For the third year on the bounce I gave my eardrums a firm beating as Nottingham again played host to the most insane and loudest of all-day sessions.
Date: April 21, 2013
Once again a small area of Nottingham became a microcosm of all things rock by virtue of the Hit The Deck festival. Ok, so it may not be the rock you know. It contains none of the showboating rock titans of Download, the area’s daddy of rock festivals. It’s more like Download’s scruffy, unruly teenage offspring, or Dot to Dot’s scuzzy, moody big brother. Basically, it’s like a copy of Kerrang! that’s exploded into life onto Nottingham’s streets.
Screamcore, hardcore, post-hardcore, mathcore, noise-rock and many other genres are mined, and it’s not for the faint hearted.
Seven venues play host to the fun, including Rock City’s basement, where one of the earliest bands of the day, Dingus Khan, offer their hi-octane punk-metal which seamlessly melts into a slower-paced yet powerful motion. In the same venue, Burton-on-Trent four-piece Max Raptor’s lead singer Wil Ray is desperately trying to prompt the early-afternoon crowd into action. A few oblige, as the band plough through a set of Billy Talent-like alternative rock, as Ray constantly switches his emotions between angry and confused.
Upstairs in the main hall are one of the day’s most anticipated bands. The hyperbole surrounding Mallory Knox is huge, which may have accounted for the sizeable crowd which had gathered to witness their radio-friendly alternative rock.
Over at the Rescue Rooms, instrumental experimentalists Maybeshewill fail to ignite a static crowd with their loud but lacklustre set. However, lacklustre is not a word that can be used to describe This Or The Apocalypse, who turn the humble surrounds of Stealth into an energetic, frenetic afternoon meat party, as bodies fly through the air as revellers take advantage of a total lack of security for the most part of their set. Waves of young crowdsurfers and a plethora of stagedivers are fuelled by the band’s boisterous, feral hardcore. The security eventually spoil the party but only slightly – the damage had already been done, including open wounds, bruised faces and missing items of clothing.
Back in Rock City’s dank basement are Summerlin, who announce that this is to be their last ever gig. The cheers that met this announcement seemed a little harsh, but undeterred, they play on, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels, and barking out their effervescent metal.
The Forum, a bar/club in the Cornerhouse complex, seems an odd venue to host Rolo Tomassi, a band whose sound would’ve benefitted from the more compact Stealth. Not because they’re undeserving of a bigger stage, but the atmosphere in The Forum appears to stifle their claustrophobic, disorienting mathcore. However, with a front women like Eva Spence, a sensuous, sultry siren whose look is cute but whose bark is vicious, they’re always onto a winner regardless of their stage. From seemingly nowhere, somehow her tiny frame unleashes devilishly alarming squeals and deep bilious cries while synths are made to sound like haemorrhaging mother boards, and guitars shred cochleas. They are, as always, brilliant. And Eva is, as ever, gorgeous but deadly.
After them, at the same venue, are Feed The Rhino. If the confusing complexity of Rolo Tomassi had many perplexed, the bearded, tattooed deity which faces us now is no more coherent but perhaps more of what the crowd were expecting. Lee Tobin leads a set of riff-heavy, emphatic hardcore which brims with vim. A churning circle pit evolves, and even Tobin himself enters the throng to ignite the party further. He gets everyone to crouch down, before a seismic cue from his band is the signal for the crowd to explode into a mangle of sweat, beer and violence. They don’t know it yet, but they’re the highlight of the day.
Elsewhere Derby’s Lostalone are like the defunct Towers if London with more rock nous, winning over the Basement crowd with some rock-by-numbers clap-alongs, while Silent Screams at Stealth are insanely incendiary and far from silent.
At 9 o’clock at the Rescue Rooms is another one of the day’s most highly-anticipated sets. Former Gallows flame-haired nutjob Frank Carter has a new band. They’re called Pure Love, and they’ve divided critics and been chastised by Gallows devotees for “selling out”. Nonetheless, The Rescue Rooms is full to bursting with people eager to witness his new incarnation. Carter spits and snarls his way through melodic rock – this genre shift being the main problem for many Gallows fans bred on a diet of insane hardcore. He enters the crowd, firstly to get a drink from the bar (Jack Daniels and Coke, ordered by your very reviewer after the bar staff stalled and looked more than a little bemused, bless ’em) and then assembles the drum kit in the centre of the audience. Naturally, a circle bit erupts around it, much to Carter’s encouragement and subsequent delight.
After that, the pickings become slim as the day slowly grinds to an end. So it’s up to Don Broco to end the day’s live output. However, this band are another that divide opinions. Rock City is rammed with teenagers, keen to bounce to the band’s FM-friendly, One Direction-meets-LostProphets sickly shtick. They’re a firm favourite with the teens but not the purists. While the young crowd lap up their saccharine rock, this band’s appeal is a little one-sided, and by this time many of the revellers have headed for the aftershow parties.
It’s been emotional, it’s been a journey. Hit The Deck is a juggernaut of rock; a monolith of all things loud. And it rocks, big time.
The full line-up
LostAlone at Rock City’s basement
Silent Screams at Stealth