Part 1 Review: Takedown Festival at Southampton University (07/03/15)

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Takedown festival is billed as the South’s largest alternative indoor music festival, a veritable cornucopia of rock music, with every possible genre and sub-genre represented in within its reliably diverse line-up. It’s also renowned as a festival with a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, as bands are encouraged to mingle with the crowds of paying punters, which means that you’re likely to bump into your favourite band queueing for a pint next to you at the bar. The combination of consistently great line-ups, friendly atmosphere, and a notoriously raucous afterparty makes for a festival that’s always a highlight of any self-respecting rock fan’s year, and Takedown 2015 was no exception.

Early risers Ugly Love got the party started over on the Obsidian Stage with their joyous old-school punk rock.  Bouncy tracks like ‘Oh No Here Come The Space Hawks’ and ‘No Model’ got the crowd nicely riled and prove that Ugly Love are one of the most entertaining and irreverent bands anyone could have to good fortune to watch. By the time their fans are helping an inflatable dinosaur crowd surf round the venue it’s clear that their set has been an unqualified success. Following Ugly Love were the slightly more serious, but no less exuberant, Ashestoangels, with a set that reached madness levels that most bands couldn’t dream of emulating. Frontman Adan Crilly is a charismatic powerhouse who spent as much time in the crowd as he did on the stage, and he still managed to belt out a succession of richly emotional gothic punk anthems without faltering, as his band raced around the stage behind him, often colliding with each other like skinny black-clad dodgems. Overall another fantastic set from these guys which only served to reinforce the impression that they’re a force to be reckoned with, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, you should probably go about rectifying that situation as soon as possible.

Over on the introducing stage We Deny drew a decent audience with their feisty female-fronted pop punk, which had distinct shades of a slightly heavier We Are The In Crowd and made for an enjoyable, if slightly derivative, listen. However, it was at the packed out Big Deal stage where one of the surprise gems of the day was being unveiled, in the form of Southampton-based gothic punk rock act Creeper. The hype around these guys has been building for some time, with Kerrang, HMV and Rocksound all listing them as ones to watch, and their set at Takedown showed that the buzz is entirely justified. They’re a compelling live act, with an epic sound that owes a little to old-school AFI. They’re not averse to striking out on their own untrodden path though, as closing track ‘Novena’ showed. It was an acoustic, slower number positively steeped in atmosphere which really allowed frontman Will Gould’s unusual vocals to shine. Definitely a strong showing from these local lads, and doubtlessly a precursor to big things for them.

Back on the main stage there was a somewhat more emotional performance going on, as Welsh rockers The Blackout took to the stage for their last ever festival show. A sad occasion to be sure, and they will definitely be much missed, but their Takedown set was clearly a jubilant celebration of their varied career, not a mournful or sad occasion. The room was so packed and humid that every breath seemed to contain more sweat than it did oxygen, but that didn’t stop the crowd giving their all to a band who are obviously still much adored. Their set was rock as it should be performed, thrilling, pounding, and able to instigate a mosh pit that engulfs almost the entire room at a moment’s notice. So, yes, it may be sad that the band that gave us anthems such as ‘Wolves’, ‘Start The Party’ and ‘Save Our Selves’ is no more, but their Takedown set was one of the best performances that they’ve ever given, and it made for one hell of a send-off.

As the evening drew to a close Obsidian Stage headliners Fearless Vampire Killers might have been forgiven for expecting their audience to be somewhat tried and restrained, but luckily the crowd seemed to have plenty of energy left to greet this most unusual and talented of bands with the fervour they deserve. Within seconds of the first riff ringing out bodies were flying both in the mosh pit and over the top of it, as brave/foolhardy crowd surfers flooded the stage. Even though the band’s polished theatrical gothic rock may not exactly be the first thing that comes to mind when one imagines music that could cause carnage, they have a positively infectious passion for what they do that the crowd can’t help but feed off. Newer songs like the haunting ‘Maeby’ and the almost indecently catchy  ‘Neon In The Dancehalls’ sat comfortably alongside older fan favourites like ‘Could We Burn Darling’, and every single lyric was chanted with zealous devotion by the crowd. As the band’s set came to a triumphant finish, the other acts who had graced the Obsidian stage all joined them onstage to bellow out the final chorus of ‘At War With The Thirst’, providing a fantastic end to one of the best sets of the entire festival, and yet another triumph for the Fearless Vampire Killers.

So, it fell to Mallory Knox to finish off Takedown Festival 2015 over on the main stage, and they certainly made sure that the festival ended with a bang. Mallory Knox are a band that have had an absolutely stratospheric rise in the last couple of years, and performances like they gave at this year’s Takedown show exactly why they’ve become hot property on the British rock scene so quickly. Frontman Mikey Chapman positively brimmed with rock star charisma as he gave flawless performances of hits like ‘Hello’ and ‘Ghost In The Mirror’, but all that confidence didn’t stop him from sowing off his sensitive side admirably for tear-jerking slower number ‘1949’.

Ultimately, as the final bars of Mallory Knox’s wonderful set rang out, and all those who were old/dedicated enough made their way to the famed Takedown after party, it was clear that Takedown had once again held onto its crown as one of the finest small festivals in the UK. There were giddy grins and ringing ears as far as the eye could see, and certainly most of those who attended have probably already started counting down the days to next year’s festival.

Read Lizzie’s take in part 2 of this review here

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