Spread across two venues in Bristol (namely The Lanes and the famous Bristol Bierkeller), the very first Fat Lip Fest had some minor niggles to contend with prior to launch, with the late removal of When We Were Wolves and Carcer City.
Despite these setbacks, there is a healthy amount of pop punk, progressive metal and hardcore on show in what turns out to be a hugely positive festival experience. Home Wrecked deliver some tasty pop punk action which is rather enjoyable, despite being relatively generic, although hopping across to The Lanes to see Continents is the opposite: all of the generic nature but without the fun. If vocalist Phil Cross spent as much time on crowd interaction and nailing their songs as he did rolling his sleeves and fiddling with his baseball cap then perhaps their performance might have been lifted somewhat.
FOES bring a chilled eeriness to proceedings with their Arcane Roots-esque progressive rock output, hypnotising those in attendance with some beautifully crafted songs before another venue change to the Bierkeller sees Straight Lines showcase some addictive post-hardcore tinged anthems to a sea of nodding heads.
Easy comparisons to Skindred greet Emp!re wherever they go, and it’s not hard to see why; they brandished a take on heavy metal that includes infectious grooves, spiky guitar riffs and hugely melodic vocals courtesy Joe Green in what is without doubt the standout vocal performance of the day.
Holding Absence shake away any misconceptions about age and experience (they’ve been a group for a mere nine months) with arguably the overall performance of the festival. Mixing hugely interesting layers of progressive metal and post-rock with intelligent vocals and a searing intensity, the Cardiff five-piece show an awful lot of promise.
Create To Inspire prove that they’re not simply a last minute replacement for Carcer City and thoroughly deserve serving us a slice of their rowdy post-hardcore before Austin Dickenson’s As Lions play a large chunk of their debut record Selfish Age to a rapturously appreciative crowd. The melodic metal of this new venture is perhaps not quite as heavy as his previous outfit Rise To Remain, but nevertheless the frontman has clearly got songwriting charm coupled with the ability to command a crowd better than most.
It’s been a while since Devil Sold His Soul have released any new material and one could also be forgiven for the confusion with seeing two vocalists on stage. The decision to re-insert original vocalist Ed Gibbs alongside Paul Green for their recent 10 year anniversary shows has been prolonged, and on this performance, looks set to be a very good decision. Totally captivating throughout, more recent tracks such as “Devastator” and “Time” are given extra dynamism and a new perspective with dual vocals. Although there’s nothing immediately on the horizon, when we spoke to guitarist Rick Chapple and drummer Leks Wood on that tour, they indicated that a new record is definitely on the cards.
Headlining the stage at The Lanes are another band who seem to have drifted a bit over the last couple of years. Many thought that after pulling out of their main support role for SikTh back in late 2015 that the writing may be on the wall, but Feed The Rhino are no quitters. Clearly a band deeply adored by some pretty rabid fans, they rattle through a set close to an hour in length which features everything from singing on bars, shirt-ripping, piggy back mosh pits and a massively emotive rendition of “Tides“. Announcing that he is to be a new father imminently, one can only hope that Lee Tobin and the rest of the lads can get cracking on with some new material.
Headlining the festival proper over at the Bierkeller, Young Guns close the day out in style bringing mainstream, radio-friendly choruses to the audience. Clearly more suited to the younger listener, judging by the demographic on show, the band nevertheless show a level of polish honed from almost ten years of performing at a consistently high level. Choice cuts such as fan favourite “Bones“, newer track “Bulletproof“, and a decent cover version of Foo Fighters’ “My Hero“, incite the best crowd reactions during the show and they leave the audience announcing that they will be back in Bristol in September.
With impressively managed venues, top quality bands, tasty food stalls and good quality alcohol (at a reasonable price!) on offer, here’s hoping that Fat Lip Fest 2018 will be even better.