Edge writer Joe Turner enthuses about his experience at this year’s Takedown Festival, once again hosted by University of Southampton’s student union.
It may not have been festival temperatures when I arrived on the concourse but University of Southampton certainly had festival fever. Takedown Festival, labelled ‘the South’s best indoor alternative festival’ was back for its second year within the depths of our very own Students’ Union. The sofas had been cleared, replaced by countless stands of band t-shirts and memorabilia and outside on the concourse sat an enormous truck handing out Monster energy drinks. Every spare seat was taken by a melee of tattoos, piercings and daring hair. I instantly regretted my all-Topman attire. The entrance to the Union was packed with excited fans, trying to figure out how they were going to fit in 47 different bands across 5 stages in just one afternoon. Despite having just gone 1’oclock the bars were busy and the first crowds gathered in The Bridge, The Stags, Garden Court, The Cube and Bar 2.
After getting my bearings, I snuck through a maze of merchandise to see one of the first bands Our Hollow Our Home performing in The Bridge. The band had already managed to whip the crowd into a measured mosh pit of the very keen, but strikingly heavy music just didn’t seem to work in the well-lit and modern Bridge Bar. It must have been strange for the bands themselves, used to playing at night in pubs and clubs. The early afternoon set in a relatively swanky restaurant meant most of the crowd remained sober and were only giving away gentle nods to the moderately entertaining post hard-core of OHOH.
Hey Vanity were up next, playing the Smalltown Records Stage in Bar 2. A surprisingly large crowd squeezed into the relatively small space to enjoy some energetic pop-punk from the Essex four-piece. Their songs were catchy and enjoyable, Hey Vanity are a band with potential who had obviously acquired a loyal following in the past that revelled in seeing their idols at such close quarters. Crossing the concourse to The Stags, via a brief ‘alright dude’ nod to Mallory Knox lead singer Mikey Chapman who was chatting to fans, WeAreFiction took the stage. The Stags was busy, although the football on the big screen may have been partly to blame. WeAreFiction provided a good balance of screams and impressive clean vocals (akin to Alexisonfire, only with more pop elements) they were melodic yet heavy in parts. A thoroughly enjoyable set of sing-along tracks was only dampened by the quiet volume in the Stags itself. Standing anywhere near the big screen and the band became totally inaudible which was a shame.
To the main stage, past The Blackout’s Sean Smith signing autographs and Max Raptor were well into a huge set of loud, punk anthems. Standout track ‘The King is Dead’ drew a big reaction from the crowd, and when the lead singer announced he used to attend University of Southampton he gained a few more muted cheers. Max Raptor are definitely worth checking out further, especially because their lead singer vaguely resembled Matt Berry (the shouty voice guy from the IT Crowd). Staying on the Rock Sound Stage, Max Raptor were followed by Marmozets, a lively bunch who barely looked out of their teens. Marmozets were one of the few bands at Takedown this year with a female lead vocalist. Becca Macintyre was capable of intense screams as well as straight out clean rock vocals and you couldn’t take your eyes off her dramatic performance. Although the first few tracks seemed messy and confused their set grew into an accomplished and surprisingly technical collection of metal tracks. The substance behind Marmozets’ music was even more impressive considering the age of some of its members and the fact during one of their songs the guitarist took to the audience for a wander about and was nearly nearly engulfed by the rowdy pit. Again another band worth checking out, especially new single ‘Born Young and Free’.
The first of the real big names graced the Rock Sound stage in the form of Arcane Roots, the Surrey three-piece looked nervous as they waited at the side of the stage but burst into tracks from their incredible new album Blood and Chemistry. A sizeable crowd had gathered reflecting the rapid growth in reputation of the band somewhat lazily dubbed as the next Biffy Clyro. Arcane Roots left out their more melodic songs in favour of their heavier material. ‘Million Dollar Question’ and ‘You Are’ from their first EP Left Fire were particularly well received with enormous mosh pits and huge cheers at the gigantic riffs coming from just three musicians. Each track sounded flawless despite the gruelling vocal requirements, Andrew Groves’ choral vocals hit even the top notes as well as aggressive screams; quite a feat in a live environment.
Arcane Roots had raised the bar for the day and Mallory Knox took on the challenge. Probably one of the most popular bands at Takedown, the crowd packed into Garden Court to hear their big radio singles. A whole array of other bands watched the entire set at the side of the stage, obviously wanting to take note from a band at the forefront of UK rock. Their set went without problem although mosh pits vanished in favour of crowd sing-alongs to radio hits such as ‘Lighthouse’. Mikey Chapman seemed to struggle with the relentless vocals but he was well supported by the rest of the band, each capable of singing the song’s huge choruses. Mallory Knox still have work to do on their live set to truly lead the rest of the field but the strength of the music itself certainly carried the band through to a big ending, leaving fans content having seen a band tipped for big things in the future perform up close.
Takedown really was unique in its utterly relaxed atmosphere, despite the aggression and power of music on offer all of the bands were happy to explore the venues and mingle with fans. Students watching the FA Cup or visiting the Union Shop seemed bemused as crowds gathered around While She Sleeps chatting on the concourse. Despite some of the stages being slightly too small or slightly too quiet, and the Cube (hosting the sweatiest and heaviest of the bands) running behind, the event was constantly buzzing with eager fans, bands, sponsors and celebrities of the rock world such as Kerrang! DJ Alex Baker. To get up close to such talented and admired musicians was an experience that could only be made possible at an indoor festival, the fact it was on our doorstep made it even more unmissable. Make sure to check out Takedown next year to see upcoming and leading British rock bands in the very same rooms in which you may do an exam or have a pint.
For photos from the event check out the Takedown Festival Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Takedownfest