Back after a one-year hiatus, the one-day rock and metal festival Takedown returned last month. This year it was hosted by the University of Southampton, and featured a bigger lineup than ever. This review focuses on the performances of the Monster Energy Stage (the main stage), which was located inside Garden Court (also known as the dreaded exam hall) behind The Stag’s Head.
First onstage were Dead!, who by winning the Takedown showcase had earned themselves a spot opening the main stage. Performing early at 2pm, they played an energetic set but sadly the effort they put into the performance was not done justice by the overall sound of the band. By 3pm, a relatively large crowd had gathered to see Mallory Knox perform their first ever festival set. Although only a few loyal fans near the front seemed to know any of the words to their songs, the band still managed to deliver a very energetic and confident performance.
Playing to a now-packed room, at 4pm Don Broco had already achieved an impressive feat, and with a reputation for playing great live shows they didn’t disappoint. Whilst not knowing any songs other than ‘Thug Life’, I still thoroughly enjoyed the set, during which the band really tried to engage with the crowd. Frontman Rob Damiani took proceedings several steps further when he instigated his own ‘wall of death’ from within the crowd, ensuring the end of the set was one that die-hard fans will not forget.
With the majority of the crowd seemingly taking a beer break at this point, Natives (previously known as Not Advised) took to the stage at 5pm. Although they played well, they didn’t shine compared to the other (better known) bands playing the main stage. Next up, at 6pm, were my personal favourites Canterbury, who I first saw playing a half-empty Joiners a few years ago. Even then I knew they were going to gain popularity, and they really have. Playing a very tight set, the band rose to the challenge of the bigger venue, and even if they didn’t fit in perfectly with the heavier bands of the day they still managed to get the crowd on their feet.
By the time Lower Than Atlantis came onstage just after 7pm, the room had reached its highest capacity of the day, and the fact that the room wasn’t specifically designed with gigs in mind started to become more and more evident. With no air con and very few windows, the room quickly turned into a sauna and all but the most loyal fans at the front must have been struggling with the heat. Regardless, a cracking Foo Fighters medley went down very well with the crowd, even with those who evidently didn’t know the band very well (which, judging by the chorus of people who sang along to final song ‘Deadliest Catch’, were very few). At this point, something seemed to happen to the quality of the sound in the venue, meaning when Deaf Havana arrived onstage around 8:20pm the bass reached a level so loud it sadly masked lead singer James Veck-Gilodi’s voice, which was a great shame as from previous experience I can tell you he can sing really well.
By 9:30pm, the crowd was ready and waiting for popular headliners Skindred, but due to technical difficulties their start was delayed leading to some friendly heckling from the impatient crowd. It soon became clear, though, as soon as the opening theme from Star Wars started playing and the band strolled onstage, that Skindred’s performance was going to be a unique experience and more than make up for their delay. The band played a set containing all of their biggest hits, including popular songs ‘Nobody’ and ‘Warning’, the latter of which featured the somewhat odd but now traditional ‘Newport helicopter’, in which lead singer Benji Webbe encourages the crowd to take off their tops and spin them above their heads. Although Skindred are undoubtedly unique and talented, however, all of their songs would sound the same to somebody who is unfamiliar with their work. The majority of the crowd, though, seemed to be enjoying the headlining act a lot more than I was.
All in all, I found the main stage provided everything that a festival stage needs. It was diverse, entertaining, and despite periodic lulls in the crowd it was packed with energy throughout the day.
Photos used with kind permission from Marianne Harris.