Saturday, 4 August 2012

Small wonder – Burnout Festival

Burnout Festival*****
The George Andover

July 27th-29th 2012

Right, let’s get the scale thing out of the way first. The George is no Hammersmith Odeon. Or Knebworth Park. It has no portaloos. No asian noodle stalls. No fairground. No mud. It does have a fireplace though. And is about the size of Katie Price’s walk in wardrobe.

This is no ‘normal’ festival. And thank the lord for that.

Nearly 30 bands over a weekend in the bucolic surroundings of sleepy market town of Andover. It’s in Hampshire apparently.

The George...Venue of leg ends
Small in scale though it might be, it makes up for it in the grand scale of ambition and vision. And pretty much down to the cojones of one extraordinary bloke. Dom Patience is the Michael Eavis of the underground and alt scene. And has curated one of the most staggeringly exciting casseroles of noiseniks, ne’erdowells and new talent imaginable.

Before I kick off, a brief confession: I didn’t get to see all the bands. There, I said it. What a pussy. But my advancing years, over-burdened liver and need for the odd afternoon nap meant that, sadly, some of the acts would go unseen.

So, many apologies to the acts I didn’t get to haul my arse in front of, it really is no sleight or snub, just a failing, aging body and a pitiful withering of stamina. I can’t even blame any clashes, as the military-like precision of the organisation meant that there were no overlaps between the main stage and the acoustic stage.


Anyway, the scene is set. The cider poured. The earplugs inserted. Let’s do this.

First up are Treasures*****
A fairly generic sounding tuneful bunch. Nothing too challenging as a starter. Prawn cocktail rather than snail porridge. Not dissimilar to Futures or Natives and even imbued with traces of Canterbury. There are bucketloads of tidy, competent bands like this lot and, to be honest, they’ve got their work cut out to compete with some of the already more established bands cluttering up the genre. They weren’t helped by technical difficulties either, but an SG was rushed to the accident scene to save the day, and, ironically probably helped beef up the sound compared to the omnipresent Telecaster-tinged sounds. A good start though. And a bloody good drummer.

Next up were Natives***** a really tidy, slick set of big tunes, exuberance and energy. Not going to set the world on fire but continued the good work of the recent tour with Futures and Don Broco. It’ll be really interesting to see how they develop and create a sustainable difference in a crowded niche. A really decent bacon sandwich.

Starters and sarnies consumed. Time for some red meat. And Burn The Fleet ***** offer the perfect sizzling sirloin with all the trimmings. Andrew Convey, resplendent in hideous Hawaiian shirt leads from the front, gurning, grimacing and growling through a mesmerising and brilliant set. The guys really look as though they’re having fun and it’s infectious; the packed pit shaking their collective wobbly bits and joining in with hearty sing-a-longs. By the time the anthemic Handfuls of Sand brings the tragically short set to a close there’s not a brow without a bead of lager-infused sweat or a face without a giddy smile. Yummy stuff.

Mallory Knox***** are next on the menu and judging by the outstanding single Death Rattle, their sound has filled out, been polished and perfected (thanks in no small way to the Jesus-like genius of Mr Daniel Lancaster’s knob twiddling and guidance) and they are emerging as a fully developed masters of the pop rock alt vibe.

Mikey Chapman, their beguiling and affable front man looks and sounds the part and ably supported by great harmonies, cracking tunes and a big, ballsy sound. Definitely more towards haute cuisine. A really decent fillet steak.

The crowd are certainly enjoying the fare and are gorging themselves in the hot kitchen and there’s a definite buzz building before the mighty Bedfordshire Brocan army invades the room.

By now the bijou venue is rammed to the rafters and salivating in drooly anticipation for tonight’s main course. The present darlings of the britrock scene Don Broco***** stride on stage and own it. And I mean totally own it.

There’s a swagger and a confidence about these boys that lights up the place. It appears to be so far from arrogance though. Thankfully. Rob Damiani makes every bloke in the crowds’ dicks shrink and wither like a salted slug. He’s impossibly cool, hench, good looking and probably hung like a hoover. But the collective jealousy is fashioned into a joyous adulation. There can be no finer feel-good band in the land at the moment and their tight, catchy, joyful blend of heaviness, harmony and technical excellence puts them so far ahead of the chasing pack that they genuinely are in a class of their own.

The new tunes sound huge and if the rest of the highly anticipated Priorities album lives up to the title track, Actors and Fancy Dress, then it will surely become album of the year. Their set is perfectly balanced and it’s a genuine pleasure to witness a full headline set rather than the standard support slot half an hour.

There are walls of death, push ups in the pit and general mayhem as everyone gets involved raising the already sweltering temperature and oozing out more sweat than Gary Glitter in a wendy house.

These lads work their toned arses off (#nohomo) and all the toilet venues and dingy cellars will soon be a thing of the past. They are destined for hugeness and tonight that’s exactly what they were. Huge. Fucking huge.

I just hope Rob’s actually got a dick like a sardine.


I’ve got to admit, I do struggle with the ongoing obsession with catergorising or pigeonholing bands down to micro genres. The needless clamour for creating complex phylums, species and genuses for music is as pointless as it is fucking annoying. Whether something is hardcore, post rock hardcore, post hardcore, metalcore or rotten fucking applecore is just so irrelevant. If it’s good, it’s good.

So, with that in mind, if you’re one of those nerdy, anal, sad bellends who gets hung up on the tribal taxonomy, then I’m sorry for offending your compulsions when I try and describe the bands on what is ostensibly a heavy Saturday.

I’ve also got to say, despite loving the heavier side of things from time to time (DEP, Architects, KSE and Parkway Drive being particular faves), dirty metallic stuff is not really totally my thing. So today was potentially not going to be too comfortable.

Add in the mutha of all hangovers and it was potentially going to hurt. Undeterred, I finally haul my rear end out of bed and dive into Death of An Artist ***** As I said, I’m not one for genres, but I suppose it’s relatively safe to call this lot metalcore. A classic (if not surely passing its sell by date) combo of clean vox and growly, grizzly shouty stuff accompanied by big riffs, spectacular breakdowns and blast beats. That said, they are pretty good at what they do. And an energetic and surprisingly tasty looking pit broke out for the last song. There was even a very heavily inked diminutive guest screamer for one song who I’m sure I’m supposed to know which other band he’s from. But I didn’t. Sorry. A pretty good start to the day though.

As the beer sweats and general queeziness ramped up, I have to admit, I retired to the acoustic stage for a wee while. I propped myself in the corner with restorative boozy tinctures and was treated to a mixed bag of strummers, singers and, well, non-singers.

The main non-singer culprit being Ben Mills from The Smoking Hearts who along with guitarist Paul Barrow formed Cynics Don't Build Pyramids *****manfully rambled their way through a chaotic set including a Bronx cover, forgotten lyrics and probably about 2 of the 2,000 notes actually hit by Mills. Painful at times but gameful stuff. (As an aside I saw a slice of the Smoking Hearts***** later when Mills, much more comfortable with hardcore screaming than louche melodic crooning actually took his mic into the alley outside the main room to scream his spleen out to the surprised smokers and suppers enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon).

In contrast, Mark Betteridge *****(From Death Of An Artist) seemed much more comfortable acoustically, and although I didn’t manage to catch the whole set, his more melodic and plaintive sounds seemed to go down as well as the chilled mid-afternoon beverages. Nice.

A pillar. And Mike Foster.
Next up in the acoustic sanctuary is Mike Foster***** a larger than life, fun-filled cheeky chappy who, by his own admission, is too pissed to remember his set list and many songs. No matter, he cruises through half an hour of light-hearted crowd participatory fun and adds a sea of smiles to a good sized crowd’s collective fizogs. Especially his pointed and hilarious piss-take of the omnipresent Frank Turner. And he even did a Dopamine cover (whatever happened to them?)

It was becoming more and more apparent that I wasn’t going to get involved in a lot of the heavier goings on in the main room but I did regularly pop in to check on the noisy bastards and caught slices of who I think was Agitator, Heart in Hand and Hang The Bastard. All energetic, filthy noise and bloody loud chest-thumping stuff. But, to be fair it’d be disingenuous to dole out reviews as my stays in the bowels of the hadean pit were fleeting and a bit like ‘spotting’ through a vinyl longplayer (ask your dad kids).

And now comes the shocking bit. I’d been looking forward to seeing TRC as one of the potential highlights of the weekend. But I bloody missed them. Due to a cock up on my time planning and a desire to stuff my face with Lamb Hariali (prepared perfectly at the wonderful Shahi Raj***** and washed down with lashings of Mateus Rosé – all class!). A complete shambles. Missing TRC – not the curry, clearly.

So, crest fallen and full of lamb and fizzy 70s Portugese wine I plonked myself in front of a cut-down Evarose***1/2** in the acoustic room. And I have to say, the spacey, chilled vibe appealed to me much more than their normal Paramore-esque pap punk. Dannika Webber can really sing and the set was a every bit as much of a surprise as it was a triumph.

So, still pissed off at missing TRC I steeled myself for the last act of the day. Localish metalcore darlings Bury Tomorrow*****

And I was blown away. As I say, the whole metalcore formula does little for me, but this lot have got it nutted. At the core of their success is the thing that many bands forget – tunes. They’ve got IKEA shopping bags stuffed full of them. 

Yes, there’s a screamer, but Daniel Winter-Bates is an engaging, aggressive, and charisma-steeped screamer (who, since cutting his Bullet for My Valentine chip pan grease-soaked locks looks like Brad Bloody Pitt) and leads his fierce orchestra through a powerful set including the two massive crowd pleasers Royal Blood, and Lionheart dovetailed with older stuff and some new top tunes like An Honourable Reign from the excellent recent album The Union Of Crowns. Impressive stuff.

Let’s not talk about the after party….


Shouldn’t have gone to the after party. Uuuurghhhh.

Anyway, restored by a fine Sunday lunch and a bottle of Chianti, time to get involved in the last day of what was rapidly becoming one of my favourite festivals ever.

Daylight Fireworks***1/2** were my first selection from the pick and mix and were pretty sweet. The trio produced a set built on an indie skeleton with impressively buff rock flesh on its bones. Decent tunes, performed with verve and punch and even swapping between bass and guitar. A darned fine start to the day.

Next were Coastlines**1/2*** and they served up a pleasant enough buffet of harmony-drenched pop rock hewn from the same base stone as Canterbury, Natives, Futures et al. Nothing startlingly original but genuinely well played and some great melodies. Too many Telecasters though (personal gripe, but there don’t seem to be enough double coiled planks being spanked these days, the Telecaster with it’s uglier than Simon Cowell’s arsehole headstock is taking over the world. Nyah ha ha.)

Complete change of pace and vibe next. Like a flaming rusty bucket of meths and absinthe spiked with Quaaludes being served at a Chateau Margaux wine tasting, hunk rockers Real Adventures***** are next. And the ragamuffins only go and blow the bloody doors off. Like pissing on a high voltage electric fence or using jump leads on your nob, this band of miscreants wake up the crowd on a sedate Hampshire Sunday afternoon with a full-on blitzkrieg assault of every orifice. 

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this lot several times, but this afternoon, they reach a new level. The electrocuted, meths/absinthe/Quaalude intoxicated crowd throw themselves about with singer Lewis Reynolds in the rusty bucket alongside them even forming the weekend’s first human pyramid. On a sodding Sunday afternoon. Brilliant, raw, indigestion-giving splendidness.

Another act I’d really been looking forward to seeing were Yearbook***** After hearing a fair smattering of their oeuvre on Alex Baker’s magnificent unsigned show on Kerrang! Radio, I was desperate to hear more stuff and to see if they had the live chop I hoped they had.

And I wasn’t disappointed. A crackling, searing, surreal set seduced, assaulted, violated, intrigued and dumfounded the packed room. Thankfully impossible to categorise, they bestride chasms between Weezer, Manchester Orchestra, Tool, Frank Zappa and leak out traces of Mars Volta and Reuben with mathy passages Dillinger would be proud of. One of the absolute highlights of the weekend. Geeky, emotive genius.

In between all the pop 'n' roll, I headed back to the acoustic stage for a wee break to catch a young, inked girl and an acoustic guitar player*****. I'm fed up I didn't catch her/their name. But they were blinding The wee girl's voice was absolutely huge. They re-appeared later in the evening to play the same set again and with equal brilliance. I'd love to know who she/they were/was as I was blown away. (I've just found out they're called Checking Pulse. Wahey!)

On the home straight now. Welsh wunderkinds Straight Lines***1/2** are next to entertain. And they serve up a table groaning with tuneful meatiness. Tom Jenkins’s original and brilliant voice soars over a well-executed and big-boned backdrop. They remind me a little of an early Lost Prophets if they’d had a real singer instead of a vain, image obsessed twat. Good stuff all round.

I sadly missed Sharks. Italian food and a delicious Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc did for them. But I was back to catch the lion’s share of Canterbury***1/2**And, despite a worry that they were going to meld seamlessly into the pop rock flavours and essences of the others of similar vibe (Nativefuturetreasurecoastlines) I was pleasantly surprised at the gap between them and the others. Seriously slick, tuneful but meaty pop-flavoured rock delivered with an adroitness Coldplay would be proud of. Far more energetic than on record, I’ll definitely give them another go as soon as poss. Not world lighting, more of a substantial roaring campfire. With sausages.

To be honest, my age and Olympian booze consumption wads getting to me now and crisp sheets were beginning to beckon me in a whisper at the back of my music-filled bonce. But I couldn’t bow out until I’d seen one of my very favourite live bands on the planet. The Xcerts****1/2*

Murray (The bastard by product of a petri-dish experiment involving Sam from Architects, Tom Petty, Cobain, A Jacamo shirt and an Afghan hound) Macleod leads on his road warriors to a rapturous welcome and drops straight into Do You Feel Safe. And kills it. As always.

Ok, I’m biased, but quite why this trio aren’t more widely successful and huge is beyond me. Their sound is totally original, fusing indie, grunge, pop and proper stand up rock and roll. And live they produce such a massive, arse-wobbling din spiked with beautiful soft cadenzas and fragile, plaintive gorgeouseness. The set had a tooth removed tonight due to Macleod’s trademark Marshall cab having a minor breakdown (replaced by a stonking sounding Blackstar cab) but the overall bite was as classy and fulfilling as ever.

And it wasn’t going to be topped by Futures.

So the allure of the crisp sheets won out and via a minor diversion to see the delicious and stunning Portia Conn***** deliver a delicious and stunning set in the acoustic room I headed back to my hotel. Emotionally and physically spent.

Before I piss off, I’ve got to say Dom Patience deserves the biggest of all big ups. Along with his brilliant team of helpers, aides, security guys and gals and staff at The George, he has served up three of the most incredible days I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with. His vision, drive and commitment to emerging British musical talent is as laudable as it is impressive. Despite missing too many bands and consuming more booze than is scientifically possible I struggling to think of a better weekend I’ve ever had.

So he’d better fucking do it again next year. Genius stuff. Genius bloke.

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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