Sunday, 8 March 2015

Takedown Festival, 07/03/15

This was my first time attending Takedown Festival and it was complete luck that I managed to attend it at all - my best friend won tickets and decided to take me along with her! I've always thought of Takedown as like a heavier version of Slam Dunk - less pop punk bands and more hardcore bands, but still lots of amazing music on a university campus - and I did not come away feeling disappointed with any of the bands I managed to see.

First off, kick starting the day with their opening set, were Prolong The Agony. I hadn't heard of the band before, but I always think it's a great idea to see as many new and upcoming bands as you can at things such as this. I ended up being pleasantly surprised with their set, which was filled with screaming vocals and soaring guitar riffs that point towards a very bright future. After van troubles earlier in the day ("Our van broke down this morning, but we created a few breakdowns so there's a joke there!") it was lucky that Prolong The Agony actually managed to attend the festival, and it shows how dedicated they are to their music that they played a second set in Oxford last night. Their music is heavier than I usually like, so I don't know if I'd actively go and see these guys again, but if you're into heavier music I'd recommend giving them a listen because they seemed to be very tight musically, which is always a great thing for a small band.

One of my most anticipated bands of the day actually opened main stage, and they were Zoax. I first encountered Zoax back in August, when I saw them supporting Tonight Alive at their warm-up show for Reading festival. I hadn't heard of Zoax before, but I was absolutely enthralled by their show, so I was a little bit apprehensive about going to see them at Takedown in case they just didn't live up to my expectations. On the contrast, they completely surpassed them. At festivals like this you don't normally get much interaction between the band and the crowd, but during their second song vocalist Adam Carroll had already jumped the barrier. Sauntering through the crowd, nearly taking out fans and photographers alike with the trailing microphone wire, Adam alternated between grabbing peoples faces to taking bags and phones to performing nearly an entire song with his head up some poor guys shirt, and while this sounds like bizarre behaviour it just added to a crazily intoxicating performance. Adam went into the crowd twice, once at the beginning of the set and once towards the end; the first time he went out there were a lot of gaps and areas to be filled, the crowd spaced apart and not really involved or interested, but just ten minutes later the crowd was packed in together, pushing forward to see more of the action. For an opening band the reaction was absolutely crazy and I think it's a great hint of things to come for these guys. 

After Zoax it was time for a lunch break, and I got back to main stage to see a couple of songs by Emp!re, who were the other band that I saw supporting Tonight Alive back in August. I didn't think much of their set back then, but their performance yesterday was much better - the set seemed to have been shaken around, meaning that there were high and low points rather than just a single level, and the vocals of Joe Green seemed effortlessly perfect. His high pitch is a definitely selling point, but I think they're going to need a bit more material under their belts before they'll be able to advance upwards on a stage like this.

If you've heard of Takedown Festival, you'll probably know what the Obsidian stage is: a stage whose line-up was chosen completely by headliners Fearless Vampire Killers. My first foray into the Obsidian stage was during the set of Ugly Love, a band who I first heard of a couple of years ago, but who I kept forgetting to check out. They were not what I expected, with songs such as 'Dramalama' and 'Oh No Here Comes The Space Hawks!' much more reminiscent of Blood On The Dance Floor than anything else. Don't get me wrong, their music was extremely catchy and it made me want to dance, but it was a bit too over-the-top in the theatrics, so it was a conflicting experience to say the least. 

Heading back over to the Big Deal Clothing stage, I popped in on Dirt, the band who won an unsigned competition giving them the chance to play at Takedown. It's pretty obvious why they won: their vocalist Alistair Keenan perfects a mixture of singing and shouting vocals, their riffs were catchy and unusual, and they might not stand out from the crowd of newcomers yet, but they're well on their way. I bought their three song EP, 'Mirrors', at the show, so I can't wait to listen to this band some more, and I hope they continue doing what they're doing because they seem to be very talented.

I only went to a small section of InMe's set, as they were playing their debut album 'Overgrown Eden' in full and I've never heard it before. However, based on the roaring reaction from the crowd this was obviously many people's highlight of the entire festival. After hearing the first three songs I was very impressed, so I'm definitely going to pick up the album and listen to it soon, as the only InMe music I've listened to in the past has featured on their later releases.

I'd already seen Ashestoangels six times, so I only went along to see the last couple of songs of their set, which was one of the closest to capacity over the entire day of the festival. The reaction they received was visceral, with fans screaming every word to 'Chases' and 'Heavy Words and Hollow Bones'. With a reaction so explosive they definitely should have featured higher up the bill, as out of all of the sets I experienced at the Obsidian stage theirs was definitely one of the most well received. If you haven't heard of Ashestoangels yet, I'll be surprised if you don't hear about them soon, but they'll need to expand their musical horizons to be in a shot with headlining a festival such as this. Depending on which direction they decide to go in with their next album, that possibility could be closer than anyone thinks.

Heading down to the New Music stage, I stumbled across one of my greatest finds of the day: Three Times Over. For a festival that seems to have a focus on heavier music, stumbling across a band performing pop punk music was a welcome relief. With so many UK pop punk bands giving up and calling it quits in the last year, it's exciting to see that the new generation is alive and well, and hopefully will grow stronger still with bands like these.

Back in the Obsidian stage, over half of the crowd had left after Ashestoangels, making me feel really bad for Hawk Eyes, who did not receive a great reaction. They were much heavier than I'd expected, and that combined with the fact that they didn't really interact or communicate with the crowd meant that the set fell short of my expectations and I left them earlier than I'd been expecting to.

Another band who were much heavier than I had expected were Rolo Tomassi. I first heard of Rolo Tomassi back in 2009, but because they haven't toured much recently I'd basically forgotten they existed. I wasn't a massive fan of them in 2009 but I thought that maybe over the last six years their musical style might have changed, meaning I went in to their performance feeling quite optimistic. However I really did not enjoy their set. I am generally opposed to female screamers, because it just doesn't make a pleasant sound, but Eva Spence's vocal was more like barking than screaming. I managed to stay in the room for just under a whole song before it was too much for me to deal with.

Returning to the Obsidian stage once more for Colt 45, I was surprised to see that the room still hadn't refilled, which was a shame because Colt 45 are a very talented band. I hadn't heard of them until yesterday, but I'm definitely going to check them out more, because with guitars well suited to a Foo Fighters song and vocals that are reminiscent of Dexter Holland from early The Offspring songs, they have a nice blend of some great aspects.

With no one I really wanted to see on stage, I decided to go back downstairs to the New Music stage to see if I could find any other diamonds in the rough. The band I discovered down there was Seething Akira, a band who managed to mix dance undertones underneath heavy riffs in a blend that was subtle and not overpowering. By sampling 'Fix Up Look Sharp' in their set, they definitely got the crowd moving, more energetically than any of the earlier sets I'd seen. And you can tell the party has really started when there's a cat wandering around the venue, which happened during their set! You never know what's going to happen on a university campus.

The only time I explored the Uprawr stage was during the set of Our Hollow Our Home. Sounding like a heavier version of Issues, their stage presence was absolutely palpable, proven by the amount of mosh pits breaking out throughout the room. With a screamer and a singer, the band aren't making any huge leaps of creativity, but they perform what they do well, so they don't really need any gimmicks.

Back on main stage, it was time for my first experience of Arcane Roots, who I'd heard lots of amazing things about. Vocalist Andrew Groves voice has a raw, rough quality that emphasises the emotion in their songs, and while I'd been expecting them to be a bit more polished, I was happy that they seemed to feel the music more. The rises and falls in their set made it a gripping one that has ensured I'm definitely going to listen to more of their back catalogue soon.

Even though I only saw Decade a month ago supporting The Used, I had to catch some of their set, and I was pleasantly surprised but what I discovered. Whereas last month I thought that Decade seemed quite disillusioned and uncomfortable, they were completely in their element on the Big Deal Clothing stage, with singer Alex Sears jumping around and pouring everything into his vocal. I didn't get to see much of their set, because of overlaps with other bands I was desperate to see, but I was so proud that the crowd seemed well connected and were singing along to the songs, something that Decade really do deserve. I've heard that their new song went down really well with the crowd, which means that their new album should be amazing when the time for it comes.

Running from Decade back to the Obsidian stage, I managed to squeeze in the opening song of hometown boys Dead!'s set. I saw Dead! in the middle of last year and I was absolutely in love with them by the end of their set, so even though I could only see one song I had to do it. Vocalist Alex Mountford is so charismatic, it wasn't a surprised that the room had filled up quite quickly with people eager to see them, and I definitely recommend keeping an eye on these rising stars.

The main reason I went to Takedown was to see The Blackout for the ninth and final time. The boys were the first band I ever saw live, so there is no way I'd be going to gigs if it wasn't for that fateful night in Swindon, and I have so much to thank them for from the last six years. When they announced their break up and their final tour I knew that there was no chance I'd be able to see them, so the fact that I managed to go to Takedown was a dream come true. 
Bursting onto the stage with 'Tick Tick Boom!', their classic entrance music chanting "We are the dynamite" from way back in the day, they quickly followed it up with their newest single, and title track from their final EP, 'Wolves'. The crowd were all moving and dancing, screaming along to every single word, proving that even with the band ending they still mean a lot to many many people. 'This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things' was a heartbreakingly tender moment, with the lyrics "When everything is gone, we'll still be begging for more" hitting home hard that no matter how much we beg there is no going back from this break up. Screamer Sean Smith said "we knew a while ago that we were probably going to split up, so we did a festival in Middlesborough. Last festival we ever did and it was ropey, so we thought we needed to do one more festival before we packed it in", proving that when they played Make A Scene festival back in October they already knew the end was very near. I think this fact definitely kicked the crowd up a gear because during 'Save Our Selves', when the band encourage everyone to crouch down and jump up, they had the most participation I'd ever witnessed at their sets, and I've seen that move performed quite a few times now. The audience threw themselves back into it, with multiple moshes breaking out, and you could see the appreciation on the bands face for all that they've achieved in their thirteen year career. Sean told the crowd that "when we started this band thirteen years ago, we didn't even think we'd get to play outside of our hometowns", so it really is amazing to see how far they managed to travel. Announcing before 'Start The Party' that "this is not a funeral, it's time to start the party!" really got the crowd dancing, and it's a huge testament to their skill that the heavier songs and the dancing songs flow so seamlessly in their set. All of the biggest songs were featured: 'Children of the Night', 'STFUppercut' (with a clip of a 'Hollaback Girl' cover pinned to the end) and the explosive closing song 'I'm A Riot? You're A Fucking Riot!'. My only complaint is that their forty minute set was not long enough to fully explore their extensive discography. 
Thank you, The Blackout, for everything. Goodnight forever. 

Tick Tick Boom!
This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Higher and Higher
The Storm
Save Our Selves
Children of the Night
Start The Party
I'm A Riot? You're A Fucking Riot!

Sadly missing Fort Hope's newest single, 'Plans', due to them taking to the stage early, the rest of their set was short but sweet. Mainly filled with new songs from self-titled EP, I didn't know a few of the songs that they played all that well, but the ones that I did know were performed with perfection. 'The Rapture' is always a great song live, and vocalist Jon Gaskin was putting everything into his vocal performance. Their set finished ten minutes early, which was disappointing because it was going really well, but sometimes things like this happen at festivals - it was a shame.

The Rapture
New Life

Next up, down on the New Music stage, were Create To Inspire. Despite the fact that their songs were performed very well, they all seemed to blur into one another, to the stage that they all seemed rather generic and bland. 'Foundations' stood out slightly from the rest, but overall this was an average set.

Towards the end of the day things seemed to be winding down, with less sets clashing, meaning that because I had nothing better to do with myself I ended up seeing the end of Charlie Simpson's set. I hadn't been intending upon it, because I've never been a huge Charlie Simpson or Fightstar fan, but I ended up being surprised at how much I enjoyed his final song. The previous two were very similar, but his final song 'Riverbanks' was a song that built so beautifully into a crashing crescendo that left me with chills running up and down my spine. The song sounds as though it would fit beautifully into a movie soundtrack, and it left me yearning for summer and hot, long nights. Even if I never listen to another Charlie Simpson song, I think I'm going to love 'Riverbanks' for as long as I love music, as it touched me in a way that not many songs do. Kudos to Charlie for writing such a great piece.

However, after being so impressed by Charlie Simpson, I was utterly disappointed by Fearless Vampire Killers. This was my third time seeing them, but my first time hearing their new material from 'Unbreakable Hearts', and I really do not enjoy it. 'Neon In The Dance Halls' was rather catchy, but the title track from the album fell completely short. I can see where they were trying to go with their new direction, but to me it just felt as though something was lost in translation. Closing song 'At War With The Thirst' was an absolutely insane performance, with the band inviting members from all of the other bands who featured on the Obsidian stage back on. Adam Crilly, vocalist from Ashestoangels, quickly clambered across the crowd, standing on their hands, and if they loved him earlier they loved him even more now. With multiple stage divers and a massive stage invasion it was definitely a memorable performance, but even that didn't make up for the earlier let down.

The penultimate band I decided to see were Baby Godzilla, who I've been avoiding for the last year due to how over-hyped they were - generally, if a band have a lot of publicity surrounding them after only just starting, they aren't really worth the time of day in the long haul. However, Baby Godzilla seemed to be an exception to this rule. I didn't get to see much of their set, but in the bit that I did their guitarist ended up on the bar and their vocalist nearly ended up in the crowd. Musically they were rather unique, something that definitely stood out from the crowd, and I can't think of any other band to compare them to. I wish I'd gone into their set earlier, as it really did seem like something that would be better the longer you stayed there, and I'm hoping I can see them again some time soon.

Headlining their first ever festival, Mallory Knox were making a triumphant return home after their recent stint as opening band for Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce The Veil's co-headline tour, all over the States. I saw Mallory Knox four times last year, including their show in Oxford back in November that I extensively reviewed, so I don't really have that much more to say. Their set was a lot shorter, because of the fact that it was a festival headliner rather than their own show, and they're still promoting 'Asymmetry' and focusing on their new songs. Even with this, the set was half filled with songs from their first album, all of which were lapped up by the crowd, proving that Mallory Knox really do know how to structure their set. After overhearing two songs in their soundcheck earlier in the day, I was stunned by how powerful Mikey Chapman's vocal is when he's relaxed and not in front of a crowd, and during their set his vocal did seemed more strained but that's almost acceptable when they only travelled home from America two days before. However, 'Shout At The Moon' seemed much more polished during their soundcheck and I really hope that Mallory Knox think about doing some more laid back, possibly acoustic, gigs in the future.
This wasn't the best Mallory Knox I'd seen, but their stage presence is still infectious, making you want to singalong and dance as much as you possibly can. If you haven't seen Mallory Knox I'd definitely recommend you check them out as soon as you can, but try to see them at one of their own headline shows - they seem much more relaxed and confident, and they add lots of surprises to their setlist which will leave you impressed and intrigued throughout. However, this was their first ever festival headliner, so maybe they will grow accustomed to turning a crowds opinion over time - seeing as they opened Takedown three years ago, they're definitely progressing a lot faster than many other bands that started at the same time.

Shout At The Moon
Wake Up
When Are We Waking Up?
Dying To Survive
Ghost In The Mirror
Death Rattle