LIVE: Burn it Down Festival, Torquay

By Rob Dand

Now in its fifth year, Burn it Down Festival has evolved from its tentative beginnings into a well-organised two-day event, boasting a diverse line-up of up-and-coming rock and metal acts across its multi-venue harbourside setting. Bringing a host of moderate-sized touring acts to Torquay and plonking them smack bang in the heart of the town’s notorious clubbing epicentre in late summer is no mean feat. The list of previous headliners now includes the likes of Deaf Havana and Dinosaur Pile-Up, but the festival’s strength has always been its stacked undercard of future stars, putting bands like Nova Twins, Holding Absence and more within crowd-surfing distance of a West Country crowd too often excluded from the traditional touring circuit. This year is no exception.

Words by: Rob Dand



Getting Burn it Down bingo off to a strong start by announcing to the early crowd that “This is the first time we’ve ever played in Torquay”, Defences deliver an earnest and muscular set on the main stage. Combining soaring vocals and flecks of electronica with melodic stop-start riffs, it’s safe to assume that a few musical boxes are being ticked for those on the other side of the barrier; attendees of a festival where bands with similar DNA have previously inspired absolute carnage. A few songs in, we’ve got the first mosh pit of the afternoon, kicking off before the working day has technically ended. This is why we love festivals, and bands like Defences are the reason it pays to turn up early.


Across the street, the Apple & Parrot is offering a generally less metallic take on live music this weekend, acting as the festival’s second stage. A small sign optimistically advertises some upcoming international football fixtures, but there’s no danger of that this evening, as the many screens protruding from the venue’s walls are only interested in what’s happening on stage.

Cotoba are a Korean band specialising in angular math-rock, and they too are – you’ve guessed it – playing in Torquay for the first time. Positioning passages of fuzzy, distorted guitar alongside jazz-influenced extended instrumentals, they offer up an endearing set of melodic, danceable music that is both fresh and accomplished.


Ithaca are the real deal. Having unfortunately dropped off the 2021 edition of the festival, the band are back with a point to prove, now armed with cuts from last year’s excellent second full-length ‘They Fear Us’. Their pummelling post-hardcore is everything it should be; technical and chaotic, anchored by some curious melodies and a perpetually seductive rhythm. One of the weekend’s standout sets.


Heriot are probably one of the heaviest bands on the main stage this year. Their set is by turns brutal and hypnotic, delivering an unsettling intensity that has understandably been coveted by a host of outdoor festivals across Europe and the UK this summer. Arguably, though, the faux-industrial décor of The Foundry is a better fit for their claustrophobic sludge metal, which prowls around every inch of the venue with venomous intent. Cider-soaked, sun-kissed anthems, these are not. A majestic and memorable showing.

Angel Du$t

In a weird way, tonight’s set is a release party of sorts for Angel Du$t, accompanying as it does the release of fourth record ‘Brave New Soul’. One imagines that playing to a dwindling Friday night crowd in a small town 3,500 miles from home, having replaced festival alumni Loathe on the bill at the eleventh hour, was not how they’d have chosen to mark the occasion. Nevertheless, those who have stayed get nothing less than 100% from the dogged Baltimore crew. Some of the transitions between old and new material can seem a little disjointed, and possibly a little too demanding for a crowd who have been burning it down all day, but it’s an engaging set from a band who still sit in the shadows of their more readily celebrated peers, despite the fact they’ve been crowbarring unusual points of reference into their music for just as long.


Lizzy Farrall

Lizzy Farrall brings an appealing melodic presence to the mid-afternoon main stage. The shimmering pop-rock of 2020 album ‘Bruise’ glistens with a melancholic broodiness, tiptoeing the line between dark and light – like the soundtrack to ‘Drive’ if it were based in a senescent seaside town. It’s the familiar cuts like ‘Addict’ and ‘Barbados’ that get the most exuberant response from the crowd, but now that we’re three years out from her debut full-length, it’s no surprise that Farrall opts to bed two new songs into her set, including recent single ‘Room 42’, which pulses with a fluorescent defiance. A snappy and uptempo performance.

Lake Malice

Despite what recent single ‘Stop The Party’ might suggest, Lake Malice are definitely here to get blood pumping and bodies moving. Their aggressive mash-up of metal and drum ‘n’ bass sounds like a condensed version of Mick Gordon’s ‘Doom Eternal’ soundtrack, if it were remixed by Vukovi. Just two years after their lockdown formation, the two-piece are already making a name for themselves on the live circuit, and will soon be smashing down doors across Europe with the mighty Enter Shikari. They aren’t the only band playing here this weekend to straddle musical genres, but their set elicits an enthusiastic reaction from the early evening crowd.

Dream State

Much has changed for Dream State since they last took to the stage at Burn it Down four years ago. What is clear, though, is that the much-documented hard reset has not dampened this crowd’s love for the band, who gave such memorable performances here in both 2018 and 2019. In many ways, though, this is a different band even to the one that emerged from the rubble post-pandemic.

They seem definitively at ease with each other and are confident enough to lean heavily on newer material, opening with ‘Comfort in Chaos’ from February’s ‘Untethered’ EP. Indeed, five of the songs played tonight (including one yet to be released) are attributable to the current lineup, and while it feels kind of sad for a song as massive as ‘White Lies’ to be buried quite so early in the set, having once been the surefire riot-inducing closer, one can’t help but feel it’s a necessary evil in order for the current lineup to grow creatively and play to their strengths. Having worked doubly hard to re-stablish themselves for a second time, the band have proved all summer long that there is much more to come.

As Everything Unfolds

It wouldn’t be Burn it Down Festival without a questionable inflatable in the air, and although we’ve already seen several beach-themed props, this year’s star showing comes from a giant inflatable duck, glimpsed gathering his thoughts side-stage before As Everything Unfolds emerge and launch into opener ‘Ultraviolet’. It doesn’t take long for the duck to make his intentions clear, as he accompanies a near-constant stream of crowdsurfers during the band’s set.

Alongside Dream State, As Everything Unfolds are completing a hat-trick of Burn it Down appearances this weekend. Last time they were here, it was 2018 track ‘Divided’ that really got the crowd moving, but there’s scant opportunity to delve so far into the back catalogue this time around. Bringing some huge tunes from this year’s new album ‘Ultraviolet’, the band turn in a slick and precise set of soulful and colourful modern metal that has been honed over a busy summer on the festival circuit. A welcome return to Torquay for the Buckinghamshire five-piece.

Being As An Ocean

Tasked with closing out proceedings, Being As An Ocean arrive in Torquay towards the tail end of a mammoth European run that has seen them take in the bright lights of Milan, Paris and Berlin. Quite what they made of the English Riviera is anyone’s guess, but this is exactly why Burn it Down is such an important event. To see little old Torquay up there on the poster alongside infinitely larger cities still feels surreal, and should be a source of pride for the festival’s organisers.

Much like Friday night headliners Angel Dust, they offer a more challenging brand of heavy music, sometimes eschewing tropes of genre entirely. Most of the set firmly puts the ‘post’ in post-hardcore, veering between twinkling guitar passages and big, anthemic chords. A guitarist ascends a stack of amplifiers, silhouetted dramatically and ominously by the band’s logo lit up behind. Vocalist Joel Quartuccio makes a point of addressing virtually every member of the crowd on an individual basis, conducting an almost continuous one-man tour of the premises. His meanderings, accompanied by two security officials getting their daily steps in, culminate in a successful attempt to throw himself off the first-floor balcony into the crowd below. A hard-hitting and emotive set from a band who probably didn’t know this building existed six months ago. Now they’ve seen every inch of it.