It’s been eight long years since Southampton’s Takedown last took place and today the organisers have decided to revive the anticipated event within the historical surroundings of the Portsmouth Guildhall. It’s a festival with just under forty bands on the line-up providing a day of musical catharism and alternative scene unity amongst the few thousand excited punters who have gathered early in mass to enjoy today’s proceedings.
It’s a pretty surreal yet majestic setting between the landmark lion sculptures and the ever-present busy train line sat literally on the shoulder of the outdoor Total Rock Stage. The venue is a superb setting and brings together many walks of life together. There is a swarm of punks, metal heads, goths, rockers and hardcore fans all rubbing shoulders and you’re reminded of the importance of diverse grassroots events that help keep the scene healthy, diverse and connected.
The Portsmouth Guildhall is one of those locations that seems perfect for a festival with multiple stages. From the main stage both the Out Of Line stage and the Down For Life Music stage are just a couple of steps away, either side of the venue. The Total Rock stage outside is a short walk out the side exit next to the Out Of Line stage main door. With the sun shining it’s also not too cold, despite the early April chill and the sound on the outdoor stage sounds amazing. With the area protected on one side by the Guildhall there’s no wind to speak of to whip the sound away. With a good mix of pop punk, tech metal, and heavy metal there’s always something for even the most discerning of music fans to listen to.
The opening band is Autumn Fires, who start just a couple of minutes late due to a slightly longer stage setup than expected. They’re a Paramoresque pop punk band with plenty of girl power on show from their purple haired lead singer. It’s a quick walk through to catch Dendera on the main stage. The local power metal combo test the speakers to the maximum. It’s going to be a very loud day. The Down For Life Music stage opens up with Asleep At The Helm, a shouty tech metal band with plenty of energy. Other bands that get a worthy mention are: Slackrr make the most of the outdoor stage with their pop rock friendly mix of male and female vocals. They have good stage prescience and crowd friendly lyrics for singing along to. Words That Burn make the most of the Out Of Line stage, they’re loud and heavy and work hard to get the crowd moving. Royals bring some pop punk from Southampton with bags of energy and springs in their shoes. Lightwaves’ complicated vocals mean they have to put the backing track on, but they get a good-sized crowd on the Down For Life Music stage. For fand of early Fall Out Boy, Bottom Line bring plenty of pop punk energy to the Total Rock stage. Meg Emilie plays an almost acoustic set with just a guitarist to accompany her haunting vocals. As December Falls crowd plenty of bodies into the outdoor arena with their friendly pop punk. CLT DRP come close to making a top 5 appearance with a powerful performance. More recognisable today for his cooking with Gordon Ramsey, Kier Kemp reminds us all that he was first and foremost a musician with the Fearless Vampire Killers. Defences get the dreads flying as Cherry Duesbury gives the Down For Life Music stage their teatime work out.
With 38 bands playing over the course of the day it’s not possible to do every band justice, but as always there are highlights across all the stages that are worth a mention. None of the bands playing disappoint and it’s a credit to the organisers who have bought together such a sundry of acts who all end up complimenting each other on this rather impressive bill for the day.
Mark’s Top 5
As always, it’s a heavy as fuck show from the guys. The bass is brutal and pounds the crowd who are extorted into moshing. For a band that we’re more used to seeing headline small festivals they’re remarkably low down the set list, they’re the second band on the main stage. None of that matters to them though as they put on a show that at times feels more like punishment. For so early in the day there’s also a great crowd with the room pretty much full. This band hasn’t come down to party, they’ve come down to break people, mentally and physically. Great stuff.
Local lads Seething Akira bring out the home crowd and pack the main hall. It’s full throttle mayhem from them that soon sees the crowd circle pitting and making the security guards earn their pay as the crowd surfers hit the barriers almost from the first song. It’s a sign of things to come for this cross-genre band who will be hitting Bloodstock’s main stage later in the year. For now though Charlie and Kit are clearly having as much fun as the crowd. Get those middle fingers up in the air!
Our Hollow Our Home
High energy, but somewhat muted performance for the first two songs as the singer’s broken mic means no one can hear him. Strangely though it’s still working in the monitors meaning he’s oblivious to the issue. Two mic changes later and he’s on form and taking the technical issues in his stride. As with all the bands playing the main stage it’s a set punctuated by powerful bass beats. It’s also another band with a local connection, this time from just up the road in Southampton. If at first you can’t be heard, scream louder.
Black Water County
The Down For Life Music Stage is full of surprises during the day, but none more so than Black Water County. They’re actually from Bournemouth but sound more like they’ve just relocated from Dublin. With their diminutive lead singer it’s like Tinkerbell discovered Irish folk punk and decided to start a band. This is quite fitting considering the band played their first gig ten years ago on St Patrick’s Day. With tin whistle in hand this band gets the room dancing and clapping along. Get your shamrocks out and get lucky.
The headliners for the Total Rock stage are Skindred and it won’t come as a surprise that they bring the party atmosphere. Benji is on his usual top form and even with Sleep Token playing on the main stage they pack the outdoor courtyard. It’s a greatest hits list from ‘Stand For Something’ all the way to ‘Warning’ and the crowd has come out to party along with them. Credit where it’s due, the sound engineers have done a great job all day and Skindred sound amazing, and really giving it some Boom Boom. We’re going to need a bigger stage.
Nickie’s Top 5
False Hope For The Savage
Where words fail, music speaks! Cardiff’s finest open the Out Of Line Stage and launch into an incredibly heavy yet enchanting instrumental set. With a decent sized audience in attendance I don’t think any of the five collaborative members made eye contact and instead played like no one was watching. Maybe this adds to their mystery? Very technical with enormous ability. The drum crescendos and intricate layered guitar works keep spoon feeding you tasty post rock morsels. At one point the entire crowd decides to step forward and form an audience down front who are clearly impressed by the magic happening in this room. A hard act to follow who have set the bar very high.
The courtyard fills up nicely and there is a buzz of electricity in the air. It’s an intense encounter from the get go as singer Kitty Austen prowls the stage back and forth before exploding into a frenzied setlist of angst fueled industrial punk rock and its one hell of a tasty concoction. With scream along choruses and thunderous basslines with songs like ‘Repent’ ‘Daughter Of Lucifer’ and finale ‘Middle Finger’ it’s easy to see why these guys are making a big noise right now and a vigorous cover of ‘Firestarter’ slides perfectly into the set. With a new album being released this summer Saint Agnes need to be on your ones to watch list.
The timings for the main stage at this point are overrunning slightly and a sound check is taking place at the time the band should already be playing. However, there’s no messing around and the trio launch straight into ‘This Is All There Is’ which sounds tremendous. “We are Sepulfuckingtura!” announces Jamie before launching into ‘Talk Hard’ which the crowd sing back enthusiastically. I did have my suspicions when the large sepultura backdrop was unveiled but no explanation is offered on this surprising alliance throughout the show. I don’t think anyone was fooled as the frontman yells “I’m Max Cavalera!” before the chords to ‘Deep Down’ are struck but it’s all rather good silly fun. Rigorously moving along with his problematic peddle board means a more static Jamie but it’s a joyful and excellent performance.
South London’s Ithaca are conjuring some brutality over on the Out Of Line stage and the room is filled wall to wall while vocalist Djamila is holding church. It’s ballsy and ferocious and sounds absolutely killer. Their latest album is about healing with trauma and a speech is given about purposely rebuilding and overcoming obstacles that eventually means that you will heal! It’s a poignant moment shared between band and audience and a reassurance it seems that some people needed. The group have such belief and confidence within themselves that it’s easy to get positively swept up in their music and their strong message. Ithaca are a wonderful band to release some tension to and the response at the end was one of adoration which was truly deserved.
Confessions Of A Traitor
Labelled as ‘aggressive music for positive people’ these guys were on the watchlist for today and they did not disappoint! Singer Stephen knows how to work a room. It’s lively as fuck and he spends more time on the main floor than on the stage whipping everyone up into a frenzy. The songs are metal and melodic in equal measure with the addition of some very meaty breakdowns. Songs about mental health and healing and the band encouraging the listener to help build themselves back up again are greeted with good intentions and good vibes. A quote springs to mind while I watch this set that then sticks with me. It’s not the size of the crowd it’s the heart of a crowd. And there was plenty of heart in this encounter tonight.
Best of the Day – Sleep Token
Unequivocally tonight’s headline performance is truly out of this world, its dare I say it, monumental, mesmerising and a treasured spectacle that will remain in the hearts and minds of everyone who bared witness to this. Think I’m overselling this? Absolutely not! Vessel and his cloaked cohorts are wonderfully cinematic and captivating as they make use of the large stage, the lighting is intensely atmospheric, the vocals are razor sharp and they surprise by launching straight into ‘Chokehold’ and ‘The Summoning’ that grip you by the throat. ‘Aqua Regia’ and ‘Alkaline’ are just as transcendent and with the mystery that still surrounds these guys this only adds to the accelerated excitement. This is a church I would attend for worship any day of the week.
The main stage has been plagued with technical issues all day and it’s no change for the headliners as they finally take to the stage twenty-five minutes late. The extra time seems to have done some good though as the sound is spot on. The room is packed, even with half the festival outside watching Skindred. Opening up the set with ‘Chokehold’ it soon becomes clear that there’s a dedicated set of fans in the audience as crowd surfers hit the barrier. The vocals on ‘The Summoning’ are spot on and really underline the entire atmospheric nature of the set design, with a giant moon hanging on the screen behind them. There’s nothing sleepy about this band.
Takedown is a pioneering independent festival that the organisers and their team should be incredibly proud of. The South absolutely needs an event like this to look forward to annually and the Portsmouth venue and its stone’s throw away transportation links are ideal. We can’t wait to see its return next year where punters will be treated to a two day festival for 2024. Bring it on!
Takedown Festival will be happening in 2024Over Two Days – 13th & 14th April 2024