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Tech Fest 2015: over and out

Tech Fest 2015 logo blurred

Time and Tech Fest have a curious relationship. On one hand, it only feels like a couple of hours since I was first walking across the familiar grass of the Newark Showground campsite on Thursday morning, watching people wrestling with their tents.  But on the other, I also feel like I’ve seen and done far more than one might reasonably expect to fit into two weeks, let alone four days of music and shenanigans. Quite how time can pass quickly and slowly at the same time utterly escapes me, but Tech Fest somehow manages it.

Just as I did in 2013 and 2014, it feels right to attempt to capture some of my immediate post-festival reverie, providing a first little insight into what went on in Newark this weekend, as a taster of what is to come from the full coverage that we will painstakingly construct over the next couple of weeks or so. This is here for people who were unable to make it to the festival that are hungry for details, and maybe as a little nudge of the memory for those who were there and are facing the return to reality today, like me.

Reviewing the fifty or more pages of notes many of you will have seen me frantically scrawling from my favoured vantage point (opposite side of the stage from the door, about half-way back) I can see I’ve watched no fewer than thirty eight of the nearly sixty bands playing. Heavens. But as I comb through it and try and figure out exactly what the fuck I was trying to capture on paper in the half-light, I think it is obvious that Tech Fest 2015 was another runaway success, anchoring the event as a fixture in even more people’s calendars than last year.  Welcome to the family, newbies.  We now have toasties.

So, as is now traditional, here’s a first quick brain-dump of some selected highlights that are swimming to the surface of the whirling maelstrom of happy memories that are currently fighting for supremacy inside my head as I valiantly attempt to properly marshal them all.  Strap yourself in;

* Final shows for members of both Acrania and Red Seas Fire on Thursday. The absence of Pete Graves, in particular, from the stages of Tech Fests future after a clean sweep of appearances to date will be keenly felt. All were given a fitting send off.

* Plini travelling all the way from Australia to deliver to the the early birds on Thursday a stunning display of seemingly effortless virtuosity as nonchalantly as if he was tying his shoelaces, together with an all-star backing band of jaw-dropping collective talents.

* Getting to watch both my favourite mentalists The Colour Line throw themselves around the main stage and beyond, then my favourite new discovery of the last year, Sumer, build their gorgeous soundscapes on the second stage immediately afterwards.  That was an hour very well spent indeed.

* Watching a number of returning Tech Fest favourites really stepping up their game – most notably Exist Immortal, No Sin Evades His Gaze, Carcer City and Heart of a Coward – the latter returning to a thoroughly well-deserved headline slot.

* Seeing both Clockwork and Hieroglyph all but fill out the rooms for their respective sets before 1:00pm, both delivering tremendously exciting sets that prove that the future of the UK Tech scene is in safe hands.  I fully expect to see both of them back next year, and rather higher up the bill.  It’s outstanding to see such passion and talent whilst it’s still early enough to taste the toothpaste.

* Seeing the Nerf gun ‘hit squad’ stalking the site, taking out a few high-profile targets.

* The sight of our glorious editor and benevolent overlord Chris walking across the site after Rolo Tomassi‘s set, with a band t-shirt in one hand, a raspberry ripple ice cream in the other, and grinning as widely as a pig that’s just won a lifetime’s supply of shit.

* The raffling off of a Strandberg guitar, quite possibly bringing a tear to the eyes of more unlucky guitarists than even Agent Fresco’s acoustic set (more on that in a minute).

* Being slightly worried that members of Cyclamen were having so much fun on stage, they might actually burst with happiness. Also, the discovery that they can sleep pretty much anywhere impressed us profoundly (most notably by the wall of the press/production area, feet away from the Hands On Printing Stage).

* A reminder that even if Monuments‘ Chris Baretto is unable to sing, scream or even raise his voice, he’s still one of the very best frontmen anywhere in metal today.

* Horrific confirmation that no man should ever, EVER contemplate wearing booty shorts.

* The welcome addition of many more food options than the canteen and dodgy, price-raising burger van of last year.  Including the discovery of the breakfast calzone and that curried goat is an excellent and tasty way to revive flagging energy levels.

* The arrival on site of the Smoky Tentacles shisha tent, providing a little respite from the metal, a collection of remarkably comfortable beanbags and a great selection of drinks and snacks to boot. Let’s hope they are a permanent addition to the festival.

* Being given a very sneaky first listen to some work-in-progress versions of new material from one of the bands. I’m sworn to secrecy, but it’s sounding very promising indeed. Ooooh, intrigue.

* The look of joy on people’s faces when I let them have an equally sneaky listen to a new Agent Fresco track. Although major kudos to those who refused the option, and resolved to wait to hear it in its entirety; I admire your discipline.

* Strutting around wearing an AAA pass for an entirely unrelated event makes you look a bit of a wally. You know who you are.

* Seeing one band member steadfastly refuse to change out of his stage attire for two days after his set.  You also know who you are.  But I like you.

* As ever, the consolidation of old friendships, the transition from internet friendships into the real world, and the making of entirely new connections is what makes Tech Fest so much more than just a music festival, and probably the friendliest place on earth. Well done, everyone.  Before the weekend started, over 100 people from my Facebook friendlist had logged themselves as attending the event, and that number is going up significantly as people get back to their computers. It was great meeting you all.

From the many and various conversations I had – particularly towards the end of the festival – it seems that the competition for ‘Band Of The Weekend’ is basically a two-way race between Leprous and Agent Fresco. I will let others speak for the Norwegians, because I am firmly in Camp Fresco.  Even surpassing the high expectations set by their Euroblast sets in October, they were practically transcendental for me; the electric set on Saturday evening felt like a release of pure joy, and one that led me to completely disregard the aches and pains in my knees that had built up over three days of watching bands. I bounced around so continually for that hour that I ruined those poor, old knees to the point that I was having difficulty walking, and was still completely fine with that.

But then Sunday afternoon’s acoustic set was, without doubt, the single most emotional musical experience of my life. Obviously, music has moved me in the past, but never to the point that I had to take myself away from everyone for half an hour afterwards to put myself back together enough to rejoin the party. That is a most astonishing achievement. Some praise must also go to Press To Meco, whose perfectly timed set helped shake the last strands of melancholy from my head.

Finally, the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that it exists.  My name is Simon and I am a merchoholic. This is my haul from the tables this year. Just to confirm, that’s nine t-shirts (bottom right is Plini, in case you can’t read it), eight CDs, two pint glasses and a Zippo. That’s pretty good going, I think.

TF15 merch haul

So there we have it. Tech Fest 2015 was a non-stop voyage of delights. It was an enormous, unqualified success and I think we have all come away from it both hugely inspired, proud of what our community has become and not to mention ready and willing to bore the pants off everyone who wasn’t there about how great it was for months to come. The Monolith, collectively, thanks Simon Garrod and a team too numerous to mention individually for the countless hours of hard work that went into making it all happen. We love you all.

Over the next few weeks, we will be hammering away at our keyboards to put together a whole series of live reviews, interviews and more besides to provide – we hope – the definitive record of a truly incredible, life affirming weekend. But, for now, just like last year, I think I might just pass out on my face for a bit.