Radstock Festival 2013 – O2 Academy Liverpool, 30/3/13

On what was a rare sunny day in Liverpool, a brand new indoor music festival called Radstock was launched, seeing 24 bands playing across three stages in two rooms from 1pm to 11pm. With free Monster energy drinks handed out to the queue, 13 year old emo girls olds bouncing off the walls with excitement and slightly creepy older men watching them as they queue for a day long festival of rock, metal and punk; spring officially kicked into life.

The first band on the Big Deal Clothing stage came in the form of Gnarwolves. The set burst into life with a fast punk drumbeat, clean but shouted lyrics and a rumbling bassline, not to mention a few riffs here and there. There were a lot of abrupt changes of pace to fit the punk-esque style, but there were also some more pop-punk moments and even a slower softer song “because it was early in the day”. Apparently it was the earliest a band has played at the venue; whether or not that’s a compliment to the band is another matter entirely, but Gnarwolves delivered a strong set to warm up the assembling crowd.

Next up and first on the larger Monster Energy stage were Natives, injecting energy into the room with their brand of poppy, fist pumping, and sing-along rock. Thriving off crowd participation, Natives brought a thumping rock attitude with the catchy element of pop music. Respect where it’s due, this got the crowd more involved, seeing everybody kneeling down and jumping up for the chorus of the second song, not something you are used to seeing at 2 in the afternoon. A lot of the songs were very similar, in structure and deliverance, but that said, Natives clearly found a song-writing formula that worked for them and stuck with it, seemingly to the pleasure of the cheering crowd.

Drive By Night provided guitar dominated alt-rock, filled with rhythmic riffs, clean vocals and nice harmonies. It may have been their first ever show together as a band, but they proved that they are full of potential and have obvious technical ability, they were just lacking that something extra. There were no obvious faults to pick out, with the songs or their live performance; they just seemed to be lacking the extra ‘oomph’ that could make them a fans’ favourite.

Then, and controversially to some, I skipped the chance of seeing Sonic Boom Six to see Carcer City, recommended by a friend, on the Hardtimes stage. I wasn’t disappointed. With the first sign of rough vocals and a loud breakdown to bring the song in, the Carcer City show also saw the first pits of the day. Declaring themselves as ‘scouse metal’, the lead singer, Patrick Pinion, said that they were “here to bring the heavy”, and they truly brought it. Showing their diversity they also found a place for softer vocals and a more technical rhythmic song, before bringing back the crunching breakdowns with force and a solid drum dominated instrumental to round things off.

Back to the main room and Tantrum to Blind were the next band to play, with the first and only female lead singer of the day (that I saw any way), whose high-register vocals were more reminiscent of Versaemerge than Halestorm. But a lot of energy and a good stage presence came from the band who seemed used to handling the crowd.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (RJSA) then lit up the main stage with a pitch perfect ‘False Pretence’, as the crowd started to grow and get progressively more involved. They delivered exactly the performance you’d expect from an experienced band with years on the circuit under their belt. Throughout the short set there was a great vocal performance and a raging guitar solo in ‘In Fate’s Hands’. The set was just long enough for all of the classics and a couple off the new record too, before fans’ favourite ‘Facedown’ rounded off the set with the crowd bouncing and a sense of nostalgia, since it was one of the songs that first got me listening to ‘real music’ as a young whipper snapper.

Light You Up were unfortunate to be sandwiched between RJSA and Yashin, receiving a lot less attention from the dispersing crowd than they deserved. Songs like ‘Without You Here’ crashed through with progressive riffs and pounding drums, keeping a lively tempo and showing that Light you Up deserved to be more than an interlude between bands on the mainstage.

By the time Yashin opened with a ferocious start, the biggest crowd of the night had assembled for breakdowns and head-banging aplenty. Despite the fact that they seem to pay as much attention to their scene hairstyles as their music, Yashin’s saving grace is that it is still fucking good music and bloody well performed live too. They showed the added bonus of two vocalists, one riling the crowd up as the other sings/screams, and the overall band chemistry and stage presence saw the teenage girls (and boys) in the crowd swoon. Those of us not falling in love with their emo/scene image could still appreciate Harry’s melodic and Kevin’s demonic vocals, the riffs ripping through each and every song and the drumbeat that feels like an earthquake resonating through the room. The crowd was kept glued to the main stage, with circle pits, walls of death and even spinning on the spot (no, really,) to keep the set fresh and interesting. Even Harry bringing his mum out on stage mid-song (a slower song, don’t worry) after she’d flown in for the show was a nice touch and received a big cheer. The first signs of crowd surfing from fans and band members alike showed that the set was a job well done and that the gauntlet had been thrown down for the later bands to follow.

The boys from Don Broco were next on the mainstage, opening with ‘Priorities’ and showcasing the walk, which is essentially synchronised marching/dancing on the spot by the vocalist, guitarist and bassist. A lot of energy was showcased by the band and the crowd, with the lads bouncing around the stage, talking to the crowd and making fans do push-ups in the middle of the floor before a wall of death. They even took time out to return a lost passport that had been handed in, but in classic Don Broco style they had to make a few jokes in doing it. Musically the distinctive vocals stand out as much live as on the record, with the funky base another stand out feature and a lot of sing-along opportunities.

Blitz Kids then came out onto the smaller balcony stage, bouncing and jumping, showing off riffs and a sweetly done guitar solo. Overall they boasted a very rhythmic sound, a show full of energy, and subtle changes in tempo helped to build up songs to a climax and slow them down in again in the verses. However a lot of the set was spoilt to some degree by the We Are The Ocean crew testing the equipment on the other stage, distracting the crowd and meaning “check, check, check,” ran over some of BK’s songs.

When WATO came on they delivered a strong set, but definitely too a tiring crowd. Despite a good mix of old and new, fast and slow songs, there were no pits or crowd-surfing. Perhaps WATO just aren’t as loved in Liverpool, or despite the strong riffs, mix of powerful live vocals and rock/pop-punk drums, maybe everyone was just getting tired?

There were more teething problems later as technical difficulties meant Bury Tomorrow were late onto the Hardtimes stage, cutting more into The Blackout’s headline show on the Monster Energy stage. When they finally managed to get on stage the lads were all very apologetic, promising a speedy and powerful set. This was a promise they lived up to with a heavy set and small but brutal pits. As I enjoyed taking part in most of the pits the whole set flew by in a haze, the three song combination of ‘Sceptres-Redeemer-Waxed Wings’ pumped the room with energy, fuelling some of the craziest pits and loudest cheers the stage must have seen all year, never mind all day. There was even time for the band to convey messages of being comfortable with and happy about who you are, I vaguely remember hearing “it’s okay to like Bieber, hey, JB has a couple of good songs”; but it was business as usual as the set ended with a blood-boiling rendition of ‘Royal Blood’.

Because of the overrun, I was very late to The Blackout, but arrived just in time for an onstage marriage proposal (she said yes, whoever they both were). However, I have been reliably informed that they were the regular cheeky chappies we are all used to, telling the crowd they’re shit, calling themselves pricks and even trying to make the fans face the back of the room for one song. All in all, standard material from The Blackout.

It was only the first Radstock Festival, but it was truly a classic. If this can be recreated again then it promises many more happy years of metal, rock and punk in Liverpool.

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