Andrew WK headlining the Punktastic stage on Saturday night
Over the past four years, Hevy Festival has built up a fearsome reputation as being amongst the UK’s premier underground small festivals. Taking place near Port Lympne Wild Animal Park just outside Folkestone in Kent, it boasts a lineup composed of an array of dab hands and new bands in the fields of hardcore, punk, emo, rock and metal. Ollie Connors and James Fox were on hand to see how it all went down.
Gnarwolves [4.5/5] open the weekend on the Punktastic stage playing to only a dozen people due to confusion at the arena gates. The horde of angry Hevy-goers not being admitted eventually decide they’ve had enough and bombard past the one hapless security guard standing in their way, charging towards the band in an incredible music-video-esque moment. The band sound excellent, and continue on their meteoric rise.
Following on from the South Coasters are Blacklisters [3.5/5]. Playing cuts from recent full-length ‘BLKLSTRS’, the Northerners’ sludgy take on punk rock continues the festival in fine fettle. Frontman Billy lurches about the stage, delivering entertaining “banter” between songs. ‘Club Foot By Kasabian’, in particular, is as much of a set highlight as it is on record.
Perhaps the surprise package of the weekend followed in Croydon hardcore mob Last Witness [4/5] – who seem to have stepped up their game tremendously in recent times. Vocalist Theo Kyndynis owns the room and bassist Adrian Cecil is a marvel to behold – his theatrics putting one in the mind of Robert Trujillo.
Slightly less impressive today are northern youngsters MARMOZETS [3/5]. Usually a tour-de-force live, something is lacking from their usual bombastic approach and the performance feels a little listless as a result. Vocalist Becca’s voice continues to improve, but their schizophrenic energy is lost on such a big stage this afternoon.
One of the first sound problems of the weekend takes place when The James Cleaver Quintet [3.5/5] have a false start on the Rock Sound stage. Having not being granted a sline-check, problems with Jimmy Diego’s bass momentarily stop the set, but the band go on to pick themselves up and the usual squirrel-like clambering of stage girders ensues to accompany their noteworthy energy and flair.
There seem to be two camps in modern hardcore – those who seek to make emotionally cathartic, artistically and creatively beautiful material; and those who want to sound as furious as possible, and wheel out bad mosh cliches relentlessly. Two bands that are firmly rooted under the latter umbrella are next to appear; Reign Supreme [3.5/5] and Trapped Under Ice [3/5]. Philadelphia’s Reign Supreme, fronted by former Blacklisted vocalist Jay Pepito are a pretty damn hilarious proposition – if you don’t take music too seriously, this is exactly the kind of nuclear warhead calibre beatdowns-filled “tuff” hardcore you need in your life. TUI also deal in fairly similar metallic-tinged hardcore, and theirs is an energetic set; wonderfully-named singer Justice Tripp, more than a little reminiscent of WWE wrestler John Cena, spends the set predominantly in the welcome arms of the crowd who’ve transformed the surrounding area into mosh central. However, his voice sounds a little off and reedy, and by the end of their set, the 607th beatdown of the two sets is grating.
Next, over on the Rock Sound stage, there are more sound issues for Sharks [3/5] who suffer from a problem many bands have to deal with on this weekend’s awkward double mainstage setup. The soundman not really getting them sounding half-decent till the last couple songs of their set.
Further on in the evening and LOWER THAN ATLANTIS [3.5/5] step out to a hefty crowd awaiting them, showing just how far they’ve come even since their Hevy sets of the past. Frontman Mike Duce works the crowd with ten times the confidence compared to back going on to propel the band through a storming Foo Fighters medley.
Brutal hangovers were soothed in the best possible way early on by The Social Club [4/5]. Their infectious grooves get even the most sour-faced in attendance grinning and nodding along by the end. Sunshiney vibes for a breezy morning; the heavier moments and free toast(!) were a massive cherry on top.
In 2012, it seems that for every band that reunite, another band fall by the wayside, and the latest victims are Cornish screamo band Crocus [3.5/5]. Having called it quits, their final performance is a traditionally chaotic one, but unfortunately marred by dreadful sound – guitarist Zac is barely audible throughout, and despite a fiery and passionate performance, the vocal is seldom afforded the clarity it deserves. Drummer Tom cuts an entertaining figure, spitting whiskey into the crowd at this early hour, but I can’t help but think this farewell would have been far better suited to the small venues Crocus inhabitated and destroyed throughout their short career.
After playing the past three years at Hevy, local(ish) hardcore bruisers Feed The Rhino [3.5/5] play an explosive set from start to finish, spearheaded by commanding frontman Lee Tobin who barks orders for crowd participation throughout.
Seahaven’s [3/5] grunge-flecked indie rock has gained plaudits recently, and songs from last record Winter Forever transfer well to the live arena. Their set takes a no-nonsense, no frills approach, making for a mellow but all the while impacting experience.
Balance & Composure [4/5] are next up and quite frankly blow us away. ‘Separation’ is up there with the very best of 2011, but those excellent songs become even better in a live environment. Their sound could fill stadiums, reminiscent of the heights latter-day Thrice scraped and riles more of a reaction from the crowd than their tourmates before them. Heavy as always, Devil Sold His Souk [3.5/5] send heads bobbing forcefully back and forth across the crowd. There’s unfortunate crackling over the PA for the between-song samples, but, more awkwardly, due to their set running over the allotted time, the PA is turned off mid-song to make way for PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH [4.5/5], who pretty much blow the roof off the Rock Sound stage with their mastery of dynamics. Their intricate orchestration coupled with the presence of vocalist Kyle Durfey make for a phenomenally intense live act. Miss this band at your peril.
The second band of the day hailing from the land of pasties, Vales [4/5] deliver a set worthy of the attention they have been receiving of late. The Red Bull Bedroom Jam tent is packed to the rafters, and, unfortunately, due to drummer Ollie’s hand injury, they are unable to perform any tunes from the upcoming album. However, songs from 2011 EP ‘Clarity’ are rapturously recieved, and whilst vocalist Chlo Edwards’ voice strains a little towards the end, she cannot hide the grin from her face throughout.
Back on the Punktastic stage, This Is Hell [3.5/5] deliver an impressively tight performance with a baying crowd – a circle pit is incited by the second song, which boasts some intricate Slayer-esque riffage. However, the repetitive nature of the material sees attention wander fairly quickly, and it’d be great to see the band try a few new tricks with new material/
A Wilhelm Scream [4/5] are well known for their fantastic live presence, and do not disappoint here – their hyper speed tech-punk gets heads nodding in unison in no time at all and closer ‘The King Is Dead’ sees a wall of death and its resulting carnage.
Returning to these fields since headlining in 2010, Glassjaw [4.5/5] deliver a performance worthy of the annals. Notorious for their inaccessibility live, the Long Islanders smash out a set jam-packed with hits. The female element in attendance (and I’m sure some of the males too) are likely to have been mesmerised by Daryl Palumbo’s stage presence, whilst guitarist Justin Beck looked like the coolest motherfucker on the planet next to him. ‘Siberian Kiss’ sees their set come to a premature end though, after being told they’ve got to finish earlier than they think, making way for a party animal.
The closing set of night was both from ANDREW WK [3.5/5] was gloriously fun, but somewhat marred by unfortunate issues. After an early inclusion of ‘Party Hard’ the crowd may have subsided a bit, but the tempo is kept up with the army of people on stage, until, yet again, and even more embarrassingly, the PA is cut off and the band carry on playing regardless. An angry and disappointed crowd linger for the next ten minutes demanding more. It seems a little odd considering there’s after-hours fun to be had on the big stages, but the teething problems Hevy’s faced in the past have been dealt with year on year, so hopefully the timing will be a little more flexible going forward.
Pompey’s Attack! Vipers! [3.5/5] are first up on the final day of the festival. Their interesting blend of hardcore punk – in the vein of Hope Con/The Suicide File, and more visceral bands like Trap Them and Cursed – creates an energetic start to the day, and the sound issues that blighted bands early on yesterday seem to have been eliminated. Cruel Hand [3/5] arrive next, and much like This Is Hell yesterday, theirs isn’t a set with 40 minutes-worth of attention span. The pit seem to love it, but the sub-Bay Area thrash riffs and beatdown after beatdown ad nauseam fail to thrill.
Black Shapes [3.5/5], are a last minute fill-in for dropouts Lewd Acts and even as a relatively new band they seem right at home. Thrashy hardcore in the vein of Black Flag, Ceremony & Paint It Black, they’re certainly a name to keep a look out for.
Pacer [3.5/5] are another relatively new name on the block, with debut record ‘Making Plans’ hitting shelves a mere few weeks ago. Comparisons to vocalist Mark Pavey and guitarist Dave House’s old band The Steal are fairly unavoidable, but House, known for his solo ventures, looks right at home in a hardcore punk band.
Sweden may not be well-known for its screamo, but that may be about to change thanks to Suis La Lune [4/5]. A pulsating, slow-burning set showcasing songs from 2012′s album ‘Riala’, the atmospherics created by the large environs make them sound just wonderful.
Another band from the mainland arrive in the form of Belgians RISE AND FALL [2.5/5]. Their usually visceral and biting live performance is muddied by some utterly dreadful sound, and by the end, both they and the crowd look very disinterested. A real shame, as latest record ‘Faith’ is one of the best of the year so far. New Yorkers H2O [4/5] bring their posi-core to the Rock Sound stage to provide the most fun you can get from a punk band this side of a bouncy castle. Anthems like ‘Nothing To Lose’ and ‘What Happened’ bring the mosh, and not even a slightly condescending tone from frontman Toby Morse can spoil the joy.
Despite having recently lost their bassist, The Chariot [5/5] deliver their chaotic metalcore in the absence of a four-stringer and create utter mayhem. Infamous for their phenomenal live presence, vocalist Josh Scogin has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from the off and even a cover of The Who’s My Generation doesn’t feel like a misstep. Another show to rebuff this band’s reputation as one of the best live bands on the planet.
Even though the album played in full today is celebrating its tenth anniversary, Surrey’s Hundred Reasons [4/5] sound just as fresh and vibrant as ever before. On their last bout of shows for a very long time at least, singer Colin Doran needs to do little to egg the crowd into en-masse singalongs. A slice of an oft-missed epoch of British rock, you’d be a fool to miss them when they tour with Hell Is For Heroes and Cable later on this year.
Recently reunited Verse [4.5/5] deliver their emotive, melodic hardcore over on the Punktastic stage, and show just how much they’ve been missed. The vocalist spends every moment at the barrier, delivering powerful missives in-between songs. Fans of Modern Life Is War, Defeater and Have Heart would do well to check out this band with immediate effect.
Acting as a “calm before the storm”, Vinnie Caruana [4/5], formerly of emo titans The Movielife and now fronting his own outfit I Am The Avalanche, provides an intimate atmosphere so rarely found at festivals. Covering material from the aforementioned bands acoustically alongside his own material, Vinnie is charm personified, and his promise to tour the UK post-haste should be one everyone should bear in mind.
And now we come to CONVERGE [10/5]. As you can see from the score, this was an experience that cannot be put into words, but here’s a attempt: “Jesus H. Motherfucking Christ”. Opening with the title track from magnum opus Jane Doe, the hardcore legends rip through an unbelievable 50 minute set, which visits predominantly latter-day material, including some fantastic insights into new record ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’, due in September. Jacob Bannon bounds about the stage like a man possessed, and with the closing flourish of ‘Last Light’ and ‘Concubine’, the crowd is left bent, broken, and feeling like dying right there because they’ll never see or feel anything as awesome as that again in their life. Perfect doesn’t even cover it.
Having the job of following that were the legends that are DESCENDENTS [3.5/5] who tie the weekend off in one of the best ways. The sing-a-longs don’t stop for the entirety of their set, a set that is jam packed of all the anthems they pumped out over lengthy career. Jokes and jeers are flung around like nobody’s business, and even if some at the back may lose interest and depart early, it’s an ending to the last night of this festival which was always needed.
So that was Hevy – the highs, the lows, the booze, the sunburn, the friends, the best weekend of the year. Long may it continue. See you all there in 2013.
JAMES FOX / OLLIE CONNORS