Takedown Festival 2015 [Festival Review]
The first thing that needs to be said is this: Takedown Festival 2015 was really well-run. Organising an event that takes in over 40 bands across five stages, runs to schedule, and delivers a smooth, hassle-free and fun experience for punters is a serious ask – but the Takedown crew rose to the challenge and did an awesome job. Even the security were nice guys. Or maybe paid actors.
The second thing that needs to be said? Fuck Google Maps. To cut a long story short, that crappy little app got me lost and made me miss Miss Vincent, who no doubt represented my local scene in style to a room short one now-gutted writer. In the end, my Takedown experience began in the hard-hip-hopping company of Astroid Boys, whose tight unison rhymes and uncategorizable sound (somewhere between grime, dubstep, hardcore and rap) made for a great start to the day. Hip-grinding, top-stripping, and wild screaming greeted every song – and that was just the guys in the audience.
Over on the main stage, I found it hard to form an opinion about Empire thanks to some godawful sound. From the look of things, the room was originally designed with theatrical productions in mind, not full-on rock’n’roll shows – so I’d imagine the sound crew sweat blood just to get things to the point they did. As for Empire themselves, they did a good job under the circumstances, boasting some cool tunes and a vocalist in possession of an insane vocal range. Since Takedown concluded, I’ve checked out their website and fallen in love with Black Hearts; I recommend you click the link at the end and go tread the same digital path.
It’s hard for me to write about Black Peaks without coming across like a sad-act fanboy, so I’m not even going to attempt to do so. Of all five Takedown stages, the Uprawr Stage was the only one properly equipped to handle serious alt-metal. Located in a cavernous none-more-black room with the sound crew of the day (who were probably thanking God that they didn’t have to deal with the unfavourable acoustics cursing the other stages) and Periphery’s Juggernaut album looping in full between bands, the Uprawr Stage was the ideal place to witness one of the UK’s best up-and-coming math bands of right now.
With a raft of new songs in tow, Black Peaks totally owned their set with the kind of balanced precision, bottomless passion, and idiosyncratic musicianship that raises the bar a notch closer to Olympic levels with every show these guys play. From the start of old favourite Saviour to the straight-up fuckedness of latest single Glass Built Castles via the slow, epic build of Say You Will, I couldn’t fault Black Peaks even if I wanted to. The first truly amazing set of the day for me.
To be totally honest, Ashestoangels‘ Obsidian Stage goth-punk explosion wasn’t my thing. I was definitely more in a tech/hardcore mood at Takedown, but only a complete dick would look down his nose at the sight of a band entrancing a bar full of fans while their vocalist literally stands on the crowd, singing his lungs out until he makes it back onstage and launches into a gymnastic display that’s half showmanship and half punishing workout.
The Crilly-in-the-crowd part said it all: Ashestoangels are all about support and community – two elements every scene (and human being) needs in order to survive and thrive. I may not have been into the music, but it was still heartwarming to see that the same things that kept me going as a young music fan are still present and correct in the lives of Ashestoangels’ fanbase.
As with Ashestoangels before them, Hawk Eyes had to make do with a cramped room housing a stage and a bar and leaving little space for a crowd to gather without thirsty patrons awkwardly pushing through. I’m looking forward to seeing the band whose album Everything is Fine was awarded a deserving 98% on TMMP last month in a more favourable environment in the future; up close and personal Hawk Eyes plainly have what it takes to put on a killer show. Unfortunately, this time around lame acoustics and awkward stage placement spoilt a set I was hoping to describe in similar terms to Black Peaks’ Uprawr appearance.
Back on Takedown’s main stage, Rolo Tomassi and Arcane Roots both triumphed over what I’ve come to think of as the “School Assembly Room” and its more-suited-to-speeches-from-the-faculty acoustics to deliver brilliant sets. Rolo Tomassi are flat-out unique, capable of knocking out a flawless sequence of prog-hardcore home runs which connected even under patience-testing circumstances. Although I’d already begun getting into Rolo Tomassi before Takedown, their set pushed me into full-on fandom.
Arcane Roots can do no wrong in my eyes – and the wide array of brand new songs given an airing at Takedown were consistently right. Said songs indicated a progression toward a more refined direction – on the one hand, more commercially appealing, but on the other a distillation of all the elements that make Arcane Roots who they are. Although the Biffy Clyro comparison is obvious, Arcane Roots are starting to remind me more of Incubus, thanks to their increasingly developed ability to slip in odd rhythmic subtleties that you’d only notice if you were actively listening out for them. From the sound of those new songs (and the rapturous reception they were all afforded), Arcane Roots’ next album is going to be fucking sick, and push them to a whole new level of success.
In between Rolo Tomassi and Arcane Roots, I managed to catch enough of Seething Akira‘s set on the Southampton Music Introducing Stage to remind me of just how epic those guys are live. The festival’s smallest stage still boasted decent sound despite being located next to a bar and beneath a massive staircase – and Seething Akira made the most of it, punching their way through core tune Firepower and a cover of Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up Look Sharp while both of their vocalists joined the fans in the pit. Another impressive set.
Had it not been over a year since I last saw Arcane Roots live, I would’ve caught more of The Hell on the Uprawr Stage. As it was, I still managed to catch such chirpily-titled tunes as It’s the Motherfucking Hell (You Dick) and Everybody Dies. If you’ve never seen the Hell before, change that dire situation ASAP – and if you’ve never heard of them, the link to their website can be found at the end of this post. Find it and click it (you dick).
Post-Hell, Takedown got serious for TMMP. Both Devil Sold His Soul and Bleed From Within were completely new to me, and recommended by a mate who turned out to have awesome taste. I knew I’d be into Devil Sold His Soul for two reasons: One, they’re signed to Basick Records, and two, their guitarist was wearing a Deftones Diamond Eyes t-shirt. Once they kicked in, it was as epic as I’d anticipated, featuring the snare sound of the night and a bunch of alt-metal songs that tunnel through the clear-as-day Deftones influence into post-djent Meshuggah territory while blending in plenty of idiosyncratic spiciness. I fucking loved it – and DSHS’s Belong & Betray EP is soundtracking my life as I write these words.
Bleed From Within, meanwhile, draw heavily from Lamb of God’s annihilative style – and the Uprawr crowd went absolutely apeshit in response. Judging from the gladiatorial circle pits, frenzied screams, worshipful applause, and the fact that Bleed From Within’s last EP was successfully crowdfunded via Indiegogo, these guys obviously have a die-hard following – and with shows like their Takedown set to spread the word, I’m not even slightly surprised. Bleed From Within deserve all they’ve achieved and much more.
Heart of a Coward were yet another unmissable Takedown band. The last time I saw them play, they were supporting SikTh in Brighton – and although that time they completely crushed the Concorde2, their Takedown set took things to another place entirely. By the end of a set which took in the likes of Shade, Nauseam, We Stand as One, Distance (an appropriate choice after vocalist Jamie Graham had some spanner ejected by security for fighting), Nightmare, and Deadweight, all that remained was a front row, a back row, and a wasteland in between inhabited by exhausted pit-happy punters who’d made the most of Takedown’s final full-on metal act.
Beyond Heart of a Coward’s well-deserved second stage headline showing, main stage headliners Mallory Knox could be found keeping the more pop-punk-oriented fans happy before the afterparty got started. Despite the now-expected iffy sound, the vibe in the room was absolutely awe-inspiring; watching wall-to-wall handwaving greet 1949 and iPhone torches act as the only light sources in the room during Lighthouse was a cool and (in the latter case) unique experience. As I mentioned earlier, pop-punk isn’t my thing, but sniffing at the sight of a band making a genuine connection with a crowd who clearly love them would just be silly.
Overall, Takedown Festival was a wicked experience. Yes, the sound left a lot to be desired at times – but it was a festival, after all, and I’d aim the blame at acoustics rather than sound crew competence. Every other aspect of Takedown was outstanding, from the organisation to the staff to the lineup and everything else in between. Although individual tastes can vary wildly, Takedown catered for every conceivable niche. TMMP found new favourites in Empire, Rolo Tomassi, and Devil Sold His Soul; Ashestoangels still stand out thanks to their frontman’s charisma and energy; and long-time loves like Black Peaks, Arcane Roots, the Hell, Seething Akira and Heart of a Coward all went over spectacularly.
Would I go to Takedown next year? Damn right I would.
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