Tech Fest 2015 review: Friday
Welcome back, as we continue our in-depth look at Tech Fest 2015 with coverage of Friday’s bands. The first full day, after Thursday’s more serene, staggered start, Friday does away with all the necessary but annoying tent set-up, and lets everyone get right into the action.
Of course, with first night shenanigans claiming several casualties, heads were perhaps a little sore. Nevertheless, the early bands had a fair turnout, and there was something of interest to be found for pretty much everyone.
Photos by Jo Moolenschot: Jagwar; The Colour Line; Sumer; No Sin Evades His Gaze; Sithu Aye; Carcer City; Leprous.
12pm, Hands On Printing Stage
Jagwar are the somewhat unfortunate victims of the site’s requirement to turn off all the equipment overnight. Whilst not an issue, and obviously good to keep down costs, it does mean that everything needs to be recalibrated in the morning – and this ends up causing a few problems for the Manchester outfit.
It’s clear that they’re talented. A young band, they have enthusiasm in spades, which despite the slightly disjointed nature of the set, is to their absolute credit.
Working from their debut EP Palmless, released only a few months ago, their sound is draws much from obvious influences The Safety Fire (their name comes from a track from Mouth of Swords) – with guitars dancing around high up the fretboard.
Vocalist Perry Pearman is clearly gifted, but does suffer from a lack of monitoring; slipping out of key on a few occasions, which seems to knock his confidence a bit. In general, Jagwar never quite settle into their groove – a shame – but with more experience under their belts, they’ll return in style.
12:30pm, Main Stage
French prog-tech quintet Kadinja return for a second appearance in Newark, albeit with a slightly different line-up, with guitarist Max Michel replaced by Nicolas Hørbacz.
Their set is also the first on the new main stage, and the combination of a shorter but wider room, raised stage, improved PA, and the metal walls lined with curtain to dampen the reverb of the room, early indications suggest it has been much improved from last year.
Kadinja also feel like an improved, and somewhat heavier proposition than I recall from limited exploration previously, with some fairly weighty chug backing up the more spidery guitar runs. The overall standard of musicianship throughout the band appears to be exceptional, especially in the guitar duo of Pierre and Nicolas. Some particularly impressive soloing keeps the fretboard-watchers amongst the respectable crowd that’s turned out to catch the early set happy.
However, for all their obvious technical prowess, their sound is not especially original, nor is there much deviation from the standard template of their songwriting. Somehow, it’s difficult to imagine that they are in ‘favourite band’ territory for anyone – but with that being said, given the pace of their development that may well not be the case for much longer. Definitely one to keep an eye on, and not just for the guitarists looking for flashy solo techniques.
1pm, Hands On Printing Stage
Foreboding, ugly, unremittingly bleak and furious, Belial‘s music feels appropriate for a band from Swindon. Their portentous sound, borrowing some death metal elements while remaining fundamentally groove-led, is brutal and effective. That sound is matched by an imposing stage presence, particularly that of vocalist Jamie Harrison, who adopts an impressively menacing persona as he barks out his lines.
Continuing what seems to be a consistently repeated theme this weekend, Belial have taken to the stage with a last-minute stand-in guitarist, who somehow managed to get up to gigging speed on the entire set in just two days. That’s no small achievement.
However, the band have fallen somewhat afoul of a common issue within this particular scene, with a sometimes overbearing backing track. Filled with sinister tones, at times the backing steamrollers over the riffs themselves, masking what subtleties they may have. The occasional Milton Cleans and all but inevitable sub drops also feel unfortunately derivative. This is a real pity, and I’m certainly left with the impression that Belial would be better served by ditching the backing entirely, and adopting a starker, more raw sound that would compliment the dark atmosphere they’re clearly capable of generating without the safety net of a laptop.
This point is emphatically proved by the appearance of a thoroughly stomping cover of Korn’s “Here To Stay“, that remains every bit as groovy as the original, but is at least twice as heavy. I certainly was left thinking I need to investigate the band further, and I probably wasn’t the only one.
The Colour Line
1:30pm, Main Stage
Top to bottom: Sam Rudderforth; Sam Arundell.
Few bands can be as relied upon to provide a spectacle worth watching as Hull’s The Colour Line. Probably the strongest candidate in the contest to be Britain’s answer to The Dillinger Escape Plan, we always enjoy watching them lay waste to venues in, as I have said in the past, a blizzard of limbs and riffs.
There has been a significant change to the line-up since the last time we saw them do exactly that in London, though. After playing shows with temporary bass players following Josh Peacock’s quiet departure. Guitarist Sam Arundell took the brave decision to transpose his guitar parts onto a six string bass, with the band continuing as a quartet. I admit I was intrigued by this, and was looking forward to seeing it, but that was not to be this time. With guitarist Usama absent and recovering from a serious illness, Sam is back on guitar and they are temporarily assisted by stand-in bass player Ethan Tomlinson from fellow Kingstonians Libertae Mae.
Of course, this change doesn’t dampen the energy that pours from the stage the moment they launch into their set. Vocalist Sam Rudderforth is a constant blur of motion, and it takes him less than two songs to make the first of numerous ventures over the barrier and into the crowd. Being ‘in your face’ is a mission statement that The Colour Line take literally.
With jazzy interludes dropping straight into bursts of splenetic fury, coupled with the constant state of motion of everyone not sat on a drumstool, there’s a thrilling sense of danger to their set, as well as a palpable feeling that almost anything could happen.
It would probably be fair to say that absolutely the best way to witness The Colour Line is dodging the flying headstocks in a small room, but they handle the transition to the large stage well, making the most of the space available to them. It feels like we’ve been waiting an age for new recorded output from them, and latest single “The Streisand Effect“ is a tantalising taste of what is to come.
Throughout the performance, both Sams head into the crowd, either drawing a tight circle of headbanging fans around them, writhing about on the floor and generally capering about. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, and just watching them is enough to confirm how old and tired I am. I’m sadly pulled out of the room for unconnected reasons before the end of their set, but 25 minutes is all that is required to confirm their place as the most consistently exciting live band on the British tech scene right now.
2pm, Hands On Printing Stage
Top to bottom: Ian Hill; Taria Dawson; Tim Bonney.
Blending the sonic palette of bands like Tool, The Ocean and Cult Of Luna, Sumer are a real treat; especially for newcomers to their sound. Three guitars and trading, harmonising vocals bring some serious weight to the room. Marshalling so many guitars shouldn’t feel so effortless, but from the audience’s perspective at least, it looks it.
After the frenetic nature of The Colour Line, the Londoners bring the pace down a tad, albeit with no less groove – and in fact, more than most; so seriously invested in neck-noddery are they that it’s small wonder the entire shed doesn’t shift a few inches on its foundations.
Sometimes serene, sometimes savage, there’s an ease to Sumer’s performance indicative of a band invested in and devoted to their craft. Indeed, they’ve played in and around London so much over the last few months that we’d be tired of them, if they weren’t so utterly compelling.
Set closer “End Of Sense” builds steadily into an absolute monster, with Ian Hill and Tim Bonney’s passion-infused vocals bringing the house down in a resounding fashion.
Notably, whilst the crowd started off under-strength and subdued, Sumer were able to draw in a respectable number over the course of their half hour, and the buzz around afterwards was one of genuine surprise and affirmative
2:30pm, Main Stage
Powering onto main stage this year, and following the release of their new album Animi earlier this year, Subversion deliver a crushingly heavy set akin to the melodic death metal/core wave of the early 2000s, but with added grooves are akin to Soilwork meeting After The Burial.
While some of the grooves between the rhythm sections get lost in the mix, the ferocity of Jay Shield’s vocals create a thunderous effect. Jay’s humorous banter between songs, alongside guitarist Sean Moxom’s on stage antics, prove that Subversion are a band that don’t take themselves too seriously and play music for the reason many bands forget – to have fun and get their audience to do the same.
Kai Giritli’s soaring cleans, while possibly perceived as over emphasised, are powerful and effective in balancing out Jay’s piercing screams not to mention memorable, with “Revelations” a perfect example of this.
Closing number “Catalyst” proves to be the strongest of the set which, causing widespread head banging amongst the crowd and leaving the audience feeling thoroughly well-grooved.
3pm, Hands On Printing Stage
It is almost impossible not to notice the growing trend of bands fielding three guitarists in their line-ups, but the inconvenient truth is that vanishingly few of them have figured out how to manage them correctly in their sound, especially in the live environment.
The Parallel have flown in from Toronto, Canada to play – but unfortunately, nobody appears to be that bothered. Save for a line of fans along the barrier, the second stage room is looking conspicuously empty. Being sandwiched between two festival favourites was always going to be a hard sell for whoever ended up in this slot.
And sadly, The Parallel do seem to fall into the same traps as many of their triple guitar contemporaries. Sure, the six of them make a big noise between them, but it is a messy and confused one. Picking out riffs and grooves, even verses and choruses, is not straightforward. This is problematic. On record….
Then something strange happens. Vocalist Matt Johnston announces their last song very early, which they dutifully play and depart. Looking at my watch, I am surprised to find they’ve only used half of their allotted time. I don’t know if they started early, had only ever intended on playing for fifteen minutes or had simply become disheartened by the near total absence of an audience for their set. Most peculiar.
Either way, it was probably not The Parallel’s finest (quarter) hour. It might be time for them to consider whether the extra layer of sound brought by a third guitarist is really worth the extra seat in the tour bus, or even extra plane ticket, as they start to spread their wings internationally.
No Sin Evades His Gaze
3:30pm, Main Stage
Top to bottom: James Denton; Matthew “Moat” Lowe; James Denton.
The main stage room fills out respectfully for No Sin Evades His Gaze‘s Tech Fest return. Last year’s performance was only the second time the band had taken to the stage together, but a year of regular gigging has sharpened their performance and given them a boost of confidence – and this is despite being a regular member down; guitarist Kev Pearson is absent due to illness, and a temporary replacement has been found in Harrison White.
Clearly, absent guitarists are becoming a bit of a theme this weekend, with Harrison being the third stand-in to have hurriedly learned the set out of the bands that have played so far today alone. Nevertheless, he puts in as assured a performance as the rest of the band.
As one would expect, the band roll out a set of the best cuts from last year’s debut album Age of Sedation. “Filth” sounds appropriately filthy through the main stage PA, and the big, brawny riffs set plenty of heads nodding, despite the rising temperatures. However warm it may be in the room, it’s obviously several degrees hotter on stage – it’s possible to watch both singer James and bass thing Moat’s grey shirts become several shades darker as the set progresses, which makes drummer Theo’s decision to play wearing a woolly beanie slightly perplexing.
No Sin also find space in their set for a brand new track. Titled “Preacher“, it packs a great big chorus and bodes well for the next release. Together with an engaging live performance, with James quickly developing a more commanding stage presence, the future is looking bright for No Sin Evades His Gaze and their polished modern metal.
The Room Colored Charlatan
4pm, Hands On Printing Stage
It’s always an honour when bands from far and wide make the journey to our humble ‘home’. The Room Colored Charlatan have come all the way from deepest Indiana. Unfortunately for them, amongst a plethora of difficulties the festival has encountered this weekend, potentially none have been more debilitating than those that hit these guys.
Practically from the moment they hit UK shores, drummer Cameron Witt has been ‘somewhat unwell’, to say the least. Whilst his extremely friendly and personable band mates took in the festival atmosphere, he bounced from tent to medical area, and by all accounts should really have gone to hospital – but refused to before he’d played his set. What a trooper.
Dosed up on whatever they could find, the band take to the stage and you probably wouldn’t know anything is wrong – again, to their credit.
There is a certain amount of punch missing from the quieter sections – which sounds counter-intuitive I know, but in relation to the punishing nature of the heavier parts, is more pronounced. Their 2014 record Primitives is well balanced in its dynamism, so this is a bit of a shame.
Vocalist Jared Bush sounds like a banshee, shrieking as much as he screams, accentuating the groove-heavy presence of their music. They’re the sort of band you can really get into, or they just might not be your thing at all – from a personal perspective, it took a while to click – but the quality is certainly there, and we hope for better and more healthy things in the future. They certainly seem up for a return in the future.