Sunday, 25 March 2012

Takedown with this sort of thing - Takedown Festival 2012 live review

Takedown Festival
Southampton University
18th March 2012

Well, that just about killed me. A long day in the company of some of the brightest young talent from these shores.

The vogue for these quick ‘in and out’ festivals at Unis and multi venues is something to be applauded. No portaloos liberally weeping their contents all over your trainers, no foul, stygian mud, no tents or filthy, Campylobacter-infested lips and arsehole burgers. Just loads of subsidised cheap booze, stupidly cheaply priced tickets, hordes of sweaty scene kids and hipsters and lots of loud, testosterone-imbued rock and roll. Tasty.

The only problem was that there were so many stages with so many acts, some bands would inevitably have to remain un-seen.

So, bill in hand, first up as a post brunch livener were Mallory Knox.

Mallory Knox***1/2**

A fair sized crowd had gathered inside the ‘main’ venue (actually looked like a massive church hall rather than a grown up venue, but hey) as the proto-fenland refugees strolled onto the stage. Led by swaggertastic Mikey Chapman, the boys launched into a tidy, energetic and melody-infused set full of bounce, booming bass and guitar-infused bosh. All rather splendid. If not a little predictable in places. But, all-in-all a fine appetiser.

James Cleaver Quintet.*****
Oh yes. A crammed subterranean hall (much more like a proper chest-assaulting rock and roll haunt than Mallory Knox’s jamboree at St Benedicts community hall) was treated to forty minutes of brilliance from this outré bunch of quacking, honking and cock-kicking lunatic trouser wearers.

There were moments of sheer violence, nihilism and bludgeon. But genuinely soulful and harmonic interludes peppered the buffet like iced fancies on Clarice Cliff dishes sneakily juxtaposed with rusty tins full  of fuck your face off naga chilli. 

There was even a sax. 

Having never seen these miscreants before and only having had limited exposure to their work (Loz Guest, Alex Baker and that bloomin’ Lucozade ad) I didn’t expect the mathi-ness. At all. Ok, the noodlicious Jacky Udon isn’t as easy on the eye as Eva Spence, but there are definitely moments of Rolo Tomassi. Chuck in a soupçon of Faith No More and even the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan and you get the picture. I totally loved it. As did the sweaty, cutie-ridden masses. Original. Fresh. Nut sack gnawing excellence.

Don Broco*****
I’ve never been anything approaching pissed off whenever the Bedford-based bawbags are anywhere close. I love ‘em to death and have waxed merrily many times about this loveable laddish, mirth-making energy shot. But they clashed with Polar. Of all the other bands I wanted to see! FFs. Anyway,  Guildford’s punker bastard destruction meisters were going to have to bite the dust. Sigh.

So, with a slight miff, I headed back to St Benedict’s Church hall to get my dose of Bobby Damage and the lads. Of course they weren’t going to disappoint. They never do. But they were going to have to work extra fucking hard to make up for going sans Polar.

They did. Oh yes. The moves. The riffs. The walk. The smiles. They truly are one of a kind and this afternoon, they totally killed it. The crowd were a throng of worshipful acolytes, putty in Monsieur Damiani’s hands. Pits, walls of death (just the two this arvo!) massive sing-a-longs. Even Thug Workout - sadly omitted from the recent 4YS support set. And, of course the obligatory smiles. Loads and loads of bloody smiles. 

I’ve said before that there’s far more to Don Broco than a good time party band, and that remains as true as it ever was; but it really makes a pleasant change, in a landscape full of earnest (and obviously often excellent) emotionally, socially and even politically-imbued rock, for a band to celebrate the positive and to generate such a joyous vibe. They really look as though they enjoy every semi-quaver. 

And it's good to see Mr Doyle settling in so well behind his big old bass.

I can’t wait for their new long player. And, given the recent news about the lads’ signing to Raw Power and Sony’s S&D records, a big fat future, pregnant with smiles awaits. Awesome, as always.

Burn The Fleet*****
Been waiting to see these bad boys for ages. And the wait was well worth it. In what was effectively a hometown show, Andy Convey sporting a fine and strong beard led proceedings in what was to become one of the festival’s major highlights. Even though they were playing squeezed in at the end of the SU bar with bright sunlight melting everyone’s heads, they concocted a heady atmosphere. 

Arrrr indeed.
Their intelligent and literary infused subject matter and lyrics  deftly painted onto a wonderfully textured and multi-layered musical canvas got the place shaking from the WKD soused carpet right the way through its asbestos-laden sixties roof. 

The crowd sang along dutifully and the spine tingling Handfuls of Sand got captured everyone’s hearts as a mesmerising and captivating set closer.

They’ve got a new album coming out that apparently is going to be given away with the excellent Rock Sound mag. If it’s only an iota as good as they were today, then we’re all in for a rare and brilliant treat. Stunning stuff me hearties.  Arrrr.

Fei Comodo*****
Only recently stumbled across these fellas. And I have to say, I like what I’ve heard, so I was looking forward to their turn at the altar. They were playing on the same sun-drenched greenhouse stage as Burn The Fleet, but this time, the lighting rig had given up, so the boys at the back of the stage space were hidden, Golem-like in the gloom. 

No matter, they produced a fabulous and fizzing set. Heavy riffage and technical bombs provided the perfect backdrop to Marc Halls’ astonishing vocal range. His voice reminds me loads of InMe’s Dave McPherson’s (must be something in the water in Essex) and he certainly put his lustrous talents to good use as he cajoled and provoked the matinee crowd to get involved. Which they did. With aplomb. 

There are definite similarities to InMe with a liberal smattering of Midgar; all big balls but hummable and memorable melody. And it worked beautifully. The anthemic Rival Tides being the stand out track of the short but wonderful set. Can’t wait to see these guys in a proper Jager-infused rock and roll sweat box. At night time. With lights that work. And not in a student speakeasy-cum-greenhouse.

So you're a wobber are you? Jolly good.
Heavily persuaded by Real Adventures’ chief plank spanker Dom Roe, I remained stuck to the alcopop mire waiting for Subsource. Didn’t really know what to expect, but having dipped into some of their oeuvre I knew there was going to  be some serious wob. But nowt had prepared me for what was to occur. A cool-as-fuck front man with a Heath Robinson/Mad Max/steam punk stand up bass determinedly and struttingly kicks off things and all hell breaks loose. Think Shikari, Skrillex, Prodigy, Pendulum, Rush, Reuben, The Clash, Charlie Mingus (as your grandparents kids), Maybeshewill, Plan B, The Cure, Matt Bellamy, fucking Sting and Sir Robert Plant all jizzing in a bucket then impregnating Grace Slick with the miasma of goopy man soup. Ladies and gentlefolk, the resulting offspring is in the building. 

And they kick balls. With a solid run up. And wearing Billy’s Boots. Oh yes. Grooves, drops, riffs, soaring vocals and, of course wobs and 808s set the place on fire, evacuate bowels and get heads a bobbing. The crowd appears to be slightly more industry and grown up than general scenies for this lot. Some serious nodding, dipping and stepping breaks out and I’ve found a new band to add to my favourites list. A triumph. Think I shat myself. But a triumph nonetheless.

Lower Than Atlantis****1/2*
Another one of my favourites (and rapidly gaining favourite status with the radio-consuming nation) LTA were next up on the ridiculously stuffed and tasty menu.. After their amazing Garage show a few weeks back, this was never going to compare. Was it? Well, a totally rammed St Benedict’s Hall and Social club didn’t seem to think it suffered by comparison. Not one bit. The house full signs were up and Mr Duce and his Tyros set about disembowelling the snap-back sporting throng. All the biggies were played (including the obligatory Foo’s medley/mash up) and there was much rejoicing, bouncing, boozing and general moshery. The Deadliest Catch ended proceedings and the crowd left as stuffed as Chris Moyle’s after a donut eating contest. Sweet.

Deaf Havana*****
Having watched this lot mature, soften, shift and blossom from a kind of spotty, post hardcore, poppy punky agressfest into a fully rounded, complex and multi-layered band has been a genuine pleasure. 

The demise of the harder edge (and the loss of Ryan) has polarised many earhole owners and is a regular waste of mouth gas among the great and good of the UK scene. But it’s undeniable that they’ve controlled the shift themselves, appear comfortable in their skins and are producing some fantastic, original and commercial tuneage. 

On the eve of their biggest headline tour, this evening was a chance to air the still, self-discovering live side of the band to the adoring masses. And there were some surprises in store. First up was the extra member. The genial and eloquent James Veck-Gilodi (worth a respectable 35 in Scrabble) introduces the mop-haired banjoist as his ikkul bruv, Matt. Apparently a permanent member of the live line up from now on. Twelve strings good; 18 strings better, clearly. Anyway, seems like a nice chap, sings well and seems to add to the overall wall of sound favourably. 
All together now...Sweet Home Alabama
The next surprise was the emasculation and castration of Friends Like These, a go-to tub thumper and signature tune of Deaf Havana’s over the last few years (even makes a self-deprecating referential appearance in the excellent album opener The Past Six Years). Tonight, not only had it had its genitals wrenched off, but the only thing missing appeared to be a choir, 4 tasty female cellists and a key change. To be honest I didn’t mind a bit. The refrain was always the best bit, but the aggressive contrast and foreplay of the rest of the song had been cruelly tossed aside. So it felt like having just the meat at Sunday lunch; tasty but not complete. 

Anyway, enough already. The show was great. And great fun. The whole room joined in the chants and choruses, shouted in the right places and stayed reverentially quiet for the emotionally taught and sensitive bits. And got gooey when the time was right. This lot are truly a class act. They're lazily cast into the same hopper as YM@6, KIGH, Young Guns et al, but are far more complex and, I believe worthy. Veck-Gilodi’s lyrics are thought-provoking, clever, painfully honest and self-revealing. The music is polished, catchy, performed beautifully and full of light and shade. Big, big things beckon. Saying all that, old stalwart Nicotine and Alcohol Saved My Life was the stand out track of the set. Even without the shouty bits – but let’s not go there again. Genuine class though.

This was by far the smallest venue I’ve ever seen the mighty Welsh Raggabaggabastards in and I was a wee bit scared. Mind you I have seen Dillinger at The Barfly, so there really shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

After some apparent back stage wranglings, histrionics and rock and roll diva guff, Benji and his boys finally take to the stage, now ‘resplendent’ with a natty backdrop – complete with the sponsor’s Monster logos shining through it. And all hell lets very loose.

There’s really not too much you can say about Skindred that hasn’t been said. Mr Webbe is the best front man in the business. Fact. He could get a group of devastated mourners to bounce and form a wall of death at the crematorium to Fauré’s Requiem. His energy and infectious charm are legendary. But that’s always mean to the rest of the band. Let’s face it, they’re bloody good too. Their syncopation married with killer riffs and consummate playing show they're much more than a house band to this, the most garrulous of chat show hosts. 

And so they kick off. Rat Race, Doom Riff, Trouble, Nobody, Destroy The Dancefloor are all belted out from the pulpit in tonight’s service. The congregation bounce more than Jessica Clement’s hooters when she’s sitting on the dryer on super spin cycle. The temperature goes up to insane levels. There’s literally sweat (well, sweat condensation according to the nerdy science student standing near us) dripping off the ceiling. The atmosphere is highly charged but all done with such a collective massive smile it hurts the face. It all comes to a frenzied head with the wonderful Warning as an encore. A truly memorable, brilliant and enjoyable end to what’s been a truly memorable, brilliant and enjoyable day. Apart from missing Polar. Obviously.

Other lowlights: missing Heights, Feed The Rhino, While She Sleeps. Blue K2 - the pikiest drink ever. Bleeuurgh.

Highlights? Don Broco. Subsource. Burn The Fleet. Sailor Jerry, Cider at a couple of quid a pint. And Benji’s bouncing.

Need a lie down.

The ever-brilliant Polenta Shitake next.

More  tunes soon, Bwoooar.

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