Merthyr Rock/Hit The Deck – apparently better than Reading Festival

I may just be digging my own grave around here, but I’m not a fan of huge festivals. I’m all for the live music, overpriced chips, getting a bit tiddly in a field with my mates, but trying to sleep in a tiny rustling pod next to a tent full of rutting scene kids just isn’t my style. I like cut price chain hotels, kettles and tiny sachets of coffee. And to that end, mini day-festivals are fast becoming my favourite summer past time. In 2011 the gods made it so that the UK was gifted with a veritable plethora of day festivals. Thank you benevolent unseen beings, thank you.

Although I couldn’t get to half as many as I wanted, two particular tiny festivals made such an impact on my well-rested and showered self, that I feel compelled to share their merits with the world. They’re also both running again in 2012 with equally as good line-ups, so why not book a nearby hotel room and get your party on!


Merthyr Rock

As the summer draws to an end and the UK’s largest festivals have come and gone, leaving a wave of blurry photographs and fabric wristbands in their wake, outdoor music tends to go into hibernation until the next year. While those attending Download, Sonisphere and their indie brothers plough money into huge week-long camping excursions, those left behind either through money or travel constraints are left with a certain bitter taste in their mouth. And that is when Merthy Rock comes into play. For little over twenty quid, you had the opportunity to spend a wet September day in a tent in a Welsh field… wait. Okay, perhaps it’s not the most glamorous location in the world, but the lineup soon silences any disparaging comments. While the small, tent-free outdoor stage ultimately suffered at the hands of the Merthyr weather, the main tent provided an exhaustingly wonderful string of bands, none of who could be said to have given a half-arsed performance. With signing sessions throughout the day and burger vans that didn’t require you to sell a kidney in order to afford a tray of wilted chips, it’s a small festival that really deserves to pick up momentum and continue for many years to come. While 2011 was a two-day festival, with sets from Ocean Colour Scene and Goldie Lookin’ Chain on the 3rd, understandably more attention was showered on the day of the 4th where home-grown heroes The Blackout were headlining. Before the Welsh wonders took to the stage, we were treated to solid, quality performances by the likes of My Passion, Young Guns and Skindred to name a few. While all other bands were well and good, The Blackout stole the show with one of the most powerful and emotionally-charged performances I’ve ever seen. Definitely a ‘Woodstock Moment’ for all waves of Blackout fans.


Hit The Deck

Hit The Deck, hosted in Nottingham’s veritable rabbit-warren of a venue, Rock City, was a particular musical highlight of 2011. A one-day, cripplingly wonderful ‘alternative’ spectacular spread over three smaller venues, Hit The Deck proved its worth in booking some of the hottest new bands on the UK scene and secured its future success. While hosted in a run of the mill, rather unremarkable venue, Hit the Deck festival managed to comfortably secure its own identity and enthusiastic following. Rather surprisingly, on the whole, it was an incredibly well organised set up with clean rotation on the merch tables, smooth switch-overs between bands, good scheduling and an expert grouping of genres. With mini competitions for small unsigned bands to play opening slots, it also felt very inclusive, accessible and an achievable aspiration for future young groups. Personally, my highlights of 2011 included a beautiful little surprise set from rising stars, We Are Fiction, a performance by Young Guns which proved so compelling that the venue had to operate a ‘one in-one out’ policy and a triumphant show by Deaf Havana who continued to prove that they didn’t need a screamer to tear the roof off the building. With yet another promising lineup in 2012 (Including Kids in Glass Houses and Yashin), you’d be a fool to miss out.

So go on, part with your cash and get adding to that wristband collection!

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