The 5 best bands I saw at Hit The Deck Festival

hit the deckHit The Deck is a relatively new one-day festival, taking place in both Nottingham and Bristol. This year the lineup looked stronger than ever, with acts like Brand New, Pulled Apart By Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up catching my eye in particular. And seeing as Bristol’s my hometown I felt it was only right to head down and catch all the action. Below is my pick of the top 5 bands I saw at Hit The Deck:

1. The Gnarwhals 

First up were the I don’t give a fuck about anything and I’ll sing about skateboarding and pizza band, The Gnarwhals. Playing to a half empty crowd at The Fleece didn’t seem to phase these guys either, walking on stage wearing Hawaiian t-shirts and drinking Red Stripe at midday – So it’s established pretty quickly that these guys are here to party…

They’re the kind of band you just can’t take seriously, but you get the impression that’s probably the intention. Pop Shuv It I Luv It is a dismal attempt at any sort of tuneful musicality, but somehow they pull it off with a hardcore-swing-spin sound that’s refreshingly lax in such a try-hard industry.

Their lighthearted approach is a perfect warm up for the rest of the day and gives us an excuse to start drinking early on (not that we really needed one) – Cheers lads!

2. Wounds woundsWounds were a stark contrast to their predecessors, with howling vocals and full forced guitar slams that could rival any Kerrang! endorsed emo band.

Although this time the Dublin hailing rockers unfortunately didn’t bring along the luck of the Irish with them, as they’re let down by a sound technician who can’t level out his A’s from his B’s.

It’s the most frustrating thing when you can see a band that has so much potential, but the sound is a compromising factor. Having said that, Wounds did well to tackle the issue, diving headlong into a frantic noise of chaos. These guys are worth checking out, but just don’t go and watch them at the Fleece.

3. Dinosaur Pile-Up 

Dinosaur Pile-UpRaw guitar drones, awkward lyrics and angsty vocals have helped to create wonderfully organised chaos; presenting Dinosaur Pile-Up as one of the most exciting trios on the rock’n’roll scene right now.

Arizona Waiting is the forceful head banging momentum of attention seeking elation that we’ve been waiting for, with bleach-haired Matt Bigland capturing the audience with explosive waves of guitar thrashing and serrated screams.

As a live band, very few can match up to their perfected state of zombielike choral incisions during aptly named My Rock’n’Roll and White T-Shirt and Jeans, which tauntingly embraces a cut-through repetition that characterise any discomfort. Their ability to completely tear the house down, as well as conducting a slightly geeky approach gives Dinosaur Pile-Up an amiable edge and my standout highlight of the day.

4. Pulled Apart By Horses 

Pulled Apart By Horses were always going to be an obvious favourite weren’t they, but with Back To The Fuck Yeah immediately whipping the boisterous crowd into a mosh-pit frenzy, it’s easy to see why these guys ensue complete and utter chaos wherever they go.

For the first time, in a fairly long time, we get to hear some new material and it’s (quite frankly) just completely fucking epic.

Tonight’s definitely given a taste of greater things to come from PABH and boy am I excited for the new album.

5. Brand New

Brand New

So last up are Brand New, giving us that much needed blast of pop punk power.

Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades is the song that everyone’s been waiting for, which is executed with lead singer Jesse Thomas Lacey screaming into a mass of reminiscent twenty-somethings remembering when 90s pop rock music was just so much fun.

However, there are times when sunshine choruses are sidetracked to favour music far gloomier and introverted than we’d hoped and the hits are strung out, creating a sudden drop in elevated mood. 

Although, you just can’t fault the sound, as the precision of each track is delivered with excellence and commitment from a tight-knit team of friends. They’re a group of highly inspiring musicians, it’s just a shame the night ended on a bit of a downer. Next time Brand New would be better off sticking to the uptempo hits.

 

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Novana @ Jazz Cafe 03/04/2014

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 11.04.51It sounds like a cliche, but after watching Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit video on MTV at the tender age of 13, it really opened up my eyes and ears to the genre blending possibilities that would shape my music tastes forever. As a teenager, it was the Nevermind album that really spoke to me; with my newfound love of grunge and acoustic guitar in hand, it was then that I felt my most unstoppable.

So with the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death looming, I thought that by watching Novana (the UK’s number 1 Nirvana tribute act) it would hopefully be the closest thing to the real deal.

Opening the set with Aneurysm it’s all systems go, with the punchy number allowing James Cooper (Cobain) to showcase his gravely tone, which perfectly compliments the former Nirvana frontman down to a tee.

In fact, they do very well to pay homage to each individual member, with Sam Howell on bass owning the Krist Novoselic bounce and Rob Burgess on drums rocking the messy-haired Dave Grohl head bang.

Watch Novana play Lithium below:

The crowd go wild for every single song and I really am serious when I say every single song. There are 40-year old men in moshpits and crowd surfing topless…I mean, this is just crazy.

It’s a clean cut, well rehearsed set with obvious standout tracks like Heart-Shaped Box, Come As You Are and Lithium that build the most excitement.

It was inevitable that Smells Like Teen Spirit would feature late on, but unfortunately it’s just awfully disappointing. The track feels rushed and with tuning issues from Cooper’s guitar, it quite frankly means the song falls miserably flat.

Usually you might be slightly peeved that SLTS is a shoddy remake of the original, but tonight everyone is here to pay their respects and have a good time. It’s during a mid head bang moment that you realise just how special Nirvana were as a band and it’s tribute acts like Novana that are helping to keep their spirit alive.

Jungle @ The Exchange, Bristol, 21/03/2014

JungleYou know you’re at a good gig in Bristol when ‘Big Jeff’ is there. For those of you who aren’t Bristol natives, Jeff can be described as a gig fanatic who’s become a local legend. His voluptuous barnet, energetic hand waves and reputation for catching the best upcoming bands, all viewed from the front of the stage, have earned him an honourable reputation in the city. big jeff bristolAlthough Big Jeff’s seal of approval is appreciated, you don’t actually need any spelling out that Jungle are one of the hottest new bands around and with an array of UK festival bills already confirmed for this year, it’s highly likely they’re only going to continue to explode in popularity.

Part of the build up to seeing Jungle is to discover what they actually look like, as up until now they’ve cleverly kept the media guessing – PR masterminds? I think so.

Their undercover operation has clearly worked, with the crowd clambering to catch a glimpse of the band arriving on stage to the loud roar of rainforest sounds.

The two lead singers/rhythm makers are joined by backing vocals, guitar and drums and kick things off rather promptly.

The band inject some serious funk into the compact venue with Busy Earnin’ a particular crowd pleaser. Watch a snippet of the song below:

The setup is experimental and fresh, with an entourage and technicality which Jungle have crafted to ensure they have the very best live sound possible. It’s a testament to show that they take their craft seriously and seeing a band play host to a number of musical influences with personality and raw passion tells us that it really is all about the music.

The Heat and Platoon seal the deal, with the electro dance vibes ensuring the crowd are dancing, whistling and getting down and dirty to the radio friendly hits.

Jungle are a serious contender for earning the title of best new band of 2014. Make sure you catch them at a festival this year, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Architects @ Koko 14/03/2014

Architects“It’s taken us a long time to figure out our sound and as a band we’ve definitely had our ups and downs,” reflects lead vocalist Sam Carter. It’s an honest statement that Architects fans are likely to agree on. The band quickly shot up the metal scene ranks and with 2009’s Hollow Crown firmly cementing their status as one of the most promising metalcore bands in the UK. But 2011’s The Here and Now was an anticlimax mid-career misstep, with the Brighton gang appearing to lose their footing almost altogether.

So tonight, Architects will play London’s Koko in an attempt to recover lost ground. And with their latest album Lost Forever//Lost Together already commanding attention in both the rock community and mainstream charts, after only a week’s release, it’s a sure sign that tonight could be a return to form.

Opening the set with Gravedigger and C.A.N.C.E.R the band are eager to promote new material and it’s easy to see why. There is an imposing wave of brute force and unity with tracks that are heavier and more bone-rattlingly satisfying than previous endeavors.

That said, Alpha Omega and Day In Day Out give those who haven’t learnt all the lyrics to the new album (which is surprisingly few) a chance to appreciate the gloriously crafted anthems of old, which are still sealed with conviction.

Architects have clearly toughened up their policy altogether, with grippingly intensified religious references in ‘Broken Cross’ through to the thudding muscular beatdowns in ‘Naysayer’ that concur uncompromising sensibilities.

It’s clear from the crowds’ reactions that this is what they’ve been waiting for from the Architects all along. And not since Bring Me The Horizon’s show at Koko in 2013 has there been a crowd so alight with appreciation for a new record that encompasses so much promise.

Tonight it’s overwhelming to witness just how far Architects have come and with a newborn sincerity and clear yearning to fight for superbly crafted anthems, it will unquestionably see them reign at the top of the metal ranks once more.

Radkey @100 Club 05/03/2014

Radkey

Three black teenage brothers from Missouri who were homeschooled as children have quickly morphed into one of the most unlikely punk-rock offerings of the year. Tonight Radkey descend on the 100 Club with support from Lyger and Turbogeist.

Firstly let’s get the venue rant out of the way – The 100 Club is a terrible place to host a rock show. Intimate it may be, but the wide stage and view-obscuring pillars just really don’t bode well with a scene of pogoing punks and Instagram kids, who get annoyed with things blocking their photo vision.

Comparable to the likes of the Nine Black Alps (albeit slightly less accomplished), Lyger kick off proceedings with a gloomy sound of moody stoner-rock. An adequate opener, but they’ll have to move away from college battle of the bands territory in order to be taken seriously.

With guitarist Jimmy Jagger breaking his arm last year, Turbogeist were forced to take a short break from the music scene, but tonight they return to full fighting form. The crowd are clearly glad to have them back, with a raw and punchier sound than their predecessors the showmen give all they’ve got.

So now it’s time for the main event, the Radkey brothers. The stripped back sound of punk, reminiscent to the Danzig-Misfits-era, certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed within the rock community. Start Freaking Out does exactly what it says on the tin, with older members of the audience (pushing sixty at least) throwing punches around left right and centre and quite frankly going a little bit mental.

A short snippet of Romance Dawn:

Out Here in My Head whips up a pit, with bassist Isaiah Radke crowd surfing across the room to a scene of drunk and disorderly louts clambering to get a fist pump in anywhere they can. A cover of Last Caress gives an energetic oomph to the classic hit, with Radkey paying homage to the horror-punk kings.

The encore is what we’ve all been anticipating with Romance Dawn crescendoing into a breakout of contagious headbanging, with lead singer Dee Radke leading the way with his dreadlocked head rolls.

Tonight’s crowd is clearly fucking crazy, but it’s that tight-knit I don’t give a fuck punk-rock community that you just don’t find much anymore. It’s probably because Radkey are a fresh take on something the music industry is lacking nowadays, reflecting and learning from the great musicians of late and crafting something wickedly whimsical that’s managed to re-ignite the crazies.

If Radkey keep it up they could be the ones to re-invent a new breed of punk-rock noise or, better still, awaken a disorderly rabble of individuals like we’ve seen tonight. Here’s hoping.

Limp Bizkit (Kerrang Tour) @ Brixton Academy 21/02/2014

Limp Bizkit Kerrang Tour

“You know the guys at Kerrang made this tour possible right?” said Fred Durst. To which most of the audience responded with heckling and boos, so it seems the metal crowd are as mature as ever then…

But you have to give Kerrang some credit, as this year they’ve managed to claw back an older generation of their readers having secured the Limp Bizkit nu metal legends.

Wez Borland was first onstage playing the opening bar of 9 Teen 90 Nine, wearing a hula necklace and nothing below the waist but blue Yfronts. Yup, his costumes are still weird.

A cover of Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle worked well to get the rowdy crowd dancing. And I mean who can deny a singalong to the great Axl Rose, eh?

Bizkit didn’t wait around to churn out the hits, as three songs in we were waving our arms around in time to Rollin’. Having discovered it’s hard to pull off looking even vaguely cool, I rolled with the punches and dismissed looking like a dweeb with my feeble arm wave attempt. At least it confirmed that Durst is one of the very few people on earth who can pull off the gangster inspired dance move, which made me feel a little better about myself.

Faith (George Michael cover) and My Generation saw the return of the infamous red cap. Now we call all die happy that we got our 90s nostalgia trip, cheers for that Fred!

The best part of the night was when Durst climbed onto a balcony section (to the annoyance of the security team) and continued to sing Livin’ It Up, watching down on the appreciative crowd. After climbing down he took the time to take a selfie with a man in a wheelchair, I think my heart melted at that moment.

Walking back over to the stage without his hat, Durst was subjected to some pretty intrusive head rubbing, to which he didn’t blink an eyelid. My respect for this man just keeps on growing.

Durst aside, the set from the band was succinct, but each song was a well crafted moment of individual excellence. A band who’ve earned their place at the top of festival bills and who’ve walked away from being pigeonholed as another novelty trip down memory lane, but to something much more sustainable for the contribution to metal in the future. As long as they don’t take another 11 years to bring out a new record…

The Fly Awards @ The Forum, London 06/02/2014

Peace

To celebrate 15 years as a national magazine, The Fly hosted its first-ever awards ceremony at The Forum in Kentish Town. Performers included Bombay Bicycle Club, Wild Beasts, Peace, The Horrors and Thurston Moore (former Sonic Youth guitarist).

Hosted by Keith Murray and Chris Cain of We Are Scientists, the duo attempted to inject some good old American humour into the night, in their own ‘inimitable’ style. Award nominees and industry types could be found schmoozing their way around the ground floor and members of the public were seated on the balcony. Unlike other music ceremonies, it was a nice little touch to allow fans to join in the event proceedings.

Already achieving critical acclaim with their fourth album So Long, See You Tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club are certainly a worthy opening act. Their set comprised of dreamy affections with programmatic beats, allowing them to confirm self-reinvention once more. The upbeat thumps and hypnotic lyrical stance of Carry Me made for an interesting opener, where they reaffirmed that their newfangled identity is one worth sticking with.

Meanwhile, the WAS duo began warming up to the idea of the whole presenting malarkey, where slowly but surely the more beer they drank, the more amusing they became. Next up on the bill was Mercury Prize nominees and cult sensation, Wild Beasts. A thickening heavy bass line during new track Wanderlust shot through the audience and had enough driving momentum to silence the whole venue. Particularly captivating and with atmospherically enriching tracks, the band showcased their skill for nailing the odd understatedly anthemic chorus or two.

the horrors

By this point, the atmosphere was growing increasingly rowdier, with fans beginning to hone in on the booze consumption. After all, isn’t that what award ceremonies are all about, getting pissed? Riling up the crowd into full swing, Peace manage to shake things up a little. It’s a set full of cover songs though, which for once isn’t actually such a bad thing, as fans are clearly up for a sing-along. A rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Good Times, Bad Times goes down appreciatively, as the band manage to pull off a timeless classic – who’d have thought it possible? And perhaps one of the highlights of the night was hearing a cover of Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, with lyrics “everybody needs a bosom for a pillow”. Yep, it turns out that everyone still loves a 90s classic.

The Fly Award for Outstanding Artistry was given to The Horrors, with Chris Cain of WAS commenting: “There are a lot of bands who try and look and sound like The Horrors, but tonight we appreciate how they keep dishing out the sexiness.”

Holding that thought, The Horrors appeared onstage in all-black ensembles, accentuating gothic-chic at its finest. Still Life produced a humdrum timbre, where vocalist Faris Badwan’s moodily charismatic persona inflicted waves of finesse across the audience. The entrancing light show was particularly spectacular, although if you suffered from epilepsy then there’d be some serious repercussions.

Winning the Living Legend award and delivering an exceptionally longwinded acceptance speech, the former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, was the final act of the night. It feels darn right mean to also give Moore the award for worst performance of the night, especially after achieving such an accolade. But unfortunately, the set was by nowhere near a Sonic Youth worthy performance, or anything half as decent for that matter. The dreary tones of the guitar failed to do anything other than cause catatonic side effects, which meant a quick escape for some disappointed fans. Although, one won’t hold it against him, as after all, he did bring us Sonic Youth.

The evening’s entertainment ended with Chris Cain of WAS stripping down to his boxers. So you could say the first Fly Awards were a success, if you’re into nudity and a whole lot of noise.