For the 10th year in a row there was Chaos at Pleinmont over the weekend of 27th, 28th and 29th June 2014.
Bands from the UK and Channel Islands mingled with bikers and fans from around Europe with headliners coming in the form of Therapy?, Nemesis and Rat Salad on the main stage and BLAKALASKA, The Recks and Ukuladeez in The Peace Tent.
You can see a full set of my photos from the weekend on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page:
My review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th July and below is an extended version:
For the 10th, and possibly final, year the Greenman MCC took over a couple of fields at Pleinmont to celebrate all things to do with bikes, bands and beer. Here though I’ll mostly be focusing on the bands but there were certainly plenty of the other two there as well.
As seems to have become tradition the music started out with acoustic acts in The Peace Tent on the Friday afternoon. Having become almost its own mini-festival within Chaos, The Peace Tent this year was once again expanded with a mix of acoustic acts, bands, DJs and various other performances, all within the slightly wonky confines of the psychedelically decorated tent, and first on stage was Silas The Assyrian Assassin.
I can only assume it’s a kind of roguish charm that allows Silas to get away with some of the material he does as, in some other festivals, some of this stuff may well get him barred, but this afternoon the crowd seemed to be mostly laughing along to the wildly inappropriate humour contained with the acoustic dark punk and indie, and, let’s be honest, your unlikely to hear anyone else turn The Hokey Cokey into miserablist indie.
Over on the main stage things got going with Coastal Fire Dept. playing what I think is only their second full-scale gig. Since that first gig they showed that they had consolidated their sound somewhat into something very 90s with hints of Radiohead, Pixies and Nirvana.
While they were certainly a tighter band than at their last outing they did little to transmit off the stage, though connecting with the crowd as first band up on such a big stage, is certainly an unenviable task.
The first of the weekend’s visiting acts came in form of Jersey metallers FlashMob. In the past I hadn’t been too impressed by this bunch of young power-pop-metal-glamsters, but here they seemed to have found their sound. Certainly the big stage and sound works well for their brash posturing ‘cock-rock’ style and it’s always great to see younger bands doing well.
Could they be the future successors to Nemesis? If they keep on like this, I think they’ve got a shot – and they certainly win the prize for best publicity of the weekend as you could barely go 30 seconds without seeing someone in one of their t-shirts.
Following their show stealing set here last year was never going to be an easy task and, unfortunately, SugarSlam didn’t quite manage it. That said, despite a few slightly sluggish moments, they still played a good set, and its nice seeing original drummer Brett back in the band as well.
With old songs, new songs and a couple of their classic covers, including an always appreciated run of Sonic Youth’s Sugar Kane, once this new line up (it was also guitarist Lofty’s second gig with them) settles down I think there’s going to be some more great stuff coming from SugarSlam.Regular visitors [Spunge] were up next and were their usual upbeat selves from the off which got the crowd going almost instantly.
With circle pits and sing-a-alongs, [Spunge] once again showed why they have the reputation they do as they celebrate their 20th anniversary and, while this show wasn’t as raucous as last year’s full on stage invasion, its clear that these boys are local favourites and showed they seem incapable of playing a bad gig.
The biggest band of the weekend were headlining the Friday night this year and it was clear as the tent got even busier that there was a real anticipation for Therapy? with fans from the UK and Finland making the trip to see them. Kicking off with Trigger Inside set the scene well and over an hour and a half they tore through a set of their unique mix of punk and metal (with a liberal sprinkling of pop) that spanned their entire career.
If I’m honest there were times where the sound got a bit lost in the sheer volume and tone of Andy Cairns’ double Marshall stacked guitars, but despite this the set was massively enjoyable with Cairns being much more of a jocular, bantering showman between songs than I expected and name checking several of the local acts which certainly won them even more respect from the crowd than they already had.
Ending with an epic encore, including the likes of Knives and Screamager along with a rocked up Diane and a run of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, dedicated to all the bikers, Therapy? proved why they are the so renowned even 20 years since their supposed commercial prime and they show no signs of slowing down.
As the music began on Saturday lunchtime its clear there were many fuzzy heads and aching bodies shambling around the field so it was nice of the organisers to start off with something a bit more relaxed in the form of Rick Jones and his acoustic guitar.
This seems to have become a traditional slot for Rick and it’s always good to hear him play his set of suitably gritty but laid back songs. He rounded his set off with a couple of highlights in Seal’s Kiss From A Rose and his storming take on Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road.
The relaxed laid back air was soon shattered though as To The Woods hit the stage with their traditional cry of “Brrrrap-brrrap-brap!” and launched into their grungey set.
They did start out a little slow today as they seemed to be joining the masses in the fuzzy head feeling, but by the half way mark they were back on all cylinders and they went on to prove that even since they were booked they’ve upped their game to a higher level than being opening band.
Being joined on stage for Is This Rock ‘N’ Roll by producer James Le Huray and SugarSlam’s Plumb added a nice moment that bolstered an already good set into something of a show stealer.
Static Alice were up next and showed just how slick a pop-rock act they’ve become over the last few months and they really did their best to use the size of the stage for all its worth. Dom has an unreconstructed power to her voice that can still sometimes go a little too far but is becoming part of the bands’ signature sound that went down well with the crowd who were still a bit subdued but were getting into it from a relaxed position.
While Jo and Lydia played some hastily reworked shark themed numbers in The Peace Tent (you probably had to be there…), Stone ‘Em All hit the main stage as the day’s first all out metal band. Compared to when I last saw them play Stone ‘Em All came across like a new band, guitarists Bobby Didcott and Lee Oliver were both excellent with solo and harmonic lead parts aping all the best metal and new drummer Alex Charlwood brought a new power to the rhythm section.
Despite a serious cold frontman Robert Hotton even managed a good performance and actually sounded better in his current under the weather state than I had heard from him in the past. I will freely admit to not always being a fan of Stone ‘Em All, but on the power of this show they might still be capable of winning me over.
Jersey’s Bulletproof have become stalwarts of Chaos over the years, having played, by their count, eight or nine of the ten festivals to date, and on the strength of their set here it was clear to see why. They were raging from the start and their ska infused hardcore never let up. Though the crowd was relatively small for them they were hugely enthusiastic and you’re rarely likely to ever find as true and tight a band playing a venue this size anywhere else.
Back in The Peace Tent Robert J. Hunter was bringing his soulful indie-blues to the show and wowing the chilled out crowd as he showed just how his time gigging regularly in London has helped his performance grow.
Instrumental stoner-doom three-piece Brunt were up next on the main stage and, while they are not a band to transmit masses of personality from the stage, playing through such a big PA system meant their sound was crushingly huge and this was more than enough to keep the crowd enthralled and draw more in.
Brunt debuted a couple of new songs, including some with occasional vocals that showed a new side for drummer Mitch, who did his best to evoke Sabbath-era Ozzy Osbourne with some extra growls. I still the think the atmosphere of The Peace Tent suits more alternative bands like Brunt, but their sound today could not be argued with!
Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade lifted the energy of the main stage next with their gypsy-ish punk-y party sounds while a band with whom their share certainly similarities, The Recks, began yet another packed show-stealer of a set in The Peace Tent.
A year on from their debut performance at last year’s Chaos, Byzanthian Neckbeard arrived here with a purpose as they are launching their debut album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion, and preparing for their performance at Bloodstock festival and they didn’t disappoint. While they’ve always had a good sound they seem to have pulled it all together much more now with the guitars working together in a more satisfying way and in general they were the tightest I’ve seen them.
This didn’t go unnoticed with the crowd who they had headbanging and, with a style that can often seem impenetrably heavy, they even drew more of a crowd as the set went on. With big things on the horizon, it seemed Byzanthian Neckbeard are stepping up their game to meet the challenge.
Demise of Sanity were up next and after the depth of sound and power behind Byzanthian Neckbeard they were something of an anti-climax. While they did a good job on delivering their thrash metal which spanned eras from classic to more modern style stuff, it didn’t quite live up to the expectation of their position on the bill.
With rumours flying that this might be their last show ever, Nemesis were highly anticipated tonight. Things didn’t start too well as, after a protracted 50 minutes spent setting up they then had two lengthy pieces of entrance music before launching in Master Commander. It wasn’t long though before this was forgotten and the over arching fun that power metal can provide was infecting the whole tent.
If I’m honest before tonight, on the basis of recent outings, I’d been a bit skeptical, and its easy to sneer at songs about swords and dragons and the like, but here Nemesis did what they do best – ridiculous, well-played, enthusiastically delivered and received, all out metal. Certainly things were more Spinal Tap than Iron Maiden for most of the set but it was very hard to not just go with the flow and enjoy it.
With confirmation that this is the last time we will see Nemesis for at least a number of years, it was a good send off for the band and rounded off Chaos 10’s biggest day in fine style.
After the Peace Tent tradition of Cramps O’Clock (an hour of non-stop tunes by the psychobilly quartet) the last day of Chaos 10’s music was started by young performer Oliver Wade.
With a pure and vulnerable sound to both his voice and guitar Oliver’s performance was a good chilled out way to start the day as most in The Peace Tent occupied the sofas with a cup of coffee or ‘hair of the dog’ to try to get back into the festival spirit.
As a new performer Oliver didn’t project off stage very much but that is something that will come in time and he did a good job of carrying on with his soulful songs despite a Wendy House walking its way across the tent in front of him, and I look forward to seeing what more Oliver has to offer as he goes forward.
Chilled out acoustic things were also starting things off on the main stage with Damo of Fly Casual. Damo is another performer who’s become something of a regular and always puts on a good performance with banter with the crowd and 90s style acoustic indie songs being a great way to start the day.
He was followed by The Ok who seemed ill-at-ease on such a large stage. All four members of the band are clearly perfectly capable on their chosen instruments but today they all seemed very rigid in their performance, which sucked a lot of the energy from the songs and left me thinking there’s more to the band than they are currently letting out.
Buffalo Huddleston are a band who have gone from strength to strength since last summer and I think they reached their highest high here. Playing at a slightly faster pace than usual, which matched the mood in the tent, the recently added bass and drums clicked right in with the violins, guitar and vocals to create one of the most musically satisfying moments of the weekend, if not the year.
By the end of the set people were up and dancing and the tent was the busiest I remember seeing it on a Sunday at Chaos marking this as possibly the strongest contender for set of the weekend.
While the tug-o-war and spicy pizza competition were going on elsewhere Tonight The Skies kept things chilled out in The Peace Tent. As ever Hollie Martorella proved why her voice is so well commented on and their selection of songs from their debut release are now familiar and went down very well. The highlight of their set for me though was a new number inspired by Nine Inch Nails which took their airy sound and added some distortion to make something new and interesting but still clearly Tonight The Skies.
After the fun and games The Cryptics brought a much-needed upbeat garage rock injection to the main stage as they fuzzed and strutted their way through a set of songs that sound fresh and lively but true of their inspiration in the late 60s.
While garage doesn’t always work on a big PA it really did here and with a bunch of songs that get lodged in your head The Cryptics showed themselves to be something of an uncelebrated gem of the Channel Islands scene – Kick Out The Jams, indeed!
Two years since they last played together Whose Shoes stepped onto The Peace Tent stage and ran through a set of frontman Dave Etherington’s standard troubadour style numbers like they’d never been apart. It’s always a treat to hear them play and with original number Loose Lips (Sink Ships) getting the biggest reaction of the set shows they are clearly and rightly well-remembered. Ending on Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was also a brilliantly fitting end to their set for Chaos.
My time in The Peace Tent was rounded off with a rather special set from Becky Hamilton and friends. Becky’s sets have become something of a Sunday tradition in The Peace Tent and this year the stage was filled with people playing everything from guitars and drums to washboards, cowbells and toy pianos, all making for something of a fun and special set for everyone involved and the likes of which only The Peace Tent is really capable of providing.
80s glam covers were order of the day next with Skid Rue (though they don’t do any Skid Row songs) and while their set was sloppy it was great fun – and sloppy fun sounds about right for a set of Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and the like. Stace was, as ever, his usual exuberant frontman self – though he didn’t try and climb the scaffold around the stage this year!
The sloppiness continued with Chaos 10’s last band, but in less of a fun way, as a clearly ‘worse for wear’ Rat Salad took to the stage to pay tribute to Black Sabbath. While there were moments of clarity in the mix and the singer did a mean Ozzy impersonation vocally, it was a bit too loose and left Chaos on a bit a low point.
That said the weekend as a whole was one of the best Chaos weekends to date and if this is to be the last big festival they put on it would be a fine way to go out – but let’s hope that’s not the case and we get more Chaos next year!