Takedown 2012

author AP date 26/03/12

Following a one-year hiatus after the previous Takedown event, which took place in the New Forest in Hampshire, the one-day festival made an impressive return this year with a new venue and a bigger line-up. Taking place at the University of Southampton Students' Union, the festival boasted four stages, all conveniently placed within 25 meters of each other in two buildings.

The main stage, sponsored by Monster Energy, was situated inside Garden Court, an annex to the main student bar at the university, the Stag's Head, with room for some 300 people. Inside the Stag's Head itself was the Big Deal Clothing stage, with room for an estimated 100-150 people in front of the stage. The main stage for the heavier bands on the festival's line-up, Guitar Central, had been placed in the main SU building's Cube, which usually doubles as a cinema and nightclub, and looked to be able to facilitate some 400 to 500 fans. Also in this building was the smallest, Southampton Music stage, which was to be found in the corner of the Bridge Bar, normally the venue for good lunchtime burgers, stand-up comedy shows, poker nights and acoustic performances. What the capacity of this stage was is difficult to tell, as the bar itself is quite large despite the tiny stage, but I'd wager on up to 200 people being able to cram in there if necessary.

As for amenities, all of the university bars were operating with student prices, ensuring cheap drinks all day, while similarly cheap food could be bought in the canteen until about 18:00, and in the Stag's Head thereafter. There isn't much else to say about the facilities, but if there is one general thing we all felt needed some further thought was the scheduling of bands, as rushing from one stage to another with virtually no breaks in between does get quite tiring with almost 9 hours of music to check out. It might be wiser to afford longer set times for the bigger acts in particular and start the shows earlier (12:00, say) to ensure a good 10 minutes of toilet and drink time in between the various sets. Then again, this problem was only relevant if, like us, you wanted to see pretty much every band at the festival.

But enough with the practical stuff. Below is our review coverage of the festival, brought to you by myself, Botong 'BL' Li and Tim 'TL' Larsen.

Dead! on Monster Energy Stage at 14:00

First up at the prompt time of 2pm was a winner of a contest to open the festival, and this was only their second ever show. Dead! had put some effort into looking rock'n'roll, armbands on dirty denim jackets, facepaint, and some young swagger. Soundwise it all sounded a bit messy on the Garden Court mainstage, the horrible and far too loud mixing didn't do these young guns any favours considering they had literally just doubled their stage appearance count. From what I could make out, their music was a sort of radio rock mixed with a punk rock feel where a couple of the songs they rolled out had some decent-ish sounding passages or riffs - though overall it was difficult to be blown away nor continously entertained. Music aside, their age as a band together really showed through as well, as everything lacked a bit of tightness (even though some of the drum work did seem pretty decent) and with the atrocious mix it was difficult to get a solid idea of the tracks they played. Still some way to go for these guys yet. --BL [4½]

Forever Can Wait on Big Deal Clothing Stage at 14:30

Some short while after checking out Dead! I sat myself in the Stags Head pub, had some beer, enjoyed the sun shining through as I caught some of Forever Can Wait's set on the Stag's stage down the other end of the room. It took me some time to recall the last time I saw them, with most of my memory simply recalling that they were decent enough. Sure enough their sound was good here, and their sweet female fronted pop-rock/pop punk styling were easy on the ears after the blasting they got from a previously incredibly loud indoor set. There was a rather subdued but supportive crowd gathered by the stage, and with me in the distance still enjoying my drink, it was difficult to find myself more than just simply keeping a watchful eye. With a little more exposure (times like these certainly don't hurt) and a stable release to give them ground, Forever Can Wait could well be something more than interesting for the local Southampton music scene and possibly beyond. --BL [6]

Desolated on Guitar Central Stage at 14:45

AP had once told me about Desolated, and their supposed over the top heavy sound and stage performance he once encountered in a live setting. Inside the darkly lit Cube stage I was witness to at least say that some of those impressions did not come true for me. Desolated indeed had a large sound, though it was not all that heavy or overly intimidating at least by my reckoning. Make no mistake however, compared to the other bands before I just watched, it was like listening to a train plowing through concrete walls. Desolated weren't messing around, and there were numerous pits in the crowd which brought about some intensity that you could almost feel circulating in the air. From a personal perspective I felt like their mosh orientated, sludgy down tuned hardcore with hints of deathcore, did come a little early in the afternoon for me to really get into (still only on my second drink of the afternoon at that point). There were enough others in the crowd to disagree with me though and that was nice to see, with some of the active audience participants handling the mic with surprising venom and enthusiasm when it was handed to them - always good to get more people involved. --BL [5½]

Don Broco's Matt Donnelly on the drums

Don Broco on Monster Energy Stage at 16:00

The first band I get to properly check out at this year's Takedown is Bedford quartet Don Broco, whose live shows already have a considerable reputation in Britain, which means it isn't surprising that when I arrive at the Monster-sponsored main stage, the lads are already leading the front half of the fairly large room in an energetic workout session. With a no nonsense approach, they dish out rocking riffs and relatively heavy break, while singer Rob Damiani constantly provides a bouncy example of what behaviour is expected at their shows. From where I'm standing, the sound is somewhat blurry, and although the vocals come over more tuneful than when I heard the band at last year's Hevy Festival, the Don Broco show isn't so much a delightfully nuanced listening experience, as it is an opportunity for dirty, sweaty fun. As much is underscored when Damiani divides the floor in two halves for the last song, gets off the stage with the corded mic in hand, positions himself in the middle and explains something along the lines of "we don't have another show for over a month, so give me everything you got", instigating a large scale wall of death. Hence the show ends with Damiani moshing feverishly in a sea of his band's fans and my festival starts at a quite high level of intensity. --TL [7]

Burn The Fleet take the stage

Burn The Fleet on Big Deal Clothing Stage at 16:30

Next up for me are hometown heroes Burn The Fleet, who have gathered a good portion of their Southampton friends around the considerably smaller Big Deal Stage, which inhabits the corner of the Stag's Head university pub. While the show is of a smaller scale than Don Broco's gymnastics session however, it is no less intense, seeing how the band sets the bar high for audience-to-band dedication when they follow their own tradition of letting the crowd howl the opening words to "Nautilus". The people on the floor oblige in admirable fashion, and the course is set for a show during which you can almost constantly hear a throng of people singing the band's lyrics as strongly you can hear the cleans of frontman (and bassist) Andrew Convey and the backing vocals of the remaining three bandmembers. The band rocks convincingly throught their proggy, Thrice-ish tunes and set a good mood between songs with friendly jokes and charming banter. Old and new songs seem to go over almost equally well, and the band reveals that their debut album will be released imminently, before closing off proceedings with another orchestrated shoutathon during "Handfuls Of Sand". It seems you just can't go wrong with seeing a Burn The Fleet show in the band's hometown. --TL [7½]

Feed The Rhino's Lee Tobin's reaction to not being allowed to stage dive

Feed The Rhino on Guitar Central Stage at 17:05

There is some time to check out how the much hyped Feed the Rhino fare in concert before Fei Comodo steps on stage in the Stag's Head, and as soon as this hardcore crew explodes into action the reasons for their notoriety become clear. The security personnel - unusually strict considering the type of music featured at Takedown - are at pains to contain the band, who'd obviously much rather be bashing in some heads in the moshpit than standing on stage behind a barrier. Multiple leaps into the crowd are attempted by various members of the band only to be restrained by unimpressed guards, much to the frustration of both band and audience, until the tour manager steps in to talk some sense into the guards, or possibly to negotiate some sort of compromise. But while the performance is fantastic, the music itself leaves much to be desired, with no real distinction between the songs. The formula is unwavering: short, simple, bluesy hardcore bangers that enable the band to go apeshit without misplaying a note. If bands like Every Time I Die, Cancer Bats and Dead and Divine are your thing, then Feed the Rhino should be right up your alley as well, but some variety would not hurt. --AP [7]

Fei Comodo on Big Deal Clothing Stage at 17:30

"So where did you say the cloak room was?" - "It's out by the.." - "AARRRHJKLSHAKLJSD" - My conversation with AP is cut short immediately, as singer Marc Halls initiate Fei Comodo's appearance at the Big Deal stage with an indecipherable scream, already sailing on a sea of audience hands from the first second of the set. This sets the bar for a performance that has the gas pedal floored from start to finish, with Fei Comodo dishing out their melodic clean vocals-metalcore with unwavering energy and enthusiasm, constantly brandishing instruments, moving about and encouraging activity on the floor in front of them. It's an admirable effort, and the band has a fair few choruses that deservedly receive decent singalongs, yet it's hard not to get the feeling that maybe having your show constantly shifted into sixth gear isn't entirely optimal. As with the band's music, which is typically crowded with all members trying to do something awesome at all times - rarely making room for the dynamic you get when the listeners attention is carefully lead from part to part - Fei Comodo also give it their all live, almost like they're worried about what would happen if anybody had a second to breathe and dwell a little longer on anything. Of course it doesn't make for a bad show at all, it just races by with such feverish force that even a few days later, it's hard to remember anything from it. --TL [7]

Aliases on Guitar Central Stage at 17:55

On their debut album, Aliases sound almost impossibly good, like some mad concoction of all the best aspects of SikTh and Protest the Hero. Turns out that it is, in fact, almost impossible to reproduce that grandeur live. It's not that Aliases are poor performers; their music just happens to be on the wrong side of complex versus too complex to execute with any sort of meaningful performance. Guitarists Graham "Pin" Pinney and Leah Woodward deliver the goods with admirable precision; the frequent tempo changes and odd-meter riffs are played with the utmost dedication so that nothing goes amiss. But sadly the same cannot be said of vocalist Jay Berast, who never succeeds at hitting the high notes in the likes of "All That Glitters is Gold". The mix is not on his side to be sure, but even with my earplugs pressed as far in as possible to filter out the booming bass notes, it is clear that his skill and control are not quite on par with the rest of the band when it comes to live execution. Add to that a near non-existent visual aspect, and Aliases' show tonight goes down as a decent, but hardly memorable one. --AP [6]

Evarose on Southampton Music Stage at 17:55

Female pop-rock four-piece Evarose from Banbury - who will likely struggle with Paramore comparisons for a long stretch of their early carreer - are not in an easy spot when I find them at the Southampton Music stage, the smallest one at Takedown and barely a stage at all. Rather the place is just the corner of a café room, fenced off from the remaining floor and equipped with a dodgy sound system which treats Evarose to a blurry mix and occasions of what sounds like instruments falling out at random moments. Who exactly is responsible for the problems is hard to say from the floor, but they are probably the reason that most of the audience seems to look on in a rather reserved manner, and even the band's best attempts at encouraging some participation from the crowd turns into slightly awkward moments. This leaves me hoping that the band will move on quickly from this slightly underwhelming set, because songs like "Cough It Up" clearly have the melodies to excite, even in this handicapping setting, and singer Dannika Webber has the pipes to occasionally shatter glass (and I mean that in the best possible way) - the only thing these young women need is to gain some momentum and some confidence, and then I think their tunes will carry them to much better shows than this one. --TL [5½]

Canterbury - popstars in the making

Canterbury on Monster Energy Stage at 18:00

Seeing as Evarose have only been assigned a short set, I also manage to catch the late half of upcoming radio-rockers Canterbury's considerably longer appearance at the Monster Stage. Over here, the local four-piece preside over the kind of show where they both sound and look like a band soon headed to even bigger shows. What I mean by that is that things sound like they're executed with mechanical precision, and singers Luke Prebble and Mike Sparks (also on bass and guitar respectively) dish out their high pitched vocals with seamless ease, addressing the audience with sleek charm between songs. Still, things don't seem anywhere near as intense as for some of the more energetic shows we saw earlier in the day, and it seems to me that Canterbury's poppy profile is preventing them from truly connecting with the festivals mostly alternative looking audience. They do get a decent portion bouncing happily up and down for their last song but in the grander scheme of things, it seems a little too late to deserve a grade on par with the better shows from earlier in the day. --TL [6½]

Subsource on Big Deal Clothing Stage at 18:40

I've always found electronic music to be unsuitable for a concert setting, save for a few exceptions such as Pendulum and the Prodigy. It seems pointless to me to watch a DJ pushing buttons and twisting knobs, as it becomes little less than background dance music. But when performed by an actual full live band such as is the case with the two aforementioned acts, the experience is completely different. Subsource is one of these bands, featuring four members on electric double bass, electric guitar, keyboards/samples, and percussion, and the resulting performance is damn near breathtaking. Small wonder the band gets hefty comparisons to the Prodigy, as their dub-step, drum'n'bass and cyber punk cocktail is delivered with such fervor that your body moves whether you want it to or not. It is heavy as fuck and instantly catchy, and the band's performance is awash with punk rock attitude and seemingly boundless energy. I manage to squeeze in 15 minutes of the madness before heading out to the main stage, but in that time I am convinced: this band has something special going for them. --AP [7]

Mike Duce of Lower Than Atlantis, presumably doublechecking his tuner?

Lower Than Atlantis on Monster Energy Stage at 19:10

As the entire RF delegation congregates for the Lower Than Atlantis show and the room is gradually getting packed, I remember the show at Hevy Festival last year and halfway expect pandemonium to ensue. And when the quartet comes on pandemonium does in fact ensue... halfway. From where we're standing, in the back half of the room, we can appreciate that Lower Than Atlantis sound a good deal better than they did supporting Young Guns in Copenhagen and that there are a lot more people singing along to it, but things don't quite seem as crazy or intense as could've been expected. So about halfway through the show, my compadres opt to go check out Heights while I myself move closer to the stage to see if things look or sound different from a little closer. It's a good thing that I do, because in the front half of the room, people are jumping and dancing and singing ecstatically to both slower songs like "Another Sad Song", faster ones like "Deadliest Catch" and the band's traditional medley of Foo Fighters' "Everlong" and "The Pretender". Up here, everything is exactly as can be expected of a band currently storming forward the way LTA are, and I eventually conclude that the only thing handicapping a spirited performance by the band, is the low-ceiled room that holds the Monster stages, which seems poorly fitted to include the back half of the audience as much in the festivities as the ones in the front. --TL [8]

Heights; remembering to engage the audience

Heights on Guitar Central Stage at 19:45

The first thing that comes to mind when watching Heights is that they resemble The Psyke Project, both in terms of their music and lighting. Though nowhere near as unpredictable on stage as our homegrown heroes, Heights are experts at creating an atmosphere through bleak, slow-paced post-metal and dim blue light gently swaying from side to side. Heights are a visual band without the violence, and with the intricacy and progressive nature of their songs it is impossible not to become wholly immersed in their performance. In contrast with the immediacy of most bands playing this festival, Heights provide a complex listening and viewing experience that demands attention and forces you into a kind of trance. And with a vocalist who takes care to engage and involve the crowd at all times, there's little else than slightly more explosive energy left to ask for. --AP [7½]

Deaf Havana's James Veck-Gilodi; singing the pants off everyone in attendance

Deaf Havana on Monster Energy Stage at 20:20

It's hard to believe, watching Deaf Havana on the Monster Stage, that just two years ago they were a small scale post-hardcore outfit locked in a duel with We Are The Ocean, over who could be the most Alexisonfire-esque British band around. It's hard to believe because after the departure of screamer Ryan Mellor, the promotion of singer/guitarist James Veck-Gilodi to frontman and the release of the new album "Fools And Worthless Liars", Deaf Havana stand before us transformed into a songwriter's rock band with a much wider and much more justified appeal. Veck-Gilodi looks today like he's getting comfortable in his new role, speaking to the audience between songs with the humor and charm of a man who's been around the block once or twice. It's when the songs are being played - and more specifically - when Veck-Gilodi sings that the magic happens however. The young crooner sounds every bit as good live as on record, and aided by an experienced band and a decent mix, he leads the way through a show that is something as simple as a parade of singalongs, with one anthemic track off the new record following the other. Of course, the band's first hit "Friends Like These" is played as well, but it's in an altered, more subtle and less prominent role than during times past. While this may disappoint old fans though, I can only encourage them to get with the program, because with Veck-Gilodi settling into the role as rising star, Deaf Havana are a band on a wholly different level, and with the tour-de-force nature of their set today, it's clear that they can go as far and as big as his developing talents can take them. --TL [8½]

Blitz Kids' Joe James; realising his rock star dreams

Blitz Kids on Big Deal Clothing Stage at 21:00

Between the sets by Deaf Havana and Bury Tomorrow I just have time to catch Blitz Kids playing at the Big Deal stage, a set I wouldn't want to miss given the handful of good songs the band provided on their recent debut "Vagrants And Vagabonds". As it turns out when I come in however, the Blitz Kids show of today is very much a congregation for the already converted, with a sizable portion of the room's population all struggling to get as close to the stage as possible, and then most others looking on with more casual stances from a distance. That's not so unusual however, as is the fact that singer Joe James is strutting and showering in the adoration of the band's fans, while pretty much doing nothing to engage anyone who's not already falling over their own feet to get to touch him or sing lyrics back to him. Meanwhile his bandmembers are every bit as relaxed as he is all over the place, most of them playing the band's tunes precisely and with only minimal movement. It really is all the Joe Show tonight, as James hops from stage to barrier to speakers and back, twisting and turning and crooning and teasing the audience as if they were a throng of groupies competing for a backstage pass. It certainly is energetic and the fans aren't exactly hostile towards it, but as a slightly more apprehensive onlooker, you get the feeling that the band's actual music is just a backdrop for James living out rockstar fantasies tonight. And that's the sort of discrepancy that can seal you away from the upper grades even despite a decently sounding and highly energetic performance. --TL [7]

Daniel Winter Bates - Bury Tomorrow's vocalist

Bury Tomorrow on Guitar Central Stage at 21:45

Given that this is their hometown, Bury Tomorrow's headlining set is pretty much guaranteed to impress, so although a good portion of people are watching Skindred or Kids Can't Fly elsewhere, it is hardly a surprise that a sizable crowd has assembled into the dark confines of the Guitar Central stage to witness it. On stage, Bury Tomorrow are their usual festive selves, checking all the right boxes for a solid metalcore show: there is headbanging galore, countless jumps and dashes across the stage, and a vocalist in Daniel Winter Bates who's unafraid to take charge of the proceedings. He spends much of the performance leaning into the audience, sharing his signature deep growls and shrieks with the most enthusiastic members of the crowd, while his counterpart, guitarist and backing vocalist Jason Cameron delivers his best clean vocals in a live setting yet from a slightly more reserved position.

"Ohmygod, Davyd Winter Bates is playing his bass all up in my face!"

But while the performance overall is the awesome demonstration of power you would expect from such local stars, there are a number of aspects to Bury Tomorrow that strike out as needing some work. The most pressing issue here is that the dynamics of the band's songs, which almost invariably involve shifting between harsh and clean vocals in a traditional verse/chorus/verse pattern, are seldom reflected in the band's demeanor on stage. What I'm missing here is for Cameron to step into the spotlight during his parts and draw the attention to himself, as his role in the band is just as, if not more pivotal than that of Daniel Winter Bates. As is stands now, Cameron seems to settle for standing in the background while most eyes still fixate on Daniel and Davyd Winter Bates showing off their carefully honed stage moves.

Daniel Winter Bates: checking if he can still count his fingers towards the end of the festival

Even so, however, the performance ranks among the best seen at the festival tonight, and it certainly does not hurt the band to flash two brand new songs in "An Honourable Reign" and "Bitemarks" among the nine chosen for the setlist. Songs like "Lionheart", "You & I", "Casting Shapes" and "These Woods Aren't Safe for Us" incite massive sing-songs, while the harder picks "Anything With Teeth", "Royal Blood" and "Confessions" ensure that a large mosh/circlepit persists throughout the set. Solid stuff. --AP [8]

All photos courtesy of Marianne Harris Photography.

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