When it comes to reviews I realise that I am, for want of a better expression a verbose bastard. So for those of you who don't want to delve any further into my UKTF experience, yet want to know what the atmosphere was like, let me provide you a quick capsule review: Its a brain-melting, friend making, life affirming experience. Filled with brilliant music, hilarious capers and friendly people – Get your backside and all it's attached to along to Next Years Event!
Got that? Great.
Huge Thanks to leeharperphotography.com for the gorgeous photos
Part 1 – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
……..I arrived on Wednesday night at about 9pm, weighed down by a rucksack stuffed full of food, booze, 2 projectors (don't ask) and enough tools to cover every conceivable eventuality (I get paranoid when I go camping). Coach-bound and thrust gently into the Midlands by a smooth but meandering journey, I alighted in Newark just as the Sun began to recall its Duskal responsibilities. So I made haste with no waste and called a taxi. Greeted by Simon (Garrod, UKTF founder) as my cab swung into the Newark Showground, my travel fog lifted and I began to straighten out of the wreath of tangled thoughts that my mind, in expectation, had become. I found my friends, pitched my tent, poured a drink and sat back to think; now for the first time allowing my TechFestive excitement free reign and within 2 hours it had bubbled over its cerebral limits and ushered me into a febrile, dream-filled sleep………..
Due to my responsibilities as part of the HoldTight PR team for the duration of the festival I was not able to see as many bands as I had hoped. However, this was mitigated by the the proximity of the press area to the main stages, meaning that while I may not have seen every set, I certainly heard them.
……Thursday dawned like a serene dream. I rose with the sun and breakfasted. Firstly, on my own cold coffee, then on the much warmer stocks in the Press Area. Maybe I was over excited and nervous which kept me impulsively sipping from my cup. In the process of which I may have had too much Java. But this super-abundance of sobriety did not prevent me from fulfilling at least 2 of my Countdown to TF promises; watching Valis Ablaze and The Colour Pink is Gay. Despite the early hour, both bands played engaging, highly polished sets. The combination of their precise aggression charging the assembled audience with a relaxed yet jubilant frenzy that was to become a hallmark of crowd response throughout the weekend.
Noise Trail Immersion were the next band I was fortunate enough to catch, a band has never been more aptly named, as these young Italian guys provided the assembled mass with a real dose of cathartic therapy. They have a sound that truly assails the senses. Grabbing one by the lapels and shaking the accumulated metaphorical shit out of you with their catastrophic concoction of Tech and DeathCore.
Work responsibilities meant that I would miss both Idiom and Disperse, but I am assured by a respected friend that they "Fucking Smashed It, Mate". Who am I to stand in the way of such eloquent logic?
Next up were the inimitable Carcer City, who are deep into the process of making themselves my favourite live band. They had won my heart at the UKTF London all dayer and their 7 o'clock slot here only further developed this fledgling romance. On stage they are united in drive and purpose; frontman Patrick Pinion controlling the crowd with a skill that struck me as both innovative and traditional; motivating movement and interaction by asking and telling in equal measure. If ever you discover that this band is playing a gig near you; avail yourself of the opportunity and go see them. They will entertain you to within an inch of your life.
Since I had been up since 7am and not yet eaten I took a tactical break. Causing me to miss the savage techy brilliance of Martyr Defiled. Who, according to the same source as before: "Fucking Smashed it, Mate!" Is it just me or is there a theme developing in his appraisals?…………….
A Brief Word on Facilities
This is the first year for the UKTF at The Newark Showground and it is without doubt a venue at which the festival can develop.
The main stages are located in complex of large ex-airplane hangers, with the 2 concert areas being separated by a cavernous Merch/Bar area. Exit out the front of the Arena, a right turn takes you primarily past the press area in all its be-kettled, Gazeboed glory; another 20 seconds walk brings you to the Lady Eastwood pavilion; the venue for the nightly after parties. The only negative worthy of bringing to your attention is that during the height of the day, the Hangers did become very warm indeed, due to the corrugated iron roof. But I'm certain that provision can be made for this at future editions.
The toilet/shower complex were indoors and of decent calibre; located handily close to both the campsite and Arena. And despite the fact that UKTF is basically Un Fete de Saucisson Exclusif – with a M/F ratio that must be 25-1 – the Guys did not take the piss and start using (with one notable exception) the ladies toilets.
The Camp grounds were very well maintained with large areas of flat ground on which to pitch your tent. These areas were bisected by numerous inter-connected gravel paths, perfect for barbecuing, as well as inebriated tent location.
There was a decent on-site Cafe, serving both breakfast and eye opening array of lunchtime options for distinctly reasonable prices. An additional bonus to this was how the Cafe was staffed exclusively by old ladies; Ann, Brenda, Jean etc; who call you "Duck" in their charm laden Midlands vernacular. As wherever you go in this world, its always useful to be near someone you can temporarily co-opt as a surrogate Grandma.
The Beer was reasonably priced and cold, and the remaining drinks list was so exhaustive that I had to be physically restrained from having a Campari and Soda, just for the Blue Hell of it.
……………45 minutes later my repast devoured and my proclivity for smoking hand rolled cigarettes of mixed parentage indulged; I was feeling hungry- Hungry for music. And blow me down if I wasn't at a awesome music Festival with Chimpspanner about to melt the plastic of the evening over the fire of their incandescent groove. It was my first experience of them live and they were the perfect denouement to this early bird excitement. Compelling and mesmeric, with inventive, inspirational rhythms overlain by a smorgasbord of shred.
After Chimp had finished their set the throng milled along to the after-party stage to enjoy a rousing round of Techeoke – featuring a mixture of punters and pro's (Drewsif Stalin and Sam Kubrick from Sheilds being particular highlights) vocally tackling their favourite metal songs. The hilarious crescendo to this being a full crowd rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Gorgeous, just gorgeous.
The karaoke didn't so much end here as mutate. Away from backing tracks and random bands to live accompaniment and focused tribute. For now we were treated to the mighty No Consequence playing SOAD covers; nobley assisted by Gaz King of Nexilva and Drewsif (again) among others. I'm not too sure how long the No Consequence guys had been preparing for this, but it was a highly energetic and enthusiastically faithful set of covers. Proving again just what highly skilled and versatile musicians they are.
I wish I could tell you that I went straight to bed and had a long and refreshing nights sleep, however this would be a lie. A tempestuous, fetid, unhelpful lie; the truth is I stayed up relaxing and drinking with friends, new and old alike. After all it is natural to make friends at a festival, but I have never encountered an environment like this, where the natural state is open communication between all and everyone. Where you are literally only 30 seconds away from finding a new and exciting presence in your life. To a Londoner, not being surrounded by people who set their face to a combination of "What are you looking at?" and "Fuck Off!" is a genuine and manifest pleasure.
Friday morning dawned and with it the festival proper. A full day of ferrying bands from one interview to the next awaited me; my day was so suffuse with arranging these rendezvous that I only managed to watch 2 bands until we closed the press area at 6. The bands in question were Atlantis Chronicles and No Consequence.
Atlantis Chronicles I have longed to see live for a couple of years now, ever since hearing their "Against the Sea" EP. The world needs more Technical DeathCore like this; with its overdriven mixture of full breakdown and full widdly. They put on a great show despite the small early afternoon crowd; playing with a passion and truculent joy that is unrepentant in its Frenchness. This was their first time in the UK and I for one hope they are back soon. I managed to grab a quick interview with them, which features exclusive news about their new album; which will be up as soon as I can transcribe it.
The 2nd stage stopped being used late afternoon, meaning that No Consequences Friday headlining slot started on it about 6pm; but this is a band that pays no heed to time, tide or the false rigors of preconception. They will kick your ass in daylight or darkness, sunshine or shade, on any date you care to pick and at a time of your choosing. More succinctly I have never seen them play a false note, let alone play a bad show. From band chemistry to sonic execution every feature they portray is honed, practiced and considered. But to say that they are professional is not an attempt to damn with faint praise -reducing them to a well timed series of management decisions-, because they have at their disposal a set of songs whose level of infectiousness is only matched by the Ebola virus. Sinuous and tighter than a snakes arsehole, they soon had the whole venue jumping in neck wrenching synchronisation, causing even the more restrained among us to pull faces that we would find hard to live with, should the wind unexpectedly change
I may have mentioned before, at sometime in the past, that I am somewhat a fan of Gorod. Well I am, a huge, quivering fanboy for these fine figures of French manhood and their marvelous melodic lyrical Technical Death Metal. So you could say that I was excited at the prospect of seeing them.
Including a band such as Gorod is a slight departure for TechFest musically, but for me a welcome and natural progression. The term Tech metal is a broad and naturally inclusive one, so inviting acts such as Gorod to perform might not be pandering to their core audience but will, in the long run, establish UKTF as a brave and trail blazing festival, unafraid to challenge and constantly force its audience to reassess their concept of Tech and as a result, influence the whole future of Tech Metal.
Back to Gorod, playing what will probably be their last show under the auspices of The Perfect Absolution album. They dominated the stage with a focused and educative display of how to win fans and own a moment. Playing for only the 4th time with new drummer Karol Diers, they held it down with the consummate ease to which I have become accustomed. Playing with barely a break for 90 minutes, they won many new fans and delighted their existing ones with a set containing few surprises yet suffuse with a purity of entertainment that it is hard to match.
And so to the headliners, Vildhjarta, who simultaneously crushed and elevated the huge crowd with their Minimum Content – Maximum Riff approach. Their sound; half Meshuggah half Neurosis; compounded by a light show that was manic-depression in light form, pressed all the right buttons for a crowd very much in the party mood. The hypnotic sonorousity of their stagecraft whittled down any resistance with a cold self-assurance. So Scandinavian, So TechFest!!.
If You've read this far, without skipping, I love you. I genuinely do. You have the patience of a Saint and the dedication of a Stoic. But We've only made it to Friday night. So go make yourself a snack and I'll get writing the next exciting installment of More Than A Felling – TechFest 2014.
See you back here; Same Tech-Time, Same Tech-Channel.
– John Whitmore