It seems that not only has Hevy Festival been marred with issues this year, as well as its cancelled replacement, but now that the date has finally approached, so has the replacement for the replacement. Maybe it’s cursed? Who knows, but it’s certain that these shows have been exceptionally unfortunate.
Firstly the original festival, which carries a reputation for broadly encompassing yet creatively legitimate line-ups, had to abandon its usual camping setup due to failure to secure a venue. The format was changed to an all-day show at Brixton Academy, much to the dismay of many fans, but due to (apparently) low ticket sales the ‘festival’ idea was scrapped for the year and replaced with two intimate last-minute shows, one headlined by Killswitch Engage and the other by Comeback Kid. This brings us to tonight’s show, being the former of the two.
Besides the fans missing out due to venue capacity, there should be no issue with this. Unfortunately tonight has fell victim to technical issues a plenty, so much so, that a show that should by all means be a home run ends up as somewhat of a damp squib. The first issue is that doors, which were meant to open at 6:30, do not open until 9. For a show with a larger number of acts this would have been catastrophic but there only being two acts makes it a bearable annoyance.
From here on, it looks like all systems go. Hatebreed take to the state just after 9 and play a solid set. Since they are the only support band, the set is an hour long, which is more than enough time for a band as well established as this to at least unleash the fan favourites. However, vocalist Jamey Lasta’s tendency to be liberal with his time talking to the crowd is a little frustrating. Considering the constraints placed by the late opening, the time spent addressing the critics who say they only play two notes would be better spent playing any notes at all. Even so, the crowd reacts as anyone would expect to one of the biggest hardcore bands in the world – floor-wide moshing to most, if not every song and almost the entirety of the 600-capacity venue shouting along to such iconic lines as “Born to bleed, fighting to succeed…”. The only trouble is that much of the songs tend to blend together, chug after chug after chug. Though not to my musical taste, it is admirable to see a band keep their craft strong for what is soon to be 20 years. (3/5)
So far, so good. Albeit a little (or a lot) late, Hatebreed tick all the boxes that they have to tick so there’s nothing that can really warrant complaint. With their set finishing close to 10, there is still hope for a well salvaged and problem-free show. Sadly, that is not the case. Changeover between bands seems to take a worryingly long time, hitting its worrying peak with a member of the headliner’s crew proclaiming over the PA that guitarist Joe Stroetzel’s amp has given him an electric shock. Astonishingly, it is only at this point that the crowd gets restless. It shows the fans’ devotion to them that a grand total of 3 hours wait from scheduled doors is what it takes.
Killswitch Engage finally begin their set at 10:45, a ludicrous time but one that can’t be helped. From there the problems only seem to pile on – newly re-joined vocalist Jesse Leach has food poisoning, Stroetzel’s amp is still having problems (it seems to be working intermittently) and the sound isn’t mixed particularly well, even considering the technical issues. Luckily, being the absolute professionals they are, the band power through their set regardless – including fill-in drummer Jordan Mancino of As I Lay Dying, who does a precise if not slightly heavy handed job of playing Justin Foley’s parts – managing to bring out the best of the crowd. It is a testament to the band’s skill that while playing ‘The Hell In Me’ guitarist Adam D steps in instantly upon realising Joe’s guitar-only interlude can’t be heard at all and plays the part note-for-note. Due to train times I only manage to catch the first 5 tracks of the set, but they are all treated with aggressive celebration from the crowd. It would be difficult to say which songs played are fan favourites, since anyone who goes to a Killswitch Engage show will know that every word of every song is shouted back at the band more than enthusiastically – this includes tracks from the new album. (4/5)
The bands themselves cannot be faulted, at least when placing blame for the logistical disaster that is this show, but unfortunately their efforts cannot completely redeem it, which is a true shame.
Words by Ben Kosma (@BenKosma)