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Tech Fest 2014: Day One

We’ve talked about it for months. We’ve posted about it numerous times. It even has its own tag in order to collate all the content in one easily-accessible place. But last weekend – from July 10th-13th – around 900 aficionados of technical metal descended upon the rather unlikely venue of Newark Showground, an agricultural arena attached to the town of Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire.

Tech Fest – or the United Kingdom Tech Fest, to give it its full title – has now completed its third event…and what an event it was. As you may already have gleaned from Simon’s bleary-eyed first look on Monday, pretty much all who attended had the time of their lives, and strengthened the bonds of the growing Tech Fest family. Since returning, there’s been an outpour of heartfelt gratitude to festival organiser Simon Garrod and his first-rate team of assistants, but also a real feeling of loss as we all return to lives that are altogether too untouched by a good ten and a half hours of live music per day, Silent Hill-esque campsites, and fun with our friends, both old and new.

Tech Fest 2014 campsite at 3am

3am on Saturday. Not pictured: Pyramid Head

Since then we’ve wailed at the sheer volume of material we’ve got to bring to you (20ish interviews? That’s going to be fun) – but for now, we’re going to run down the main events themselves: the music!

Most of the bands strutted their stuff over the course of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but for anyone able to get that extra day off work, there was a whole heap of goodness to be had on Thursday too. We managed to get most of them covered, in between food, refreshments, and laughing at each others’ pathetic attempts at guide ropes – so here we go!

A special mention must go to Katie Croft of KT Croft Photography for the use of some truly awesome images. There’ll be more of her work in subsequent posts. Go like her Facebook page now, ya hear?

Valis Ablaze

1pm, Second Stage

Valis Ablaze kick off the whole shebang with bags of energy and enthusiasm, clearly undampened by the early stage time and the fact that many early birds are still busy in the campsite swearing at their tents. The Bristol quintet tears into a set of modern metal with a twist, which comes largely personified in the form of wild-eyed vocalist Adam. Coming across like a hybrid of Ozzy Osbourne, Mikee Goodman and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, he spends his time grimacing, growling and posturing all over the generously proportioned stage, providing a compelling focal point for the bands set.

The remainder of the band back him up with some meaty riffing that throws more than the occasional nod at in the direction of Meshuggah, but nevertheless retains more of a groove-oriented feel.

The set is tight, which is made all the more impressive by the admission late in the set that they are performing with a temporary, stand-in guitarist as their regular member is unwell. Had they not mentioned this, it would probably have been completely unnoticeable.
The crowd steadily grows throughout their set, and the sound is remarkably clear. The band clearly has some good things going for them, and Adam is quite the showman.

Even if they still have a little way to go to really find their voice, I suspect this won’t take too long. All in all, a promising start, both for the band themselves and the festival as a whole.

- Simon

The Colour Pink Is Gay

2pm, Second Stage

Scotland’s The Colour Pink Is Gay play an intensely technical form of death metal that isn’t really my bag at the best of times. Their case isn’t exactly helped by the fact that most of the subtleties of their sound are largely lost to the acoustics, which are definitely better suited to the big slabs of riffing seen from Valis Ablaze immediately beforehand. Their set passes in a bit of a blur, even if it’s clear they have some fans in the room, as well as a number of people who came to check them out on the strength of that band name alone.

Their long, hypercomplex songs are most probably better appreciated after a few listens, but they chuck enough into their performance to ensure that a good few new listeners will be doing exactly that when they get home.

- Simon

The Sun Explodes

3pm, Second Stage

To offset the heaviness of the previous two acts, Monolith favourites The Sun Explodes bring their unique genre-bending sound to the stage, and it is magnificent. The band place a focus on colossal melodies and choruses, and it’s utterly infectious and majestic. Very soon the crowd are singing along to one of many tracks culled from last year’s We Build Mountains in “SevenThreeOne”, with its repeated chorus line of “hell hath no fury, hell hath no fire” quickly worming its way into people’s heads.

Frontman Dave Maclachlan is a joy to watch, and humble in his thanks to the Tech-Fest family: “We’ve never really fit into one genre, so we’re grateful for this community”, he admits between songs. He has a point, but the diversity of the band’s sound only enhances the memorability to the enthusiastic crowd. Combining melodic, prog and heavy in one bundle, tracks like “Machines” crackle with energy, as much as the towering guitarist Alex Adamson, who delivers the harsh vocals.

Contrasted, MacLachlan is a master of melody, channeling parts of Matt Bellamy in his lung-stretching high notes and L’Oreal in his fabulous hair display. It takes a brave man to strip to his underwear onstage, but he pulls it off with aplomb to round out on “Honour Bound”, an unforgettable finale in every sense. The Sun Explodes are going to go far; mark our words.

- Mark

Noise Trail Immersion + Idiom

4pm & 5pm, Second Stage

An unfortunate side-effect of it being the first day, some of us working a half day, and arriving at different times meant we weren’t as organised as we’d like to have been, so regrettably we didn’t catch Italians Noise Trail Immersion - who a dense and groovy as fuck – or Devonians Idiom – for which we must apologise profusely, with a promise of handjobs for all (or coverage next time they’re in town).

- Chris


6pm, Second Stage

Having been moved to Thursday – they had to shoot off fairly sharpish after their set – Polish band DispersE were nevertheless well attended. Coming off a tour with Felix Martin (which Simon covered here), the band are warmed up and on form. Guitarist Jakub Żytecki opens up proceedings with a sweetly-picked riff that evolves over time, adding more elements and bringing in the hi-hat. It’s a groovy comination that provokes the arms of the crowd to start waving, before Jakub – already something of a legend amongst tech fans – breaks into one of his signature noodly sections, putting all amateurs to shame.

Solos were certainly not likely to be a fixture of the weekend – most modern prog/djent espouses rhythm – but there’s room for both with this prodigious guitarist.

This whole thing serves as an intro before the first proper song, and from the off the crowd are clearly having a lot of fun. There’s a warm, receptive mood, with equal parts nodding, moshing and dancing. going on. It was clear this was to be one of the floatier sets of the weekend, but it still had lots of bounce and even a bit of punch – there’s a great reaction to their cover of The Prodigy‘s “Voodoo People” in particular.

In general, we got the feeling that everyone really enjoyed themselves, and it was a great feel-good set to kick off a festival that is very much about the good vibes.

- Chris

Carcer City

Carcer City - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

7pm, Second Stage

There’s no denying that Carcer City were one of the main draws at the recent London Tech Fest all-dayer, but the crowd is noticeably smaller for their set today than it was for the preceding set from DispersE. Nevertheless, there is still a respectable turnout, and a good number of Carcer City t-shirts being sported by the spirited group throwing down in the pit. They are probably one of the most hardcore-influenced bands playing over the course of the whole weekend, and so those who want to pit take the opportunity with relish.

As always, the guitarists Lewis and Antony flank the pairing of bass player Steve and vocalist Patrick, who bound around the stage, darting up to the barrier and generally keeping new listeners interested and energy levels high. A new song, played for the first time here today, carries their trademark bouncy chug and it is clear they are carving out a niche for themselves.

The crowd swells as they their set – perhaps from people returning after stashing their DispersE merch – and towards the end of the set they manage to open up a wall of death which stretches right back to the sound desk, and appropriate levels of chaos ensue when the two halves of the crowd smash back in to each other.

Tech Fest isn’t exactly home turf for Carcer City, but they play with such conviction and obvious relish that they almost certainly walk away having earned a brace of new fans, as well as invigorating the faithful.

- Simon

Martyr Defiled

Martyr Defiled - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014 01

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

8pm, Second Stage

Clearly a crowd favourite, Martyr Defiled may have seemed out of place on a tech bill, but they have the audience on their side from the first second. Maybe it’s the propensity of many tech fans to also enjoy hardcore and deathcore, or the potent grooves that the guitarists hit, but there’s soon an admirable pit of dancers going, and others accompanying vocalist Matthew Jones with his vocal diatribes. His screaming style is loose yet relentless, while the guttural lows hit right on point during the breakdowns.

One memorable point after a heavier section is a brief moment of silence, before Jones sneers “We ain’t fucking done yet”, as one final breakdown slams into place. “Black Mesa” and “Demons In The Mist” contain some memorable guitar work, but clearly the focus is on the heavy, and an over-abused strobe light that barely stops during their entire set.

We may question Jones’ definition of “something 10% gay, 90% cool” involving convincing the crowd to hold up their middle fingers and scream ‘fuck you’, but it gets those watching roused nonetheless. Martyr Defiled cannot be faulted on their stage presence – it’s stacked with hardcore bravado – but it becomes clear in their set that if the music doesn’t take your fancy then a full set will unlikely be your cup of tea.

- Mark

Chimp Spanner

Chimp Spanner - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

9:30pm, Second Stage

What a great first day – and what better way to cap it off than with a set from one of the scene’s nicest and most recognised faces: Paul Ortiz and co, a.k.a. Chimp Spanner.

Despite the distance between the stage and the barrier, there’s a very intimate feeling, and as such almost the entire crowd feels comfortable enough moving in some capacity. The now legendary “Mӧbius” gets a great reception, as does new song song “Aurora“, with it’s sci-fi, Blade Runner-esque intro.

Boris le Gal is an absolute monster at the back as usual, even set so far back as he is. Even miles from the audience – or perhaps because of this – he flails and exaggerates every movement, and his grin practically beams out as a supplementary stage light. Very entertaining.

As the summer evening outside darkens, so does the room, which shows the impressive stage lights at their most impressive and atmospheric. The mood remains buoyant, however – a couple ballroom dance across the floor during the mid-section/solo of barnstormer (literally, as we are in an agricultural shed) “Harvey Wallbanger” and it sets off a lot of smiles.

It’s a very grooveable yet mellow end to day one of Tech Fest, and really the perfect start to a weekend of fun.

- Chris

Simon Angel writer banner Chris