Spread across four different stages in various different venues in the city of Nottingham, Hit The Deck Festival is a great warm-up to the Summer festival season ahead with a day full of some of today’s biggest and best alternative artists. With headliners like Underoath, Cancer Bats and Young Guns, 2011’s Hit The Deck definitely has the right elements for a brilliant day out. Here’s our take on what is so far one of the best days of rock music the year’s had to offer:
The biggest stage of the festival, with a balcony and a few raised areas at the side, meaning you can always see the band at a height. A nice big, spacious and breathable room, perfect for huge pits and crowd participation. In between the acts, they brought on the Monster girls to give out free cans of the drink to the crowd.
WE ARE FICTION – 7/10
In most festivals, the first band on the slot are in a challenging position. They’re usually greeted with a few die-hard fans or people standing motionless, waiting for the band after them. We Are Fiction have break this trend, and opened up Hit The Deck like a fat man opens a cookie jar. Sounding like Every Time I Die, their heavy sound and energetic rhythms from songs like ‘This Life We Lead’ get the early crowd moving, and even manage to start a pit. They have a sense of humour too, playing out ‘bi-winning’ quotes from the infamous Charlie Sheen before playing ser closer, ‘Sail On’.
TOMORROW BRINGS GIANTS – 8/10
Tomorrow Brings Giants invade the stage like a set of Storm Troopers, with lead singer Alex Baker marching up and down the stage like a pissed off drill sergeant. TBG are one of the more talented bands of the day, with guitarists Tommy Noble and Kevin Hingley playing insanely complex solos at a break-neck speed. It’s when they bring out ‘One Hundred Years From Now’ that really shows the hardcore vibe of what Hit The Deck should bring. Their set drags a little in the middle, but they bring it back by ending on ‘A Simple Word’, a song filled with so much venomous lyrics and destructive riffs, it creates a strong (and loud) note to finish on.
SUMMERLIN – 6/10
Summerlin are the third band to perform on the main stage, bringing a different style from the previous two hardcore bands, and leaning towards a pop-punk vibe. Frontman Drew Lawson provides the energy on stage, keeping the crowd involved by jumping down to the barrier holding back the front row. Whilst songs such as ‘I Have A Future And You’re Not In It’ gain an excited response from the crowd, Summerlin‘s set was not without its problems. Technical difficulties resulted in a loss of momentum between songs, with one microphone having to be fixed between songs causing some off-key harmonies.
HYRO DA HERO – 10/10
Before he even takes the stage, there is a sea of glow-sticks and striped sunglasses, as Hyro Da Hero enters to an intro where the bass is so heavy you can feel it in your lungs. He almost literally owns the crowd, with them waving to the beat and chanting along, and is a refreshing break from the metal of today and when his backing band comes he really comes to life. Diving into ‘Sleeping Giants’ and sounding a lot like Rage Against The Machine, it’s only the second song of the set and Hyro is arguably the best act of the day so far. When The Blackout‘s Sean Smith joins him onstage for ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’, the crowd goes insane. Just imagine what his headline sets are like.
EXIT TEN – 6/10
Taking a small risk, Exit Ten start proceedings off with a string of new material. Although the songs boast some heavy guitar rhythms, the melodic singing of frontman Ryan Redman fails to get much of the crowd involved. This is undoubtedly down to the unfamiliarity of the songs, as the crowd reaction completely flips when ‘Resume/Ignore’ begins, and the crowd soon bursts into life. The second half of the set is as if a different band has come onstage, and the crowd’s new found energy seems to bring more confidence into the band. The fans finally have songs that they know and can enjoy, with set closer ‘Technically Alive’ boasts a large circle pit and the lyrics being sung almost as loud as the band. A relieving end to a set with an uncharacteristically quiet start.
DEAF HAVANA – 7/10
Deaf Havana were greeted by a sea of clapping fans in a main room that had not seen this number of people so far today. This band quickly kick things off with ‘Harmonics’, which immediately causes two circle pits to explode open on the main floor, with clapping and sing alongs from the crowd on both floors to boot. Though the now screamless adaptations of songs are necessary with the loss of Ryan Mellor, the end is far from sight if renditions of ‘Friends Like These’ are anything to go by, with an only heightened response with a guest appearance from Young Guns singer Gustav Wood. Finishing with ‘Nicotine And Alcohol Saved My Life’, the entire room sings the final verse for the band, creating a brilliant end.
WE ARE THE OCEAN – 9/10
Essex quintet We Are The Ocean storm onto the main stage, starting as they mean to go on with frontman Dan Brown bellowing commands at the crowd who happily obey. The floor erupts as the set opens with ‘These Days I Have Nothing’, to which Dan maintains a dominating stage presence by tearing around the stage and leaping at the crowd like a caged animal. ‘Confessions’ slows the pace down a little, with the crowd trying their best to overpower singer Liam Cromby with their own rendition of the lyrics. Closer ‘Nothing Good Has Happened Yet’ picks things back up again, with the chilling introduction sending a shiver through the crowd before the screaming sends everyone into one final overdrive.
THE BLACKOUT – 9/10
Appearing 10 minutes later than scheduled, sub-headliners The Blackout arrive to a great reaction from the before kicking straight into ‘Ambition Is Critical’, getting the entire floor jumping. Sean Smith‘s screams throughout sound constantly perfect, even when wrestling the microphone from the front row of the crowd. Smith‘s and co-vocalist Gavin Butler‘s trademark move of swinging the microphones around the stage keeps focus on them at all times, even during instrumental moments. Even the more mellow songs such as ‘It’s High Tide Baby!’, and newbies like ‘Hope (Scream It Out Loud)’ go down well, with the crowd almost drowning out the vocalists. Along with their typical comedic banter between songs, the inclusion of classic songs like ‘I’m A Riot? You’re A Fucking Riot!’, a guest appearance from Hyro Da Hero for ‘Higher & Higher’ and the crowd crouching and jumping up at Smith‘s command to set closer ‘Save Ourselves (The Warning)’, the band set the bar high for the headliners to follow.
UNDEROATH – 6/10
Main festival headliners Underoath storm on stage and immediately get the whole crowd moving. Reactions seem to fluctuate throughout their set, with some songs gaining enthusiastic responses such as ‘It’s A Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door’, getting whole crowd singing the lyrics loud enough to threaten overpowering the band, which in contrast to newer offerings like ‘In Division’ that has quite limited crowd interaction. The set structure didn’t play in their favour either, as often the band would be opt for something more mellow, such as ‘Paper Lungs’, before backing this with a faster track, constantly shifting momentum. As expected, the hugely popular ‘A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White’ causes the crowd to explode with energy, with circle pits and even crowd surfers risking removal from the venue. Set closer and the final song of the festival ‘Writing On The Walls’ steadily builds up to a huge explosion of energy, with everyone using the last of their resources from the 11-hour long festival, seeing frontman Spencer Chamberlain standing on the barrier screaming at the crowd, and providing a brilliant end to a fantastic festival.
A nice small and intimate venue, that has a nice and intimate underground club feel to it. Perfect for the smaller bands to really get close to the fans, but with the stage only slightly higher than the venue floor, the view is quite restricted.
KISS CORONA – 7/10
Before Kiss Corona take the stage, there is a sizeable crowd (consisting mainly of girls), and when the hip-hop into blares out the speakers, it’s blatantly obvious why they are here. Nearly everyone’s ears start to bleed from all the fan girls incessantly screaming. Sounding an awful lot like All Time Low, Kiss Corona are full of life, with bouncy songs like ‘Chelsea’ and ‘Sugar Lips’. It’s when they play a cover of Taio Cruiz‘s ‘Dynamite’ (which is just a stroke of genius) that gets everyone singing and jumping along. Each member of the band has a cheeky grin on his face, especially lead singer and Justin Bieber look-a-like Phil Clark, which gives its signature school boy charm that the ladies just adore. No wonder they’re all screaming relentlessly.
ATLAS&I – 5/10
Unfortunately with not much of an atmosphere in the room, Atlas&i struggle to make an impact on the crowd. Frontman Matt Snelling (who looks a bit like Russel Brand with short hair) has an exceptional voice, and it;s somewhat wasted on this crowd. The band play a tight set and have a lot of talent, their songs just sadly lack that hook and that spark that gets a crowd going. Fans of Atlas&i were treated to an excellent 30 minute set, but to those unfamiliar generally weren’t dragged in, only really showing interested towards the set close.
LIGHTSGOBLUE – 6/10
Walking on stage to a less than half full room with a quiet reaction from the crowd, the duo LightsGoBlue seem surprisingly enthusiastic, making a great effort to get what little crowd there is involved in their set, attempting to get everyone to sing the lyrics and encouraging any dancing or clapping that they see. Despite this, not much momentum can be gained with such a small crowd, though the band keep positive and play a reasonably enjoyable set.
THE SWELLERS – 9/10
In a packed Rock City basement, pop-punk outfit The Swellers enter to a mass of cheering. The band successfully maintains momentum by keeping the breaks between songs short, and maintaing interaction where possible throughout, with a solid stage presence and keeping the crowd’s attention at all times without the need to race around the stage. Even new songs such as ‘The Best I Ever Had’ are met with a great response, combining a Less Than Jake-esque track with Motion City Soundtrack vocals. Overall The Swellers put on a great set, managing to keep the crowd entertained and involved throughout every song. The Hit The Deck Festival provided a fitting end to their UK tour, leaving a very memorable performance.
Like a smaller version of the Rock City’s main stage/room, it allows the heavy bands to really get involved with everyone. With a high ceiling and a balcony, this room in intimate as well as being spacious and breathable.
FEED THE RHINO – 9/10
Due to bands stranded on ferries, Galleons and Social Suicide unfortunately had to pull out. Therefore, Feed The Rhino were on later than planned, and this only added to the anticipation of the crowd, and before they even take the stage there is a circle pit stirring up. Feed The Rhino have a reputation having a brutal live show, and today then not only live up to this, they manage to surpass it. Sounding like a more pissed off version of Gallows, they cause sheer carnage in the pit, something vocalist Lee Tobin wants to get involved with and jumps in to have a go himself. There are circle pits, a few walls of death, hardcore dancers, basically, things that would hurt you in the pit, but the crowd love it, as do the band. With the final song, all hell breaks loose and the whole band leap in the crowd. Not wanting to feel left out of the fun, drummer Chris Kybert kicks down his kit and leaps head over heels into the sea of people.
KVELERTAK – 7/10
Striding on stage with an army of guitars, Kvelertak attract a large yet slightly older crowd. Looking like a chunkier Dave Grohl lead singer Erlend Hjelvik has one of the best metal voices of the day. The band are mighty talented, with three guitars all playing in harmony at crazy fast speeds. Sounding like a metal Lynyrd Skynyrd, they have many catchy, memorable riffs and get everyone clapping and moshing along too. Apart from a rather quiet microphone, Kvelertak certainly know how to put on a show. Forever jumping into the crowd and encouraging crowd surface, they make a lasting impression on people and will have easily found some new fans. Bringing out the lighter for the final song, there is a sea of tiny flames swaying across the crowd, which hasn’t been seen in a long time.
GRAVEMAKER – 8/10
Originally, Gravemaker were meant to play earlier on in the day, but couldn’t due to the ferry delay that affected several bands on the festival bill. They are very gracious to get a chance to play and lucky to be so close to the main acts, and so they seize the opportunity to make a good impression on everyone watching them. Their breakdowns are downright chaotic, much to the joy of the hardcore dancers in the pit. The majority of the remaining crowd can be seen head banging and clapping along to the mega fast beat of songs like ‘Wreckage’. Despite it being a short set, they certainly got the audience raring to go, all limber and ready for Comeback Kid to follow.
COMEBACK KID – 8/10
As the room plummets into darkness, a piece of dramatic music from The Lord Of The Rings film series, blasts out, creating a sense of danger and urgency into the atmosphere. Comeback Kid then emerge from the darkness, to a sea of screaming fans. Lead singer Andrew Neufeld looks out at the crowd, like a butcher looks at a herd of cattle, before jumping into the crowd and unleashing the sheer destruction of ‘False Idols Fall’. Playing one of the longer sets of the day, Comeback Kid pack their 40 minute set with as many songs as they can, barley stopping to talk to the crowd. Despite being full of energy, they crowd become lethargic towards the end of the set, the room is like an oven and people are exhausted from seeing bands for 7 hours straight. Comeback Kid must be psychic or something, because their choice of songs could not have been better. Towards the end of the set, the slower and more mellow songs come into play, giving people a chance to relax a bit before pounding everyone into the ground with the sheer force of ‘Wake The Dead’.
CANCER BATS – 9/10
It’d be a fair statement to say Cancer Bats are quite possibly the most anticipated act of the day. All day everywhere you look there are t-shirts being worn baring the band’s name. Even members of other band like While She Sleeps and Comeback Kid have come along to see them play. ‘Darkness Lives’ opens their set up, and just before the vocals kick in, vocalist Liam Cormier tosses the microphone aside and jumps into the crowd without any regard for the song. What a legend. The crowd just belt out the words regardless as Liam crowdsurfs for most of the song. Finally making it back on stage, Cancer Bats pack their hour set with punishing songs; ‘Let It Pour’, ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’ and ‘Harlem Of Scorpions’ being just a select few. Most bands have the crowd in the palm of their hand, well Cancer Bats are dominating this crowd. Each song just makes the pit move faster, make people jump higher and make their voices hoarser. Their supercharged cover of Beastie Boys‘ classic ‘Sabotage’ leaves everyone weak and limp, but is nothing compared to their encore for one last onslaught of the annihilating ‘Hail Destroyer’. Once the set had finished, the whole band came down to greet their fans, shake hands and genuinely thank them. This is a band that cares, and along with the set seen beforehand this is a rarity in the scene today that should be appreciated.
The smallest and most compact room of the festival, it’s perfect for the smaller bands. But with poor air circulation it can become a tad uncomfortable at times, especially if you’re involved in the pit. With the stage quite high, most of the crowd will always be able to see the band.
THE JAMES CLEAVER QUINTET – 6/10
Emerging from the vast amount of smoke to an ambient intro, The James Cleaver Quintet look out into the crowd while the music builds up until the speakers can take no more. At this point, lead singer D’Jaff McFlippernipples leaps into the crowd to stir up the pit himself. Their unique genre of circus punk, which at time sounds like Between The Buried And Me, fails to win over the crowd at first. This could be due to the fact the venue is sweltering hot, making it a challenge to breathe in the packed areas of the crowd. Never the less, The James Cleaver Quintet prevail, and they burst into ‘Chicken Shit (For The Soul)’, which gets a pretty brutal pit going. During a strangely appropriate salsa interlude, there’s a slight exodus of some of the crowd, but this was purely due to the unbearable heat of the room.
BLITZ KIDS – 6/10
Crewe’s Blitz Kids take to the stage in a busy Stealth venue. The crowd welcome them with an enthusiastic response that seems to even surprise frontman Joe James after playing the neighbouring Rock City in support of D.R.U.G.S. about a month earlier. When debut single ‘An Ink Blot In A Blood Clot’ kicks in, the crowd promptly responds with a circle pit running throughout and singing the chorus back to the band. Sadly, the song is dogged by the problem of quiet vocals and a lack of harmonies until the screaming bursts in towards the end, providing a fiery burst of energy. Blitz Kids‘ set keeps the crowd entertained with songs sounding similar to that of Brigade. Joe James also finishes strong with songs such as ‘Story’, where he stands above the crowd having the lyrics screamed back at him.
HAWK EYES – 7/10
This was an odd set. Hawk Eyes gave an amazing performance, there was nothing wrong with their set what so ever. The crowd however, stood there motionless for nearly the entire set. Apart from the polite applause at the end of a song, they just refused to move. Lead singer and guitarist Paul Astick did everything he could to get the crowd going. He even grabbed his microphone stand, leaped into the pit, and started to play in the middle of the whole crowd, yet the crowd still refused to get into it. Only towards the end of the set did the crowd finally get into it. Due to the lack of atmosphere, this was a somewhat awkward set, but a phenomenally performed one at least.
WHILE SHE SLEEPS – 9/10
Stealth is jam-packed, and eagerly awaiting the appearance of Sheffield’s While She Sleeps. Despite the room being insanely hot and humid, everyone is moving and the pit is insane. Lead singer Lawrence Taylor has that look on his face that shows he’s loving every moment of being here too. The band are a security nightmare, encouraging people to get up on stage with them and forever crowd surfing. Lawrence is always egging on the crowd, wanting more, screaming out and taunting with “is that all you got?!”. Their songs are amazing, well written with the pure aggression feel of the infamous band Terror. Final song, ‘Crows’ has the whole room singing along and parting for a wall of death the whole width of the room. While She Sleeps are a phenomenal band, and a perfect warm-up for hte larger acts to follow.
SYLOSIS – 6/10
Unfortunately for Sylosis, the headliners of the two other stages playing at the same time (Young Guns and Cancer Bats) attracted huge crowds, to the point where people were queuing outside the venue. Sylosis walked on to stage without much energy, but quickly grabbed the attention of the room with a blast from their guitars. Whilst the guitars grabbed everyone’s attention, they also served to drown out the vocals of frontman Josh Middleton. Although there weren’t many people at the headline act, those who were there were screaming lyrics back at the band and starting circle pits at any given opportunity, even to new songs such as ‘A Serpent’s Tongue’. This provided some momentum and atmosphere to a set that had potential to fall flat from such a small crowd. Overall, Sylosis performed their set well and managed to keep the crowd entertained. However, the problems of the vocals being drowned out hindered their set, and the fact that not many people were there dragged down the atmosphere along with it.
Written by Andy Roberts and Jon Barlow