With so many festivals failing in their first year it’s a true testament to festival organiser Gary Paterson’s passion and commitment that Amplified survived its inaugural year. From the very outset the organisers had everything going against them with a much lower than expected turnout, in part due to the horrendous weather conditions that put even the most hardened of Download’s regulars to the test. Even before the festival had started the heavy winds and rain on the Thursday night cast their shadow over the festival, blowing over many of the barriers that had been erected prior to the start. It was the weather that was to define the festival, forcing the closure of all of the stages on the first night due to safety concerns. Due to this several bands pulled out over the course of the weekend, but it wasn’t long before the music was back up and going as the main beer tent turned into an impromptu stage in its own right. With a festival that seemed to be falling apart around everyone, no one would have been surprised had the main headliners pulled out, and so it’s to all the headliner’s credit that they demanded to carry on.
Friday starts off well with The Vigil and Dorja opening up things on the Red Stripe Main and Very Metal Art stages respectively. With the weather still hiding its dark secret I head out to find the Tavern stage for Healthy Junkies, only to find the first of many line-up changes during the weekend. Instead I catch Beaver and the Foghorns before heading back to the main arena where Codex Alimentarius bring their brutal black metal onslaught to the Very Metal Art stage. As I head back to the Tavern stage to catch the rescheduled Healthy Junkies the festival is thrown into chaos. The heavens are opened and the festival nearly takes a fatal blow as the main stage is electrified due to the sheer volume of water now pouring onto it. Thankfully the Amorettes manage to finish their set without injury but we’re down to a single stage as only the Very Metal Art stage is deemed safe. Several bands call it a night as eventually even this stage is closed. Unknown to many the Tavern have succeeded in relocating inside their beer tent, Skinsitive and Healthy Junkies finally get to play their sets. In the main arena the decision is made to close the night in the beer tent, a suggestion that’s met with a great deal of enthusiasm from Acid Reign and Puddle Of Mudd. Amazingly, as the night ends, the rain finally stops.
Things can’t get any worse surely? The weather forecast is the worst news possible, thunderstorms predicted, and to top it off the Very Metal Art stage, that survived the worst excesses of the Friday, is closed as water gets into everything. Citing safety fears several bands pull out, including the Shoot Your Hoops headliner, Asteroid Boys. Despite all this, somehow, the main stage is opened. With proper barriers erected in the beer tent we have 2 stages up and running in the main arena and the festival is back on. Outright Resistance open up the second day just as the heavens open with what turns out to be the heaviest downpour of the day. It becomes a turning point for the festival as the sun finally comes out and the rain is relegated to scattered showers. With the absence of Torqued the main stage runs almost to schedule again with Press To Meco as the weather continues to hold. It’ll be a while before the beer tent stage is up and running, so entertainment is provided between bands and then Illustr8tors hit the main stage. The Uncharted start things off in the beer tent and thus begins the flip-flop between the main stage and the beer tent. The predicted thunderstorm fails to materialise as Anti-Clone takes to the main stage, and there’s a surprise as Massive Wagons and One Machine swap stages. The surprises don’t stop there though, as the main and second stage headliners swap, at Phil Campbell’s request. It seems news of Acid Reign’s takeover of the beer tent has spread and this allows Evil Scarecrow to make full use of the main stage as the sun sets over the festival on the second day.
It’s the last day and the Very Metal Art stage and Shoot Your Hoops stages are still closed. To mitigate the chaos created by trying to realign 2 stages worth of bands into the main beer tent an impromptu schedule is published outside the tent. It’s not long before it’s updated and Divine Chaos get to play after being pulled from the Saturday line-up due to lack of space. It proves to be a popular choice. The surprise cancellation comes from SHVPES, but the headliners for the Sunday remain intact and there are more than enough bands to fill the remaining stages. Crooked Little Sons put on a great punk rock and roll show to get the day started with Panic Switch soon warming up the beer tent. Oxfordshire’s local heroes Hells Gazelles are in there next, where Cole Bryant wins over a tent on new fans with his stage antics and phenomenal vocal range. Over on the main stage Instill and Courtesans make the most of the sunshine, and the forecast again remains stubbornly inaccurate as Australia’s Massive keep the sun shining. Vega take a moment to make the astute observation that they may be at the wrong festival, before putting on a fantastic set for fans of soft rock. Devolution favourites Hands Off Gretel then win over hearts in the beer tent prior to its near destruction at the hands of Heck while German industrial metallers Unzucht.tear up the main stage. Shoot Your Hoops headliners Milk Teeth see in the dusk in the beer tent before Reef take to the main stage and the legendary Diamond Head finish the festival in fine style in the beer tent. Despite everything the festival survives, mostly intact. I for one look forward to next year, and who knows, maybe the beer tent stage will become a permanent feature given its popularity this year.
The Best of the Festival
At any festival there are bands that stand out, this was no exception. And while every band that stayed and played deserves credit there were some performances that excelled. So in no particular order:
Acid Reign – The Ultimate Pub Band
They’re described as the ultimate pub band, so where better to play than in the main beer tent? Hastily erected barriers make an impromptu stage, but this couldn’t contain H who decided to use the entire bar as well as the stage. The beer is flowing, the tent is overflowing and the music is playing. At this point the festival could close for the night and no one would think any worse of the organisers. The band put on an amazing set and are great fun, so much so that bands start begging to headline the beer tent.
Puddle Of Mudd – In A Puddle Of Mud?
With the cancellation of all the arena stages earlier in the evening no one would have thought less of Wes Scantlin had he cancelled. It’s to his, and his band’s, credit that not only was he prepared to play in a beer tent, he was prepared to do it acoustically if need be. It’s a great set full of classic songs, clearly designed to get the crowd joining in. The rain may still be pouring outside the tent but inside no one cares as even Wes finds his voice is drowned out by the crowd in the tent singing.
Anti-Clone – The Pit Generators
It comes as no surprise that the first circle pit of the festival comes from Anti-Clone’s army of loyal followers. Concerns about the weather prove unfounded as the rain stays away and the lads from Boston (UK) put on a brutal and energetic onslaught in the late afternoon. As always with these guys the stage just isn’t big enough and it’s not long before Conor and Lam are joining the circle pit and Pete Moore is off the stage and on the barrier. By the end of the set they’ve gained new followers to their army and it’s going to be a hard show to beat.
Evil Scarecrow – The Journey to Absurdity
While Anti-Clone are a hard act to follow, they’re not an impossible one as Evil Scarecrow show. Thanks to a change of stage it’s soon clear that their act is too big for any but the main stage as they make full use of the larger main stage. It’s a glorious show of surreal in-jokes with the crowd with their science fiction inspired props taking centre stage. The entire crowd, including guests, press, and security are soon scuttling left and right. The interaction between band and audience is exquisite and they show why they should have been on the main stage right from the start.
Heck – Anarchy in the Beer Tent
With the closure of the Shoot Your Hoops stage Heck move into the beer tent. It’s a decision that is both glorious and frightening in equal measure as the band cannot be contained. Audience members become improvised mic stands, and while Acid Reign and Hells Gazelles used the bar as an extension to the stage here the entire tent becomes the stage. It’s absolute chaos, and a miracle no one is seriously injured as mic stands and guitars are swung like weapons within the crowded tent. It’s like a hurricane has been let loose.
The Best Of The Show
Outright Resistance truly earn their place. Relatively unknown, they opened the main stage on the Saturday morning and their reaction to the heavens opening right at the start of their show set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Paige Lee’s utter defiance in the face of torrential rain soon gets the entire crowd chanting ‘Fuck off rain!’ and despite the suddenness and ferocity of the weather they stay rooted to the barrier. By the end of their set the weather relents and the sun shines. The worst has passed and nothing can now stop the festival from continuing to its conclusion.