When a festival tailors its lineup to your primary genre preference, offers its tickets at a crazy-cheap price compared to the market big guns, organises its acts to avoid any form of performance clash and even throws in animal park access for free, you have to wonder what on earth could go wrong or where the catch is. This fresh-faced event however proves its worth and is destined to go from strength to strength. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed by such a well-organised and focused event.
At 16 years old, attaining a festival ticket (Leeds in my case) felt like the Holy Grail. I sat by my laptop with radio 1 on as the lineup got called out and hit that refresh button on Ticketmaster like my life depended on it. Suddenly five years down the line, these festivals that once stood high and mighty are struggling to sell out and find themselves wondering why. It’s as if they somehow relied on my school year only?… The simple answer and explanation that I’ve discussed with fellow music lovers is that there’s a lack of solid identity and they’re simply too expensive. Furthermore, bands that aren’t particularly relevant anymore find themselves regurgitated each year and the days are ordered as if by random to try and force weekend sales rather than genre-focused one dayers. It’s just not appealing.
This is where the new breed of successful festivals step in and re-assure those wondering where the problem lies. Firstly, Hevy knows and understands what it is. The target demographic is catered for with a superbly appropriate balance of bands young and old, fresh and acclaimed. The same can be said for 2000 Trees, which managed to sell out no problem earlier this year, making clear that it’s not us, the music fans and consumers that are the problem. We’ve just grown up and left soulless, overpriced events behind. Brighton’s Great Escape also showcases mostly bands that are on the rise from the surface underneath our shoes. At such an affordable manner, it’s simply silly not to go.
Moving on to the physical side of things, my last camping festival experience was Glastonbury last year. The sight of Hevy’s concise and comfortable border was a welcome one from the off. I love live music and festival experiences like crazy, but I’ve grown to despise the camping side of it all through time. Even this felt effortless though in the vast Kent countryside and I can honestly say that I had a completely problem/agony/stress free weekend. The weather was worryingly kind to us during the daytimes too, which I know from experience can make or break people’s moods no matter who happens to be on the bill.
In terms of artist highlights – Glassjaw, Hundred Reasons & Verse were three gems that covered the more established side of the bill. Each blew me away, completely owning their respective stages and providing exceptional experienced performances. Lesser know but uprising acts such as &U&I, The James Cleaver Quintet & Listener provided the balance of fresh and acclaimed by each performing remarkably well and showcasing insight into the vast, immense talent within the Hardcore/Metal/Rock genres. I also can’t not mention Lower Than Atlantis who have found major label success through Island for their latest record, highlighting not just Hevy’s relevance, but the potential success that this often discredited league of musicians can still hope to achieve in today’s industry climate.
The only obvious niggle across the entire weekend came when bands would be playing on one of the main stages whilst sound checks occurred intrusively right next door. You can’t fault the stage crew’s efficiency and the resulting lack of waiting around in between sets, it would just be great to be able to avoid performances being overridden by brief instrumental bursts.
You’d have to ask the bands about what playing a double-staged tent was like as an experience, but the consensus from those alongside me in the crowds was that despite the efficiency, the occasional bursts of interruption were too annoying – perhaps highlighting an opportunity to change things up next year? (Hopefully expanding the scale of the arena sight slightly in the process).
A free haircut courtesy of Brighton-based Paul’s Chop Shop topped my weekend off superbly on the Sunday and as the epic Descendents concluded this year’s musical offering with their aged yet so familiar and welcome old-school punk, I headed back to my tent not feeling tired, worn out & miserable from camping but rather proud, chuffed and honestly shocked at how well this festival had been put together.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that festivals on a larger scale are showing signs of struggling. Whilst it’s obviously always going to be a massive shame for live music on a broad scale, it’s encouraging and greatly satisfying to know that events such as Hevy are thriving. Whether it’s the smaller scale in terms of size and price, the more niche, genre-targeted bill of artists or simply the appeal of a bonus trip to the zoo, each of these factors threw me up a potentially epic weekend surrounded by everything I love about music and couldn’t have succeeded greater.