UK Tech Fest 2016: what’s good?
It’s that time of year again.
Since we first ventured out to Peterborough en masse in 2013, Tech Fest has become the high-point in most of our musical – and indeed social – calendars. With a bill that contains a vivacious mix of heroes of the scene, returning veterans, and a healthy dose of fresh new blood, together with a wonderfully warm, cosy and welcoming community vibe, Newark Showground has become something of a spiritual home, or at least the destination for an annual pilgrimage, for us and roughly 1,000 other prog-metal aficionados.
For us, combing through the bill and plucking out our personal highlights in the lead-up to the event is just as much a part of the ritual as doing battle with a pop-up tent or opening the toilet cubicle doors in the morning with extreme trepidation about what horrors may lie behind them. Adam and Ryan have already had their say, so now it’s my turn to wax lyrical about just a few selected bands appearing over the weekend.
If you want to find me on-site, then standing off to one side of the stage, clutching my faithful notepad, during one of these five sets will be a good place to start.
Playing: Friday, 1:30pm, Carillion Guitars Stage
Right from the moment we heard about Harbinger’s formation, we had high hopes – especially as it would see guitarist Ben Sutherland move back to his main instrument after a stint playing bass for slam heroes Acrania. But, nevertheless, we have been startled – in a pleasant way – at just how quickly it has come together for them. The arrival of Doomed From Day One’s Charlie Griffiths as second guitarist was the final piece of the puzzle, and Harbinger haven’t looked back.
As we said not too long ago about debut EP Paroxysm, Harbinger are deftly combining high-minded progressive technicality with sheer brute force and aggression. Their EP launch show at the Tech Fest all-dayer just a couple of weeks ago really saw all of the pieces coming together, slotting into place and melting the faces of the audience.
Tech Fest will certainly be the biggest show to date in Harbinger’s relatively short career but the indications are (if you see what I did there) that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the near future. Catching their Friday lunchtime set could well be a way to get in on the ground floor of something very special.
No Sin Evades His Gaze
Playing: Friday, 5:15pm – Hands On Printing Stage
It’s no secret that our favourite festival is maturing. This is very pleasing.
It’s equally pleasing to be able to watch bands mature along with it. No Sin Evades His Gaze played their second ever show at Tech Fest 2014, and are returning for a third consecutive appearance on these stages, working their way up the bill each time.
The band have certainly not been slacking in between festival seasons either, having played so many shows that I managed to see them seven times in 2015 alone. Over that time they’ve gradually honed their brawny prog-metal into a seriously tight and commanding live performance, and it’s been a pleasure to watch happen.
They eased off the touring in recent months to concentrate on writing the follow-up to debut album Age of Sedation, and the indications are that we’ll be getting some more of that new material in Newark. So there’s a strong chance that what we will see is the emergence, effectively, of No Sin Evades His Gaze 2.0
Playing: Friday, 6:00pm – Carillion Guitars Stage
A lot can happen in twelve months, and it seems almost all of it has happened to Plini. Prior to his booking for Tech Fest 2015, the number of shows Plini had played could be counted on the fingers of one finger. So, with just a couple of warm-up shows back in his native Australia and an all-star band behind him, his first major gig received a rapturous welcome from the early bird crowd on the Thursday and was one of the high-points of the weekend.
That show effectively upgraded Plini’s career from one of a bedroom guitarist to fully-fledged touring act. With shows in Japan and a US tour already under his belt, and work in progress on recording a whole new album’s worth of material, Tech Fest this year will just be one stop on a gargantuan six-week run around Europe with Animals As Leaders and Intervals. It will be interesting to see what effect these experiences will have had on the live show.
Hopefully a new track or two will have found their way into the set, but even it is only comprised of choice cuts from his smooth and slinky trilogy of EPs of jazzy, instrumental prog, I’m sure the Tech Fest faithful that will undoubtedly turn out in force to watch will be more than satisfied.
For The Oracle
Playing: Saturday, 12:00pm – Hands On Printing Stage
One of the things that has always impressed us about Tech Fest is organiser Simon Garrod and his team’s capacity for identifying emerging talent early on, stuffing the lower half of Tech Fest’s bills with plucky young hopefuls.
For The Oracle’s debut Kind Child turned my head, too; a sprawling, progressive adventure with shades of Karnivool, Tool and Oceansize evident in the mix. They’ll be making the long trip from the southernmost tip of the country to open up proceedings on the Saturday in a (comparatively) chilled out fashion, and I’m keen to see whether the promise displayed on record transfers to the stage.
What’s more, I have reason to believe that they will be the very first band to tread the Tech Fest boards to feature a conga player, and also the first saxophone to appear that’s not being held by Chris Baretto – so expect a rather different palette of sounds to kick start your day after emerging from your tent and trying to remember who you are after Friday night.
Playing: Saturday, 4:30pm – Carillion Guitars Stage
In all honesty, putting Destiny Potato in a list like this feels a bit like tempting fate…but who doesn’t like living a bit dangerously? It was during their set at Tech Fest 2013 that the punishing heat in the tents containing the stages started to affect my ability to stand and see straight, so I was forced to retreat to find what little shade I could, lie down and cool off.
I consoled myself with the thought that they would soon be back, but – not for the first or last time – I was wrong. The band suffered repeated difficulties with obtaining visas from their native Serbia to come and play in the UK, forcing their eleventh hour cancellation in both 2014 and 2015, as well as a UK tour with Hieroglyph. Curses.
In the interim, though, we have seen the eventual release of their delightfully quirky debut album Lun. Guitarist David Maxim Micic’s extraordinary songwriting continually has me reaching for Lewis Carroll-esque references to describe its ability to conjure up a fantastical, whimsical other-worldliness. The opportunity to fall down the rabbit hole with them in Newark – preceded by a tour with Disperse snaking around the country for the week leading up to the festival – feels long overdue, but sure to have been worth the wait. Fingers crossed.
The stage times have just been released, so take a gander for the full line-up including the latest changes: