It’s a warm summers afternoon and the time has arrived for the first ever Havoc Festival, an idea made and executed by Suffolk born alternative rock band Fearless Vampire Killers. As we arrive at The Dome in London just after kick off, there is a trickle of fans making their way inside. The venue is a good size for the first outing of this festival, with a decent stage, high up, similar but on a smaller scale to that of the Electric Ballroom in Camden.
The band kicking off the music for the rest of the day is Kent based band Ashes. Being the first band on at ny show is never easy as the crowd has yet to warm up and it’s clear that today’s show is no exception. This said, the band take to the stage with ease and smashes through their set, managing to get a good response from the slightly sleepy seeming audience – it’s clear from looking around that most of the people here are FVK fans, and there are a fair few who seem to simply be waiting for the main attraction. People sit lining the walls while the ten deep crowd at the stage make the most of the music being provided.
Myth City are next on the bill and they look just as comfortable on this larger stage than they did when we last saw them at Camden’s smaller Underworld. Lead singer Maz bought the cheeky charm that we’ve grown to expect and love from this performer. They definitely had a good group of fans in the audience that were clearly sad the set wasn’t longer.
As we all know every band, at some point in their career will have a bad day and a bad set. Sadly at Havoc it was the turn of London band Hindsights. From the very beginning there were problems with a guitar not working, and a request to borrow one was put out but didn’t get a quick response so vocalist Benio had to carry on without one. Eventually a borrowed guitar appeared but after getting through the next song with it, it seemed that he wasn’t comfortable with it and gave it back. Between songs and trying to get the guitar issue sorted the band attempted to keep the crowd entertained by talking to them and for the most part we tried to be patient. In the end though, the band looked defeated and cut the set short.
Villains and Allusondrugs made for a good vibe halfway through the event and by this point the crowd was warmed up and really getting into the festival spirit, throwing around an inflated condom and jumping to these two bands as the excitement grew for the evening ahead.
I like to think I’ve seen a lot of live shows, and I’ve seen some seriously good ones. Zoax however, provided us with something I’ve definitely never seen! This band were by far the most fun to watch through the whole festival. It was more of a musical circus than an average live show. After the gig goers that were sitting on the floor around the walls were threatened to either stand up or be killed, the band launched into their set. After a few songs head man Adam launched himself onto the floor of the venue, hunting for those that were still on their asses. After stealing teddies, bags and phones to get their attention he decided that it would be more fun just to stay down there. What followed was a crazy mix of gruff vocals, glitter and talcum powder showers and a pit of fans jumping around him as he steamed through the set. Their performance was a step up for the day and was a slick, professional performance with an edgy blade of serious entertainment.
With fans making their way between bands to get merchandise and have selfies with their favourite performers there is a definite sense of community at this festival. When speaking to FVK frontman Kier Kemp he told me today was about supporting the music industry and bands that they felt were good. FVK fans seem to agree and eagerly spend at the bar and merch stalls in support of the day. At one time or another members of all the bands are seen to be out in the crowd watching the other bands, showing support and simply being a part of the point of this day.
As everyone was gearing up to see FVK we just had one band left to help get us there. Forever Never gave the best vocal performance of the day. Lead singer Renny has the most amazing voice and has a great stage presence that commands your attention. Sadly it was bassist Kev’s last gig with the band after ten years and you could feel the love in the room for him as Renny spoke of how proud he was to have shared the stage with him for so long. Sadly the band didn’t play their hit Boombastic, much to the disappointment of some of the crowd, but there’s always next time!
The room starts to fill more, although it’s still not far over half full which leads to questions on how successful ticket sales had been. Although, everyone that has made it here today is in good spirits and is ready and waiting for their chance to see Fearless Vampire Killers. For some it’s the first time, for more hardcore fans that I recognise from many other gigs, this is simply another day, another FVK gig. The band have a strong and loyal following and I’ve heard fans talking about following them on their tours and waiting in line for hours to get to the front of a show.
FVK burst onto stage while balloons fly out everywhere and they kick off with Neon In The Dance Halls. The boys seems to have changed somewhat recently and have adopted a more sophisticated look, stepping away from the theatrics of their previous image. They treat us to new songs Danger and Braindead which get a really good reaction. Braindead definitely shows a more mature approach to their music and feels like a step up from their previous works. Singers Laurence and Kier swap between guitars and vocals as they throw out hits including Could we Burn Darling and Maeby. I Need a Hero was also played and just as it had at Download Festival, it wowed the crowd and had everyone singing along and dancing. This band knows how to throw a party and they made sure that once again, as always, they blew the roof off and left the fans wanting more.
All in all, even though there was a smaller turn out than I would have expected, the festival was a success, and Laurence even took a moment to talk to the crowd about the importance of the day and supporting the local music scene. The bands had a blast, the merchandise stalls were near empty and the audience left happy and bouncing out the door still singing. FVK were no doubt happy with the way the day went and I’m sure they will want to keep bringing the music community together in support of great bands. Will this be the start of a new annual festival? Let’s hope so.
Havoc Festival 2015The Dome, London - August 9th 2015
Photographer: Colm Browne