Takedown Festival, the unofficial start to the festival season. Now in its third year, the festival opened the doors of Southampton University to showcase 5 stages of local and indeed international musical talent.
We started our day off at the Big Deal Clothing stage with Birmingham metalcore setup, Aurora. A breath of fresh air in the male dominated metalcore world. You could tell when she spoke that singer Jessica Calvesbert was clearly under the weather (probably wear and tear from their three day stint with A Tale of Two Cities), but that didn’t affect the quality of their set. Calvesbert was ballsy enough to get down into the crowd to get people moving, climbing all over the furniture; definitely more action than you’d normally see in an average opening act. Bassist Josh Hammond managed to head bang his hat off at least three times. The whole band, in fact, were well into it, and incredibly tight. Definitely set the bar high for the rest of the day.
Later in the day on the Total Uprawr stage we saw experienced frontman Charlie Holmes lead Heart in Hand straight into a set of hardcore insanity. Spewing lines like “When this drops… Kill each other”. Maybe people had just been put off by the puddle of “blood”* on the floor as they walked in, but people just weren’t going mad for them like they normally do. The band gave it their all and eventually it started to pay off, one or two push pits appeared. Heart in Hand do well to balance the melodic with the hectic, and played a pretty tight set for a band that had yet to play a gig this year. *It wasn’t blood, it was ketchup. We saw the sachet.
Next on the Uprawr stage was a vision of wavy hair and strobe lights. Idiom’s sound was easily more cheery and uplifting than anything else on the Uprawr stage. And they had fun. Guitarist Kris Gibbs making better faces than most drummers can muster, although maybe trying just a bit too hard to play the crazy guy. Singer Matt Sharland brought an inflatable shark onstage; Idiom definitely get points for spontaneity. They pulled off a very interesting but absolutely radical cover of Alex Clare’s ‘Too Close’. It’s fair to say we weren’t expecting that. During their finale, singer Sharland jumped straight into the crowd to give a live education in moshing.
Canterbury tick all of the boxes when it comes to their live set. They’re in tune, in time, clearly well-rehearsed. Honestly, too well rehearsed. They’ve been doing the same thing for a long time and singer/guitarist Mike Sparks has begun to sound a little robotic with his crowd interaction. Naturally their set was mostly songs from their second and third album, which is a real shame because Thank You was phenomenal. But you can’t really blame a band for playing not playing their oldest tunes.
Early in the evening the Southampton Music stage played host to A Tale of Two Cities; an odd choice for this stage, in no small part because they’re from Bristol. Their melodic rock is the kind of sound that’s easy on the ears of fans that aren’t big on anything heavy, whilst still having enough bite to engage the interest of those who like it a little rough. You could quite easily just dance along to the band, but they’ve got some grizzly bass lines that really need addressing in the form of a mosh.
We weren’t sold on Empire straight away, but charismatic frontman Joe Green and his Jack Sparrow-like won us over by the third song. The crowd and the band danced carelessly as Green let out some bloody impressive vocals. The drumming was slick and intricate, which gelled perfectly with the punchy riffs that Empire put out. The band balanced some beautiful harmonies and strung together really graceful, melodic intros. Empire was a great wake-up call.
Alt-rock icon Jamie Lenman’s name looked a little out of place squashed between Canterbury and Kids in Glass Houses, but bearded men with stupid mustaches came out in their droves. Perfectly meshing songs from both sides of his double album Muscle Memory, from the soft spoken ‘I Aint Your Boy’ to the ultra violent chaos of ‘One of My Eyes is a Clock’ the singers years of experience and songcraft were obvious. The crowd didn’t go totally batsh*t mental until Lenman bashes out old favourites from his previous cult-status band Reuben like ‘No One Wins The War’ where a sea of bodies and broken glasses suddenly start flailing about the pit like there’s no tomorrow. Job well done. (Louis Kerry)
From Jack Sparrow delivery to full on pirates. Baby Godzilla do not play by anyone’s rules, instilling more fear into security and sound crew than any buccaneer on any ocean. Their set starts straight way (once they’ve rearranged all the furniture). The four-piece caused carnage, using members of the crowd as mic stands as theirs have been lost in all the mayhem. Baby Godzilla crowd surfed, the crowd crowd surfed, the drum kit got crowd surfed… with drummer Tom Marsh on it. They hung upside down from the ceiling. Tech’s cut their mic’s and even that couldn’t stop Baby Godzilla. Most impressively, at least once, guitarist Johnny Hall ran out the room, came in through the other door, and still managed to keep in time.
Lostalone, Big Deal Clothing stage headliners, were really going to struggle to top Baby Godzilla. They were perfectly listenable, if not remarkably static and unexciting. If whiney vocals are your thing, then Lostalone are great. When Steven Battelle isn’t singing they’re actually pretty thrash, but it’s tough to take the music seriously with the helium infused overlay.
Due to technical difficulties earlier in the day, Hacktivist’s 7.10 set on the Total Uprawr stage became a 10.20 set one the Big Deal stage, making them headliners by proxy. It also meant they now clashed with Takedown’s official headliners Funeral for a Friend. There’s not contest here, Hacktivist are experimental, energetic, exciting.
Their set only ended up being about half an hour long, but they absolutely slayed in that time. Despite their clash, Hacktivist’s crowd was by no means lacking in numbers, and the whole room was going mental for the Milton Keynes djents. Vocalists J Hurley and Ben Marvin interacted with each other as much as the crowd, even throwing a brotherly arm around guitarist Timfy James once or twice. If you’ve heard of Hacktivist, but not really heard their original material, odds-on you will have heard their monstrous cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘N*ggas in Paris’. Hacktivist do it better. Don’t tell Kanye. The band are in the middle of doing their debut album at the minute, and based on their live set, it’s going to be like main-lining adrenaline.
Maybe they weren’t the headliners we’d set out to see in the morning, but Hacktivist did an A+ job. Absolutely the icing on the Takedown cake.
Photos by Ellie Mitchell