Merthyr Rock Festival 2012 [31 Aug – 2nd Sept, Cyfarthfa Park, Merthyr Tydfil]

Despite Merthyr Rock only being in its second year, I already regard it as one of my favourite festivals and a more than necessary summer break. While Wales has produced some incredible bands over the years – Funeral For a Friend, Lostprophets and The Blackout but to name a few – it never quite got a break as far as festivals are concerned. That was until 2011 when Hay Festivals decided to not only rock the valleys, but blast a fresh crater into those grassy hills. Last year’s lineup was a day shorter but stellar nonetheless. Managing to snare such names as Young Guns, My Passion and Skindred for your first outing is beyond impressive, so to say there were high expectations for 2012 would be an understatement.

While I had tickets for all three days and attended each accordingly, alas, I am only one person and no doubt I missed some incredible performances on various stages over the days. So count this as a highlights package. Saying that, I varied my tastes and aimed to experience a good cross-section of all music available and you know what? Merthyr topped itself, the whole thing was bloody glorious, from the setup to the food to the weather. Parts of it were so brilliant, that I’m starting to think I dreamed it…

Despite my eventual glee, Friday was never going to be my night. I could liken the experience to being attacked with an indie machine gun; me and the Kooks get along about as well as Inigo Montoya and the man who killed his father. So who was headlining? Razorlight. It was going to be a long night.

But thankfully, before all that hat-wearing frivolity kicked off, there were a good few bands to get through. First on my agenda were The People The Poet (4/5) (formerly known as Tiger Please), who could easily have been awarded the title of ‘best vocals of the weekend’ without having to have seen any other acts. Their singer has the most luscious, rich, gravelly and overwhelmingly divine voice I’ve ever heard; imagine chucking whiskey in a cement mixer. To top this, their music is full and indulgent with all the simplicity and charm of traditional folk music. No doubt, they’ll be earmarked for future NME readers to fawn over, but until then, catch them before they realise how damn good they are. Also, they sang the cheeriest song of the weekend about abortion, so if that doesn’t merit a listen, I don’t know what does. Saves The Day (3/5) were a band I was more intrigued than excited to see. Like many people, I remember flailing around my bedroom in 2002, straining my voice, singing along to At Your Funeral. But that was it. I knew little of their work since and was interested to see if they could still perform, or were reduced to a dull, bland band, feeding off their own sense of nostalgia. My expectations weren’t exactly confounded, but they hardly surprised me either. They’re still a comfortable band with a solid, fun sound, but their lack of dynamism on stage reflected in the audience’s reaction, really limiting their performance. Razorlight (3/5) are an odd one for me to try and sum up. I had many of their hits inflicted on my ears while sitting in the refectory at college, so I was grudgingly familiar with much of their set before they started playing, but that wasn’t enough to make me raise a smile. I could simpIy say that I found the entire set to be dull as dishwater. Soulless music for people that can’t be bothered to look beyond the charts. But that’s a silly, dismissive response. There’s no doubt that they’re all competent musicians and their sound was as crisp, clear and as ‘together’ as it had been on the radio. But when it came to going further than those four or five radio-friendly hits from the past few years, they fell more than a little flat. Their armoury is badly stocked, but I don’t think this phases their general audience.

Saturday was a far greater draw in terms of crowd size, and it’s unsurprising considering the quality lineup in place. After the traditional pre-gig Nando’s excursion, I found myself in front of the re-named James McLaren stage (a wonderful Welsh music journalist who tragically passed away recently), in the presence of Bastions (3.5/5); a tight little hardcore outfit whose raw energy and unbridled power really stood out amongst their fellow bands. While they weren’t exactly challenging any existing genre constructs or techniques, they were really quite good. Fitting somewhere between Brotherhood of the Lake and the more simplistic side of Polar, I wouldn’t be surprised if they joined TDONs books before the year was out. After a brief break from the stages (with signing sessions galore, it’d be rude not to partake), I soon found myself in the presence of Rise to Remain (3.5/5). Rise to Remain are a damn good, young, interesting metal band that seem to have shot up the ladder of success pretty quickly, but suddenly got stuck on one step and haven’t been able to shift since. With a set varied enough to please any metal fan – rabid or casual – and a charismatic frontman in the form of Austin ‘My dad’s in Iron Maiden, ain’t he’ Dickinson, they certainly had all the ingredients, it was just in the cooking that something didn’t quite fit. Yashin (4/5) however seemed very sure of themselves. Perhaps too sure. Yashin are the archetypal scene frontmen; they are hair and iPhones and suggestions of sex. Their online presence is more centred around hair than music, and soon enough their only receptive audience will be the young girls that pore over their filter-heavy pictures on Instagram. In short, Yashin made me feel old and disconnected. That’s the bad stuff. To their credit though, Yashin make damn good music. Although they’re hardly putting a new slant on the dual vocalist routine, they certainly have the best of the best; all screams are powerful and controlled and all clean singing is well-pitched with a really sweet natural tone. With poppy melodies expertly juxtaposed against grinding basslines, their music dances between fun and anthemic with enviable ease.

Lower Than Atlantis (4.5/5), where to start? I’m biased for a start – LTA are by far one of my favourite bands in the UK at the moment, and their innovative, distinctly British take on melodic hardcore is unrivalled. They’re consistent performers, visibly giving their all in every set, regardless of audience sizes. While frontman Mike Duce is the undisputed figurehead of LTA, when they play live, they perform as a unit, with no one fading into the background or playing second fiddle to a more magazine-friendly face. Despite the great sounds coming from the Watford quartet, the setlist was a little lacking – in phasing out much of their older material, their overall stage time lacked a little depth and weight, but with great new songs such as Normally Strange and Love Somebody Else on the list, they could be partially forgiven. While Lower Than Atlantis had grubby charm by the bucketful, Skindred (5/5) had swagger by the craterful. Every time I see Skindred live, as I leave the venue, I’m so buzzing and over-awed by the whole experience that I always think I must have imagined the extent of their mind-blowing performance. I mean, they couldn’t really be that good? But tonight, as the opening bars of the imperial march rang out once more, Skindred not only tore up the rule book, but burned it, buried it and rewrote it. I defy you to find a band more original than Skindred (seriously, name me another ‘ragga metal’ band) and a frontman more captivatingly charismatic than Benji Webbe. With an expertly chosen setlist that had the audience bouncing as one, dancing as one and Newport Helicopter-ing as one, the rag-tag bunch of Newport gents had Merthyr in the palm of their hand. Mixing crowd favourites such as Warning and Pressure with more groove based tracks as Trouble and Cut Dem. Audience jibes and Beyonce segues aside, Skindred are first and foremost a professional band; they take their music and their influence seriously, not only aiming to preach a gospel of fun and partying, but of unity and tolerance – an aim that lies somewhere north of impressive in these cynical times. Skindred are kings, and it’s only a matter of time until we all bow down.

For me, Sunday was mixed to say the least. With my allergies flaring up like nobody’s business, I missed more bands than I ever wanted to, and with old idols destroying their legacy, I left the site with a far different feeling than previously. Annoyingly, Future of the Left (3/5) was the first band I was able to focus all my attention on, and I hardly had to push my way through a packed tent. FOTL were by far the most ‘wildcard’ booking of the festival; with a far more brash and uncooperative sound than most, they weren’t quite on the same wavelength as many of the young festival goers. Despite this, their quirky and fuzzy-guitared take on alt-rock was a real breath of fresh air, and while songs such as Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesman were hardly going to have you thinking about your relationships and approach to life, they’d certainly get you dancing. Also, there was a lady bassist. A real life woman, stood there, playing bass, in proper clothes, and being fucking talented. More of this please. We Are The Ocean (4/5) have a beautiful sound and heartfelt, weighty lyrics that you often feel that you could touch, and were always given an edge with a dash of screams. With one screamer down and one clean vocalist taking the full blast of the limelight, my excitement at watching WATO was as much influenced by my love of their music as it was sheer fascination as to how they’d cope with a more stripped-down approach. But despite notable absences, WATO triumphed. They were bound to be a tad shaky while everyone adjusts to their new roles (some of the back-up replacement screaming was pitchy at best), but overall their sound was as awe-inspiring as before. With a bit more movement on stage, they’ll be back to their old selves in no time. Canterbury (4/5) are on their way to something huge. They have a sound so strange and minor harmonies so tight that it should make the listener feel uneasy, but on the contrary, those nice young chaps (who love their mums very much) are phenomenal musicians. As soon as they strike into any song, they begin to create something far larger than themselves, something that far more people need to hear. Canterbury are odd, wonderful and deserve every scrap of recognition they get. Back on the mainstage were Deaf Havana (3/5). Oh Deaf, where do we start? Since hearing Meet Me Half Way At Least many moons ago, I was sold on Deaf Havana’s introspective and self-deprecating output and I was never slow to shower them with praise. But as the success of 2011’s Fools and Worthless Liars began to grow, my appreciation and tolerance of their performance and vocal nature on and off stage waned. Don’t get me wrong, the album is a good ‘un. It’s deeply personal, well written and a rightfully successful release. Hell, I went to the release party, I did multiple dates on the tour, I did the lot. But now, Deaf have egos the size of their venues and are convinced (or James is at least) that their newfound recognition means that their only valid release, their only creation with merit is Fools and Worthless Liars. With a set at Merthyr consisting of only two songs that weren’t on FAWL and the declaration that their much loved anthem Friends Like These was ‘fucking shit’, I left feeling dejected and cheated. When you perform half-arsed (Merthyr’s performance was better than most recent festival/support slots) and believe your own hype, both your fanbase and your band will consume itself. I don’t know what to think Deaf, I just don’t know.

Thankfully, the nostalgia-fest that was A (4.5/5) hit the second stage and released me from my Norfolk-based melancholy. Seeing A live was a real milestone for me as Nothing was the first CD single I ever bought and provided the soundtrack to much of my pre-teen greebo angst. Despite not having performed much since 2005 and barely rehearsing at all for their slot, their performances of oldies such as Starbucks, I Love Lake Tahoe and Old Folks were as good and as animated as the day they were released. The floppy hair and naivety of youth may have been absent, but A worked just as well without. Also, seeing original bassist and Radio rock-king Daniel P Carter back in his rightful place leaping about on stage was a joy to behold. Another nice surprise was that briefly scanning the crowd, I was not met with a sea of youthful faces and fresh piercings, but huge groups of those in their mid 20s and 30s, all embracing this hugely self-indulgent wave of nostalgia. To top off what had already been a brilliant set, the inevitable set-closer of Nothing was made that bit more intense, fun and, well, Welsh, with the sudden unexpected presence of The Blackout vocalist Sean Smith. To say the collaboration was anything short of amazing would be a huge understatement. Riding on a high, I headed back over to the main stage to catch the sharply dressed Kids In Glass Houses (3/5). While I fully understand that they’re popular and they have a lot of young, dedicated fans, it didn’t quite hit the mark with me. Sure, they had fun, bouncy, vaguely electro-inspired rock songs made for dancing, but for all their posturing and nice little verses, it never quite built to anything.

With lineups like this, Merthyr will fast become a stalwart of the Welsh music scene and I wish it all the very best of luck. It’s fun, cosy, amazingly cheap and always a cracker. Roll on Merthyr Rock 2013!

Reading Festival 2012 [Richmond Avenue, Reading]

Reading Festival has long been a staple of my summer. This was my fourth year running with a full weekend ticket and about my seventh year attending overall. Somehow, the summer just doesn’t feel the same without a trip down to Reading – usually, my dad drives us down and dumps us at the river, then we slog down to the campsite, set up shop and collapse with drinks in hand (or a Coke Zero for me, let’s be honest) until the bands start on Friday. This year, with the formula slightly altered – sister’s friends drove, all my friends bailed on me – I could just tell that things would be… different somehow. Well, apart from not having a real shower for five days – that’s always going to stay the same.

I kicked off my Friday with Deaf Havana (4/5) on the main stage. Despite already hitting the ciders, the band were on top form to open the festival. With a set comprised almost completely of songs from crowd-friendly but brilliant Fools And Worthless Liars, it was a tuneful, optimistic beginning to the weekend. Finally fulfilling one of their ambitions, as James Veck-Gilodi explained, it was great to see one of Britain’s most up and coming bands play to so many people that early on. Over in the NME/Radio 1 Tent, Hadouken! (4/5) set a completely different precedent to Deaf Havana. Ramping up the intensity to 11, Hadouken! came to party hard and didn’t disappoint. While I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of their recorded material, they’re simply exhilarating to behold on a live platform and the tent was packed – clearly an indicator of their well deserved status.

Back on the main stage, Coheed and Cambria (3.5/5) didn’t live up to the usual expectations. Of course, Claudio is a majestic beast on stage and with the original line-up back in place, it’s clear to see that Coheed are in a better place than they have been in a long time. And yet, the set they chose just wasn’t festival friendly and the crowd stood there for most of the time bored and listless. Nevertheless, when Claudio whacked out the double neck SG for Welcome Home, the energy that Coheed are certainly capable of when they’re in the right place was more than obvious.

A brief segway to the Alternative Stage saw us in the company of Adam Hills (4.5/5), that dead funny Australian bloke off Mock The Week. He was certainly onto a winner with his set at Reading, containing a few new gags that had me and my companions almost crying with laughter. With that new show on Channel 4, plus more TV appearances here, he deserves to be enormous.

The Blackout (4.5/5) simply never disappoint. Merthyr Tydfil’s finest delivered an absolutely phenomenal set, picking the biggest anthems from their back catalogue. Sean Smith and Gavin Butler are a joy to watch as they jump across the stage, chucking mics and screaming loud and proud. The Blackout display a passion that’s sadly lacking from so many performers, as well as a professionalism that’s nearly unparalleled. Don’t ever miss them if you have the opportunity to see them – it’s worth it for Higher And Higher alone. In comparison, You Me At Six (3/5) were suitably tepid. Josh Franceschi demonstrated some pretty killer screams, but the band have taken too much from the school of American bands, thanking the audience after every song. While the sound couldn’t be faulted and they certainly played their particular brand of pop-rock adequately, the performance just felt flat. You Me At Six aren’t exactly known for being risk takers and there was certainly nothing unsafe about their set.

The disappointments continued thick and fast with Paramore (2/5). There’s been a lot of drama following the band over the past year. The shock departure of the Farro brothers left them in a bit of a rut and they’re only just getting out of it. Despite Hayley’s protestations that the show was all about the band as a whole though, it was clearly the Hayley Williams show and very little more. Hayley herself is still struggling to strike the right balance between singing properly and shouting weirdly, which is a terrible shame considering the incredible quality of her live performance pre-Riot!. Of course, Paramore have come along a great deal since that time in one way or another, but for a musician so highly praised for her vocal ability, she just doesn’t cut it live. The rest of the band are background characters – what’s left of them, anyway. A completely safe and predictable performance, apart from bringing on a fan for the final chorus of Misery Business and truly, the final nail in the coffin for my interest in Paramore.

The Cure (3/5) didn’t exactly stop the disappointment train in its tracks. A firm favourite of mine since my teen goth days, The Cure are a British institution. They don’t know how to pick a setlist though. When they played the songs we all knew – Lovecats, Inbetween Days, Friday I’m In Love – we were enthralled. The Cure, even after all these years, are still breathtaking, but only when they’re playing the classics. Most of their set was comprised of stuff that I didn’t recognise or didn’t like because despite being able to write anthems, they also know how to create boring background tracks all too well and too many of those made an appearance in their set. The encore was the best part overall, with the crowd and the band really coming alive for songs like Let’s Go To Bed and Close To Me. It’s comforting to know that after all these years, The Cure can still play very well. It’s less so to realise that their idea of timeless and ours no longer correspond.

Saturday’s start was more than a little unorthodox, to say the least. Sat around the campsite, waiting for people to get ready, I get a text from a friend that says “Green Day are on NOW if you wanted to watch them”, so cue a lot of running, potential abandonment of dignity and plenty of swearing. When we finally get into the arena, they’d blocked off access to the NME tent anyway so we stood watching from the big screen. Green Day (5/5) themselves though were completely unforgettable. All the rumours about a Dookie-only set had gone totally out of the window, instead leading to something more along the lines of every single they’ve ever released, meaning some gems like Hitchin’ A Ride and When I Come Around got to make an appearance. Billie Joe Armstrong is as excitable as a toddler in a toy shop, darting around the stage with water guns and tissue cannons, picking up the cameras and exceeds every expectation. Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool are no less enigmatic and quite simply, Green Day’s refusal to grow up lead to one of the most exciting live performances of the weekend, even without us making it into the tent itself.

Mystery Jets (4/5) are always a pleasure. Their lovely indie-pop floated its way through the crowds during the one little bit of sunshine we had, making for a nice, chilled out set. Fan favourite Girl Next Door had virtually the whole field singing along. OFWGKTA (2.5/5) proved a lot more divisive. Odd is definitely the right word for the rap collective. While at times, Odd Future’s material can be insightful, intelligent and highly original, the set at Reading just displayed some badly timed raps and the weaker parts of their back catalogue. Far more impressive were Don Broco (4/5). The Bedford quartet had the Festival Republic stage completely rammed as they threw out anthem after anthem. The band are born performers and their catchy brand of alt-rock will take them far.

Enter Shikari (4.5/5) have been at Reading for the past four years running and every time, are met with adoration and total devotion to the art form that is the human pyramid. Even after the phenomenal success of A Flash Flood Of Colour, Enter Shikari still perform with the chaotic energy and style that they’ve been renowned for and though an ethical message was prevalent within the set, it was ultimately overridden by the biggest party vibe of the festival. The Vaccines (3.5/5) are not really party people, nor do they have a sense of humour quite like Enter Shikari. Nevertheless, their catchy indie rock is perfectly inoffensive and provided some good clean fun.

The final set of the day for me was that of the truly mighty Young Guns (4.5/5). With second album, Bones, the quintet have leapt from strength to strength and this is perfectly demonstrated in their live show. Gustav and co are charismatic and energetic, their songs emotionally charged and completely explosive. Young Guns truly are going to go atmospheric.

Sunday is generally the best day of Reading Festival. Well known for being the festival’s “rock” day on the main stage, the line up on offer this year was second to none on paper. Band Of Skulls (3/5), new purveyors of grungey garage rock, were fairly samey in places, although it is difficult to sound particularly innovative in that genre. Their too-cool-for-school look seeped through into their performance, which worked on a few levels (Effortlessly fashionable? Check. That kind of despondent movement you can only do with grunge? Check) but on others, was just a vague flashback to the 90s. Frank Turner’s new hardcore band, Mongol Horde (5/5) proved to be far more entertaining and diverse, despite the obvious draw from 80s hardcore. It’s hard to think that Frank Turner can be anything but the folk-punk troubadour he’s become these days, but as he leapt onto stage wearing nothing but a pair of cargo shorts, all and any expectations of what Frank Turner is or was can be safely tossed out of the window. He’s got some of the best damn hardcore growls in the business at the moment, his vocals perfectly fitting songs that owe a great deal to the 80s hardcore scene, as well as harking back to the melodic post-hardcore of Million Dead. More complex than the average hardcore outfit and yet gloriously brutal in places, Mongol Horde are really, really good.

Eagles Of Death Metal (4/5) were fun, plain and simple. Rock and roll, no questions asked. Even though I’m not well versed in their back catalogue at all, I still found myself singing along stupidly loud. They’re just that catchy. And yes – Jesse still has that handlebar moustache. Because that’s rock. So is high fiving everyone on the front row, stealing bandanas and trucker caps and causing mayhem before three o’clock in the afternoon. The Gaslight Anthem (4/5) were just as involving but in a completely different way. The success of American Slang and now Handwritten has made them household names and their place on the main stage has been assured. There’s never anything fancy about a Gaslight performance – just great songs played with passion. The Skints (4/5) are hardly strangers to passionate live shows and had the Lock Up tent fit to burst. Equal parts laid back reggae beats and furious ska punk, a large part of the set came from the stunning new album Part And Parcel. In particular, Ratatat sounded insane.

Until this weekend, I’d pretty much forgotten that Bullet For My Valentine (3.5/5) still existed. Fever was just so shocking, it was easy to forget that they’d written some blazing tunes in the past. Their set this year was a good run through of all the classics – ultimately a crowd pleaser. It was a little bit cheesy in places – can British heavy metal ever not be? – but they’re a good laugh all the same. Kaiser Chiefs (4.5/5) lived up to their reputation of being one of Britain’s best live bands in the past ten years. They know what the audience wants and they blasted through all the singles at lightning speed, ignoring any album tracks for the most part. Ricky Wilson is fearless in his approach, launching himself at cameras and diving off of railings. He makes for compelling viewing, but the rest of the band are just as cheeky and full of Northern charm. It’s impossible to walk away from a Kaiser Chiefs set without a substantial grin. The Black Keys (4/5) possess an entirely different kind of charisma, effortlessly leading the crowd through their catchy bluesy rock. While I think that the Kaiser Chiefs should have had a higher billing than them (but alas, the Kaisers have been featured in far less adverts), it’s hard to see how The Black Keys have slid under the radar for so long as they have. Nevertheless, a UK arena tour is happening and they’re finally getting the adoration they deserve.

Finally, after a long weekend, the Foo Fighters (5/5) took to the stage. Dave Grohl instantly holds the crowd in the palm of his hand with a “What’s up England?” and we stay there until the closing bars of Everlong. Even after almost twenty years as a band, the banter is still strong, the enthusiasm is high and everything is note perfect. The Foos are great songwriters, but also highly competent musicians and guitar and drum solos reign throughout the show. And it really is a show – there’s fireworks and paper cannons punctuating the set, but a balance is struck between arena rock posturing and a more intimate feel. Grohl dedicates songs to his mum and his adorable daughters, who are watching from the side and when he tells the story of his first Reading encounter before Times Like These, the thousands of people watching them that night feel closer to any band than they have all weekend, especially when joined in song. A few covers add some fun as well as some old gems like Generator and whether you’re a fan or not, it’s impossible not to be taken in by the sheer brilliance of the Foo Fighters. For rock fans everywhere, for music fans everywhere, the Foo Fighters are an essential part of your live repetoire.

And thus ended yet another Reading, on what we thought was an absolute high. We weren’t counting on the horrific six hour wait to get out of White car park. And as such, the experience was tarnished for me. Usually, Reading is the highlight of my summer and what was an incredible weekend was ruined by shoddy management. Only in England, eh? I think I’ll be giving another festival a shot next year.

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!