Hit The Deck is Bristol and Nottingham’s annual, raucous start to the festival season. With a bill that gets bigger every year, this event has been one of the UK’s premier indoor festivals since its inception. Things are changed around a little at the Nottingham leg this year; the wristbands are made from paper not the more premiere cotton used in previous events.Talbot Street, which houses Rock City, the Rescue Rooms and, traditionally, the merchandise stalls outside the event has not been closed off, as in previous years. Instead, the stalls are located in a spare room within Rock City itself as traffic continues down the street. On top of all that, the festival is a venue down – The Forum has no part to play in this years events. With all these changes, the festival seems to have downsized. Despite this, the music is what people attend festivals for and Hit The Deck 2015 still has its fair share of killer bands.
At 2PM in the afternoon, Zoax (7) play a frantic set to an impressively packed out Stealth. The Irish punks create a vicious, tight yet somehow melodic post hardcore racket. Between songs, vocalist Adam Carroll banters with full crowd in a thick Dublin accent, adding some amusing depth to an otherwise aggressive show.
Next, I took a break to conduct interviews with Oceans Ate Alaska and Hacktivist. These will be posted in the coming days. Once those were out out of the way, I ran back to the venues to catch Oceans Ate Alaska (7) perform, once again in Stealth. The self described “progcore” band certainly contain technical elements in their sound, though they remain grounded in metalcore song structure. Guitarists James Kennedy and Adam Zytkiewicz provide some fun interplay and solos and singer James Harrison’s voice is just made for this sort of music, managing the full range from high screams to low growls and some angsty singing. Despite looking and sounding slightly generic they still manage to hold their own, pulling in a decent sized crowd. Set closer “Clocks” strikes a chord with this crowd, the majority of whom are on their feet and bouncing.
In the main hall, Hacktivist (9) are about to take the stage. They emerge to the sounds of their latest single NAME and the the crowd go wild for it. From that first song through their cover of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “N****’s in Paris”, a few tunes off of their 3 year old debut EP and even their performances of as yet unreleased material, the crowd do not let up. In fact, Hacktivist might even have created the biggest pits of the day. The bands dual singers, each with a genuine calibre of hip hop ability, strike an imposing, iconic image on stage.
Next up are Monuments (6) who suffer from their positioning. Half the crowd left after Hacktivist’s set; though those who remain are undoubtably die hard fans of Monuments. To their credit, the band try to involve the diminished crowd throughout their technically impressive set, filled with intricate solos and impressive drum moments. As their set goes on, the crowd begins to swell again with people getting in position for Cancer Bats. These people might have entered ready for Cancer Bats, but they left fans of Monuments.
Cancer Bats (9) are back for the fourth time at Hit The Deck and they take to the stage with a well deserved swagger. They emerge to the sounds of “Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake” from this years “Searching For Zero.” This album is a bit sludgier than previous Bats releases, but this doesn’t stop the crowd going insane for it. The big hitters, however, remain the same: “Hail Destroyer”, their cover of Beastie Boys “Sabotage” and “Rats” from their previous album, “Dead Set On Living”. The band are tight throughout their set, not letting the energy let up on stage at any point throughout their forty five minute slot.
Next up is Bats current tour mates, While She Sleeps (8). Sleeps have just released their second album, Brainwashed and are currently touring to reclaim their spot as the darlings of UK metal. The band today show that they more than deserve that title; blasting off with the lead single, New World Torture, the crowd goes crazy from the start. Pits explode, crowd surfers fly over the boundaries, the band on stage are note perfect. Highlights of the performance include an anthemic “This Is The Six” and set closer “Four Walls”
FrnkIeroandtheCellabration (7) headline over at the Rescue Rooms. The former MCR man might not look 100% confident with a stage to himself, hiding behind his mop of thick black hair, but he and his band sound perfectly at home. The room is nearly at capacity, though whether they’re all here to see Iero and the Cellabration or Iero the former MCR guitarist is up for discussion. Despite this, he plays no songs from his former band. It’s a bold move. Instead, The Cellabrations songs fill the Rescue Rooms with a their own brand of dreary emo stylings that nontheless appreciated by the crowd. With one album and some great live shows under his belt, who knows where Frank Iero could go next.
Skindred (10) headline the main room. The reggae metal band are well known as crowd pleasers and tonight is no different. Wasting no time getting the crowd involved, the band open up with “Kill The Power” and everyone watching is bouncing. Benji Webb owns the stage, dancing around it draped in a Union Jack flag and shiny metallic clothes. The rest of the set is packed with bangers; “Pressure” is followed by a cover of ‘UK’s drinking anthem,’ “Jump Around” and after that comes “Rat Race.” “Destroy The Dancefloor,” “Trouble” and covers of Metallica’s “Sad But True” and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” provide further highlights, and build the excitement for the set closer, “Warning.” The sound throughout the festival has been decent but for the headliners it was perfect, with Webb’s vocals crystal clear and the instrumentation hitting every base; the guitars rumbled, the drums pounded. Finally, it’s time for “Warning” and, after some encouragement from Benji, everyone in the crowd is jumping, even those on balcony. It feels like the room is going to collapse. Towards the end of the song, Skindred bust out the now-traditional Newport Helicopter. Looking around the crowd, thousands of sweaty, delighted bodies spin their t shirts above their heads, looking incredibly pleased with the headline act and the festival as a whole.