Monday, 2 May 2011

LIVE REVIEWS: ScreamFest Highlights

Who WASN'T at Screamfest? Wildfire were, for every music-laden moment of it (well... most), and here, for those of you that missed anything (or just want to relive it) are our highlights.


In the true tradition of Thursday nights in Croydon, the first night of Screamfest was dedicated to the best hard rock and metal bands our 'beloved' town has to offer.

An early set from Bloodloss was probably the best idea of the entire festival as they blew their small audience away from the outset, playing a heavy-yet-melodic set drawing from the likes of Machine Head and Lamb of God and delivering the kind of performance rarely seen away from arenas or festival main stages. 

Surviving Silence, on the main stage, had a lot to live up to, frontman James being a veteran of the Croydon metal scene, with past projects including Chapter and Ninepages. They played a pared-down but involving set that saw the crowd's energy rise with that of the band members and stay at a high, excited level throughout their set.

Deprevate played the main stage next, taking obvious inspiration from Bullet For My Valentine, mixing it up, and coming out with something more charismatic and exciting than BFMV could even imagine. A couple of new tracks saw the crowd displaying almost embarrassing levels of appreciation and single 'Our War' ushered in the first fist punches and singing-along of the evening.

It is a shame the sound for headliners esOterica was so bad as they are a true example of a Croydon band that has done phenomenally well for themselves. By this point in the evening tiredness was beginning to set in (on the first day - shame on you Croydon) and with the crowd generally unable to hear the vocals the room slowly emptied throughout the set. Single 'Silence' was well-received, as was early track 'Exposed', and the band looked like they were putting in a fantastic performance. If only we'd been able to hear it I could confirm or deny this conclusively.


Friday was the night Screamfest got funky with folk and  alternative bands stepping up to show that Croydon can do more than metal to blow our hangovers away.

Soapy Jefferson have one of the best band names, possibly ever, and played a bluesy, folk inspired set that was kind on our slightly delicate ears and energetic enough to warm the audience up for the rest of the night. Technically flawless, their set was still raw and spontaneous enough to feel as though you'd stumbled upon a raucous rehearsal and decided to stay because it was just really bloody good.

That Mouth (formerly Los) were the exact opposite of Soapy Jefferson in the most fantastic way. Playing carefully and professionally, their layered and intricate sound had a hard rock edge which shifted the mood in the upstairs room to a level of passionate enthusiasm which just rose as the set went on. The strong female vocals took the forefront, with soaring melodies over a darkly hypnotic foundation. The audience seemed to be as thrilled as Wildfire with some of the most intense applause of the entire weekend following their set.

Size Nine headlined Friday night and did so with incredible assurance, taking over the entire stage and getting the audience involved in their funky soulful sound. Making music designed for dancing, both band and audience were moving by the end of their set, which combined a strong rhythmic base with soulful melodies and a LOT of clappy bits. We were impressed. You would have been too.


By Saturday night Screamfest was well underway and people were beginning to flag, hitting their third big night out in a row. Thankfully, the upbeat indie and rock acts on the bill promised to keep us all going for at least one more night.

Openers Polaris Condition played to a pathetically small amount of people, thanks in part to people overdoing it the night before, but mostly because of the freak rainstorm that decided to kick in about an hour before doors opened, and continued through the evening. Nonetheless the band put on a performance worthy of a much bigger audience, playing a good mix of old and new songs, and unveiling the incredibly dark 'Lady Oracle' to which I will give most credit for the amazing performance to the band, but a bit to the lighting which managed to make the whole song feel like an enjoyable journey to hell (it COULD happen...)

The Lost Audio are Wildfire favourites, having played two of our shows before to fantastic receptions. Tonight they didn't let themselves down one bit and put on a show that finally put a smile on our hungover, slightly bedraggled faces as their funky pop-meets-rock sound and flawless delivery were coupled with the kind of true passion often seen in bands on the rise, but rarely so accomplished. 

Tilt At Windmills are a mainstay of the Croydon rock scene - with good reason - combining a hard rock sound with soulful female vocals. They have a great chemistry onstage, keeping their set light and having a fun dynamic with their audience which stops their set drifting into sombre territory. They got a good reaction from the audience, who by this time were appropriately warmed up and clearly ready to party with the band.

Headlining tonight were Bad Sign, Croydon-famous in the credible way that good musicians are, rather than attractive bar staff or particularly brutal bouncers. Attracting one of the biggest audiences of the weekend, Bad Sign were incredibly enthusiastic onstage and very interactive with their hyped-up audience. Playing grungey rock with a boisterous edge they kept the mood high until the end and proved their recent 'Exit' EP to be massively popular as the crowd reactions were fantastic throughout.


Sunday's Screamfest was the most brutal of the five as Frantic Promotions took over the night, putting on some of the heaviest local hardcore bands, just at a time when we were all feeling the most tender. 

What better way to shake off an evil hangover though, we thought, and managed to rock up early enough to catch local boys Foundations tearing up the upstairs stage to an amazing reception from a surprisingly large audience. Foundations struggled with a dodgy microphone and towards the end of their set lost vocals altogether. Despite this their set was fantastic with a strong rhythmic sound strengthened by savage but impeccable guitar riffs and an energy that shouldn't be legal at 5.30 in the afternoon.

Press To Meco were a different animal altogether with clear emo (in a good way) vocals and a progressive sound that somehow managed to be aggressive and accessible all at once. Starting out tentatively, the band's confidence grew quickly and steadily, so that by the end they had the crowd hooked and excited, and sad to see them go. A very entertaining set which deserved a bigger audience than it had.

Tidor are a three piece that feel like a five piece, taking over the entire main stage with their presence and pulling in a crowd as their set wore on. Classic-sounding without being dated, Tidor take all the best elements of grunge and mix it with a modern rock sound, then blow everyone away by being improbably amazing on stage, proving likable and worthy of adoration at the same time. 

Upstairs, the insanity begun by Foundations hadn't eased up even a little bit and had apparently grown during my absence, as Against the Flood took to the stage with their own brand of energetic metalcore. One of the most important things to note about metalcore is that it doesn't work if you do it half-arsed. This is music that needs passion, and both Against The Flood and the enormous amount of people at the second stage had this in abundance. The room appeared to be nothing more than a mass of moving bodies, including the band who didn't seem to stop to take breath, and had a natural chemistry which kept the whole show tight and exciting for their sweating audience.

Screamfest is a great opportunity for local bands to play a busy night to a receptive audience, meet other local bands in their genre and have a fantastic time, but it is also great fun for anyone with an interest in their local music scene. Or, indeed, alcohol in all it's forms accompanied by live music. 

The more astute of you will note that we have not mentioned the fifth day of Screamfest's five day spectacular. This is because, sadly, we became a bit pathetic by the end of the weekend and could not convince our exhausted selves to leave our respective houses for Monday's acoustic day. We did, of course, have people there though, and are assured it was as fantastic as the previous nights... if a little quieter.

For links to all of the bands mentioned here please check out that day's respective preview entry below, and enjoy!

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