On Saturday 15th March the typhoon of rock insanity that is Takedown festival swept into Southampton University, bringing with it thousands of rock and metal fans from all corners of the world (literally in the case of one festival goer who travelled from Japan) every one of them hoping to see their favourite bands perform and maybe even meet some of them. And there was certainly plenty to keep a rock fan entertained, with a vast selection of the best and brightest new metal talent rubbing shoulders with plenty of old fan favourites. There was an eclectic mix of genres represented too, meaning Takedown really was a festival where anyone with even a passing interest in rock music could find a band they would love.
Kicking off the day on the Big Deal Clothing Stage were Aurora, a female fronted metal band who combined sharp pop choruses with some shockingly heavy breakdowns. While their songs could’ve done with a bit more originality, they were clearly talented, and managed to scare up a surprisingly decent crowd given their early slot. Next up on the Introducing stage were Ugly Love, who beat off all challengers to walk away with the title of ‘Most Fun Band of the Day’. Their set was a riot from start to finish, packed full of catchy punk pop-metal, and they had the sizeable crowd dancing and singing along throughout. The addition of a selection of inflatable animals to proceedings was a stroke of genius, it delighted the audience and kept the party atmosphere going throughout Ugly Love’s set.
There were options for those who like their punk influences to be taken more seriously though, such as The Howling, a band who combined punk rock with some hearty thrash influences and in doing so dragged it kicking and screaming to the 21st century. Their short but sharp set on the Total Rock Stage was as incendiary as a grenade, and almost as loud. If The Howling were a grenade, The Smoking Hearts were a nuke, their music an all-out assault of punk brutality, that was fast, furious and the soundtrack to a mosh pit that looked like it could leave casualties in its wake.
For those who preferred to walk, and not limp, away from a performance there were the Fearless Vampire Killers, bringing their polished gothic rock to the Jagermeister Stage. They had a raucous crowd certainly, just not a homicidal one, and they were all the better for it. They rolled out some brand new songs, to great excitement and generally reinforced the impression that they’re a band who wouldn’t know how to put on a bad show if they tried, with a perfect mix of high energy and tight performance.
Any lovers of the straight rock sound were spoilt for choice. Back on the Introducing stage, A Tale of Two Cities were little rough around the edges, but still managed to pump out some rather good alternative rock complete with absolutely massive choruses. For a more classic take on rock there were Jettblack, always a dependably solid act with their fist pumping hard rock anthems. They’re often dismissed as ‘The Darkness without the irony’, but their set at Takedown showed Jettblack to be thoroughly entertaining live band, that deserve high praise and shouldn’t be written off in such terms.
On the more metallic side of the spectrum, I DIVDE were smashing out some melodic anthems back at the Big Deal Stage. Ok, so they did sound quite a lot like Linkin Park’s softer moments a lot of the time, but if you’re going to be influenced by someone, that’s not a bad choice. Later on though, their label-mates Yashin put on one of the best performances of the entire festival on the Uprawr stage and showed how amazing metal-core can be when it’s done well. Magnetic frontmen Harry Radford and Kevin Miles whipped the crowd into a frenzy like demented ringmasters, and just generally put on a flawless show that left jaws on the floor.
Introducing stage headliners Ashestoangels took the up the challenge laid down by Yashin admirably and absolutely ran with it. Despite a couple of technical difficulties, they still managed to put on a performance filled with energy and capable of converting even the most po-faced non-believer. This is a band whose every performance is absolutely saturated with happiness, they love what they do and it shows. Combine that with the insanely catchy gothic punk anthems they play and the grins on the faces of the entire crowd and it’s impossible not to feel infected by the joy when watching these guys. Their Takedown set was no exception, cementing their reputation as an absolute must-see live band.
Final Total Rock stage headliners Heaven’s Basement took to the stage almost an hour late and were faced with a rather tired and grouchy crowd. They won them over quick enough, with some perfectly polished stadium-ready rock battle calls, but after the one-two punch of high-energy perfection from Yashin and Ashestoangels, Heaven’s Basement come across as a somewhat safe, albeit enjoyable option.
Overall, Takedown retained its crown as one of the best small festivals of the UK. The combination of a near perfect line-up, with almost no duff acts and the intimate atmosphere of the festival mean that it really is one of the most fun days out on a UK rock fan’s calendar. There aren’t many festivals with such a relaxed atmosphere that you can find yourself casually propping up the bar alongside your favourite band members, and for many of the people here today that alone would be an experience worth the price of admission. Add that to a day of fab music, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a thoroughly excellent time.