Tuesday, 8 May 2012


After the storm clouds had been blown away; Nottingham was bathed in sunshine. With the incredible success of Nottingham’s first alternative festival last year, headlined by Underoath and The Blackout, Hit The Deck Festival rose again with an even more compelling line up. Kids In Glass Houses, Deaf Havana, Lower Than Atlantis, The Wonder Years, and special guests, Young Guns, were only a handful of the bands that played across 5 assorted venues on the day.

By 11:30am, the ticket/wristband exchange queue was curling around buildings down the road, and half inebriated teens were already spilling onto the tramline. As the sombre clouds eased away, it seemed difficult to leave the summer contentment outside and enter the very dimly lit interior of Nottingham’s Rock City venue.

Kicking off the day in Rock City’s main hall was Autumn in Disguise; a youthful and energetic breed of alternative pop rock. Peaceful notes erupted from the mouth of vocalist, Mike Hendo, but didn’t seem to be strong enough to resonate to the back wall. There was slightly less crowd incitement than for the bands to follow, but that was to be expected.
Meanwhile, in the darker resides of the Rescue Rooms, no nonsense hardcore quintet, Dead Harts, were certainly getting the crowd brawling. The recent additions to The Legacy Agency’s roster beat down in style, with a mosh pit breaking out a few songs in and arms swinging throughout. The band didn’t seem to interact with the crowd as much, but with an appreciative and lively audience that they had gained, they didn’t need to.

Hotly tipped Derby seven-piece, Violet, completely packed out the Rock City main room with their ambient pop rock. The band’s double vocalist set-up were in stride with each other sleekly, and Jonny Nelson’s highs definitely reverberated around the hall with lucidity, sometimes too high for the sound guy to control. Their ‘Dance-Gavin-Dance-With-Synths’-esque music is insanely catchy and deeply enjoyed by the Nottingham crowd.

Another band clashing through the heavier scene is Guildford’s, Polar., impressing us by spitting their English charm. They played in the oddly shaped Stealth venue, seeming to have more seated areas than standing, in a packed from wall-to-wall venue – we could hardly get a decent view of the stage. Frontman, Adam Woodford, on top form, was leaping into the swarm of heads seconds after their set commenced. Polar’s loud, thrashy, punk rock seemed to start a riot and suited to the confined venue perfectly. Their talent and crowd presence was crushing, and they will only get bigger and better.

As the heavens opened and cigarette smoke filled the sheltered staircases outside Rock City, hoards of people clambered inside for one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring and emotional bands of the day. It could only be Maryland’s, The Dangerous Summer, playing their heartfelt pop punk to the highest ability. Although their music is more peaceful and didn’t get the crowd jumping up and down, it certainly got fans singing along with AJ Perdomo to the reflective and breathtaking lyrics. The setlist could have had a bit of a swap and change around, with popular songs being played towards the beginning of the set, so as to ignite the audience somewhat more; but nevertheless, hearing the blissful introductory guitar in ‘The Permanent Rain’ and a room full of people singing along was incredible, and did bring a tear to the eye. Midway into their last song, there was a lot of pushing and shoving amidst the crowd in order to get a decent spot for Californian metalcore giants, Of Mice & Men, despite the half an hour changeover time.

Whilst blown up condoms were bounced around the crowd in waiting, the lights were soon enough to fade, and the room was blinded by enigmatic strobe lights and deafened by the beatdown chugs and bass as the band burst into ‘Still Ydg’n’. Like most metalcore icons, Austin Carlile proved he could hold his rugged vocals live, with the complimentary addition of incredible stage presence which had the whole room turning into a sea of violently moving bodies. The setlist proved to be carefully thought out, as it supplied a vast mix of crowd pleasers from both albums, all performed flawlessly with generic and synchronised head banging, which is always fun to see.

We then headed downstairs to the slowly filling Rock City basement for Cambridge’s finest, Mallory Knox – and my God they were good. Vocalist, Mikey Chapman, had to shield his eyes from the harsh incandescent light to see the overwhelming turnout for the pop rock five-piece. The clean cut singing from Mikey acted as a faultless sing-a-long, and sometimes the crowd’s enthusiasm prevented him from continuing to pour out the words, so they willingly did it for him. Joe Savins on guitar achieved deep, gratifying screams, although could have been slightly more self-assured. But, looking at the band’s reaction, the participating crowd must have been the best they’ve had in a while. Take a bow, Nottingham.

Heights set in Stealth brought a high volume of people to the venue, almost too high in fact. It was so chockablock that people were standing in front of the photographer barrier, and even that got knocked over midway into the first song. Heights jumped down the throats of the crowd instantly, punching into ‘Eye For An Eye’. Quite a few technical problems appeared pre-set, which allowed for an up and down sound. Thomas Debaere’s vocals were as tight and malevolent as ever, despite the dodgy sound guy putting them too low in the mix, making it strenuous to hear. However, that didn’t stop him leaping off the stage with vengeance. With only one security guard in the venue, crowdsurfers and moshers outnumbered him within seconds, making it one of the most hectic sets of the day. A personal shoutout to bassist, Alex Monty, is needed – this is only the second time we’ve seen the band play since departure of old bassist Andrew Moulder in July 2011. Alex seemed less buoyant with the set and sizable crowds before, yet for Hit The Deck, he seemed to be one of the most courageous and active members of the band, making evil and angry faces at the fans whilst pretending to hang himself with his guitar strap.

After seeing some familiar faces on our way back to the Rock City main room, and a bloke in a brides dress...Lower Than Atlantis took the stage to an incredible turnout. Opening with their new Radio 1 loved single ‘If The World Was To End’, the audience began to sway to the brand-spanking new tune, but it’s the older and increasingly established tracks that get the crowd bobbing along. ‘(Motor) Way of Life’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’ proved that Lower Than Atlantis were undoubtedly one of the best sing-a-long bands of the day, with fans teetering on each other’s shoulders to yell the words back at frontman, Mike Duce, as he leaves the first few lines of the chorus of ‘Far Q’ for the crowd to shout at him – “Father, you never bothered. About as close as north and south are to eachother”. Mike proceeded to ask the audience to sit on the floor and jump up when ‘Beech Like A Tree’ dropped, and if they didn’t, he threatened to “call you out in front of your friends”. This sheer crowd interaction and witty one liners are why Lower Than Atlantis are so well admired.

We ensued from one level of charismatic British charm to another, as we moved downstairs to the basement. Don Broco. It’s as simple as that. The Bedford four piece cross several genres with an indie-esque alternative pop rock kind of sound, yet their live shows are unquestionably more energetic and crowd pleasing than the majority of slower and melodic bands we’ve seen. After an eerie Crystal Castles sample, the band jumped into ‘Top of the World’ and then straight into ‘Priorities’, a fresh tune in a similar format to their other songs: striking melodies, incredible jolly feel and catchy lyrics mixed with Rob Damiani’s flawless likability as a frontman. With calming riffs and firm vocal power, Rob even changed a few lyrics, asking the audience to “put your hands up if you feel alive” and the crowd went into uproar as they raised their fists into the air. The only problem with their set was the short length of it. Unfortunately, half an hour could not hold all of their brilliant songs, though it’s evident that the band has the stamina to play through their whole discography every gig. Finally, as the biggest crowd pleaser of the day, heavier favourite ‘Thug Workout’ certainly got the ol’ legs, arms and vocal muscles working. Ex Proceed bassist, Tom Doyle, who was recently recruited to the band, had only recently learnt the song and this was the first time live audiences had heard it since his enrolment. Walls of death, crowdsurfing, mosh pits, circle pits, these guys have it all. Rob even moved the pit out and got a few tipsy and budding young body builders to do press-ups midway through their workout as everyone continued to go crazy. Tip top job.

The slightly less physically energetic, but energetic nonetheless, Deaf Havana cracked open to an overflowing main room of which showed how far the band has come as of the departure of screamer, Ryan, and their release of their latest, soft sounding album,‘Fools & Worthless Liars’. It’s safe to say that James Veck-Gelodi’s voice is still stunning and grasps an amazing technique to capture the audience when performing. He had the whole room singing along, especially during ‘Friends Like These’ that had been adjusted to fit without the screams. It was still an intense feeling hearing it live, but we could feel a sense from everyone that they’d prefer Ryan to run back on stage for that one song. From the setlist of honouring older tunes and contrasting new releases, we could see that Deaf Havana are only going to get more talented and well known; and they certainly deserve it.

Down the road, in The Forum, the not-so-secret Young Guns set awaits. As fatigue and hunger sets in, and teenage perspiration fills the air, the High Wycombe old school rockers confidently take the stage, playing a mixture of songs from ‘All Our Kings Are Dead’ and Radio 1’s favourite album, ‘Bones’. On form as always, the lovely Gustav Wood was gazing into the eyes of his female fans as he boastfully bounded about the stage, balancing a perfect combination of the more melodic and calm songs, namely ‘Stitches’ and ‘Dearly Departed’ with the heavier, bouncy songs like ‘Elements’, which still pumps us with energy every time we hear it. Maybe it was the fact that we had only seen them about 3 weeks before Hit The Deck on their club tour with Polar. and Tonight Alive, but things seemed a bit samey – same setlist, same “make some noise, I can’t hear you” crowd interactions, but still a very powerful and highly adored band that are finally getting their way into the mainstream eardrums with devotion and full force.

Unfortunately, our day ended there. A considerable amount of exhaustion had encapsulated us, and we had a long journey ahead of us. But, from watching various videos from both Zebrahead and Kids In Glass Houses, it seemed that they were both notably reputable. Overall, Hit The Deck proved to be a superb day out, despite the scattered showers, and we look forward to another deck hitting next year!

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