Takedown Festival Review – Southampton, England

7th March 2015
Review by Tim Bolitho-Jones
All Photography courtesy of: Lauren ‘Micky Finn’ Harris, Leigh Drinkwater and Takedown Festival

If there’s one thing we learned at this year’s Takedown Festival, it’s that staying up until two am the previous night to play ‘Alien Isolation’ was a terrible idea. Aside from the fact that all day gigs are gruelling enough without sleep deprivation, there’s lots of industrial fans and air vents dotted around the Southampton University Student Union complex and worrying if you’re about to be pulled through a mesh grate by an acid bleeding monster can make it difficult to enjoy a band.

If there’s a second thing we learned at this year’s Takedown Festival though, it’s that the UK music scene is positively thriving at the moment. There’s sixty bands on the bill, the majority of them home-grown and the quality is staggering. It’s an embarrassment of riches but aside from the talent, there’s also a great deal of variety.

The kids pack in - courtesy of Lauren Harris
The kids pack in – courtesy of Lauren Harris

Kicking off proceedings are local lads Prolong The Agony, playing the Big Deal Stage at the unenviable time of five past one. Despite the early hour though, quite a few punters have got their wrist bands already and a decent sized crowd turns up to check them out. It’s still too soon in the day for their well-executed metalcore to generate more than polite applause, but it’s a good start and their bruising riffs get a few heads nodding.

Zoax get friendly - courtesy of Lauren Harris
Zoax get friendly – courtesy of Lauren Harris

Over on the District Stage, hotly tipped  post-hardcore band Zoax bring the party with an enthusiastic and extremely enjoyable thirty minute set. Bow tied singer Adam Carroll is an effortlessly charming Irish rogue who spends most of his time either hugging people or screaming at them and it’s impossible not to grin throughout. They’re an early talking point and make a lot of friends, just don’t call them ‘Zo-axe.’ ‘Feed The Fecking Rhino’ perhaps, but not ‘Zo-axe.’

Astroid Boys keep the good times rolling next. Having spent a lot of time playing in the underground hardcore scene, these rude boy rappers have already won over a lot of rock fans and set off the day’s first mosh pit four songs in. They’re the only act on the bill who could feasibly share a stage with Miss Dynamite, something that will never happen to Dendera. Dealing in fiercely traditional metal, packed with galloping guitar riffs, spiralling solos and songs about the Battle of Hastings, they’re the band of the day for the long haired, patch-jacketed attendees. Due to a slightly delayed start they only get time for four tracks, but ‘Killing Floor’ sounds incredible and singer Ashley Edison has a voice that could shatter glaciers.

The District Stage then fills up almost to capacity for Inme, playing their debut ‘Overgrown Eden’ in full. It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the day and ‘Underdose’ triggers an instant sing-a-long from the packed throng. It’s a bit distressing to see how much Dave McPherson has changed in the last twelve years, (he’s been living with alopecia since 2006) but even if he’s no longer a hyperactive heart-throb, his distinctive voice is still powerful and he makes a very humble, ever-smiling host. For just over an hour they remind everyone of their teenage years and there’s not one chorus that isn’t sung back at them. The only slight problem is that the two best songs on ‘Overgrown Eden’ are right at the start and the energy dips slightly in the middle.

From seasoned veterans to youngsters on the cusp of greatness, next up it’s time for hometown heroes Our Hollow Our Home. Battling through a multitude of technical glitches to lay waste to the Uprawr stage, their set is a high energy thirty minutes of circle pits, slam dancing and two people crowd surfing in a rubber dingy. They’re an early-evening highlight and it’s genuinely uplifting to see so many teenagers pogoing for them, if they keep up this momentum they’ll be massive before the year is out.

THE HELL (You dick) - Photo courtesy of Lauren Harris
THE HELL (You dick) – Photo courtesy of Lauren Harris

Things get even more manic with THE MOTHERFUCKING HELL (you dick). Loud, obnoxious and confrontational, they’re essentially a tantrum disguised as a band and tremendous fun to watch. ‘Shit Just Got Real’ and ‘Bangers And Mosh’ are both bratty nonsense par excellence, while the raucous finale of ‘Everybody Dies’ sees two mystery singers joining them onstage to shout obscenities at people. “This next song’s about getting a bus you twat.”

Devil Sold His Soul dial back the intensity for half an hour of progressive metal. ‘Empire Of The Light’ was one of the best albums of 2012 and despite changing singers since then, they just keep getting better. The screams are still guttural and nasty, but it’s the more sedate moments that really stand out. This is a band that are very comfortable hitting an audience with waves of ambient sound and there’s a rare sense of optimism undercutting everything.

Bleed From Within on the other hand are all about the brutality and judging by how many people cram into the Uprawr stage, were clearly one of the big draws of the day. The Scaw-tush muttlecaw enthusiasts have played Takedown before, but tonight they’re unstoppable. Clad in old school metal t-shirts and sounding a bit like At The Gates with Glaswegian accents, they’ve come on leaps and bounds since their ‘rabbit in the headlights’ early days and are now confident engineers of chaos. They set off the day’s biggest wall of death, get a sea of fists pumping during ‘Colony’ and are a heaving, breakdown riddled beast. How is Takedown ever going to top that?

Well, putting bonkers Nottingham noise-mongers Baby Godzilla on the only stage at the festival with no barrier is a start.

Baby Godzilla raise the roof - courtesy of Leigh Drinkwater
Baby Godzilla raise the roof – courtesy of Leigh Drinkwater

They’ve barely started before two  members of the band have dived into the crowd and the next half an hour isn’t so much a gig as a room full of people trying not to get killed. Displaying a frightening lack of respect for their own personal safety, they hang from the ceiling, climb on the furniture and wind up with a battered amp, drum kit and mic stand in the middle of the crowd. Half the time it’s impossible to tell if they’re genuinely playing a song or just thrashing their own instruments haphazardly and figuring out where the vocals are coming from is an exercise in futility. Hell, we couldn’t even tell you what they sound like, we’re too busy dodging bodies and drum stools flying through the air to pay enough attention. Due to the sheer amount of carnage it’s unlikely the Student Union will ever let them play here again, but Christ almighty it was brilliant.

By this point, Takedown has been going on for nine hours and it’s been exhausting. Due to clashes we’ve also had to miss Shvpes, Heart Of A Coward and Fearless Vampire Killers but despite the fatigue, there’s enough Energy drinks at the bar to keep the momentum going. This is helped in no small part by The One Hundred, whose rap/hardcore/electronica mish-mash brings an energetic close to the tiny Southampton Music Stage. Their dedicated following has turned out in force as well, gleefully singing back every chorus and their show is one of the small triumphs of the day. ‘Tale Of Two Cities’ and ‘Downfall’ especially are proof that rap metal works when done well, keep an eye on these boys.

The One Hundred tear it up - courtesy of Leigh Drinkwater
The One Hundred tear it up – courtesy of Leigh Drinkwater

There’s just enough gas left in the tank to round things up with Mallory Knox. Back in 2012 they opened the District Stage and today they return for a well-deserved headline slot. The five piece have clawed their way up to this point and the room is heaving, people digging deep and indulging in a final round of crowd surfing. It’s also hotter than Hell’s Latino Dance-Off, the sweat dripping from the ceiling and making it feel like a McPoyle family reunion in here. Singer Mikey Chapman clearly loves every minute and even if it does seem a bit like an uplifting moment in a teenage romance movie, the closing ‘Lighthouse’ is a wonderful end to the festival.

You're the lighthouse in the dark - courtesy of Lauren Harris
You’re the lighthouse in the dark – courtesy of Lauren Harris

It’s been a long, gruelling day filled with highlights and while it might seem clichéd, there genuinely wasn’t a bad show to be found. The line-up was so packed we didn’t get a chance to see Forever Never, Griever, Moose Blood, The Blackout, Charlie Simpson and a whole host of other names, but when “there’s too many good bands” is the best criticism to be had, you know you’re onto a winner. All that’s left now is to stay up until three am for the after party, then walk home telling yourself that’s squirrels and foxes you can hear in the bushes by the road, not the Alien. Definitely not the Alien.