LIVE: Hit The Deck Festival @ Nottingham (22/04/2012)

Date: April 22nd, 2012
Venue: Rock City/Rescue Rooms/Stealth/The Forum, Nottingham
Website: www.hitthedeckfestival.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/hitthedeckfestival
Twitter: www.twitter.com/hitthedeckfest

Rating:

Returning for a second year and bringing in a fifth stage from The Forum just down the road, Hit The Deck Festival had once again brought a stellar line-up to the city of Nottingham to which rock, punk, metal and hardcore fans across the nation travelled far and wide to be a part of. With headliners across the stage consisting of Kids In Glass Houses, Cancer Bats, Rolo Tomassi and Zebrahead, it’s fair to say the Nottingham day festival was successful for a second year running.


ROCK CITY MAIN HALL:

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.

AUTUMN IN DISGUISE – 6/10
It’s crazy to think that less than a year ago these Scottish pop-punkers were about to embark on a summer full of festivals through Red Bull Bedroom Jam. Their experience on that run is obviously on show opening the main stage at Hit The Deck, but the band appear a little overwhelmed with the task set before them. Still, the amount of people bouncing, pitting and singing along to the likes of ‘Where The Hell?’ and ‘Let’s Call This A Home Run’ is delightful. [ZR]

VIOLET – 9/10
The Derby grown post-hardcore septet have been getting an awful lot of attention lately, especially with the re-release of their EP ‘The Brightside’ less than a week beforehand. These guys are the closest equivalent that Britain has to Dance Gavin Dance and their live set justifies their buzz as of late. Johnny Nelson‘s cleans sound spectacular live and Charlie Bass‘s screams are even more gritty and terrifying. The amount of people singing back to their songs, along with the quality of new tracks like ‘Daydreamer’, is more than sufficient proof that 2012 could well be the year we all hear of Violet. Get in there early. [ZR]

HILDAMAY – 7/10
Ballsy rock with some rough edges is a good way to describe Kent’s Hildamay, and that is what they most certainly delivered. It’s hard to describe why this came to mind, and it has nothing to do with the set really, but frontman Tim Lawrence is probably the closest you’d get to a human look-a-like to Aslan from Narnia. Huge, dominating and sheer powerful, the likes of ‘This House Became Our Home’ and ‘The Delicate’ sound huge, and the band look more than suited on the main stage. With a few more tracks under their belt, Hildamay could be on stages that scale much more often. [ZR]

YASHIN – 7/10
Another band who’ve managed to completely soar the accolades of the British rock circuit in such a short space of time, experience has truly helped Yashin hone their craft. Using a dubstep-ified mix of their latest album intro track ‘Awake While I’m Asleep’ to set the spark alight, the band explode straight into crowd favourite, ‘Get Loose!’. Kevin Miles‘ screams and roars are gradually leaving the realms of humanity over time, making the band so much heavier than on record. From the sound of new album offering ‘Runaway Train’, their sights are set for the sky this year. [ZR]

OF MICE & MEN – 9/10
It’s the busiest the main hall has been all day for post-hardcore giants Of Mice & Men. As far as their field goes they’re above the average, but their performance was off the charts. With a reckless disregard for people’s safety, they induce one brutal pit after another, not to mention what was probably the biggest circle pit of the day. Austin Carlile effortless delivers some of the most terrifying vocals around, and songs like ‘The Ballad Of Tommy Clayton…’ sound just as good as the recorded version, if not better. Of Mice & Men have really outdone themselves, and set the bar dangerously high for the rest of bands to follow on the main stage. [AR]

WE ARE THE IN CROWD – 8/10
Paramore‘s feistier (and frankly hotter) younger sister We Are The In Crowd throw their blend of squeaky clean pop-punk into the mix. Although the room isn’t as full as it was for other acts, the crowd is twice as lively, bouncing away to songs like ‘On Your Own’ and ‘Worst Thing About Me’ like loads of hamsters on Lucozade. It’s a pleasant break from the breakdowns and pits, and gives people a chance just to have a bloody good dance (or, if you’re a guy, just stand are stare awkwardly at Tay Jardine for a bit). A thoroughly enjoyable performance from these cheeky New Yorkers. [AR]

LOWER THAN ATLANTIS – 8/10
Throughout the day, I’ve seen countless Lower Than Atlantis shirts, so it’s safe to say that they’re one of the most anticipated bands of the day. Opening with ‘If The World Was To End’, the whole of Rock City sings along with the “Na Na Na”s with so much gusto, it was a wonderful sight to behold. These nautical themed rockers put on a hell of a show, peppering the sets with like likes of ‘(Motor) Way Of Life’ and ‘Beech Like The Tree’ as well as causing havoc with massive circle pits. Living up to the anticipation and expectation, LTA seem to be one of Britain’s most unstoppable bands. [AR]

DEAF HAVANA – 8/10
From where I was standing, if you looked at the crowd, all you could see was a forest of arms, raised in the air as if it was some kind of ritual. It was quite an awesome sight. Unfortunately, lead singer James Veck-Gilodi was facing a few technical issues, not that it mattered much due to the fact that the crowd drowned him out for nearly every song of their set. With a subtle trance-like effect in the background, most of the songs seem to subdue the crowd somewhat, but they got them moving again with the likes of ‘I Will Try’. [AR]

KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES – 7/10
Closing off a festival of any magnitude, never mind that of Hit The Deck, is a huge responsibility and honourable task for any band, and this year it’s up to the Welsh lads of Kids In Glass Houses. Their pop-rock melodies are the perfect send off; songs like ‘Give Me What I Want’ and ‘Underwear’ getting the crowd bouncing along and singing back to Aled Phillips and co. from the bottom of their undoubtedly exhausted lungs. The reception not only showed a great closing to this year’s Hit The Deck, but also highlighted the growth of the band, a band who only a few short years ago was a mere support act in underground club venues. Put simply, a great end to a great day of music. [ZR]


ROCK CITY BASEMENT – Big Deal Clothing Stage

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.

WITH ONE LAST BREATH – 5/10
The room packs out quick and fast for Rock City Basement openers With One Last Breath. The York-based metalcore outfit however are known to pull off a better live show than they managed to that afternoon. Coming off a few highly regarded tours in quick succession with Asking Alexandria and Yashin recently, and currently in the midst of one with Of Mice & Men, maybe it’s the early start that’s taken the spring from their step today. [ZR]

CAMPUS – 6/10
All the way from Belgium, the land of chocolate some might say, Campus‘ brand of music is far from sweet. The hard hitting post-hardcore breakdowns and soaring melodies are far from original, but they’re definitely far from poor. Sadly, it seemed what was missing to make their set up the ante a little was a little more of a crowd response. Though fairly unknown, the band will have undoubtedly left an impression and reeled in a few new fans too. [ZR]

DECADE – 7/10
Being one of the youngest bands with the youngest members collectively may be a daunting feeling for a band at a festival such as Hit The Deck, but if Decade‘s set is anything to go by it means diddly-squat at the end of it all. Gang vocals aplenty, the first proper pop-punk offering of the day hits the spot just right, and the chorus of chants to “Sleep all day / Party all night / Never grow old / Never fucking die” during crowd favourite ‘It’s Good To Be A Vampire’ is evidence that feeling is mutual throughout the room. [ZR]

SHADOWS CHASING GHOSTS – 7/10
London post-hardcore troupe Shadows Chasing Ghosts manage to pull in a pretty worthy sized crowd. Clearly, their general absence writing up album number two has definitely been noticed, and latest single ‘Lose The Attitude’ shows promise they will deliver once it drops. “I’m the devil in disguise / You can run girl, but you can’t hide” is sung all across the room when they pull ‘Searchlights’ out of the bag, bringing assurance to the band that momentum is still there. Let’s hope they can keep it going through the year. [ZR]

STRAIGHT LINES – 7/10
The basement is jam packed full of avid fans, all eager to see welsh pop-punk/rock outfit, Straight Lines. Looking like Jimmy Carr’s long lost little brother, lead singer Thomas Jenkins‘ Americanised voice rings out, sounding a bit like Jimmy Eat World. The crowd love every last minute, bouncing and singing along to every last beat and word. A great little set by these up-and-coming Welshies. [AR]

MALLORY KNOX – 6/10
Clean-cut, post-hardcore/rock act Mallory Knox draws a sizeable crowd, but if I’m being honest, I don’t remember much of their set. Not because I was drunk – I didn’t touch a drop all day – but because they didn’t make much of an impact on me. There was a lot of movement though and a few pits here and there, surprisingly intense pits for that matter of fact. Compared to the other bands playing today, their performance was average. Bearing in mind, there were a lot of incredible bands playing today, so being average in this case is not necessarily a bad thing. [AR]

THE SUMMER SET – 6/10
Heart throbbing fan girls gather in the basement for Arizona quintet, The Summer Set. Their sound may be average, but the crowd (and by crowd, I mean girls) love them to bits and everyone is singing and jumping around. This may be due to the fact that lead singer Brian Dales is pretty much the spitting image of crazy pop sensation Justin Bieber. Overall, they provided a happy, bouncy and generally fun show. Yay. [AR]

DON BROCO – 10/10
Holy. Fucking. Shit. Don Broco are easily one of the best bands of the festival, without question. Their set was 30 minutes of sheer joy, wall-to-wall anthems with crowd participation stunts that were so much fun to be a part of and great to watch too. Breaking out the trademark chicken fights and ‘the walk’, they know exactly how to cater the crowd. It seems they are permanently on tour, so the stage is like a second home to them and they play songs like ‘Do What We Do’ and ‘Priorities’ with finese and ease. Not to mention how insane it was when they brought out the infamous ‘Thug Workout’. You stay classy, Don Broco. [AR]

THE WONDER YEARS – 8/10
The appetite for what many dub as the future of pop-punk The Wonder Years is overwhelming, as the band manage to fill out the entirety of the Rock City Basement, packing in fans like a tin of sardines struggling to breathe. It’s a good thing then that they deliver to ensure the suffering and discomfort is worth it, and right from opener ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’ they bloody deliver. The amount of dedication and love delivered to this band throughout sometimes is unreal, throughout the likes of ‘Coffee Eyes’ and ‘Logan Circle’ all the way to closer ‘All My Friends Are In Bar Bands’. An uplifting, bouncy and sweaty close to what was offered from the Big Deal Clothing stage. [ZR]


RESCUE ROOMS – FRONT Magazine Stage

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.

DEAD HARTS – 7/10
A respectable crowd has gathered for Dead Harts‘ set, although they initially stand there motionless, lead singer Matthew Baxendale coaxes them into the pit, demanding more movement. His ominous vocals coupled with the chunky riffs provided by Josh Ward and Matt Pask are too infectious to ignore. From then on, there are elbows flying, fists smashing the ground and non-stop two-stepping. A great start for the Rescue Rooms stage. [AR]

BLACKSTORM – 6/10
As much as I hate the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll”, that’s essentially what Blackstorm are. Heavily influenced by the metal giants Black Sabbath and High On Fire, they given an excellent performance but unfortunately it’s to a nearly empty room. Never the less, as time goes by more and more people are drawn in, probably due to Karl Middleton‘s outstanding vocals. He may look more suited for a job in IT, but trust me, this guy can sing. In fact, the whole band excels at what they do, and it was a treat to see them play. It’s just a shame that not many other people witnessed it. [AR]

SPY CATCHER – 8/10
A bit of a change of pace now with Watford’s grit-pop five-piece, Spy Catcher. Things aren’t really in their favour today, having already broken down on the way to the show and they then have to deal with faulty guitars throughout the set. Never the less, lead singer Steve Sears channels his frustration into an epic performance. The crowd seem to respond well to things too, embracing the trancy synths by swaying from time to time and nodding along to some of their heavier songs. Ending things on a high point with ‘Don’t Like People’, Spy Catcher give a solid performance. [AR]

WOLVES LIKE US – 3/10
There’s an awful lot of hair spread about the quartet than make up Wolves Like Us, both atop of their heads and across their faces. Underneath all that large ratio of hair however is a band that don’t have that much of a delivery or drive behind them, and in all honesty their music just comes across a little dreary and as lacklustre as their stage performance. Maybe the small crowd they managed to draw in was a contributing factor to this, but it still lead to a less than satisfying set. [ZR]

JUNIUS – 5/10
The message and intent behind Junius it seems on the surface is to create something meaningful, atmospheric, somewhat epic and definitely moving. However, based on the performance at this year’s Hit The Deck, they don’t quite tick all the boxes that were needed. It’s just disappointing, as there’s definitely something really magic there, and the soundscapes build and soar, but in the end they just fell like a tower of Jenga blocks. [ZR]

RISE TO REMAIN
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

ARCANE ROOTS
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

WHILE SHE SLEEPS – 10/10
Disguising themselves under the alias The Black Youth, a name taken from the lyrics “We are the black youth” from their track ‘Be(lie)ve’, While She Sleeps were of course a warmly welcomed surprise. From start to finish, WSS are nothing short of incredible; guitarist Mat Welsh throws himself around, sometimes bouncing off of or throwing himself into the wall, Lawrence Taylor launches himself into the crowd through ‘The North Stands For Nothing’ and from the moment they play opener ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ to the final chords of ‘Crows’, there’s utter chaos within the crowd. We thought it back when we first saw them at Ghostfest in 2010 and we still think it now – While She Sleeps are one of the best bands in Britain today. Period. [ZR]

CANCER BATS – 10/10
Using similar terminology as lead singer Liam Cormier, “mercy, mercy, mercy me”; Cancer Bats, you absolutely destroyed that crowd. Keeping the niceties and talking to minimum, they jam-pack their set with as many neck-breaking songs as they can, to name a few: ‘R.A.T.S.’, ‘Deathmarch’ and ‘Dead Wrong’, each inducing a messy, violent pit. Balls to the no crowd-surfing sign, because this is a Cancer Bats show for god’s sake! I for one am glad they’re playing this room and not the main stage. Cancer Bats excel in intimate gigs and putting them in a huge room would somewhat dampen the raw energy of the crowd. If you missed them, you are an utter fool and should be hit in the face with a trout… or a deck. Get it? [AR]


STEALTH – Valencourt Apparel Stage

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.

BABY GODZILLA – 8/10
Having the opening spot at any festival is never an easy job, but Baby Godzilla rise to the challenge and start the festival by giving it a mighty kick up the ass. Bursting with energy, guitarists Matt and Jonny spend most of their set time in the pit, either crowd surfing or playing guitar anywhere but on the actual stage. Sounding like early Every Time I Die, their sound is the right level of aggression to break the ice and get everyone blood pumping, ready to start this hectic day of metal and hardcore the Stealth room is to endure. [AR]

POLAR. – 8/10
Stealth is rammed, and it’s perfectly understandable – POLAR. have a reputation for amazing live shows. Their Cancer Bats/Gallows fusion is the perfect sound for today’s festival and amidst the violent circle pits, everyone is jumping and bounding around to the likes of ‘H.E.L.L.’ and ‘Eighteen’. Although this isn’t enough for lead singer Adam Woodford as he pushes the limits of the crowd, creating a venue-wide circle for set closer, ‘Smile, You Son Of A Bitch’. Don’t worry, I am. [AR]

CROSSFAITH – 9/10
If you don’t know who this band are, for the love of god, look them up them right now. Synth-heavy hardcore with a bit of dub thrown in is just what the people of Hit The Deck want, and Crossfaith do it so well too. Their whole 30 minute set is non-stop bouncing/moshing/dancing and it was incredible to be a part of it. Highlight of the set was definitely their cover of The Prodigy‘s ‘Omen’; as soon as it kicked in, everyone (myself included) was screaming “THE WRITINGS ON THE WALL”. Their performance was simply in-fucking-sane. [AR]

VERSES
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

SILENT SCREAMS – 6/10
With most of the members almost literally covered in tattoos and looking like the finished pieces from a session of Art Attack, Silent Screams blast on metalcore may not be the most original or innovating, but it sure does have a punch. They’re fairly new on the scene, but the amount of people pitting and bouncing along and the quality of tracks such as ‘Burning Bridges’ shows a band in their infancy, but with a bit more work can excel to staple names within their field. [ZR]

TRC
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

HEIGHTS – 9/10
If you want to see a band swinging off of the speakers and jumping into the crowd several times in a few short minutes, then Heights are your band. Never disappointing when it comes to delivering an energetic and in-your-face performance, the progressive hardcore outfit clearly put everything into their set, and unlike a lot of bands in their scene they seem to genuinely have their heart behind it. ‘Dead Ends’ and ‘Eye For An Eye’ are ferocious and Thomas Debaere is a captivating frontman, almost turning into a completely different person full of venom whilst riding the wave of arms as he crowd surfs at the end of the band’s set. [ZR]

BURY TOMORROW – 9/10
Southampton metalheads Bury Tomorrow keep up the ante of aggression and high levels of energy throughout their set too. ‘Anything With Teeth’ gets the whole room roaring “There’s blood on the walls” like their lives depended on it, and vocalist Daniel Bates is definitely one of Britiain’s best frontmen in metal. His screams and roars churn out effortlessly whilst throwing his face in front of the photographers’ cameras and his microphone into the crowd. Jason Cameron‘s cleans get the crowd singing back at every opportune moment too. Mighty impressive for a band who only have one album to their name so far. [ZR]

THE DEFILED – 7/10
Over in Stealth, the crowd is looking thin on the ground, but as soon as the beefy riffs of The Defiled ring out people come flocking in. Opening with ‘Call To Arms’, they really are a talented bunch. Lead singer Stitch D has some outstanding live screams/growls, this coupled with the crazy heavy guitars creates an immense sound. Seriously though, the guitars were ridiculously down-tuned, to the point where they were practically brown noise (Google it). A powerful performance, but the lack of crowd detracted from the overall environment a tad. [AR]

ROLO TOMASSI – 9/10
Stealth headliners Rolo Tomassi timidly take the stage. But, don’t be fooled, behind that shy and reserved exterior both Eva Spence and brother James hide some furious and down-right terrifying vocals. Their technical and discordant anthems both confused the crowd as well as whipping them into a frenzy. Not to mention, stunning them into silence with the happy, floaty interludes which sound as if they lifted fresh from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. It’s very impressive how the band play these incredibly complicated riffs and rhythms with ease. When Eva isn’t doing her bendy dancing, she’s flawlessly screaming out Rolo Tomassi classics such as ‘Tongue In Chic’ and ‘Party Wounds’. In summary, this was a fucking great performance. [AR]


THE FORUM

Just a minute’s walk down the road from the festival’s main venue at Rock City, The Forum is a nice sized venue with a reasonable bar, offering loads of places people can stand and watch the bands at a height and distance in they’re not up for getting stuck in the pits on the main dancefloor.

THE SOCIAL CLUB
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

THE BLACK & REDS
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

CRAZY ARM – 7/10
Punk rock quintet and part-time activists Crazy Arm get political over in The Forum. Quite frankly, these guys are the most talented bunch at the festival, with their superb guitaring and flawless rhythms the crowd should have responded more than they did. Never the less, Crazy Arm had something to say and Darren Johns‘ gruff voice added perfect emphasis to the lyrics. Overall, it was a thought-provoking and entertaining set, but with an annoying lack of enthusiasm from the audience. [AR]

IMPERIAL LEISURE – 8/10
Taking a break from all the metal now for a refreshing does of ska from Londoner’s Imperial Leisure. Bringing out some of their big tunes such as ‘Jenny’ and ‘Landlord’s Daughter’ the crowd happily bop along. They also brought out a bottle of champagne and sprayed it about everywhere. These guys are so god damn talented, it’s a shame there aren’t more people hear to appreciate them. Oh well, se la vie. [AR]

ARSE FULL OF CHIPS – 8/10
Local Nottingham boys Arse Full Of Chips raised a lot of curiosity simply on their band name alone, and their name is the least obscure thing about their whole performance and persona. Coming on stage dressed in a variety of attire, their setlist composed of songs about Harry Potter being gay, getting everyone to chant “You’re an absolute retard” and what they’d do if they were on X Factor is just the beginning of their 30 minutes of obscurity. It is undoubtedly Stanley Mackerel‘s stripping completely naked and doing roley poleys across The Forum floor which stands as a highlight for several reasons. Many of the teen boys and girls stood in the midst of it may need therapy to remove the memory of his genitalia and hairy crack rolling about like that. God bless you Arse Full Of Chips. [ZR]

BAT SABBATH – 8/10
The name pretty much sums up exactly what’s on offer here: Black Sabbath songs covered by Canadian hardcore lads Cancer Bats. Of course, many will dispute that no one can pull off songs like ‘Paranoid’ and ‘War Pigs’ quite like Ozzy Osbourne and co., but you’ll only get far more grit, aggression and downright beefiness from the Cancer Bats parody. Think of Black Sabbath, but on a fuck load of steroids. If you like either Cancer Bats or Black Sabbath, this combo of the two just has to be seen. [ZR]

THE SWELLERS
Sadly, we were unable to catch their set. Sorry.

YOUNG GUNS – 8/10
Kept secret as the festival’s “Very special guests” until the day beforehand, the amount of people crammed into The Forum to catch Young Guns at a relatively more intimate show than they’re used to nowadays was captivating. ‘D.O.A.’ and ‘Stitches’ sound brilliant, and the crowd of eager fans idolising over their heroes onstage will firmly agree, all the way through to closer ‘Bones’. Clearly, Young Guns are more than worthy of the title of “very special guests”. [ZR]

ZEBRAHEAD – 8/10
At this point in the day, after being awake for more than 18 hours, travelling halfway across the country and having been on my feet all day, my notes on Zebrahead consisted of three, poorly written scribbles that said “LOUD NOISES”, “Good” and “Wooooo! Yeaaaaah”. Playing all the classic Zebrahead songs, such as ‘Postcards From Hell’, ‘Playmate Of The Year’ and ‘Jag Off’, they don’t disappoint. Plus, throwing in a cheeky medley of girly pop songs, consisting of ‘Girlfriend’, ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ and ‘Wannabe’ was a nice addition. What can I say, the crowd are limp, bedraggled and oh so tired, but Zebrahead still milk them for all they’re worth. Pits, jumping, all the usual jazz; it was so much fun to be a part of and used up what reaming energy I had. Returning to the stage for a four song encore, they were the perfect headline act for The Forum and ended the festival on a high note. [AR]


DEAD PRESS! AWARDS:

Here at DEAD PRESS!, we decided to offer certain bands and people who attended the festival this year little awards and notices of recognition… or that we actually noticed something which struck out to us. So, here they are:

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE FESTIVAL – The look on the security guard’s face when he saw Eva Spence screaming.
BEST BAND OF THE FESTIVAL – Don Broco [AR] / While She Sleeps [ZR]
BIGGEST CIRCLE PIT – Of Mice & Men
MOST INAPPROPTATELY DRESSED AWARD – Joint award to those two girls in (just) the pink pants
BEST FANCY DRESS – The guys dressed as a bride
BEST NAKED ROLEY POLEY – Stanley Mackerel of Arse Full Of Chips
BEST HAIR – Stitch D from The Defiled
MOST UNDER APPRECIATE BAND – Blackstorm
BEST HEADLINER – Cancer Bats

Written by Zach Redrup [ZR] and Andy Roberts [AR]