core posturing [/box]

Mathcore meets dirty rock ‘n’ roll in Hawk Eyes, one of the festival’s nicest surprises. Clear melodic vocals turn to filthy yelling as the guitar work runs the gauntlet from classy riffs to harmonised mathcore riffing. The stage show brings some much needed rock swagger to the bro-core posturing of much of Hevy’s line-up, not to mention a refreshing blast of originality, whilst still retaining that essential hardcore intensity. It’d be a crime if these guys aren’t huge in a couple years time.

Listener. Wow. It’s like spoken word poetry over post-rock, occasionally blasting into hardcore riffs, before coming back down to earth light as a feather. They’re original, they’re emotional, they’re inspirational, and they’re utterly impossible to put into words. Frontman Dan Smith is part poet, part orator, and all talent. Music often has aspirations to high art, but this may be one of the few bands in the world at the moment who are truly blurring the lines where music and art converge.

Brit post-hardcore favourites Hundred Reasons give us a blast of classics like ‘If I Could’ and ‘Silver’, with the crowd singing along to every massive hook. Great stage presence, a huge crowd, and having a hell of a lot of fun on their Ideas Above Our Station anniversary tour. There’s life in the old dogs yet.

The sensibilities of American indie rock meet grunge with Lemuria, who tear through an emotive set in the Red Bull tent. Stunning female vocals compliment angular songwriting, and you really get the feeling the band are giving it their all on stage. Absolutely fantastic. The crowd are singing along long after the band finish, and the grin just will not leave Sheena Ozella’s face.

At this point in the weekend, there’s been so many hardcore bands that chugging guitars and screaming are starting to lose all meaning. Madball do nothing to help this, providing a set that could be interchanged with virtually any of the other two step hardcore bands on offer over the course of Hevy. They get a decent reaction, but at this point it’s all beginning to blur.

And just when all hope is lost and hardcore is starting to lose all meaning, we’re treated to Converge, who do exactly what Converge always do and put on an absolutely killer live show. Frontman Jacob Bannon is stalking the stage like a caged tiger before Madball have even finished, and when they do kick in, he’s like a man possessed, charging all over the stage, giving us the kind of harsh vocals that justifiably perch him on the edge of legendary status, and Ben Koller’s drumming is as face melting as ever.

Much like Municipal Waste before them, there’s nothing new to write about Converge – they do what they do, and they still do it better than virtually anyone else. And that’s where the weekend ended for Trebuchet, as sadly we had to skip the Descendants to get an interview with Listener.


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