Opening act Continents throw down quite the gauntlet for everyone that has to follow them as they open up the mainstage for business on Friday morning. Every breakdown seems to act as a shot of adrenaline, pumping the crowd up more and more until Pegasus Pegasus brings their set to its inevitable climax. They make quite the impression and I can’t think of a much better way to kick off the weekend at Hevy Fest.
After a hefty opening salvo of hardcore, progressive jazz instrumentalists Chon are a complete change of pace and a brave choice, even more so when you consider that this is their first performance outside the US. Hevy Fest is never without a few eclectic choices in its line-up though and their inclusion is definitely one that pays off. The little known four piece from San Diego lay down groove after funky groove, displaying excellent technical ability and delivering the perfect soundtrack to complement the unexpected and welcome burst of afternoon sunshine.
Black Peaks seem to be fairly hot property right now, their epic riffs and huge dynamic range have already caught the attention of Radio 1’s Zane Lowe. It’s obvious why, even though their debut album has yet to drop and they’re still pulling tracks mostly from their first EP theirs is still a setlist with a great deal of depth. All the way through from the understated ambience of songs like Say You Will right through to snarling and unapologetic opening riff of Glass Built Castles there are shades of The Mars Volta to be found here and most definitely the promise of bigger things to come as long as they continue to write and perform at this level.
Having already had a good dose of what the mainstage has to offer, we head over to the second stage and check out Creeper. There’s a serious Lost Boys vibe taking over the tent when we get there, as the crowd scream out the words to Cry Little Sister while most of the band unassumingly take up their positions on stage. As soon as lead singer Will Gould explodes from behind the amplifiers though they kick things into high gear, ripping into the opening chords of We Had A Pact and sounding every bit like Southampton’s own version of Alkaline Trio on speed. They keep every head in the tent banging along and whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, by the end it’s difficult to deny just how infectious their material can be.
Djent hip-hop pioneers Hacktivist have a style all their own and one that’s not easy to pigeon hole. Their opening track False Idols flips between the melodic and the malevolent at the drop of a snap back, it’s almost as if Meshuggah and Devlin met in a hotel room somewhere in Milton Keynes and this is the rap metal love child left behind by that unholy union. Their remix of Jay Z and Kanye Wests Niggas in Paris is like nothing else too, inspiring a massive circle pit that pummels anyone within range. They reach their peak when Tim Beazley and Jermaine Hurley pull a trick out of Slipknots gig bag and have the entire crowd get down on one knee, ready to jump for the sky during their aptly named final song Elevate, it’s quite an impressive spectacle and one not easily forgotten!
California screamo stalwarts Touche Amore have a lot to live up to by following Hacktivist on the main stage but they pull it off, immediately whipping the crowd into a frenzy with raucous renditions of Art Official and Pathfinder from the album Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me. It’s actually such a huge reaction from their fans that the front of house security struggle to keep up with the number of crowd surfers coming towards them, leaving at least one fan missing a front tooth and covered in blood after being left to drop over the barrier. Not that the sight of blood puts off lead singer Jeremy Bolm from some crowd surfing of his own, handing the mic off to the crowd during Is Survived By and letting their hands lift him up as the rest of the band plough their way through to the songs conclusion.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to A Wilhelm Scream at Hevy Fest a few years ago and was extremely impressed with their off the wall attitude and boundless energy. As a result there was no way that missing their second stage slot was even an option this weekend and rightly so. When it comes to intense live shows A Wilhelm Scream are in a league of their own and I’m pleased to say they’ve clearly gotten even better over the last few years. The amount of fun they have on stage and their sense of humour is catching. The only mystery is why this set isn’t happening over on the mainstage, if anyone deserves the exposure it’s definitely them.
After a lengthy soundcheck that pushes things ever so slightly behind schedule, metalcore heavyweights Protest The Hero are finally ushered onto the main stage. Despite the extra time spent to soundcheck the band though the desk seems to let them down, robbing tracks like Bloodmeat of their usual venom and it’s not until Rody Walker’s demonstrating his almost Dio-esque range during Sex Tape that the quality of the sound finally matches that of their performance. It’s a shame that at this point that Rody decides to stop everything and make light of his battle with ringworm, which halts the momentum they’ve only just gathered as a band for what ends up being a pretty weak laugh. Fortunately they’re able to pull things back fairly easily with fan favourite Limb From Limb, but it was touch and go for a minute or two.
Sound issues seem to have crept across to the second stage too when we go to check out Ignite who sadly struggle for the duration of their set, despite their best efforts to overcome the incredibly loud and shrill guitar tones coming through the P.A and no doubt their own monitors. They put forward a valiant effort though and the crowd seem to understand what’s going on, pumping their fists in the air to try and motivate the Orange County natives during Call On My Brothers but unfortunately it’s just not quite enough to overcome the obstacles in front of them, putting a downer on what could otherwise have been a good show.
Whatever was going on behind the sound desk during Protest The Hero’s set it obviously isn’t a problem for The Dillinger Escape Plan when the time comes for them to ply their trade. Every note of the delightfully chaotic opener Prancer rings true as Ben Weinman and co. assault the front row the only way they know how, leading to a massive round of applause. On top form as always, the mathcore giants rattle through a set laced with tracks from every period of the band’s history. It all blends together very well too, from the frantic straining guitars of 43% Burnt to the oddly melodic verses of One Of Us Is The Killer you would never know that some of their material is separated by more than fifteen years, which a real testament to how ahead of their time they were when they burst onto the scene back in 1999. Few bands with a reputation as fearsome as theirs genuinely live up to expectations night after night, however watching them now you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d lost an hour somewhere and stumbled upon Friday’s headline act. Truly impressive stuff.
Despite the fact that The Dillinger Escape Plan are still putting the finishing touches on a killer set, the recently resurrected Fightstar have pulled quite a crowd into the slightly more intimate second stage for their headline slot. Whilst Charlie Simpson’s onstage antics may pale in comparison to the spectacle taking place a few hundred yards away, Fightstar are nonetheless an entertaining prospect and deliver some memorable moments for those willing to stray from the mainstage. There’s plenty of nostalgia for older material like Colours Bleed To Red and Paint Your Target which elicits one the best sing-alongs of the weekend so far. However, it’s the live debut of their most recent single Animal that proves they are still growing, maturing and very much a band to look out for.
If there’s one thing you can rely on at a Coheed and Cambria show, aside from Claudio Sanchez’s trademark flowing mane, it’s that Coheed fans are always ready to show some love for their favourite band and tonight is no exception. As soon as the stage lights dim the cheers of admiration and support almost make it difficult to discern the delicately picked introduction to In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 above the roar. To play a full album, let alone a concept album on anything but your own tour is always something of a gamble but the four piece from New York carry it exceptionally well.
They’re enthralling to watch despite the lack of crowd interaction and even the nearly ten minute long Of The Light & The Glass manages to hold everyone’s attention from beginning to end. The three song encore of later material, including the epic finale of Welcome Home hits even harder still and has people sprinting through the arena from the campsite entrance to catch its final moments as Claudio raises his Gibson Explorer into the air, playing the songs last few notes with his teeth. After a performance of that calibre we can only hope that Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV receives similar treatment sooner rather than later!