Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Takedown, deeper and down. Review of Takedown Festival 2013

Takedown 2013 *****

IDivide, Hey Vanity, Marmozets, Subsource, Max Raptor, Affiance, Closure In Moscow, The Algorithm, Sonic Boom Six, Burn The Fleet, Arcane Roots, Don Broco and more

Southampton University 11th May 2013

After last year's tour de force, Takedown 2013 has a lot to live up to. But today's line up looks, if anything, even stronger than last year, so the signs are good.

Anyway, wristband on, cider in hand, let's do this.

I Divide ***1/2**

First up Exeter boys I Divide on the Big Deal stage. Well, in the SU bar really. And, bizarrely with the footie on the telly throughout the set. A scary and daunting slot to be first up on such a huge day, but the lads produce a crackling set of tuneful alt rock to kick things off with aplomb.

Front man Tom Kavanagh is a lively ringmaster with a big voice and he leads his circusmen from the front with real energy throughout. It's easy to stick them in the same box file as Mallory Knox, WATO and even Hey Vanity, and similarly (and mercifully) there's a decent amount of difference between them and the many other me-too post-hardcore, alt pop/rock bands up and down the land. And on today's performance and in front of a decent sized and enthusiastic crowd, they look destined for bigger things. 

Hey Vanity ***1/2**

A wander over to the Smalltown Records stage next, stuck uncomfortably in a foyer/corridor area wedged between another bar and a garden area. And well worth the wander. Essex lads Hey Vanity are making some real traction in the biz at the moment with their intelligent, Thrice-like, downtuned melodic and sophisticated blend of melody and meat.

There's a good sized gathering considering the earliness of their slot and they're rewarded with a slick, strong and stylish set. Having recently come off tour with Don Broco and Mallory Knox, Hey Vanity have garnered a decent amount of recognition and airplay, and with songs like Wading Through Dreams and the extremely classy Bleed, Breathe, Grow it won't be too long before they step up and take the bigger headline slots themselves. 

Slightly surprised they didn't do their brilliant cover of Outkast's Hey Ya (Seems like perfect festival fare), but all-in-all a top performance from a seriously top young band.

Affiance *****

Into the gloom of the 'second main stage' Cube next for some Metalcore from Ohio. Metalcore doesn't always tickle my bits, saying that, when it's done well at the hands of KSE et al, it can be magnificent, challenging and even moving. This afternoon however, Affiance are only some of the above. Plagued by technical problems before they even start, you can't help but feel deep sympathy for Dennis Tvrdik and his Ohian noiseniks as they have their set cut short having schlepped all the across the pond. What they do produce though is strong enough to get the crowd involved and Tvrdik's voice is right up there at the top table of metalcore crooners. 

Max Raptor *****

Time for the first trip of the day to the main Rocksound Stage for outré, fucked-up punk bombers Max Raptor. Led by chief rebel rouser Wil Ray, the midlanders tear the walls down and instigate the day's first serious crowd movement. 

Their intelligent, original and cock-eyed sardonic punky vibe mixes up heavy chugs, massive sing-a-longs, witty and clever lyricism, bile, aggression, humour, smiles and semtex. This is heady, brilliant stuff and the crowd glug it down greedily. Favourites like The King is Dead and the ever-wonderful Patron Saint (of Nothing) are slotted into a mesmerising set spiced up with new material kicking off pits, mass gang vocals and probably the odd leaky bladder.

Absolutely loved it. 

Marmozets *****
Staying on the main stage, next up are the remarkable Marmozets. All math, mayhem and massive noise. While it's often easy (and lazy) to file Marmozets alongside Rolo Tomassi, (mainly due to the fact that a hugely noisy and often scary but diminutive female fronts both), there is no one truly like these northern noise machines. 

Their crazy time signatures, huge riffs, technical arpeggios and noodlings all provide a delicious sauce with all the trimmings for the staggering power and charisma of Becca Mackintyre (whose voice has never sounded better) to be plonked on top like some 3 Michelin Starred molecular gastronomic mouth fuck.

There are pure hints of the mighty DEP, but the overall dish is an original melange of quirk, dissonance, heat, power and contrast. Delicious and challenging.

Oh, and there was even a dude in a wheelchair in the middle of the circle pit. All round mouthwatering madness.

The Algorithm 

Can't give any stars. Not because they were shite. Far from it. It's an old rant, but I just don't get this lot live. It's a French dude on Ebay or checking his Facebook on a laptop and a brilliant drummer. The music is a dot-for-dot-quantised-programmed-spliced & diced-insanely clever spiky, technical, heavy, wobby jiz bomb. BUT it's not live. While Remy would contest that he's doing something valuable on stage; he's not. He tweaks a few buttons, smiles like a kid on a Sunshine coach on the way to Southend and that's it. He might as well just press play and have a fag and a cuppa. 

The crowd are strangely subdued this afternoon too, which doesn't help matters. The only real sanity is the incredible stickmanship of Mike Maylan (Monuments) who impeccably and hypnotically keeps up with the MacBook Pro's digital, dubby, djenty, mathy bleepy ridiculously complex midi burps.

Nah. Not live. Brilliant, brilliant record though.

Subsource *****

Back over in the SU bar, this is happening. You know those films that were made back in the eighties (Things like the terrible Streets of Fire) portraying the future as a dark, post apocalyptic, unruly, choatic place? That.

Picture an unholy modded industrial Magimix or fucked-up steampunk cement mixer full of barbed wire, shrapnel and boiling fluorescent robotic rats piss. Throw in chunks of metal, wobs, subs, brown notes, riffs, soaring vocals, Slipknot's ball sack sweat, a crazy futuristic stand up bass that looks as though it's been fashioned out of timbers from the Mary Rose, your nan's kitchen chair and Mad Max's hatchback and you're getting close to whats occurring.

This is the most ludicrous but delicious post nuclear cocktail. Thrilling musicianship, sphincter-prolapsing beats and Shikariesque subsonic whale farts, venom, energy, grit and raw power. Speechless. Breathless. Peerless.

Arcane  Roots *****

Main stage. Pretty full room. Lights down. Loads of the other bands and industry bods looking on. 'That' hum. Anticipation. 

Gulp. From the very moment Mssrs Groves, Burton and Atkins take to the stage, the game has changed. What is happening here is something very, very special. 

World class is obviously an over-used football pundit and chav on the bus cliché. But on a Saturday afternoon, in a sweaty super-sized school hall three normal looking blokes from Kingston are quite simply that. World bloody class.

Opening with the stunning Energy Is Never Lost Just Redirected from their recently released masterpiece Blood & Chemistry this is music (and a performance) from another world. The predominantly young crowd are clearly stunned as the set gathers pace and bombast. 

Groves' incredible and almost soprano voice is on top form as they rip faces off with a ferocious and fiery set taking in the joyous You Are and ferocious Million Dollar Que$tion from the stunning mini album Left Fire interspersed with a cleverly curated heavier festival selection from the new album including the sublime Sacred Shapes, The Rifftacular Resolve and the gut-punching, arse-kicking firepower of Second Breath.

Groves cajoles the crowd which gradually gets more and more involved and a decent sized and transfixed pit loses its shit and inhibitions as the glorious set develops.

There's genuine sophistication in Arcane Roots' music. But it's never self important or indulgent. While there are complex, choppy time signature mash ups and spectacular, bewildering riffs, runs and cadenzas, there's fantastic song craft on display. Perfectly balanced melody juxtaposed with exquisitely placed aggressive barks and stresses. Huge hooks. Delicious harmony and counterpoint. It is pretty close to genius. No, fuck it, it is genius. And even the very best of today's other bands are given a lesson by these magnificent maestros.

As I say world bloody class.

BurnThe Fleet *****

One of rock's unlikeliest but most likeable frontmen is the next ringmaster on the long and thin Southampton Music Stage. 

Andrew Convey leads out local boys Burn The Fleet for the very last time in its present incarnation. A genuinely sad moment for British Rock, but spiced and tempered with the anticipation of what the next chapter is going to hold for this talented bunch. 

A vast throng has crammed itself into the 50's vintage-styled bar area to give these salty old bollocks a fitting send off. And as send offs go, this one goes off.

The music is almost incidental. There's so much love in the room. Every word is sung back like shanties in the Saloon bar in The Old Sailor's Dong. Huge choruses, rousing refrains, pile ups, pits, mosh and mayhem. Even Bobby D from Don Broco gets seriously involved in the melee, throwing himself around like a hyperactive toddler after mainlining Gatorade spiked with meth and dutifully singing along.

By the time the majestic and anthemic Handfuls Of Sand comes to an end, there isn't a dry eye or a moist throat in the room. It's a genuine privilege to have been lucky enough to have had my heart stolen by Barnacle Bill and his band on the many occasions I've seen them live. And this evening's emotional adieu will go down as something extra special.

If the new venture/incarnation is only a fraction as good as BTF have been, then the world's in for more delicious treats.


Before I wind down with the last two acts, I just wanted to give a hearty thumbs up to the whole team behind Takedown. A truly brilliant day, with precision organisation, vision and ambition. Judging by the acres of smiling faces and general love vibe around the place, I don't think I'm alone in saying this is one of the very best 'pop up' festivals out there. Along with Burnout, it really is a joyful class apart. Ok, there were some 'orrible mean spirited bastards who apparently jacked some phones, but that apart, Takedown has been a total triumph.

On such a busy day, it's inevitable that you're going to miss some acts because of clashes, so today's casualties for me included WBTBWB, Palm Reader, Natives, Dance Gavin Dance, JCQ, Hacktivist and TesseracT. Which was a real shame, but there'll be other days.

Ok, this is where I fess up. I didn't get to see full sets from Mallory Knox, WATO, WSS or The Blackout. Not because I didn't fancy it. Or I think they stink. Nothing could be further from the truth. And the bits I did catch were,as expected of the highest order. Nope, the truth is, I peaked too early and by the time all of the above were on, I needed a bit of a chill. And a G&T. And a lie down. Ok, I admit it, I'd overdone it. Shocking confession. But being of a certain age, a whole day of drinking and moshing (well as much as bumbling around energetically(ish) clutching a cider, Jager or Sailor Jerrys counts as moshing) has well and truly taken its toll. So I slid back to the SU bar for Sonic Boom Six.

Sonic Boom Six *****

All froth and fun. Even the 'aggressive' bits. There's a poppiness and a radio-friendliness to Laila, Barney et al that seems to go down smoothly with the enthusiastic mob who are hiding from the main stages late into the evening. 

Laila K is in sprightly form as she flits around, all sex, sass and shimmy leading the ska/rock/dub/whatever mash up. I'm never sure whether we're meant to take SB6 seriously. Far from a novelty act, they mix up genres and styles for fun. Sometimes to brilliant effect. Other times a bit, well, meh. But I don't know where they truly sit. Perfect for festivals or support fluffers, I'm not sure they've got quite enough armoury for bigger, headline sets. 

However, there's nothing meh about tonight's performance. Dancing. Grinning. Skanking. Moshing. More drinking. Enjoying.

Don Broco *****

Right we're getting towards the top of the bill. In fact, arguably the Beds boys should have been at the very top, but a packed out sweat bunker of a main stage doesn't really give a toss about what order things are served up in. 

Anyway, the present dahlinks of the British Rock scene fresh off the back of their triumphant two part Priorities headline tour (Underworld review here> KOKO review here>) are here to entertain. And that, my friends, is exactly what they do. And some.

From the familiar opener Priorities to the frantic set closer Fancy Dress, it doesn't stop. The jam-packed crowd are taken on a thrilling and grin-packed adventure ride, expertly guided by Rob Damiani, the ridiculously hench and knicker-fizzing master of ceremonies.

The set is rammed full of sing-a-longability with the adoring crowd beating Bobby to just about every note and word. The Whole Truth, Hold On, Yeah Man, Dreamboy and Beautiful Morning (complete with now standard but never anything less than thrilling segue/drop into Thug Workout) and Actors are all set to stun. Theres no fucking about. Just party time. It's all slick and polished but still full of charm, personality and honesty. Shoulder riding, push ups, pyramids and good old fashioned dancing. You 'eard.

Ok, they're not on the same sophisticated or grown-up level that Arcane Roots are on, but I challenge anyone in the world whether they're a doom metaller, stepper, nihilistic death core addict, prog shoe gazer or a joyless self-loathing indie twat not to tap a foot, nod a head or bust out a ridiculous grin as these boys ply their trade.

It's glorious, celebratory, intelligent, inclusive good time rock and roll. And tonight Matthew,  I fucking love it. 

Festivals can't and don't get much better than this. The odd thieving bastard notwithstanding, Takedown 2013 has been an absolute triumph. 

A brilliantly arranged, curated and organised grin fest from the moment the doors opened til the end of the punishing UPRAWR after party with Alex Baker and Tek-One delivering the happy finish everyone deserved (although the first DJ was just a self-indulgent dance-mixed-up joyless bellend who didn't play a single tune just wobs, bleeps, Protools generated midi farts and mash ups that none of the assembled rock crowd gave a shit about. Ok, over it now. Still a bellend though.)

The breadth and depth of talent from across a wide range of alt/underground/punk/metalcore and just about any other core you could mention, on show today is simply breathtaking and a wonderful indicator of just how healthy real live music is in the UK.

Amazing day. Amazing people. Amazing bands. Amazing hangover. Can't wait for next year.

Special thanks to Dwoooarf for helping out with the photos. Cheers mate.

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