Where can you go to see the UK’s up and comings in Alternative Rock, topped by a critically acclaimed band of the same ilk, with quirky logos and weird stage names?
Anywhere. You can go to pretty much any other small festival in the UK and see that. We have loads here in the UK – from 2000 Trees to Camden Crawl, these weekend occasions aren’t hard to come by. So it is vital that a festival in that scene can distance itself and force itself into a new groove that other festivals can’t compete with. Does Hit The Deck do that?
Does Hit The Deck do that in a positive way?
Oh good heavens no.
From the second I left the train station, I was hit with the issues with Hit The Deck that would plague me for the rest of the day. General feelings of distance. Feeling lost. Poor organisation. No bloody signposting at all. It didn’t ever get better, aside from the learned experiences – “don’t go down that alley!” “follow the river” “click your shoes together 3 times to go back home!”. After a good half an hour of searching, I found the ticket exchange. This was the first and last time I met any representatives from the festival – none were around the city to guide, to help. Just get you your wristband and pass you off. Cool. Commence the next half an hour of finding out where on earth Slaves were playing.
To The Fleece! Wounds, representing a blackened, brooding, Irish version of Queens Of The Stone Age, pulled a decent set, much the same as when they tore up the Hobbit recently in Southampton. The swagger and violence of their set much unchanged from that tiny room in the back of our local, it was nice to see them being consistent.
So from The Fleece, to the O2 Academy (an equally daunting task as all other navigation at a city wide festival), a new issue was met. Food. Food and drink. Having thought ahead to bring some cereal bars and water (in sealed containers, no less!), the staff at the O2 Academy informed me that I was not to even bring them in via a ruck sack. So the food got thrown out and I’m still seeking compensation on that front (I’m not). It is obvious that such conditions are beyond the festivals control but for the future, if a venue is such a hindrance to the clientele, maybe stop using that venue?
Fortunately for the money spent on the cloakroom storage for one empty ruck sack, this stint at the O2 Academy would prove to be a long one. First up on the list were Dinosaur Pile Up, who seem to be embracing their Nirvana comparisons with an overloaded focus on aesthetics. Floppy blonde hair and great performance was met to just a handful of interested audience members. Strangely enough, there was a large enough crowd it was just extremely inactive. Is this grunge? Is this what grunge is? Who knows. Finishing a set laden with new tracks from their 2013 album, Nature Nurture, Dinosaur Pile Up left the stage.
Return a little later to hyped up Brand New impressionists, The Front Bottoms. Accompanied by a much bigger crowd than I had anticipated, the US indie punks seemed genuinely enthralled by the turn out. Catching my attention as a mid point between Weezer and Brand New, with the clever wordplay and story telling lyricism annexed to lovely acoustic guitar and relatively laid back instrumentation.
Next up, after a brief pause, was Pulled Apart By Horses. The 4 piece hardcore-but-not band were one of my most anticipated performances before the festival – and their appearance at The Cellar is now one I await with high hopes! Playing everything any PABH fan will love them for, from ‘VENOM‘ to ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’, the bruisers of crossover appeal also debuted some new tracks from forthcoming album, apparently named Bristol. With the biggest (and one of the only) mosh pit of the day, they left the stage with the crowd begging for more.
Here’s where Hit The Deck failed yet again! This is where I went to scrummage through Bristol’s darkest and find my favourite hellish hardcore troupe, Baby Godzilla – only to see the times were wrong and they’d started 15 minutes earlier. Great. However, 15 minutes is enough time to get the general gist for Baby Godzilla, especially if one has seen them live before – not that this wasn’t of merit of course, there was aggression, broken things, disco balls, Baby Godzilla had it all. They never disappoint.
Where I would have liked to finish the night off by seeing Brand New, I was instead having to head back home due to the failure of the organisers to get some extra trains running, and instead of seeing their (what has been proven to be) beautiful cover of ‘Wish‘ by Nine Inch Nails alongside a stunning back catalogue of American alt rock anthems, I was seeing First Great Western launch me back Oxford way.
To summarise, Hit The Deck fails at being a festival, but they have good taste in music. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to bring me back next year, and I would never recommend that someone went in the future.