Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Breakout Festival - Brighton Racecourse - 26.09.2015

It's not often you associate Brighton with heavy metal & hard rock, but from going along to the Second annual Breakout Festival it's quite clear that they go together as well as ice-cream and beach walks (well, the type that leave you happy, tired, and somewhat deaf). It's also quite clear from having attended this years event that the organisers know how to operate an efficient band-packed event, and that the local scene is filled to the brim with friendly folk out to have a splendid time of it all. And by "all" I mean 14 bands for the outrageously low price of £27.50 (including booking fee), starting at 10:40 and finishing almost 12 music-soaked and fist-pumped hours later.

Opening up was We Deny, a quality pop-punk outfit that managed to pull people in through a combo of ridiculous amounts of energy for that time of the morning and a clear talent for catchy tunes. It was "light, but filling" in the best of ways, getting my feet tapping and face smiling before the first bite of coffee. Quite frankly, if you're under 25 and have even the slightest interest in being happy about things, then put this on your car stereo and just drive off to adventure.

And, whilst it was impressive being that happy at 10:40am, hats go off to Skint Circus for being so utterly pissed off at 11:20 when they rolled out their thick, sweaty, and highly energetic take on hardcore punk with breakdowns, beatdowns, and throwdown flying over the places almost as much as their singer did. Their lead guitarist didn't move much though, he just stood there in a suit jacket looking unnervingly cool. A band with that much anger has a lot to give, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

Next up was Seething Akira, a band who appear to have bridge the existential gap between Enter Shikari and The Midnight Beast. From their jolly intro of "Hello" to their rave-metal bouncing noise, this was everything you could ask for from a band that have one front man who looks like a young Alan Moore in a Lionel Richie t-shirt and another that you could envision your sister politely introducing to your mother. By song two they were both in the crowd, giving things a runaround - kicking off a moshpit conga line, sneaking a cheeky go on the bouncy castle near the stage, all the time accompanied by blood-pumping party revolution rawk. All of this meant that when they asked the question "Have you all had a nice time?" and gave the quippy "That makes us very happy" after the cheer, it came across as honest rather than affected, and just added to the fun factor that was washing over everyone. They have a single coming out, get it and then try to see them live.

The Gospel Youth had a tough act to follow, and their more laid back, radio friendly, alt-rock approach was a good switch of pace from what had come before. Touches of Gaslight Anthem, the odd bit of Fall Out Boy, mostly just solid rock played in a no nonsense fashion. Whilst their look was the most regimented and sculpted of the day so far they were perfectly willing to just let the music and the lyrics do the work for them, so whilst they didn't get much motion out in the slowly growing crowd there were clearly a lot of ears open taking it all in.

Another set, another change in style, something that seems to be the make of Breakout with a very broad range of the church of rock on display. By Definition were the next brotherhood on display, and they had come to give some very hard lessons on the benefits of blues based, groove heavy, slow and steady heavy rock. It was slow, it was steady, it was raunchy, and it was delivered with the restraint of a grizzly bear. Pretty much instantly everyone in the area started smelling of strong liquor and began tapping their hands, feet, heads, and assorted other appendages as the growling, swirling, bass-to-the-guts overload was hammered out.

Zoax were up next and rapidly pitched their tent as a screamo version of The Pixies with a heavy sound that saw more peaks and valleys than a bus going off the cliff in Wales. They also almost had the same visual impact on the stage at times, as all three of the guitarists were throwing their instruments around with so much abandon their mothers would have been worried someone would lose their whole head. Desperate to the crowd moving, their singer Adam stalked the pit like a demon whilst throwing his heart and lungs into every lyric. Not to sure on the safety of bringing a cabled mic into the thick of it, but no-one got hurt and it certainly added to the drama. Then he came over to the table we were sat at and he pinched my hat, so that's one to tell the Godparents once these guys make it big.

Then, for lack of a better term, Black Tongue happened. They just walked on stage, started playing something that sounded like five doom and death metal tracks all at once, hated everything in front of them for even existing for about half an hour, and then headed off. Occasionally they introduced a song with some horror movie sound track but other than that it was just "bang and gone". They even had a guest vocalist for one track that just walked on, screamed, and headed off. Like it, don't like it: they clearly did not have one fuck to give regards your opinion of what they did. Obviously the people who were into it loved it, whilst everyone else seemed a bit bemused. I'm assuming that was the intention. The only down side to their set was the sound techs not being up to task, as there was feedback and pops through out, which was a shame for an otherwise precision performance.

Representing the kind of  poetic, polemic, and curiously swinging hardcore that seems to grow in London, TRC bounded on with the goal of kicking up a riot and ensuring everyone had fun doing it. It was shouty, it was bouncy, it had riffs and energy you could listen to for days. It also had the line of "If you've got some energy, do it. If not, then get to the gym" and the request for the pit to get "a bit like strictly come dancing". The thrash-ier bits were intense, and all over, it got everyone up for a good time that showed the old school have still got it.

Shunning the simple pleasures of music, like tune or melody or even apparent structure, Heck (aka Baby Godzilla) landed next and dropped out a lot of sounds in about half the time you would think it humanly possible. Some might call it mathcore, or extreme jazz, or "all the notes ever, sometimes twice", or "Cream force-fed Napalm Death from birth"  but mostly it was just an exhilarating exploration of what you can do when you say 'no' to almost every rule ever. I'm not going to claim to understand it, but it was compelling and enjoyable like some intricate puzzlebox, especially with the bands determination to hammer their instruments and play them anywhere other than the stage. It was also impressive to watch as there was no-one obviously holding the songs together, but regardless of how far everyone flew off in which direction it kept on coming back to one central point, Oh yeah, and they hate microphone stands. I saw three of them laid waste in the first track alone.

Martyr Defiled hit the stage next, playing something that sounded halfway between death metal and blastbeat-based hardcore. Sadly the performance almost instantly got hit by bad sound, so nothing came across with as much bite as it should have, in the first track. The sense of terror was further eroded by their vocalist sounding so amiable and friendly when talking between tracks, as someone who sounds that devilish when singing, should not instantly strike you as someone you would share cocoa with. It was technically proficient but the performance side wasn't theatrical or passionate enough to really grab up and hold you in its fist.

Finishing up the last of the daylight were The Qemist, a raging slab of power is pitched halfway between The Prodigy and Pendulum, but with enough of their own sound to not sound like a dodgy knock-off. From the off they had everyone bouncing to their uplifting sounds and welcoming stage presence. A couple of the callouts and platitudes to the crowd may have been a tad bit cheesy, but everyone was smiling too much to be offended and they all knew it was meant well. Still, you can't argue with the crowd and they managed to get a huge response as everyone rocked out to their rebel party anthems.

And then night was upon us, and as the stage lights kicked in We Are The Ocean took the stage and played something halfway between alt-rock and dad-rock. It was good for what it was, including a brave attempt at Dazed and Confused (a fifty year old song for a crowd that was mostly under twenty five), it's just that it was too much of a change from what had gone on before through the day. The crowd dwindled visibly, the cold started to suck at people's energy, and though there were moments that landed some response from those left behind, they never landed well enough to convince me they were the right pick for that point in the day.

When Sikth got on stage there was a resurgence in numbers, mostly from the bar, as this was clearly a band that a lot of people had been looking forward to see. Whilst I wasn't aware of the band before today I can clearly see why people like their brand of prog-metal: it's loud, it's fast, it's filled with virtuosity, and it's almost certain to piss off your parents. It was also a highly energetic and frantic performance, which got picked up by the crowd and resulted in a lot of bodies thrashing around & building up a sweat. Personally I liked the spoken-word piece the most, as it was totally unexpected and yet fitted in perfectly with everything else before and after, and a fair chunk of the audience dug it as well. For a band doing their first gig of the year in September, they had clearly been doing more than just practising their tunes. If you are of the progressive music persuasion, then grab a ticket to whenever they play within travelling distance of you.

The day was drawn to a close by Deaf Havana and their brand of alternative rock, which sadly seemed to miss the mark of what the crowd were after in a similar vein to We Are The Ocean if the madly diminished audience was anything to go by. Those who stayed had a lovely time, listening to some heartfelt tunes and rocking singalongs, but for a lot of people it was either time for bed after an incredibly long day in the sun or just not their thing after the prog-metal blowout that had hit them before.

Still, with that much range and at that price, you can't have everything your way. However, you can have an incredibly well-organised and perfectly sized event, completed by a pleasant crowd and utterly pleasant staff.  They was also the bonus of all the bands hanging out in the audience, so you could be both encouraged that they are actually real people who got up and did it, as well as get the chance to go up and say "thanks for the music". Book your tickets for 2016, because it's going to be worth it.

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