Saturday, 12 September 2015

Ghostfest Review - Bristol Motion 06/09/2015 : Scary in Parts

Nothing punctuates a nice romantic evening with your girlfriend than the unexpected invitation to attend a hardcore music festival. The festival in question was the Bristol date of the annual Ghostfest. The line up consisted of bands I had certainly heard of, but by no means a prolific follower of their music. Regardless a free festival is a free festival and despite the fact that I was slightly overdressed, the three large glasses of wine I had previously consumed urged me forth.

Before we start I can honestly state that I have never been to anything considered a true hardcore gig before. The presumed appeal of donning my most fashionable sportswear and windmilling myself into unconsciousness has somehow been lost to me. Sure, I’ve been to many metalcore gigs where this kind of behaviour occurs, but it is usually from the minority of patrons whilst the rest of the audience spend the longevity of the gig staring at them with a combination of pity and disgust.
My inexperience with these kind of events manifested prematurely. After going through the line-up and planning an itinerary I somehow forgot to realise that this had been an all day event and therefore had subsequently missed the few bands I had actually wanted to see, namely Despised Icon and Turnstile. I had no right to complain though, quite how I thought the organisers would be able to squeeze nine bands into a few short hours is anyone’s guess. 

Upon entering I was surprised by the diversity of the audience. We had the expected conglomerations of hardcore kids; the more conventional metalheads going through their traditional shedding of clothing as the festival progressed, the old school punks presumably there to see a band I missed, the scenesters posing at the back, the guys dressed head to toe in gym apparel possibly keen to make up the cardio day they were missing with some vigorous slam dancing and even a group of skinheads adorned in denim jackets with dubious looking logos and symbols. Aside from the latter, each found unity in a common appreciation for the music.
The first band I witnessed was Crime in Stereo whose only crime was unfortunately to be playing the same time as Emmure. And by witnessed I mean walked past as I went to go watch Emmure.
Emmure are a difficult band to define. They mix the traditional deathcore sound with nu/rap metal elements (Nu-Deathcore?) and surprisingly it works. Frontman Frankie Palmeri reminds me of a deathcore version of the Bloodhound Gang’s Jimmy Pop. I think it’s the baseball cap and pseudo hip-hop gesturing. The band relies heavily on riff-based approach and whilst their songs are often quite similar, the formula they have chosen is competent enough. Solar Flare Homicide could very well be the heaviest Nu Metal track in existence, whilst Children of Cybertron is essentially a two minute long breakdown. Their performance was well received by all but the old school metallers, who were probably left wondering that Limp Bizkit have got a little bit heavier. 

Similarly, the old-schoolers most likely thought that Rage Against the Machine had also taken a drastic change in style when Stray from the Path followed. It is obvious that Rage is SFTP’s main influence (Rap-Metalcore?) From the clear politically influenced lyrics, the Tom Morello-esque guitar twiddling on Badge & a Bullet, right down to Tom Williams’ written message on his guitar. Like Emmure though, the formula works. Both bands have created a modern sound by combining elements from genres past. It just so happens that this genre is mid-nineties Rap-Metal which as refreshing as it is, certainly makes me feel old. 

This was the second time I had seen SFTP this year following their performance at Download Festival and it is apparent they have quite an audience here in England. It is worth noting that the band seemed genuinely humbled by the audience’s response, which is something that has been lacking from recent gigs I have attended. Just as they drew an expansive crowd at Donnington, they achieved the same results at Ghostfest, which is even more impressive considering headliner Hatebreed started midway through their set. 

Hatebreed are simply that… Hatebreed. Their style has rarely deviated from their formation nearly twenty years previous. The admiration derives from understanding that they have settled on a winning style that has placed them as both pioneers and leaders of the genre. As aggressive as their music represents itself, the band do not take themselves as equally serious in their live performances. They leave the music to speak for itself. 

The traditional hardman approach is not adopted by frontman Jamey Jasta. For an American metal band to draw such a crowd in a humble West Country town is an achievement within itself. Hatebreed appreciated the crowd and omitted the stereotypical “kick anyone in the face that isn’t moving” lingo that many similar bands adopt. Not that it stopped anyone, but it was not encouraged. Like most Hatebreed concerts, the venue was left equal parts concert and equal parts combat arena. 

I conclude that, perhaps I am not the ideal person to fairly review a hardcore gig. To appreciate it fully you need to be amidst the crowd, caught within the momentum of the music, not stood at the back hoping someone doesn’t make you spill your coke down your shirt. The line up certainly gave credence to the phrase ‘music for every generation’ and the bands I did see are a prime example of the ongoing evolution of their genre. If there is a festival next year I’ll likely get more involved although the potential of turning up to work the next day with missing teeth and black eyes may raise more questions than I am capable of answering.

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