As I steadily age, I have found a deepening appreciation for tradition. Even more so for traditions one has instigated oneself. So, adding to my unbroken run of first-look articles from ’13, ’14 and ’15, smashed into my laptop in a state somewhere between reverie, exhaustion and delirium feels pleasantly satisfying.
You know the drill by now: this weekend it was Tech Fest, so of course we had a relentlessly splendid time. OF COURSE. The family has noticeably grown, but the vibe has remained intact. Aside from just a couple of isolated incidents that I heard about rather than witnessed, there was no dickish behaviour. Well played everyone. If you can just learn how to use toilets correctly, then it would be absolutely perfect.
It really did feel like we hadn’t been away. Three years in Newark also means that everyone knew where everything was, so we all settled in and felt right at home from the very moment those pop up tents exploded into our collective faces. Well, the faces of those of us who hadn’t opted for Camp Premier Inn anyway.
Probably the biggest change would have been largely invisible to most of the festival: a newly built suite of rooms that became home to us in the press corps and the absolute and total fucking heroes that worked in production to ensure you all had such a great time. They are gods and goddesses, among men. For them and us, not being deafened by being situated immediately beside the second stage was a most welcome development.
As is also customary, I spent most of the weekend, along with Chris and Ryan, and our intrepid photographers Hannah and Evie, charging between the stages to see as much as possible. Soon we will be attempting, sometimes with futility, to decipher our notes, but for now, as is also customary, here are a few of my personal highlights:
* If Tech Fest 2016 is remembered for just one reason, it will relate to Amanda Follit. As Head of Production, Amanda is absolutely essential to making sure Tech Fest doesn’t collapse into a shrieking mess (read all about that here). Amanda’s favourite band is Protest The Hero, who this year happened to be the Saturday Main Stage headliners. The band themselves, and her closest friends, conspired to bring her onstage during their Saturday night headline set, for her partner Rob to appear out of nowhere and propose in front of everyone. An awful lot of people suddenly found they had something in their eye. It was an incredible, beautiful moment and we wish the couple every future happiness. Much love.
* For me, in a weekend stuffed with great music, the absolute high point was Frontierer’s absolutely, absurdly, devastating debut performance. I was wondering quite how they were going to replicate the insanity of Orange Mathematics without actually setting vocalist Chad Kapper on fire, but they absolutely nailed it. Afterwards my face literally hurt from being permanently torn between a huge grin and a grimace at the relentless, glorious, filth pouring out of the PA. Astounding stuff.
* In another debut performance, Novena have appeared practically out of nowhere to drop a damn near perfectly formed 30 minute prog odyssey on us before 1:00pm, to a packed out Main Stage. Opethy riffs, four part harmonies, keyboard solos and that dude from Haken. Also, for taking to the stage and saying, immediately, “Hello, we are Novena. This is our last song.” Brilliant.
* I can’t believe it’s taken three years for anyone to figure this out, but Seething Akira utilised the cavernous hanger that is home to the third stage to host the widest wall of death, probably in history. It was a hilarious moment, and was the icing on the cake of a wonderfully technical problem-free set for the guys, after two previous after-parties frought with difficulties.
* That third stage also saw, again probably for the first time anywhere, the sight of a man begrudgingly playing Stevie Wonder covers while wearing a Sunn0))) shirt: No Sin Evades His Gazes‘ Dan Thornton – an island of doom in a sea of liquid cheese.
* Pteroglyph tearing through a complete cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets“, and watching people literally running into the stage to catch it. Frontman Jimmy Macgregor is an absolute legend and, with James’ riffing, Kirk’s solos, Jason’s undercut and Lars’ flamboyance is like every single member of Metallica circa 1993 rolled into in one magnificent man. Many hugs, dude.
* The sight of hardened metallers going all weak at the knickers at the sight of organiser Simon Garrod’s pet husky, Lincoln. Lincoln was a constant presence on site, and probably now more widely recognised than any of us.
Photo: Rachael Griffiths, Black Lotus Photography
* The sight of a dude shimmying through the pit wearing a rather fetching sombrero/poncho combo. An excellent sartorial choice, sir.
* Listening to the crowd waiting at the back door to the main stage for Protest The Hero fill the time by singing all the way through “Bohemian Rhapsody“. Is there anyone that doesn’t know the words to that song?
* The arrival on site of even more food options, and an incredibly useful corner shop. Some people were clearly attempting to prove that man can live on pancakes alone.
* The sight of at least a couple of actual babies in the arms of their parents in the crowd, wearing the most adorable little ear defenders. Tech Fest is for life, and in their cases, hopefully literally so.
* At the other end of the spectrum, watching one guy definitely old enough to know better going seven shades of mental for almost the entire duration of Textures‘ set. You know who you are. I salute you.
* After two sadly aborted attempts to return to us, Destiny Potato finally made it to Newark and were rewarded with a headliner-sized crowd at half four in the afternoon. Old favourites were played, new songs were played. Good things come to those who wait. We waited, and it was a good thing. A very good thing indeed.
* After some last minute technical disasters, Cornwall’s For The Oracle opened the proceedings on Saturday looking utterly terrified, but still busted out some remarkably mature prog-metal with saxophones and congas to boot. I still wear t-shirts that are older than some of those guys, and they already have some serious chops. They surely have a great future ahead of them.
* In a similar vein, it was hugely heart-warming watching Deities guitarist Dave Klussmann bounding around like a tech-metal puppy and still hitting every note of his complex riffs during their Sunday morning set. Another guy born to be on the stage, no doubt.
Finally, we at The Monolith are hugely, pathetically, grateful to every one of you that wandered up to our little stand, signed up to our mailing lists and even bought one of our lovely, tastefully designed t-shirts. It was really great seeing some of you walking around site wearing them. Knowing that we’re not just shouting into an empty void means more to us than you will ever know.
But that’s more than enough for now. We have many, many words to come about what went down on those two stages over those four days and a whole host of interview-related silliness to share with you over the next few weeks. It may surprise you to know that I am not omniscient, so I didn’t see everything. If you saw something memorable that I haven’t mentioned here, please record it for posterity in the comments below.
Now, my fails are wording me. It’s time for a hot soak in a long bath and maybe some other form of relaxant or other. Of course, I mean Tom & Jerry cartoons, officer. I hope to see as many of you as possible again next year, we’re already counting down the days. All our love, thanks and inappropriate touching goes to Simon Garrod and the large and devoted team working to make Tech Fest the best damn weekend of the year.