Hit The Deck Festival: The Review

Emerging after a year’s absence, the state of this once well renowned all day festival is a curious affair. Founded in the Nottingham in 2011, Hit The Deck was once a multi-city all day event spanning the best venues Bristol and Nottingham had to offer, whilst playing host to such acclaimed artists such as Brand New, The Wonder Years, Don Broco and Skindred, just to name a select view. In turn, at its peak, it was once comparable to the likes of Slam Dunk Festival; the event often viewed as the undisputed king of multi-city all day events within the alternative scene. Thus, it’s once established standing in the festival calendar may seem like a far cry to this year’s even; a single venue all dayer being hosted at Bristol’s very own Thekla, with a maximum capacity of 400.

Understandably, it’s drop in status and size and departure from the festival’s spiritual home town of Nottingham has proven to be a topical conversation in the alternative scene, with some wondering if a rebrand would have been wise in order to save face. Never the less, whilst the line-up is certainly of smaller calibre of yesteryear, it’s certainly a step up from, well, no event at all.

Kicking off this instalment of the festival are Bristol’s own Youth and Pushing Daisies [6], proving that it wouldn’t be Hit The Deck without a healthy dose of local talent. Sadly, due to adverse traffic conditions on the roads surrounding Bristol, such as lorry spilling a bakery’s worth of flour onto the motorway, the former were sadly missed. However, Daisies deliver an emotive reverb laden set to the early day devoted, blending modern day emo, grunge and shoegaze in a compelling fashion. Whilst some slight refinement wouldn’t go amiss, it’s easy to see how this young band have become popular within the city’s underground emo and alternative scene.

With the local acts setting the stage for the day’s events, riding on the back of their excellent recently released album, Live Life Like A Tourist, Worcester’s Fights and Fires [7] faithfully recreate the riotous sounds of their releases without flaw or error. It’s approachable punk rock, complete with all the typical conventions of genre, but delivered in a shamelessly fun, somewhat charmingly corny and agreeable fashion. Ultimately, whilst it’s understandable for an all day festival of this size and status’s crowd to be diminutive in the early hours, you can’t help but think this band are destined for crowd’s greater and wilder.

Fights and Fires: Photo Credit - Unknown

For a line-up primarily dominated by modern age emo and the like, HCBP’s [8] set is an atypical affair. With tones comparable to more math and noise oriented bands and with tones comparable to artists such as Heck, The Chariot and even Slaves to an extent, the Nottingham duo captivate the crowd with a unique blend of genres and noise shining though unique time signatures and their inspired and energized sound. Even with notable technical issues halting their set several times, their technical, artful prowess and charm makes for a captivating, if not short set.

It’s not until late afternoon before the floor gets notably more filled, and with Wallflower [8] taking to the stage, It’s easy to see why their popularity has been increasing in recent months. Performing a mature and refined take on emo with clear post hardcore undertones, their established sound compliments their more introverted persona and stance. Managing to keep the gathered mass fully hooked and engrossed during the premiere of new material, and with tracks from their excellent EP’s going down a treat, the future certainly looks bright for the south London outfit.

In contrast, Yorkshire’s Grumble Bee [5] proves to be bit of a sloppier occasion. With what feels like more time apologising for potential slip ups in songs and making poorly received banter with the now dwindling crowd, the set verges on the point on become slightly tedious. However, the key issue here is that the band seem to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis; straight laced alt rock revolving around crooning vocals featuring mostly unnecessary harsh screams and softer solo tracks being played at intense speeds with a full band, the set feels unpolished and unpractised. With this in mind, the most frustrating element is that during the set, the odd occasional burst of musical greatness shines through. Evidently, with more refinement and clarification, there’s real potential with this band.

With what appears to be the majority of the venue now out for what can be assumed is a food or smoke break, only a modest crowd remains for Big Spring [6]; a situation the group don’t appear too ecstatic about. Preforming their take on grungy, pysch tinged alternative rock, with what appears to be little passion or enthusiasm complete with a lack of crowd interaction, it’s evident the group don’t appear too pleased to be performing for the small handful present today. However, with solid tones comparable to well established artists such as Royal Blood, and with some beautiful vocal harmonies soaring, authentic talent is doubtlessly present, just shamefully not flaunted.

Decade: Photo Credit - TLBrooker Imagery

After performing to an energetic crowd at the very same venue during the last instalment of Hit The Deck, and with their recent album Pleasantries making waves in the respective scene, it’s not difficult to understand why Bath’s Decade [8] have been drawn in to sub-headline tonight. With a setlist primarily based on their aforementioned latest offering, but with a healthy dose of Good Luck era material served around the midpoint of the set, much to the delight of the large crowd formed, Decade fully present their evolution of their entrenched sound, whilst effortlessly showcasing how both era’s of their sound can blend and gel together seamlessly, whilst efficiently and beautifully complimenting each other. In the process, the atmosphere and energy levels in the venue truly soar for the first time of the day, and in turn, the group genuinely appear enthusiastic and eager to perform, displaying a level of satisfying confidence. Ending the set with recent fan favourite ‘Daisy May’, it’s clearly apparent why the band have been reaching new heights within the scene.

With tonight being the final date of their tour, and with a heavy reputation for explosive live shows now looming over the band, the excitement for festival headliners and recent grunge heroes’ Milk Teeth [9] is heavy in the air. Launching into their set with their summer jam ‘Owning Your Okayness’, before bursting into material from their fantastic debut, Vile Child, it quickly becomes apparent why the group have amassed such a devoted following in the short time of their existence.

With a full setlist performing tracks from all releases, including an unprecedented performance of one of their very first tracks, ‘grease’ a loose buzzsaw of aggression, the group deliver a fantastic and explosive set fully presenting their short, but impressive career so far. In turn, the evolution of their sound and material is clearly auditable, but in turn, proves to be a testament to their skills as musicians and artists. Even after 3 EP’s and a full release, the group still demonstrate their authentic DIY grunge ethic fully, with front woman Becky Bloomfield holding the crowd with every note, up until the final keys of new ballad ‘Hibernate’. Truly, after a performance like tonight, it’s perfectly agreeable to state how the band is destined for massive things. In all, whilst the future of Hit The Deck may be uncertain and certainly ambiguous at the very least, it’s reassuring to see that the future of emo and grunge are in safe hands at the current state of time.

Milk Teeth: Photo Credit - Unknown