Yet again, although many of the bands at this festival fall outside of my comfort zone, this chest-beating, ball-breaking badass festival literally rocks! Hard!
Date: April 22, 2014
The UK’s Premier Indoor Festival, so says the flyer. And although other urban, multi-venued festivals such as Dot To Dot, Brighton’s Great Escape and the Camden Crawl may dispute that, there is no doubt that this is the loudest, most riotous and most downright dirty of festivals of this ilk.
Spanning six venues over 11 hours, it’s a scummy, grimy, dishevelled relative of all the above.
Two Notts bands start the day. At 12.15 sharp at Rock City, alternative rockers Adelphia take advantage of the fact that they’re the only band playing and entice a sizeable crowd into an early circle pit; the youngsters clearly brimming with zeal for a day’s worth of noise and debauchery.
Lacey, at the festival’s most un-rock ‘n’ roll venue, The Forum, with its glitzy interior and moody lighting, are late. But their lateness doesn’t hinder their greatness. Their emotive rock is perhaps the Nottingham’s best hope of launching an alternative band. Due to time constraints, however, their set is only five songs long, with new single Reach Out ending in anthemic style.
Grappler, in Stealth, are an entirely different animal. They’re an underrated name in British hardcore. The singer preaches to his audience amongst his audience, shirtless, hirsute and throat-achingly brutal.
Despite layers of scuzzy nu-grunge, Dinosaur Pile-Up seem a little out of place. Their harmonious college rock is perhaps a little tame for this audience at Rock City, even though Arizona Waiting is one of the highlights of the day. Peroxide blonde singer Matt Bigland pulls off some cliched rock posturing – including throttling the living hell out of his guitar whilst on the floor – but the crowd remain reserved, clapping appreciatively rather than boisterously.
Bastions, meanwhile, are tailor-made for this festival. Their post-metal/hardcore marriage is a full-on aural assault that leaves Stealth stunned.
One of the great things about these roam-friendly festivals is that there’s always something new to discover. Like People On Vacation – a kind of US “supergroup” led by Bowling For Soup frontman Jaret Reddick. Unsurprisingly, theirs is a brand of intelligent pop-punk/indie-rock with comedic banter lobbed in. Say what you will about Bowling For Soup and their dumbass punk, POV have stripped back the punk and given the pop an almost countryfied makeover which works so well. A real highlight.
But if it’s comedy you want, then look no further than The Front Bottoms. Their name alone suggests joviality, but their lyrics, delivered via a pop-rock soundtrack, pushes that notion home over at Rock City.
More serious are Leodensian four-piece Pulled Apart By Horses, whose ear-shredding Led-Zep-on-Ketamine shtick tears Rock City a new one.
The battle of Welsh FM-rock, meanwhile, is won by The Blackout, Wales’s finest purveyors of dark hardcore, beating chart-bothering Kids In Glass Houses by a whisker. In theory, both bands deserve a bigger stage to that which they’re assigned, with KIGH packing out The Forum and The Blackout having to settle for Rock City’s crammed basement. But at least it gave their fans the chance to see them in a smaller venue, which can only be a good thing.
Long Islanders Brand New, who headline, are immense. Studious, bilious and owners of the exact formula to headline a festival of this nature: tunes + post-hardcore = win.
Their name is fitting, really, as Hit The Deck feels like the zeitgeist tearing out from beneath the mainstream, with emerging brand new talent in every venue.