Hevy Fest returns to its normal format this year at Port Lympne Animal Park in Kent after a problematic year saw the 2013 festival end in cancellation. Back with a monster line-up of punk and hardcore, including headline slots from both Finch and The Vandals, Hevy is ready to continue where it left off with the best of old and new bands from across the globe.
CHAS PALMER-WILLIAMS – 8/10
Ex-Lightyear frontman Chas Palmer-Williams makes his name as an upbeat acoustic solo artist nowadays with cleverly written amusing songs that are backed by his fun and eventful live shows. ‘Absolutely No Regrets’ and ‘Now You’ve Got The Midlands Maddest Man’ give the early arrivals at Hevy Fest something to playfully dance about to in the Punktastic tent before the carnage starts tomorrow. The Brighton singer assembles an air ska band on stage to accompany him for Lightyear track ‘A Pack Of Dogs’, and successfully leads a buoyant sing-a-long for old and new fans alike.
OXYGEN THIEF – 7/10
Barry Dolan has progressed his solo project Oxygen Thief into a full electric band as of late, but graces Hevy Fest in his old form – a folk punk brand of thrashy loud acoustic music. About as heavy as this genre can allow, the big man ferociously strums his guitar and pipes out his anthems that tackle the assumption that singer/songwriter music is for bland stories of heartbreak, with ‘Self-Righting Mechanism’ and a cover of ‘Paper Planes’ by MIA giving the crowd something to sing about. Fast, fun, strong tracks from the man whose stripped back for old times’ sake.
ROB LYNCH – 7/10
Main attraction for tonight sees Rob Lynch play his first UK show in a few months and he slides straight back into the rhythm with ‘Hawking’ and ‘Plans’ from his self-titled EP, but the festive ‘Stamford’ provides the laughs with an anecdote about a song-inspiring beating for offending a bunch of thugs about their Christmas jumpers. ‘My Friend And I’ stands as Lynch‘s top song for its catchy pop influences and earnest lyrics, and closes the added entertainment on a high; an acoustic evening may have caught many Hevy goers by surprise, but the dancing in the Punktastic tent tonight proves that it’s a roaring success.
APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE – 7/10
The main stage at Hevy Fest has been reserved for the melodic and punk bands for the most part, with London trio Apologies, I Have None having the pleasure of being the first to entertain the outside crowd. The band have taken the step from opening act to household name over the last couple of years with stints on the European festival circuit, and impressive songs ‘The 26’ and ‘Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust’ support their cause greatly. Their punctuated and aggressive lyrics compliment the punk rock melodies on songs like ‘Sat In Vicky Park’, and their live enthusiasm is enough to set them apart from other emerging bands in the scene.
INVSN – 3/10
On the surface, Swedish power-pop rockers INVSN may seem a ludicrous booking for Hevy Fest, but factor in that singer Dennis Lyxzén used to front a certain band called Refused and it starts to make more sense. Punk rock pedigrees aside, there isn’t enough animation or excitement throughout the whole set and it falls awkwardly out of place. ‘#61’ promises that “a storm is coming” but they hardly manage a spatter of rain, and Lyxzén‘s black line of make-up on his face looks ridiculous. A flaccid performance proves this is not the new beat.
THREE TRAPPED TIGERS – 5/10
Some instrumental bands prompt watchers to query why they don’t have a vocalist, but in the case of Three Trapped Tigers it’s difficult to imagine how they could fit one in. The London trio’s use of fast-paced electronics, synth and guitars gives very little time to relax as the music is so elaborate and complicated, but somehow compelling as the crowd gaze silently up to Matt Calvert on stage. However, the issue is longevity as the repetitive nature of the band eventually sets in and the mind wanders into the realisation of why dance acts recruit hype men for live shows. ‘Cramm’ stands as the set highlight, but that might be due to it appearing early in the set.
CRIME IN STEREO – 8/10
Yep, Crime In Stereo are officially back! The Long Island alternative punks finally return to the UK follow their short hiatus, although the size of the crowd is dismal for the occasion. Kristian Hallbert smartly leads the band through their angry melodic hits that the fans here lap up with nostalgic elation and fulfils expectation with an energetic approach to his stage presence. Their specially crafted live show falls somewhere between Brand New and The Movielife as they excel during top songs ‘Small Skeletal’ and ‘Bicycles For Afghanistan’ when they take Hevy on a very welcome trip down memory lane.
KVELERTAK – 9/10
A shirtless Erlend Hjelvik stands at the front of the stage with an owl covering his entire head as the hefty intro for ‘Åpenbaring’ opens the floodgates of the best headbanging riffs you’ll hear this year. Kvelertak pride themselves on their three-guitar strong whiplash-inducing music that has become the staple of the band, and songs like ‘Braune Brennan’ and ‘Ulvetid’ see them exploit their live quality with a rock ‘n’ roll party atmosphere. The solely Norwegian lyrics don’t deter the crowd one bit as they watch with awe and attempt to sing along to the fantastic ‘Mjød’ with high spirits but mixed, murmured results.
SILVERSTEIN – 8/10
The announcement of the post-hardcore Silverstein may have raised a few eyebrows for a predominantly punk oriented festival, but the Canadian band are sure to have predominantly featured on mix CDs of the Hevy Fest goers in their youth. Clearly noting that, 2002’s ‘Smashed To Pieces’ opens proceedings, but the crowd are extremely partial to the newer ‘Massachusetts’ and ‘A Better Place’, in which Shane Told still retains his trademark harsh/clean vocals after 15 years in the band. The ‘Discovering The Waterfront’ material was always going to receive the best feedback, with ‘Your Sword Versus My Dagger’ and ‘Smile In Your Sleep’ gaining huge sing-a-longs, before the ever present ‘Bleeds No More’ invokes the heaviest side of Silverstein for a combination that has made their short trip from Canada worth every second.
FINCH – 9/10
Returning to the UK for the first time since their 10th anniversary celebrations of debut release ‘What It Is To Burn’, Finch get straight back into routine and blast out ‘New Beginnings’ and first ever single ‘Letters To You’ in a perfectly tight manner, and even a fall by Randy Strohmeyer can’t stop the band in their tracks. The backbone of ‘WIITB’ continues throughout the set with stops along the way – ‘Ink’ always stansd as the strongest from sophomore effort ‘Say Hello To Sunshine’, and singer Nate Bacarlow throws everything into it before new song ‘Anywhere But Here’ gives promise for the upcoming ‘Back To Oblivion’. It’s clear the intro to ‘Stay With Me’ still sends shivers down the spine of the crowd here as they raise their voices to join Bacarlow for the first line, but nothing tops the roar for set and day closer ‘What It Is To Burn’, which gives Hevy Fest the release that it’s been craving all day. A great return to form for Finch, now let’s just hope they can continue their career as they promised all those years ago.
HEART IN HAND – 8/10
‘Almost There’ pushed Heart In Hand to the next level last year, and the size of the crowd shows that they’re getting some deserved recognition for it. The copiously tattooed Charlie Holmes is sporting a dashing moustache, but has the vocals of no gentleman. The frontman viciously rips through heavy tracks ‘Cuts And Bruises’ and ‘Almost There’, but the band are happy to emphasise the velocity with melodic sections for a rounded gentler sound that many bands playing the Punktastic stage this weekend don’t have. This band is getting bigger and better all the time and with new material en route, it’s sure to continue.
TRC – 8/10
TRC have been quiet for a few months following a big surge in support of self-proclaimed album of the year, ‘Nation’, but a tour with Deez Nuts has sent them into overdrive once again, with frontmen Chris Robson and Anthony Carroll looking seriously pumped up. The grime/hardcore hybrid use their arrogant attitude to their advantage and let the crowd follow by the example they set on stage. ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’ and ‘We Bring War’ send the tent into a frenzy, but the British music celebration ‘#TeamUK’ clearly stands as the fan favourite before ‘London’s Greatest Love Story’ and ‘Define Cocky’ close a rejuvenated set for the London boys.
BRUTALITY WILL PREVAIL – 9/10
Welsh hardcore troupe Brutality Will Prevail are creeping up festival bills, and the crowds are getting big enough for Louis Gauthier to demand circle pits and crowd surfing indefinitely throughout their sets. “Spin that shit!” echoes around the tent while bodies fly during ‘Pray For Cleansing’ and ‘Fallen Apart’ as the band put a concrete stamp on their latest era with the Breaking Point singer at the helm. BWP bring punk, metal and hardcore to the table and then elbow drop all genres through said furniture with a brutal streak, and everybody watching loves every second of it.
DEEZ NUTS – 8/10
Deez Nuts return to Hevy Fest to headline the second stage once again, and they’re just as angry and ridiculously entertaining this time round. The band split opinions with their arrogance and explicit lyrics but the crowd take it all with a pinch of salt, and the magic of ‘I Hustle Everyday’ is clear when they scream “Make money, money. Make money, money, money” at the top of their lungs. JJ Peters is calm and collected between songs, but ‘Your Mother Should Have Swallowed You’ and ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ let him unleash his inner demon and compliment the heaviness of the surrounding riffs. Big singles ‘Tonight We’re Gonna Party’ and ‘Band Of Brothers’ call for the tent to break into song and let the Australian band leave with one eye on the phone for that invite for next year.
COUNTING DAYS – 8/10
UK hardcore’s very own super group Counting Days features past or present members of TRC, Heights and Last Witness, and live up to their prestigious reputation easily. Despite being just one EP into their new project, the band clearly have the experience to deliver a tight live show and tracks off ‘The War Of The Wolf’ sound nurtured and fresh. ‘Sands Of Time’ and ‘Life & Death’ expose the melodic side of hardcore without branching into clean vocals, and a cover of Slipknot‘s pummeling ‘(sic)’ is the perfect way to get this crowd going so early in the afternoon. Hopefully this will turn into more than just a side venture and blossom into a solid future force.
THE MURDERBURGERS – 8/10
After an array of genres on the Main stage yesterday, Saturday at Hevy has a strict punk policy, with pop-punk, ska-punk and punk rock all on the menu. The hilariously named Scottish trio The Murderburgers are first up and they rattle through as many of their upbeat songs as possible, only briefly stopping to call each other dickheads. ‘All My Best Friends Are Dying’ and ‘It’s Over Already’ may not sound like much fun, but it’s impossible to keep a smile off your face during the set, and the closing 1-2 of ‘My Name Is Elbows’ and ‘Drifting Apart’ sets a very high bar for the day already.
MOOSE BLOOD – 8/10
Singer/guitarist Eddy Brewerton just about fights off all the wasps on stage to make it through his honeymoon set as Canterbury boys Moose Blood bring their relaxed emotional pop-punk to the fold. ‘Bukowski’s’ and ‘Evening Coffee’ allow for a subdued sing-a-long in the crowd as hangovers are leisurely cured and the band take the opportunity to play brand new single ‘Swim Down’ ahead of their debut full-length release. Closer ‘Boston’ verifies the calm, stress-free show as a top Saturday afternoon moment to sit down and forget your troubles.
ME VS. HERO – 6/10
Seriously, where have Me Vs. Hero been? The pop-punks were unavoidable four years ago around the release of their debut album, but after seemingly falling off the planet are back to plug their sophomore album, ‘I’m Completely Fine’. Sam Thompson blasts out the words to ‘Days That Shape Our Lives’ with conviction and instantly reminds the crowd of what the band can do before ‘Cashing Cheques’ rams it home. New single, ‘Things We Know’, doesn’t land as successfully as the old material, but still packs the hardcore drums and breakdowns in the Four Year Strong reminiscent way. A welcome return to the festival circuit for the Blackpool lads, now don’t go running off again.
CAPDOWN – 8/10
Jake Sims-Fielding confesses to the crowd that Capdown “aren’t really a band anymore”, which is about as true as it can be for a group to announce mid-show as the Milton Keynes ska punks only appear for limited festival appearances and hometown club shows every few years. They don’t seem rusty though as old favourites ‘Cousin Cleotis’ and ‘Strength In Numbers’ bring out the saxophone sunshine, but the one song everbody is waiting for ‘Ska Wars’ still holds a place in ska history. No old school political rants are promised, but ‘An A-Political Stand Of Reasons’ closes the show on a top note, and it won’t be long until Capdown are longed back to UK stages.
ANTI-FLAG – 8/10
“We are Anti-Flag from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” has become one of the most familiar introductions over the last 20 years of punk rock music, a timeline in which the band have kept consistently excellent throughout. Their set today spans their back catalogue from debut album track, ‘Fuck Police Brutality’, all the way to the modern day ‘Broken Bones’ and ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C. (Sheep In Shepherd’s Clothing)’, proving they can still produce the quality they did back then. Although it may not be as aggressive as it was in the 90s, it’s pure sing-a-long gold through and through, as told by the gang vocals at the Main stage for ‘Turncoat’ and ‘The Press Corpse’. Anti-Flag are truly the ultimate supporters of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rule and still have years left in them yet.
REEL BIG FISH – 9/10
It may have been almost 20 years since the mainstream glory days of Reel Big Fish, but the band has reigned supreme in the ska scene for the entirety of that time and can fill an hour long festival set with hit after hit after hit. ‘Everything Sucks’, ‘Trendy’ and ‘I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too’ is merely the beginning as Aaron Barrett dives head first into the songs that have moulded the band to what they are today. There are high knees and elbows during ‘Monkey Man’ and festival-harmed voices are still managing to squeeze out every line to ‘Where Have You Been?’, but the excitement peaks at the now classic ‘Suburban Rhythm’ and all of its alternative versions. The final triple threat of ‘Beer’, ‘Sell Out’ and ‘Take On Me’ is as big as Reel Big Fish, a band that have mastered the art of creating a proper party atmosphere.
THE VANDALS – 9/10
Hevy have pulled out a huge treat for the Saturday night headline slot in punk rock veterans The Vandals who play an extremely rare UK date, and with Derek Grant of Alkaline Trio on drums nonetheless. The laid back attitude has served the Californians well over the years and their funny, light hearted songs are legendary in the industry. ‘Café 405’ and ‘People That Are Going To Hell’ appear early in the set, and the band struggle through the unplanned ‘I’ve Got An Idea For A Movie’ as Anti-Flag asked them to play. Crowd requests are encouraged by the band, although they’re all declined and the fans get the fast-paced ‘Take It Back’ again. Dave Quackenbush is an effortless master with the microphone and his camaraderie with the rest of the band, which is as entertaining for the audience as it is for them. ‘Anarchy Burger (Hold The Government)’ and ‘My Girlfriend’s Dead’ show the depth in The Vandals‘ 34 years of music making, but it’s when guitarist Warren Fitzgerald swaps roles with Quackenbush for the Queen classic ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ finale that the real craziness begins. During the song, the 45-year-old climbs all over the stage, knocking over whatever equipment lays in his path, and takes his trousers off in the process. Despite an almost catastrophic wardrobe malfunction, the crowd are so insistent that the band return (while the amps are being unplugged) that they fit in one last hurrah of ‘I Have A Date’. A punk rock master class from the golden oldies tonight highlights that the band must return far more often and, of course, that Hevy must as well.
ACRES – 7/10
Emotional hardcore has risen in popularity through the recognition of bands like Being As An Ocean and Architects aiming to create ambience within their music, but still retaining the power. New kids on the block Acres are looking to make an impact with their strong, layered sound heard on ‘Peninsula’ that really highlights the technical ability of the South Coast boys. Richard Morgan starts ‘Overburden’ with his sharp, harsh vocals before the song becomes an experience of experimentation and moving vibes with a slice of aggression thrown in for good measure. A promising start for the band who are clearly having a ball throughout.
HEIGHTS – 6/10
This farewell tour has been going on for a while, hasn’t it? Not that anyone is complaining, as Heights are always good for a decent live show, however, they can’t quite reach their normal high level today. ‘Eleven Eyes’ opens the anticipated set to a collision of bodies in the centre, with plenty of crowd members accepting they’ll never see the band again and showing their gratitude. Alex Monty confidently took over the microphone following the departure of Thom Debaere (now of Counting Days and The Hell), but chooses to keep quiet between songs to save energy for his huge outburst during ‘The Lost And The Alone’, where he passionately tours the room as a final goodbye to Hevy forever.
PALM READER – 7/10
Woking boys Palm Reader are still riding off the success of 2013’s excellent ‘Bad Weather’, and so they should be. The hardcore band chose their name during Hevy back in 2011 so hold the festival close to their heart, and repay the favour by giving it everything that they’ve got today. ‘Uncomfortably Lucid’ is loud, fast and the perfect drinking circle pit song if you’ve ever heard one, and frontman Josh Mckeown‘s witty quips with the crowd between songs is a treat, especially their playful digs at friends Dead Harts who are playing at the same time. ‘Smack Hound’ receives a huge cheer before everybody gets into position for the carnage that ensues. On you go, Palm Reader.
THE HELL – 8/10
Dividing audiences more than something less clichéd than Marmite, The Hell (who wear sunglasses and bandanas over their faces to conceal their identities) are crude, unnecessarily exaggerated and today, they’re seriously fun. Everyone in the pit is getting hit with inflatable hammers during ‘Bangers & Mosh’ and frontmen Nails and Nice Guy combine brilliantly for ‘These Butters Bitches (You’re Fucking Butters)’ and ‘I’ve Never Seen A Jackal On The 142’. New favourite ‘Everybody Dies’ serves as the perfect goodbye. Embrace The Hell and you’ll find it’s more fun than you could imagine, you dick.
Written by Michael Heath (@MikeBeef)
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.