The ninth annual Greenman MCC Chaos Weekend took over the Pleinmont Headland in Guernsey from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th July 2013.
With bands from Guernsey, Jersey and the UK appearing (including Mallory Knox and [Spunge]), alongside DJs and, of course, the clubs bike show, it was everything we have come to expect from the festival, albeit in slightly reorganised form with only two stages of music concentrating the festival-goers focus somewhat more.
You can see my photos from the festival over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th July 2013, and below the scans of that you can read my full, unedited review of the whole weekend.
Anyone arriving at Chaos as the gates opened may not have been getting exactly what they expected from a music festival come bike show as, while there were already a few motorcycles lined up in the field and the other assorted trappings of such a show were in evidence, the first music to really get going was in The Peace Tent where, before the live acts, Vraic Beard was playing some tunes ranging from indie rock to American marching bands while the early festival goers, and volunteers who’d been on site for the best part of the week, chilled out on the Tent’s sofas.
The job of being first live act of the weekend went to Silas The Assyrian Assassin who has played this role before and seemed comfortable with the small crowd with whom he bantered between songs while telling jokes which ranged from the genuinely funny to the “I can’t believe he just said that”.
Musically Silas was on good form today with a few new songs finding their way into his usual repertoire, in particular a new “hip-hop” track impressed several in the tent with both its wit and its musicality – careful Silas, people might actually start to take your music seriously!
The afternoon in The Peace Tent continued with more small-scale acts, firstly with Ten Toe Hobo playing an extended set with help from Rob Gregson on bass that once again showcased the Hobo’s great performance style and songs.
This was followed by Oliver Daldry who made his Peace Tent debut in an open mic slot last year and was invited back for a full set this time. Playing a style of very current acoustic pop it was unsurprising to hear one of his tunes had almost made it onto an ad for Google, but, that aside, his sound was excellent for the Friday afternoon as people continued to relax with Peace Tent staples of coffee and toasties going down with more standard festival fare of lager and cider.
While they could have done with a few more people in the tent to build the atmosphere what I saw of their set of stoner instrumentals was once again excellent and I can’t wait to hear what this band can commit to record in the near future.
My first full band experience of the weekend on the main stage came from newcomers Byzanthian Neckbeard. There was a palpable sense of anticipation as, while this was the band’s first gig, all four members are familiar faces in Guernsey’s heavy music community.
Their style combined slow and heavy riffs with growled vocals to create a kind of hybrid of stoner, doom, black and death metal. While their set was clearly a first outing for a band and, at times, it seemed not to instantly gel as well as many had hoped, they certainly showed that they are a band with room to grow who will be well worth keeping an eye on if you have heavier tastes.
The stoner-y rock vibe continued next, albeit in considerably lighter tones, with Teaspoonriverneck. Stripped back to a three-piece the band debuted a selection of rocking new songs alongside some old classics like Blonde Witch and, while those in the beer tent enjoyed it, they certainly suffered from the tent being seemingly rather empty.
In the Peace Tent meanwhile Bright_Lights were having no such crowd problems as, while they were still quite subdued, the tent was packed with people on the sofas and relaxing on the floor to the band’s dance-rock hybrid. I only caught their last few songs but its safe to say they were on powerful form and, closing with a storming new song, seemed well set up for their set on the main stage at the Vale Earth Fair later in the summer.
Jersey’s Bulletproof were bringing some Channel Island skacore to the Beer Tent next and, while they once again demonstrated that they are one of the tightest bands going today, they also suffered from many in the tent not really engaging with them (though the tent was now starting to get busier) and, while the energy was upped as they blasted through favourites Blood Stained Money and Jersey Hate, it was clear much of their music was a little out of sorts with what many were at Chaos for on Friday night.
This atmosphere soon changed when Evarane took to the stage though as suddenly it seemed many youngsters who hadn’t been so into the rock or punk earlier in the evening emerged from the shadows and were into Evarane’s mix of pop and rock from the start.
With an ongoing tour supporting re-energised emo-rockers Funeral For A Friend, Evarane were clearly on enthusiastic form and certainly put their all into the show with Beka Pritchards not standing still from the start to the end of their set and the rest of the band doing their best to match her pace and, while they may lack some subtlety and control in their music, they more than make up for it with energy.
While the reception from many of the older audience members was, to say the least mixed, the younger crowd were lapping it up and, while they come across as something of a bunch of chancers (in a good way I think), Evarane seemed to win over some new fans tonight.
The tent filled further as headliners Mallory Knox hit the stage and, like Evarane, didn’t let up for the duration of their set which had the front half of the tent moving throughout with a mosh breaking out on more than one occasion despite the band’s poppier tones.
While the band’s sound was very different from past Chaos headliners it seemed to bring a new audience of youngsters to the festival and by the end even some of the stonier faces in the crowd at least had to admit Mallory Knox were a tight band with an ear for pop-rock crossover tune. Even if they are a more pop proposition than the likes of Viking Skull or Mentallica who have filled this slot in the past it certainly seemed to give a new generation a taste of what Chaos can be.
The second day of Chaos started off with Stone Em All on the Chaos Stage in the beer tent and, while in the past I have not been a fan of this band, today they impressed me. With Aleks Ward and Luis Morais on guitar the band have a more complete and accomplished sound which suits the heavy rock and metal style they are going for, also, it has to be said, frontman Bobby Hotton’s antics certainly work better on the bigger stage offered by Chaos.
With a set from Stalk The Lantern next (which like The Phantom Cosmonaut I will leave you to make your mind up on) the next band I caught was CoffeeShopKnifeFight who seemed to play one of the better sets I’ve seen them deliver and their final track in particular stood out for me as mixing their brutal approach to music with frontman Aaron Grant’s unique stage presence brilliantly and, if it was the last time we see them, which it looks as if it may be, they went out on a high.
Twelve Ton Trouble made their second appearance in the beer tent and showed just how much they’ve grown since their debut last year. Fresh off the release of their first album the band were on top form and are quickly becoming one of those bands who never really play a bad show as, despite some technical issues today, they played consummately and once again seemed to be growing new songs as a band which is moving them in a slightly new, but still greatly appealing, direction.
As the bike show went on in the field, those less into that side of proceedings began to gather in The Peace Tent for a set that came with a lot of anticipation.
Last year Heave stole the show to a packed out tent and, as the heavy rock two-piece riff machine took to the stage they seemed set to do so again. The set seemed to start off a little less energetic than last years, possibly due to the heat in the tent, multiplied no doubt up on the stage, but, once they got everyone standing and “slow headbanging” things were back on storming form and with thunderous drums and roaring guit-bass Heave once again showed why they have quickly become a highlight of local heavy music.
Quickly heading back down to the beer tent I caught a little of Jersey’s FlashMob and, with a couple of Motley Crüe covers and an original got a taste of a great young rock ‘n’ roll band I certainly want to check out in full as soon as possible.
Back up in The Peace Tent and it seems many had stayed put after Heave for Buffalo Huddleston. Expanded with Jull-Z MC’ing the group have become yet another local music highlight and their combination of guitar, violins and vocals made the perfect combination for Chillin’ on the hot summer afternoon we were being treated to.
Chaos regulars Choke were next to grace the main stage and, as ever, were on stage to have fun as well as play some seriously heavy metal. This year they based the majority of their set on the back catalogue of Sepultura with Phil Skyrme taking on vocal duties and Stace Blondel picking up the bass.
The likes of Roots and Refuse-Resist got heads banging before Choke closed their set with a medley of Slayer numbers it safe to say that while they may not be the tightest band in the world that wasn’t really what they were about today and both on and off stage everyone seemed to be having a great time.
It was old school British punk next from Charred Hearts who were making their first visit to the island and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Having been spoilt by the likes of the UK Subs playing the Tav in recent years the Hearts seemed like a slightly lesser version of them, but that’s to compare them to some of the best, and they were perfectly suited to this weekend’s mish-mash of bands and, above all, like many of the bands on the bill, seemed to be having a lot of fun while providing us with some fine entertainment.
Before I look at the trio of headliners on the main stage, it is more than worth mentioning what was going on up in The Peace Tent as The Reck’s took what had been building all afternoon and turned it into the biggest most bouncing party the tent has ever seen with the intimate vibe and high energy party-folk combining to create something genuinely amazing which marked a high point among high points for The Peace Tent.
While not officially all billed as headliners it was clear to anyone who follows music in the islands that the three final bands on Saturday night were all worthy of the title.
First up came Of Empires riding a wave of momentum they stormed through their set of impressive originals, including a diversion of an acoustic track featuring a mandolin.
Frontman Jack Fletcher really comes into his own on this big stage and has certainly grown from his days fronting metalcore band My Last Victory into a real swaggering rock ‘n’ roll frontman. Once again the highlights of the band’s set were singles Carla and I Am The Night – that is until they invited The Risk’s Mark Le Gallez up on stage with his bass for a set closing rendition of a Hendrix style All Along The Watchtower that provided yet another highlight of the weekend.
SugarSlam continued things and, while they seemed a little slow to grab the crowd initially, it wasn’t long until the band were playing to a lively audience and their mix of originals and well-chosen covers had people dancing and singing along with real high energy.
Getting people singing along to their own songs SugarSlam seemed to hit a new high tonight which even saw singer and guitarist Plumb holding out his mic for the crowd to sing into in true rock star style that was only a taste of what was to come next.
It’s always been very easy to be a bit sniffy about headliners, Big Machine, with their hair metal wigs, overblown showmanship and cheesey rock covers and tonight was no different as they reunited their original line up for their final show.
If I was of the mood to be sniffy I could easily say they seemed to be playing these songs a bit slow tonight and that their guitars were too quiet leaving the solos a little lost and their sound was often drenched in feedback…
But, that would be to do a disservice to what Big Machine are all about as, from the start, where they rocked through versions of Dio’s Holy Diver and Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, to their closing number Leddy held the crowd in the palm of his hand while, foot on the monitors Stefan and Mark wailed through their solos and Stu and Guy provided the rhythms that held this machine on its tracks.
Saturday night at Chaos in particular has always been about having a good time and with a band like Big Machine it’s very hard not to do this and, sure they could have been tighter, but that didn’t seem to matter to those packing the front half of the tent and dancing and singing their hearts out.
Sunday at Chaos always has a feeling of the day after the night before and The Peace Tent has certainly become the place to be for this with coffee and toasties, along with a healthy dose of psycho-garage-rock ‘n’ roll at Cramps O’Clock, working on the hangovers.
Live music for me though got going in relaxed form on the main stage with Damo. formerly frontman of Fly Casual and, more recently his own solo acoustic act. It had been a few years since Damo had performed in public so it was certainly good to see him back as he showed he still has a fantastic voice and his acoustic indie is something we don’t hear a huge amount outside of open mic nights so makes a nice change in this environment.
He was followed by another solo acoustic act, this time upping the energy a bit, in the form of Jersey’s Rick Jones. Combining blues and folk tones with a clear influence from Dave Matthews he made a brilliant sound that held those relaxing on the grass in the tent rapt as his sound filled the whole sonic range and, ending on a rendition of Copperhead Road he provided a more subdued highlight.
Things got a bit livelier next as youngsters The Doomsday Project took to the stage. Playing a set of pop punk covers from the likes of Blink 182 and Green Day, along with a few originals, the band continued their growth and, while todays audience was, to say the least subdued, they seemed to go down well (despite their slightly irksome habit of censoring the covers they perform).
The relaxed air continued in the tent next despite the best efforts of Party In Paris whose upbeat pop rock was up to its usual standards but failed to set the tent on fire today – though they can hardly be blamed for that as everyone had trouble while the sun was still up today.
Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade also faced the same problem but persevered with a highly entertaining set of ska-rock that reminded me of Guernsey’s RentOClean who I think they’d make a brilliant line up with at a future gig.
It seems the heat was certainly getting to people this afternoon and sitting and listening was about all anyone was up for, but this didn’t really spoil the good atmosphere around the site as Tyger Wang took to the stage.
Playing a set of classic 80s rock covers this band seem like natural successors to Big Machine, if with a little less stage presence and, with the set list they boast, it was hard to not just outright enjoy the run through of classics from Van Halen to Bon Jovi by way of Joan Jett and Billy Idol that started to get heads nodding, and a few more enthusiastic bodies moving, around in the beer tent.
As Jersey’s Harlequin Knights took to the stage they continued to get people moving with their sounds which seem to stem from the other side of the 80s to Tyger Wang and is reminiscent of Guernsey’s Gay Army, but with a dose of the more current indie sound injected in too.
Their set really came alive when Marcus Harley began to demonstrate the more MCing side of his vocal skills culminating in a fantastic bit of freestyling from the whole band.
And this is where things changed as the sun set and many of the volunteers prepared to let their hair down after a long weekend of work and [Spunge] took to the stage.
With 20 years under their belts as a band the UK ska-punkers played to the smaller crowd as if the tent was packed and soon had all but a very resistant few dancing in what quickly became the biggest party moment of the weekend with those the band described as “the Chaos hardcore”.
Over the course of the set [Spunge] played all their most well-known tunes in what was a self-consciously ‘greatest hits’ style set punctuated by genuinely warm and funny chat, drinking games and other general tomfoolery that culminated in a stage invasion with 90% of those in attendance skanking along with the band to Kicking Pigeons.
For anyone who went home early on Sunday you missed a genuine highlight, not only of this festival but of all nine years of Chaos, which rounded off a very good weekend in truly great style and all I can say is I hope we get to celebrate 10 years of Chaos next year.