LIVE REVIEW: HIT THE DECK FESTIVAL – NOTTINGHAM [20/04/14]

Hit The Deck

By Adam Smith

Hit The Deck marks the start of the festival season for music fans across the UK. After three successful years, the event has helped strengthen Nottingham’s position in the British music scene. This year’s is bigger than ever, with Long Island’s alt-rock kings, Brand New, headlining the event.

As well as booking their biggest headliner to date, Hit The Deck has pulled out all of the stops to provide a mix of the UK’s most exciting new rock bands and seasoned veterans of the scene. Up and comers such as Nai Harvest and Baby Godzilla are joined by long-time favourites Kids In Glass Houses and The Blackout. The day’s blend of new and old shows how British rock is in great health.

The Xcerts fall somewhere in between new and old and put in an exemplary performance in Rock City. Being only the second band of the day would dishearten some bands, but the Scotsmen’s accomplished alt-rock performance draws an impressive crowd. The only downside is that we’re still waiting for the follow-up to 2010’s Scatterbrain.

The vitriolic growls of Death Remains illustrate the fantastic variety of bands booked for this year’s festival. The up-and-comers play a refreshing breed of metal. Solos, breakdowns and sumptuous melodies crush the intimate Stealth venue. These riff merchants are definitely a band to look out for.

One band that needs no introduction today is Gnarwolves. Over the last few years, the punk rockers have taken the UK music scene by storm. Today, hundreds of people have crammed into Rescue Rooms and cuts from their Chronicles of Gnarnia EP incite euphoria.  The British press are notoriously quick to crown bands as the next big thing but, as bodies fly around the room during Melody Has Big Plans, it’s hard to imagine Gnarwolves playing small venues for much longer.

Hawthorne Heights, on the other hand, are here to scrape any last shreds of credibility they have left. Arriving on stage to play The Silence In Black and White album in full, the angsty emo veterans outstay their welcome quickly with an insipid performance. Fans who entered Rock City abuzz with excitement turn impatient, and it’s soon apparent that the majority of the crowd are only here for the cringe-worthy Ohio Is For Lovers.

Much like Gnarwolves, Baby Godzilla have organically developed a devout fan base in the UK and their set today at Hit The Deck could reach legendary status in years to come. Their frenzied hardcore assault seems tame in comparison to their ferociously intense live show. The Nottingham natives climb every object in sight, risking their own safety to deliver an indescribably chaotic experience. Tracks from the outstanding Knockout Machine EP sound even heavier in a live setting. These are the kind of performances that launched Gallows into the spotlight a few years ago; time will tell if the same will happen with Baby Godzilla.

Saves The Day‘s old-school emo is the ideal follow-up to Baby Godzilla’s frantic set. Chris Conley and co may not be the band they once were, but their maturity makes for a consummate performance. Although tracks from newer releases fail to captivate the crowd, classics such as Firefly, Shoulder To The Wheel and Freakish sound better than ever before and the anthemic At Your Funeral  is one of the highlights of the day.

It’s now up to Brand New to close the day’s proceedings and the New Jersey rock titans do not disappoint. Opening with the gloomy, atmospheric Welcome To Bangkok followed by the haunting You Won’t Know, front man Jesse Lacey‘s voice sounds strained, but he soon puts his vocal troubles behind him for a rumbustious rendition of Sic Transit Gloria..Glory Fades.

Everything about Brand New is enigmatic. Fans clamoured for this UK tour to be made up of full-album performances and, while those hopes were dashed, tonight’s set is a brilliantly well-balanced mix. Guernica and Jaws Theme Swimming adulate the crowd, enticing singalongs from the front to the back of Rock City.  Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t sounds like a war cry, with the capacity crowd singing Lacey’s vocals back at him. It’s the kind of passionate, heartfelt response that few bands can elicit from their fans.

Brand New’s reluctance to talk to the press means their future is a constant source of speculation, but the band seem to be enjoying themselves tonight. Jesus Christ sounds utterly mesmeric, before SoCo Amaretto Lime ends Hit The Deck Festival 2014 on a nostalgic high.

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