Hevy Fest: Cooked Thrice

We offer three views on this year's installment

Hevy Fest: Cooked Thrice
Hevy Fest: Cooked Thrice

By Ben Tipple

Aug 27, 2015 16:15

This year marked Hevy Fest's reinvigorated push towards the festival titans. Overcoming a well-documented slump in 2013 and a disappointingly small turnout last year, 2015 saw organisers charge into battle with Coheed & Cambria and Thrice in the fore. Punktastic headed down to the Garden of England, with each of the three writers in attendance offering their take on Hevy Fest 2015. ---

A couple of years ago a fellow music site published a review of Reading Festival which was preceded by a two thousand word think piece on the evolution of its demographic. In many ways it was a work of art; for example, there was an entire paragraph dedicated to the writer’s objection to and cultural analysis of festival crowds clapping along to bands. Amongst the hand-wringing and embarrassing “in my day…” nonsense, though, were some accurate observations about the state of mainstream festivals in general: primarily that their lineups lack genre identity and just buying a ticket will give you a wallet haemorrhage.

What the author missed, though, was the obvious niche created by the musical Megazord that is the merging of these events: a niche being filled by smaller festivals like Hevy Fest. With a capacity of less than 5,000 and headline acts more likely to appear halfway through the afternoon at Reading, Hevy is exactly the alternative music festival for which the author of said piece seems to be pining. There’s a spectrum of acts, sure, but that spectrum runs from ‘punk’ to ‘metal’ and acoustic guitars are mostly banished to Thursday night’s one-stage pre-event. And from the second one sets foot on the rain-soaked site on Thursday, it’s clear that events like Hevy are the new home of subculture.

Rather than the aforementioned Reading Festival where you’ll more often than not find yourself in a crowd of wacky, enraging strangers (shout out to the kid in Fall Out Boy’s 2013 crowd who tried to start a circle pit while dressed as a banana), it’s the kind of festival that can simultaneously host two packed tents and an outdoor main stage while remaining sufficiently intimate that you find yourself bumping into friends old and new at every turn. Granted, that’s a unique personal perspective but I was left with the impression that everyone around me – both the ones I’d known for years and the friends I’d made that morning – was having a comparable experience. And that’s before we even touch upon the music.

As I arrived Chas Palmer-Williams had the acoustic tent in the palm of his hand, repeating in unison the closing refrain of ‘Recite It, You Scum’: “GG Allin in a broken down lift with One Direction”. It’s quite a step from Palmer-Williams’ effortless showmanship to Dave McPherson’s apparent attempt to reinvent himself as Jason Mraz; that said, judging by the response to McPherson’s take on the Fresh Prince theme white boys with guitars doing ironic hip-hop covers are still hilarious. The only way was up from that point, with Sam Duckworth and Jamie Lenman giving stunning, note-perfect performances of material old and new; Duckworth’s haunting take on Alkaline Trio’s ‘Radio’ and Lenman’s closing ‘Let’s Stop Hanging Out’ were particular highlights.

Elsewhere in 2015, Hevy proved itself a hotbed of UK talent. Press To Meco make light work of an early set on Friday, their comically large banner acting as the perfect metaphor for their djent-tinged riffs and complex three-part vocal harmonies: attention-grabbing, ambitious and not long for such constricted confines; stars-in-waiting Creeper elicit rapturous singalongs with their gothic punk-rock anthems; Black Peaks come on to a curious-but-unfamiliar main stage crowd and leave on most attendees’ watchlists.

Saturday sees an incendiary second-stage set from Vales topped by vocalist Chloe Edwards – a manic ball of furious energy from start to finish – descending from the stage and tearing through the a crowd as confused as they are enthused, and As It Is defying the naysayers with a triumphant main stage set. Whatever one might think of this last act, it’s undeniably refreshing to see and hear a pop-punk act whose template deviates from the recent template of monotonic vocals delivered in a beanie hat by a man holding the mic like it’s a snake he’s trying to throttle.

Selective without feeling cliquey, intimate without appearing sparsely attended and one of the few festivals where you’re more likely to end up sharing a drink and a shout-a-long with the stranger next to you rather than wind up wanting to take out a contract on their life (shout out to you again, banana-boy), if the the rejuvenated Hevy festival can maintain this level of quality and atmosphere it will become a must-attend event on the ‘alternative’ calendar.


Hevy Fest: Cooked Thrice

As the heavens open across Kent shortly before the festival is scheduled to start, there’s a genuine danger that Hevy Fest could be a total washout. Having drawn itself back from near death only twelve months prior, it has sat precariously on the edge of discontinuation. It’s clear from the line-up and the immediately evident improvements that the 2015 instalment of the inconsistent event sees itself with much to prove.

With the thunderous rain subsiding with enough time to catch some of Thursday night’s acoustic entertainment, the ridiculously wet start is all but forgotten as former Reuben vocalist Jamie Lenman brings his folk-punk tales to the increasingly inebriated masses. The third stage – host of the initial proceedings – is brimming with punters; already a considerable amount more that graced the festival’s main stage a year back.

From here on in, the improvements are continuous. The atmosphere bolstered by the increase in ticket sales, the facilities cater to most needs. Bands are greeted by the expected sea of onlookers, rather than sporadically dotted faces. Even the food is somewhat better, although the quality of a handful of stalls remains questionable. That said, questionable food is one of the staples of the British festival season.

The impressive roster caters to a niche crowd, crudely split between metalcore in the smaller tents and a clever combination of cult icons and future alternative underdogs on the main stage. Both headliners deliver spine-tinglingly explosive sets; not least Coheed and Cambria’s powerhouse performance of their seminal ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3’ in full, or Thrice’s understated renditions of ‘Come All Your Weary’ and ‘The Earth Will Shake’. A thunderous performance of ‘Beggars’ by the Saturday night closers is arguably one of the best live experiences in recent memory.

When not gallivanting around the adjacent animal park, there’s plenty more music to experience across the comparably tiny site. Mathcore giants Dillinger Escape Plan sit alongside the following day’s The Fall Of Troy to impart unpredictable and technically astounding noise, with enough energy to match. Black Peaks and Arcane Roots hold the torch on behalf of the little guy, hinting at their future standing in the genre-bending craziness further up the bill.

Aberdeen outfit Grader explode onto the smallest stage, bringing with them a punchy heartfelt hardcore sound that not only carries weight, but helps to set the band apart from a continuous stream of new artists. Elsewhere, Creeper continue their onslaught on the alternative masses with a packed out second stage performance that makes up in energy what is lacking in sound quality.

Despite the occasional mishap – Milk Teeth in particular are vocally unhappy with proceedings – Hevy Festival is beginning to show itself as a major player. There’s no better setting than a sunset on the edge of Kent to enjoy The Get Up Kids power through their sublime ‘Something To Write Home About’. For anyone who grew up listening to this weekend’s headliners, and for those looking for an opportunity to see some of the most exciting future acts in the British underground, Hevy is a dream. There may be a few more folds to iron out, but next year is already feeling unmissable.


Hevy Fest: Cooked Thrice

When I think of Hevy Festival, I’m hard pressed to find any bad memories at all. Okay, fine. This year I did spend a pretty intense two hours curled up in my tent on the verge of tears because the hangover was all too real but at the end of the day I did have Thrice making their UK return after a few years out, genuinely putting in one of the best headliner sets at a festival I’ve ever seen to snap me out of it. For the record, I totally bought myself a congratulatory festival burrito after their set as a well done for making it through.

This years event truly marked the return of the festival I absolutely fell in love with back in 2011. The site is the perfect size, there is a distinct lack of absolute dickheads and the location is top notch. I’m yet to beat a sight at festival that matches the sunset at Hevy or the fact I could see a sky full of stars every time the headliner’s lights go down.

The line up this year was absolutely incredible too, perfectly mixing young, national talent with established international acts all across the bill. Perhaps my favourite moment being losing my absolute shit to Fightstar only to come out and be greeted with Coheed and Cambria busting out ‘A Favor House Atlantic’ and closing on the monolithic ‘Welcome Home’. Another stand out moment for me is seeing a tent full of people watching the UK’s next big act, Creeper.

You can’t just stop there either, the festival was made by all of the bands on the bill. Whether it’s The Get Up Kids seemingly having the time of their life during Saturday’s sunset or if it’s Milk Teeth going tru punx and sticking it to the hardcore kids. Or maybe it was a tent full of people belting out ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ during Saturday night’s inspired booking of the Ultimate Power silent disco to see the festival out.

All I know is that if Hevy was to ever stop then the UK would be losing a festival like no other, it caters to a genre that wouldn’t get that exposure on that scale if it wasn’t there. You never feel left out, uncool or as if you’re not a part of the cool kids club either. The resurrection of Hevy has come and I am beyond excited to see what they pull out of the bag for next years event.