Monster Stage - Takedown Festival
Live Review

Monster Stage – Takedown Festival, Southampton

Returning for its second year, Takedown Festival presents with a line-up more than worthy of placing the all-dayer up there with established festivals like Slam Dunk and Hit The Deck. Southampton’s university grounds are awash with excited individuals; neon wristbands glinting under the sun, empty cans of Monster littering the campus before the doors even open to festival goers.

With big names such as Don Broco, The Blackout and We Are The Ocean splashed across the festival posters everywhere, its easy to see why the festival has found such success, but its not just the main stage acts that need to be hailed; the second stage, located in the basement, is playing host to a truly awe-inspiring line-up of bands.

First to grace the stage are Red Seas Fire. Struggling with a host of technical problems, the four-piece are faced with a half-empty room full of half-hearted listeners. Though musically competent, the bands heavy riffs and thundering rhythms do little to move anyone; Robin Adam’s vocals are arguably better on record than off it – even the first live performance of ‘A Life We Used To Know’ does little to elicit a response. All in all, the end of the set is marked with forced applause; a little more time on the touring circuit, and perhaps next year, these guys can put on a better show.

As if to show Southampton how it should be done, Dennis Tvrdik of Affiance has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from the soundcheck. Charismatic and brash, he and his bandmates throw out riff after riff, calling for circle pits, for movement, for a little brutality, and Southampton needs only that push; here begins the festival proper. ‘You Will Be Replaced’ is met with a wall of cheers; few may know the words, but everyone wants to know them – the Cleveland five-piece are going to have to visit these shores again.

Being low down on the bill does nothing to stop German metallers We Butter The Bread With Butter from putting on a show worthy of the main stage headliners. New songs like ‘USA’ sit well alongside old favourites. Confetti streams from the ceiling, balloons are batted to and fro, lasers adorn lead singer Paul’s leather jacket; he looks every inch the showman as he demands a pit so brutal that the security guard is forced to leave the crowd to it, choosing instead to watch as the band’s first UK performance leaves all in complete, if bruised, awe.

The room is heating up; as TRC take to the stage, it’s to a depleted crowd. But here in force are hardcore fans screeching every word back to co-vocalists Anthony Carroll and Chris Robson. The band tear through ‘H.A.T.E.R.S’, ‘Bastard’ and then ‘#TeamUK’, each song met with the enthusiasm and energy their unique brand of hardcore/hip-hop crossover breeds. The set is sweaty and intense and endearing at the same time.

For all those who’ve never seen The James Cleaver Quintet live, it needs to be done. At least once. No other band dresses quite like them, or brings out a cowbell and bongos for a live set; no other band performs with such desperation and mania. Songs like ‘Golfing Pros, Bitches and Hos’ sound even better in a live setting than on record, and their latest song ‘Ghost’s Diffuse’ give their audience an exciting insight into their hotly-anticipated sophomore record.

Rémi Gallego is a genius. This is a fact undisputed by any who witness The Algorithm’s live set. Within the space of a few seconds, he is transformed from a seemingly unassuming guy to a madman wrestling the most fantastic sounds from his Digital Audio Workstation. Filling in for Mike Malyan on live drums, Boris Le Gal is equally astounding; the complexity of the music washes over the audience, inducing goose-bumps in all present. Not a word is spoken by either man; no words are needed, not when the music says so much. Their set is a blur of electronic pulses, awestruck crowd-members and blurred drumsticks, culminating in well-deserved deafening applause.

They say the best bands roll like a gang. If that’s true, Hacktivist are up there with the legends, because the five-piece act as one; the thundering bass, the drums, the electronics and vocals are all spot on – the crowd are easily whipped into a frenzy as they’re treated to new tune ‘Elevate’. Their cover of ‘N****s in Paris’ drives the entire room wild; vocalist Jermaine Hurley climbs onto the speaker to survey the chaos they’ve caused, and it looks as though he likes what he sees.

The room is full again for TesseracT’s set. The air is oppressive with humidity and anticipation, but not a soul is budging – calls of ‘Tess-er-acT’ fill the air. Despite being plagued by a myriad of sound-related problems whilst setting up on stage, as the first riff rings out, a spell is cast and a deathly silence rings out over the crowd. Though their set is shortened, TesseracT have the entire room singing every word, even to their new song ‘Nocturne’; the sound is deafeningly triumphant.

Taking the stage after such a performance was never going to be easy; elsewhere the headliners are beginning to play, and so the crowd thins once more as The Defiled take the stage, resplendent in black leather aprons and full make-up. This bothers the band not a jot as they launch into songs new and old, calling for the tired audience to give them some energy. New song ‘Sleeper’ sits well alongside old songs such as ‘As I Drown’ and ‘Metropolis’, but the crowd don’t seem to truly enter into the spirit of things until their last song ‘A Call To Arms’

It’s late. All of the problems with gear throughout the day have delayed While She Sleeps by about an hour. But as the five-piece clamber onto the stage, they are met with a wall of sound. They’ve reached a point where their live reputation precedes them; as they launch into new song ‘Death Toll, chaos ensues. Through a brutal set, security are given their first taste of complete and utter pandemonium. Bodies fly as crowdsurfer after crowdsurfer is carried to the front to give Lawrence Taylor a high-five. Every word of every song, from ‘Hearts Aside Our Horses’, to ‘The North Stands For Nothing’, to ‘Our Courage, Our Cancer’ is shouted back at the band with a ferocity born of everything the audience have left. The last song ‘Reunite’, has the whole room chanting, if a little sadly. For an hour; they were part of something brilliant, and as the last notes ring out, it’s all over.

– Iqra Choudhry

Venue: Takedown Festival, Southampton
Support Band: The Blackout, WATO, Don Broco + more

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