Round 4: go!
If there’s nothing else we do well, we know damn well how to tech a fest. Our fourth year in attendance – UK Tech Fest’s fifth – means rocking up to site, setting up with little fuss, and getting in front of some bands.
That is, apart from the additional work involved in setting up our swanky stand as official festival sponsors; if you were there, you may have noticed our name on your brand new (for the festival) fabric wristbands. It was an honour to sponsor them, and we hope to continue the tradition in future years.
Besides that however, the serious business of watching bands and scribbling notes began in earnest right off the bat. Starting an hour earlier than previous years, we were planted firmly to see the first band kick off the festival but a short hour after Newark Showground opened.
All photos by Evie Murphy.
On Hollow Ground
12pm – Hands On Printing Stage
With everyone still piling in to Newark showground and setting up camp and what have you, festival openers On Hollow Ground would surely have liked to have played to a few more people than managed to filter into attendance. With the cards drawn however, they played like they were playing to thousands, not the handful that actually showed up, and you’ve got to commend them for that at least.
Although not the most technically proficient band, they do have one ace up their sleeve: being ridiculously heavy (which became an ongoing theme for a lot of bands come to think of it). Throwing in a cheeky cover of Limp Bizkit‘s “Break Stuff” only solidifies my earlier claim, and if anything, for those who managed to make it inside, it’s the perfect slap to the face to get things up and running.
1pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Don’t ask me why I think this, but there’s something very 2001 about Mancunians Searu. They remind me of a lot of the unsung bands of the era like Dry Kill Logic and Earthtone 9, especially when conveyed in a live setting. A bit of an odd thought I know, but that’s my first impressions of a band which I hadn’t listened to up until this point. You get the idea.
As for the performance, it was a real Jekyll and Hyde affair. The set started really shakily, like everyone forgot what they were doing, granted however, there was a few sound issues, so that may of contributed to their initial demise. All of a sudden though, the planets aligned and they were like a completely different band. It was astonishing actually how polarising the effect was. Fair play to Searu, they were a real tour de force once everything was said and done.
Seek Solace In Ruin
2pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Sending out a strong early signal that Seek Solace In Ruin don’t take themselves especially seriously, the Northerners’ set is heralded by their intro tape blaring out the Countdown theme tune. That’s a first. The band then pile into their self-styled ‘deathgroove’, which appears from the blistering pace and beefy guitars to be a half-way house between deathcore and thrash.
In another moment of mid-set levity, vocalist Joe Fryer invites requests for covers from the assembled crowd and agrees to play “Hotel California” before the band blithely ignore it all and launch into another of their own tracks anyway.
Underpinned by some impressive double-kick, there’s also a dash of 90s groove metal flavour to the muscular riffing that sets heads nodding across the room. The songs might settle into a bit of a formula fairly quickly, but it is a promising one. It’s the first full set of the weekend for me, and I can’t help but notice that the sound already feels clearer than last year, but it still feels like there are some subtleties in Seek Solace In Ruin’s songs that are being lost.
Nevertheless, there is enough of interest in their set to make me want to check out their recorded material and keep an eye on what they get up to in the future.
Fall Of The Archetype
3pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Fall of the Archetype guitarist Tom Moore first played on a Tech Fest stage in 2014, playing bass for Valis Ablaze, a band for whom he now plays guitar – but before making that switch he was also playing guitar with Fall of the Archetype alongside bassist George Demner - however fairly recently it seems that George has also made the same change of instrument, so the quartet take to the stage with two guitars and no bass. Clear? Clear.
The first really overtly technical band of the weekend, Fall of the Archetype are unabashedly ambitious with their songwriting: constantly shifting song-structures, and torrents of off-kilter riffs with wonky time signatures abound. There are hints here and there, too, of Mike Patton lurking in Hayden Sennitt’s vocals. The guitars carry a nice crunch, but the absence of live bass inevitably thins out the low end a little.
However, the band’s desire to include many glitchy moments in their riffs often comes at the expense of the overall groove, making it a difficult, sometimes confusing listen for the uninitiated. In particular, it often feels like the drums are trying to keep up with the riffs, rather than forming the foundation of the sound. We certainly can’t fault the band for setting their sights so high, but it does seem to me that there is still some work to be done to bring their songs as cohesively to the stage as they sound on their Psynopsis EP.
4pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Seriously, where have Jonestown been hiding? Easily one of my favourite discoveries of the weekend.
They’re the musical equivalent of the death wall from Caligula; a highly methodical, impactful death machine whose sole job is to decapitate anyone unlucky enough to be caught by it. It’s pretty gruesome to say the least, but as analogies go, this is pretty spot on.
The Gojira-esque pacing is what really sells it; they’ve the ability to shift gears, so it’s not fast all the time – but when it is, it’s delivered with the same force as a dying sun as it goes supernova. I’m a massive slut for that kind of stuff, and the insertion of this was very comfortable indeed; no complaints here whatsoever.
5pm – Hands On Printing Stage
A noticeably girthy crowd has amassed by half way through Akord‘s set, which either means everyone’s finally finished piling out of taxis and garroting themselves with guys ropes, or the Scots have some fans – and if they don’t before the performance, they will after.
Personally hyped up after streaming their debut album Ethereality a few weeks back, it’s fantastic to see their full-bodied prog stylings realised in a live environment – energetic and engaging, like post-rock you can dance to.
Their big riffs are designed for audience response and respond they do – mostly by nodding their heads, but it’s enthusiastic nodding nevertheless. With more than a few touches of London’s Emp!re about them – albeit with a more expansive instrumental element, Akord can be rightly proud of a job well done.
6pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Neither tech, prog nor djent by any stretch of the imagination, Sworn Amongst do have riffs. Sworn Amongst were exactly what you’d expect them to be, the 10+ veterans are no strangers to this kind of environment, so the whole occasion is like a duck taking to water for them.
An utmost professional performance more than anything, the quartet have been together and touring for a long time, so you’d expect them to have some sort of presence and swagger on stage – and they are filled to the brim with it.
If you were looking for giant soundscapes and that special existential feeling, then perhaps Sworn Amongst wouldn’t of been for you. Otherwise, they were as solid as granite and as tight as 25 people trying to squeeze into a lift meant for 10.
7pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Local lads Visions have undergone quite a transformation since they last graced a Tech Fest stage back in 2013; a venue only a few miles down the road, but a huge distance in terms of how far the event has come.
For Visions, it’s an equal step up in quality. New, third record Shake The Earth has done exactly that; it’s a significant wobble to the ground on which we stand (reviewed in full here), and the quartet bring its full weight to bear to a cosily-attended second stage.
Their set is possibly the first proper curve-ball of the weekend; the techy progressive post-hardcore is a welcome break from some of the heavier material we’ve seen earlier in the day. It’s not without chunk of its own however, which is a good thing as the sound is a little muffled for the more intricate bits, as the sound techs continue to fine-tune the audio.
The highlight is undoubtedly the magnificent two-fer of the new album’s closing tracks, “Shake The Earth” and “Artemus Clyde“, which also close the set; weighted equally with beautiful, melodic passages and barnstorming, big-riff payoffs, Visions send many happy punters off into the gathering evening.
8pm – Hands On Printing Stage
When a band drops from the line up, who are you going to call? No, not Peter Venkman, but No Consequence.
The only band to play in every incarnation of Tech Fest, and a very reliable hand when things go tits up, they were last minute additions when a handful of bands all dropped within a few days of each other, and let’s face it, it’s gotten to point where it wouldn’t be the same without them.
Solid as always, they’re a band who very rarely make mistakes; true workhorses in every sense of the phrase (apart from being actual horses). Top drawer stuff from these lads, with none of the sound issues that hindered earlier bands, and so everything sounds huge, crisp and on point.
Just standard No Consequence really, slaying it as always!
9pm – Hands On Printing Stage
Whilst I appreciated Napoleon‘s recently released debut Newborn Mind (reviewed here), I have to admit it didn’t grab me entirely. Its relentless pace is a little jarring, and it’s much the same with their live show, which at the end of a long day is a little too much to hold my attention for long.
Notably, from where I’m standing, vocalist Wes Thompson’s clean vocals are somewhat jarring. This could be for a variety of reasons, but along with some missing guitar subtlety – that tone is a bit grating, particularly with Napoleon’s ferociously-paced, stabbing riffs – I make my way back out into the night to prepare for the first full day on Friday.
Keep your eyes peeled for coverage of Friday through Sunday!