Crash Doubt Festival – The Showroom Lincoln, 3/6/12 [pt 2]

The Sunday started off wet and miserable. On our drive into Lincoln, Kitteh and I stared gloomily out of the windows at the grey skies and thanked the hardcore gods that the venue was indoors. When we were inside, they tried to foist off some Powerade onto us instead of Red Bull. Kitteh was perturbed, I was ecstatic. Full of sugar and a new found zeal, we stumbled upon Towering Heights (3.5/5), a pleasant surprise for the first band of the day. Instead of the screamo-esque sort of thing we were expecting, we were hit by some “Faith No More times Guns And Roses taking a segway via Neil Young and being pretty good” rock and roll. A soulful start to our Sunday, Towering Heights had some great musical talent on show. The bass in particular was magnificent and the vocalist had some powerful lungs on him. It was an odd fit, but one we were very happy with. With a bit more confidence, Towering Heights will be incredible. They Say Fall (2/5) were another story – kiddie hardcore but without the typical screaming vocals. While the band played some highly recognisable but relatively tight melodies, the vocalist wailed over the top like a banshee who’d been impaled with a flaming spear and had just been told their cat had died. Best to be avoided unless they get a new vocalist.

Never Cry Wolf (2.5/5) were yet another of the bro style hardcore bands we stumbled in on (and usually promptly walked away from) throughout the weekend. They played fine but unenthusiastically and failed to grab us, there being nothing particularly individual about their style at all. Brotherhood of the Lake (3.5/5) were a great improvement on this, assaulting our eardrums with their furious yet doomy hardcore. Peppering their set with movie quotes started off cool but got a little bit stale as it happened before every song without any real concept behind it, but ignoring that, they were solid, if requiring a little more movement (personally, we were just a bit upset that the hammered guy from the day before wasn’t pulling some moves in front of them).

Upstairs, Astpai (3.5/5) played some great gruff punk. Bouncy and heartfelt, it was the stuff of Tony Hawk games. While we only caught half a set, they made for a fine interval in between bands on the Big Cheese stage. Then downstairs, Mallory Knox (4.5/5 from Ripper, but a resounding 5/5 from Kitteh) blew us away. A fantastic deviation from the identikit hardcore, Mallory Knox are heartfelt, honest and catchy as hell. Their fine-tuned melodies flooded the venue and were received by an enthusiastic and highly grateful crowd. Woody from POLAR also made a far less threatening appearance, which was nice.

Above Them (5/5) are never, ever anything short of amazing. On Sunday, on the Punktastic stage, it was simply a joy to watch them perform. Above Them have brought out my favourite record so far this year (and if you haven’t got Are We A Danger To Ourselves, go and get it now from Specialist Subject Records, one of the best decisions you’ll ever make) and while only a few songs from that made it into their set, their positively electric performance showed them at the best I’ve ever seen them at. Melodic punk rock at its absolute best.

Departures (3.5/5) were pretty good fun. Good melodic hardcore. A clear Parkway Drive influence coming through, and I’m sure if they were on a bigger stage, they’d be a bit more lively but were a bit too timid to step off and parade in the pit like a few of the other bands. Nevertheless, I’ve heard their album is great and based on their performance, I’ll be bound to check it out. TRC (4.5/5) were possibly our biggest surprise of the weekend. Absolutely crushing hardcore with a rap element to it. Incredible breakdowns too. Kitteh and I were left scratching our heads, holding extremely hot cups of tea, thinking “how have we not heard of these guys before?” Now we have, and we’re happy that TRC are in our lives.

Our final band of the weekend was Random Hand (5/5). Random Hand are brilliant wherever they are. But on the Punktastic stage this weekend, in their own words, they KILLED IT. The best performance of the weekend, Random Hand made us all dance, skank and lose our minds at their simply sublime ska-punk. Ever the masters of banter (“I once tried to reach the French town of Evian on a novelty pedalo but didn’t get there cause I only had an hour and had to take it back”), there were dual circlepits, police sirens, general mayhem and I thought the floor was going to collapse. The lads were on top form. And with that, Kitteh and I decided to be not-so-punk, go home, get a cup of tea and a cheese and tomato pizza and watch The Cowboy Way in our pyjamas because we were absolutely knackered and The Skints are supporting Less Than Jake later this month anyway. But there wasn’t a better way we could have ended the weekend, and we couldn’t have celebrated the end of our degree anywhere better than Crash Doubt.

Crash Doubt Festival – The Showroom Lincoln, 2/6/12 [pt 1]

After a very successful first year, Crash Doubt returned to the deepest and darkest depths of the North (well… at least on the very rainy Sunday) for another go. Hosted in The Showroom in Lincoln, the punk and hardcore fest was a beautiful interruption to the Jubilee weekend.

Before I get into the bands, I have to stress how well organised the whole weekend was. Bands rarely overran or came on late, the stages were laid out well, the merchandise section was fantastically managed and the bar wasn’t too overpriced. The venue, a conference centre combined with a youth centre, was a great space to host in. If only half of the festival-goers spent more time in the venue checking out the bands than out in the car park.

Saturday started out strong. We got to the venue just in time for Climates (3.5/5), whose particular variety of melodic hardcore was good fun. The vocalist, who looked a little bit like Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, had a great tone to his voice and the band as a whole sounded brilliant for one of the first on. Following them up on the Time Will Tell stage were Fair Do’s (3/5), a local Lincoln pop-punk band. Tinged with posicore, they were fun and bouncy but they wore all their influences on their sleeves. Nevertheless, with their sense of fun and a little more development, they should be going places. Up on the Punktastic stage, Tim Van Tol (3.5/5) regaled us all with his solo folk punk. Reminiscent of sea shanties at times, some gruff and soulful acoustic fare did everyone some good (and Kitteh thought he looked a bit like Varg from Burzum).

Watch Commander (2/5) were fairly boring melodic punk rock – their songs had promise but failed to hit the mark. However, Attack! Vipers! (5/5) were nothing short of incredible. One of the most impressive hardcore bands coming out of the UK right now, their performance was intense, exciting and completely involving. If Attack! Vipers! play near you, don’t ever miss them. Moral Dilemma (2.5/5) weren’t really to my taste – abrasive punk rock that sounded all the same. It’s difficult to write good punk in the old style these days and while their overall performance was reasonably solid, I still found their set dull. Bangers (4/5) are proof that musical evolution often wins out and their gruff punk anthems rang out loud and clear on the Punktastic stage. There were awesome singalongs, sweet hooks and some actually very cleverly written instrumental sections. You can still be a musician in a punk band; Bangers will show you how.

Back downstairs on the Big Cheese stage, The Smoking Hearts (4/5), along with a guy who was either so wasted or on some variety of pills, showed us all how to party. Admittedly, they played fairly standard hardcore stuff – nothing new, but it was tight and they were batshit insane. Lots of jumping, some rolling around and potentially broken elbows – that’s how it should be done. Demoraliser (1/5) clearly didn’t observe how The Smoking Hearts did it and were truly the first of a few identikit hardcore bands we managed to stumble upon. They may have been local heroes but their breakdowns were so subpar, the vocals had no tone to them whatsoever and they sounded like a Terror ripoff without any of the brutality. Hang The Bastard (4/5) are how you should do hardcore, in comparison – terrifyingly. There are no other words. And yet the man in the khaki balaclava wasn’t the most intimidating thing all weekend. That accolade belongs to Woody from POLAR (4.5/5). While POLAR’s set was impressive, it was distracting to see a guy who looks like he has rabies push a crowd around because “if [you] don’t move, [I’ll] fucking move you”. Highly counter-productive to crowd involvement, but nonetheless, a stellar performance from one of the UK’s most exciting new bands. Heights (3.5/5) struggled to follow suit but their crowd involvement was certainly better. Their sound was less intense and more dirgey – the doom influences in their music rang loud and clear but still remained full of desperation.

And we finished off the night with No Trigger (3/5). I’ve been waiting to see No Trigger for a while, ever since I was bowled over by Canyoneer. To this day, it’s one of my favourite records. But I found No Trigger to be a bit… well, flat. There was plenty of enthusiasm but it just felt like there was something lacking. Might have been a levels thing, might have been an end of tour fatigue, but it just didn’t ring true. It didn’t end my night on a total downer though because they played Owner Operator and that put a fairly big smile on my face.

So, Saturday was pretty damn sweet. Sunday’s writeup to follow!