Having not been familiar with the first year of this newly established hardcore based event, I was unsure of what to expect when it came to Bristol’s finest venues exploding with some of the best underground talent around the UK. Whilst somewhat arguable, the event was very oddly organised with set times and general coordination with bands pulling out last minute and with little to no announcement online or on stage on this. Also severe clashing despite two venues and separate stage times for bands, meaning some bands had very small attendees unfortunately. Whether or not an issue on the promoting side or just bad luck – who really knows!
Despite these many hiccups, the sun was shining and the beers were flowing, and the music was certainly engaging. Opening The Stag & Hounds venue was Birmingham’s hardcore unit, Cauldron (8). Pulling an impressive audience for first band on is great but getting them to mosh is the real deal here. Arms and legs flinging about the small venue’s capacity, to the point where even the bar staff were perhaps concerned about the future of the bands to come. Cauldron were as heavy as they were interesting to watch as their beatdown-styled hardcore really intensified the crowd – pumping them up for what’s to come. Heading to The Exchange to catch the first act there, despite being one of 6 attendees watching them (Minus the two photographers) and you have to feel sorry for Modern Rituals (6) as they eventually gave it their all even though playing to an empty crowd. Their embraced punchy modern rock got the heads bobbing in the room but you begin to ponder why this local band can’t pull any fans in their own city on a Saturday afternoon.
Back to The Stag to catch self described “Dirty Pop” (It’s pop-punk) Brighton lot All Better (7) and their comedy approach to the genre. Again only hailing a handful of people watching yet putting on a belter of a performance none the less. Dearist (7) could potentially be mesmerising on stage yet are definitely lacking something here, but still aim high and this doesn’t go unnoticed as they rock through their thirty minute set at The Exchange. WMN (9) from Wolverhampton are something else! This duo play through an epic array of punk rock and sludge and truly engage each participant in the room with comedy in between songs, but it’s their friendship and connection that truly binds the band with the energy that their set deserves. The energy is soon turned into a chillax as Hypophora (8) engage their audience with a dynamic enchantment of Dance Gavin Dance meets Marmozets as vocalist Katie McConnell soothes her audience with her unique vocals whilst their guitarists are frantic and buzzing with energy on stage. Sick Ones (9) continue the event’s brilliance with what I could probably describe as band of the festival. Unfortunately the band’s final show with current vocalist but they don’t let that get them down. The crowd is packed in The Exchange, and stupidly lively too. Cartwheels, two-stepping, mic steals, stage invasion – You name it, it happened! Sick One’s punk driven rage on stage was fuelled with energy and passion and it was a pleasure to witness this beautiful carnage.
Bristol’s Pushing Daisies (7) just manage to fill The Stag with everybody bopping their heads to their sad inspired rock songs, mainly taken from their 2018 EP. Despite requesting a mosh pit, it doesn’t occur but the tracks are still catchy and memorable, as new fans are clearly gained here. Golden Deathmask (8) from Birmingham start off with some sound troubles but soon develop into one of the event’s most creative bands, as their take on thrash meets hardcore relates to some more original acts. Their live energy is something all bands should take note of. God Complex (9) hail as my favourite act of the event with their diverse brand of math-core meets death metal. It’s as complex as it igniting as God Complex annihilate their set with the most aggressive nature of any band at the event so far, demanding relentless pit action and the crowd are delivering as drinks are spilled in the choas that has emerged here. Group Of Man (7) pummel through their set at The Stag & Hounds with their chaotic hardcore punk genre. The band are on fire as they engage their fans and entice them for more. Back at The Exchange for the final act and It’s always going to be difficult to top the rest of the bands that have played, but you have to hand it to Brighton’s Rough Hands (7) for giving it a good old college try, as they play their brilliant 2018 EP ‘Moral Terror’ in full. The band’s stage presence is lacking from witnessing previous performances, but the set is still a decent watch when you compare Rough Hands are still pretty much upcoming in the scene. There’s hope for big things from this band, but today’s poor turnout isn’t one of them as it reveals Rough Hands are not yet headliner material as they play to the remaining 25 attendees at this year’s event.