Hit The Deck Festival – Nottingham – 20th April 2014


The yearly Hit The Deck Festival is now well established, bringing in a variety of established and upcoming punk, hardcore and metal bands over several venues in and around Nottingham’s Rock City venue. This year was another impressive line-up, topped off by the legendary Brand New who closed the festival on Rock City’s main stage.

Scottish 3-piece The Xcerts kicked things off with a slower track which got them off on the wrong foot. Once they moved into faster territory (closing with Slackpop being a great move) everything ran a lot smoother, with the lead singer incorporating some classic rockstar moves – including punching the air. A bit cheesy, but it was obvious that they’re a band who really care about their music.

Checking YouTube prior to the gig I found Adam Zareba, a young looking guy from Nottingham playing acoustic guitar and singing covers. I thought he would be worth a look so took a seat at ‘The Rescue Rooms’ ready for him to play songs done by other people. However this didn’t happen, instead I was pleasantly surprised by this teenager playing quite a few of his own songs, which he has just released onto an E.P. titled ‘Thoughts Plucked from the Mind’. His voice was very sweet, quite beautiful and rather melodic, with a distinct English twang to it. He explained at the start of the set that he was very nervous but listening to him you would have not been able to tell at all, coming over as confident and well rehearsed. His most memorable song was definitely ‘Whiskey’, which was very catchy and had great lyrics. Adam would not sound out of place on Radio 1 in between Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz and I expect to see great things from him in the future if the right people in the industry can spot him. He definitely has one extra fan now.

Having not previously heard Hands Like Houses before I watched the set open minded and ready to be impressed. I wasn’t disappointed. The room was quite full, and for a band playing quite early on in the day meant they must have a good fan base already. The Australian 6 piece rock band brought songs full of enthusiasm and well played instruments. The guitarists’ rifts are hypnotic and ferocious, combining post hardcore with treble heavy breakdowns. The singer sounded like a mix of Panic at the Disco! and Fall out boy, but also with a fresh unique sound. The guys really make the stage their own with jumping and flying around at a crazy speed, which only adds value to the set; making it very enjoyable for the crowd to watch. Hands Like Houses are definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

1. Shapeshifters
2. Wisteria
3. Antarctica
4. Lion Skin
5. No Parallels
6. Introduced Species

Realising prior to the day that we would have a gap of bands to listen to, I quickly checked out Thomas Nicholas Band and decided they would be worth a watch. At this point I didn’t realise who he was; half hour before their set I was introduced to them and was shocked to find out Thomas was in all of the ‘American Pie’ movies, he played Kevin. This made me more intrigued to listen to him and Matt as I wondered if he could be a good musician as well as an actor. First thing I noticed was that It was a lot more crowded at The Rescue Rooms than it had been earlier on during the day and part of me wondered if this had anything to do with Thomas’s already famous status. This question was quickly answered when he asked the crowd if they knew he had a band, to which about 10 people cheered and instead asked how many came to see him because of ‘banging Tara Reid’ to which the whole crowd cheered. They began their set with a soundtrack to American Pie, which got a great reception. They moved fluently through their setlist, pausing to chat to the crowd every now and then. The atmosphere was slightly dampened though by a bunch of girls that thought it would be good to chat louder than the guys playing but thankfully they disappeared a third of the way through the set. They played a mixture of original songs and covers, which definitely helped keep the crowd engaged. The main thought about Thomas and Matt’s voices were that they were much more husky than I had expected but worked well together. Although not the strongest singers I have come across, their guitar skills were exemplarily. Both of them played the acoustic guitar with such skill I did think at one point that it must be a recording as it was so quick and impressive I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So if you can get past their average voices and pay attention to their actual instrument skill you will be as in awe as I was. Overall, great lovely guys with a playful set.

Dead Harts made a fantastic racket in the Stealth room ramming their gnarly hardcore down the throats of a healthily packed out room. The pit was getting nice n’ lively by now and the band dropped in some new material from their upcoming album. Concrete Walls was a particular highlight.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Unfortunately, the room empties out a little too much before Palm Reader hit the stage, meaning far too many people miss one of the best sets of the festival. Fierce as hell and with some stunning songs in their repertoire, it’s still early days for the Woking five piece but, on the strength of today’s performance, they’re destined for far bigger hints. Superb!

Currently touring in support of their new stunning record “Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only”, Seahaven certainly have a lot of hype surrounding them; just not that equal to Nai Harvest who played before them. After a large portion of the crowd left, they started slightly early and kicked things off with an atmospheric intro before launching into “Goodnight” which got a hearty singalong. Things quieted down a bit during the newer songs which are slower, and perhaps didn’t translate live as well as the older, more punk-based songs, but the band were tight and professional – if not a little distant and detached from the audience.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Following Seahaven were Gnarwolves who have gone from strength to strength recently, playing show after show. Their current popularity definitely showed as they drew one of the biggest crowds of the day at Rescue Rooms, completely filling the room and balcony. The songs got big singalongs from the second they launched into “History is Bunk”, but “Community, Stability, Indentity” got the loudest reaction. The band were on form and cemented why they’ve become a staple recently.

After all of the more serious bands who played throughout the day, The Front Bottoms were a breath of fresh air. Opening with “Skeleton” it was clear that everyone in Rock City was there to see them, with arms everywhere and massively loud singalongs. Tracks like “The Beers” and closer “Twin Size Mattress” got the biggest reactions, including a fair few crowdsurfers. When a band looks like they’re genuinely enjoying themselves it really goes a long way, compared to those who take themselves too seriously. The Front Bottoms were the highlight of the main stage.

Steve Gerrard Photography

There’s a healthy buzz surrounding Welsh pop punks Neck Deep and their room is well and truly rammed as they kick off a slick set which has the front section of the crowd singing every word back towards the stage. A lively performance seals the deal and I fully expect the band to be headlining rooms bigger than this before the year’s out.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Back in Stealth it was time for the utter brilliance of Baby Godzilla who take the prize for most chaotic yet astonishing performance of the day. You may not remember their songs on the way home, but you’ll certainly remember the time the guitarist dragged his amp into the middle of the room before climbing along the ceiling, hurling his guitar back to the stage and, at one point, hitting the Kerrang! photographer with the mic stand! Each member of the band gives it their all and the smiles around the room say it all.

Having heard People on Vacation before but not seen them live I was interested in seeing how their album sounded live. Sadly I was a bit disappointed. Although Ryan was there, he might as well not have been as his mic was so low you could barely hear him. It seemed to me to be just Bowling For Soup with different members bar Jaret. It was still a four-piece band (2 extra people had joined them for the tour on (Rob) guitar and (Mike) drums) like Bowling For Soup and they even played ‘The Bitch Song’ by Bowling for Soup so it really felt like watching them instead. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Bowling for Soup but People on Vacation are supposed to be a different band and unfortunately I’m not seeing the difference. On the album Ryan has a clear vocal lead in the majority of songs but today it was unnoticeable and for that I felt really sorry for him. It’s unclear as to whether it was the technicians’ fault or done on purpose but as they are starting their UK tour now I hope it gets sorted so that a real version of People on Vacation can be heard. They played a total of 6 songs altogether including 2 covers, one of which being ‘Cum on Feel the Noise’ (Slade) but missed one of their most well known songs ‘Prettiest Girl in the World’ which Ryan has the main vocals to, which also seemed quite odd, perhaps he just wasn’t feeling well hence taking the back seat. Although they were not at their best, I still wouldn’t write them off completely and from their album I can tell they still have much more to offer and will be giving them a second chance.

Next up: Patent Pending. This was the reason I was here. The band I had come to see. Would they live up to their previous set which had made me fallen in love with them? Short answer, yes. Bouncing onto the stage with wildly colourful hair, you could have easily mistaken them for a blur of a rainbow. The 5-6 piece pop punk band from New York certainly couldn’t be missed. They involved the crowd and spoke to people on a 1 to 1 basis, making the crowd feel that little bit more loved and appreciated. Looking around I could see the venue wasn’t as full as it could have been but still a good turn out of people, varying in ages from the young kids with braces up to an older generation in their 40’s. They began their set with the song ‘Shake Weights & Moving Crates’, a slightly less well-known song from their 2011 album ‘Second Family’. After some banter they decided it was time for a great tradition of theirs, the crowd swimming Olympics. This is where 2 of the members have a race; they part the crowd down the middle, run to the end of it and crowd surf back which saw Joe (Singer) get carried by a guy, get put back down and still crowd surf back to the stage first. ‘Hey Mario’ was definitely the most energetic song they played with both the crowd and the band jumping around like lunatics whilst everyone singing along knowing all the lyrics. After ‘Hey Mario’, Joe spoke to the crowd explaining that the next song ‘One Less Heart To Break’ was a song close to his heart and the reason why he enjoyed being in a band so much. It is a song about a friend who committed suicide and even though it is a tough subject, they still manage to make it sound bubbly and happy. They moved into ‘Anti-Everything’ after this and I was very happy to see they did their special unique dance to the chorus, definitely something everyone should see. They finished with ‘Douchebag’ and hoped they would see everyone at one of their upcoming tour dates. I will be one of those people as these guys are just too happy too miss out on!

1. Shake Weights & Moving Crates
2. The whiskey, the liar, the thief
3. Party Hard (Andrew W.K. cover)
4. Psycho in Love
5. Hey Mario
6. One Less Heart To Break
7. Anti-Everything
8. Douchebag

Hawthorne Heights. Just the name makes me feel like a teenager again. I bought the album ‘The Silence in Black and White’ when it came out, enjoyed it and then unfortunately forgot about them. When I realised they were playing the entire album I got very excited and was looking forward to seeing them. An American rock band, they were one of the first bands to fit into the ‘Emo’ genre and thus were pioneers in gearing up the world to what would be a new explosive genre. The room at Rock City was full and a lot of the age group were of the younger generation who really ‘got’ the genre. Appearing on stage, I was shocked to realise how much older the band looked, forgetting that of course 10 years had passed. Lead vocalist JT Woodruff no longer looked like the young guy I had pictured in my mind. I wondered if they would be playing the album in order and kicking off with Life on Standby, I assumed they were. Even with the amount of time that has passed since the album came out, it felt like going back in time, the vocals were as crisp and in tune as ever. The crowd were engaging and it felt amazing to be there. The 3rd song, one of the more successful songs from the album ‘Niki FM’ really got the crowd going and most of the crowd seemed to be singing along. After ‘Screenwriting An Apology’ I expected them to go into ‘Ohio Is For Lovers’, their most popular song from the album but they skipped straight to ‘Wake Up Call’, instead choosing to play ‘Ohio Is For Lovers’ last. I was genuinely upset about this, as we had to leave prior to the end of the set to see another band so the main song I wanted to hear, I couldn’t. Although I understand why they put it last I feel like they should have kept to the order of the album. This however is the only criticism I have from Hawthorne Heights, they played a brilliant set and it was great nostalgia.

1. Life on Standby
2. Dissolve and Decay
3. Niki FM
4. The Transition
5. Blue Burns Orange
6. Silver Bullet
7. Screenwriting an Apology
8. Wake Up Call
9. Sandpaper and Silk
10. Speeding Up the Octaves
11. Ohio Is for Lovers

Steve Gerrard Photography

The Word Alive bring their generic but accomplished metal core to the Rescue Rooms and frontman, Tyler “Telle” Smith, is an engaging frontman, prowling the pit and interacting with the front row throughout the band’s set. The clean vocal sometimes softens the impact of the music for me but they go down well and keep the energy up nicely.

The Forum venue was the most packed I had seen it all day, almost at full capacity but there was a mixed atmosphere arriving for the set of Kids in Glass Houses. On the one hand there was excitement but on the other, sorrow, for this is their last tour before splitting up. A 5-piece Welsh Pop Punk band blasted onto the scene in 2003 and since being signed in 2008 have 4 very catchy albums. Front man Aled Phillips has a very distinctive voice which goes magnificently with the rest of the band creating amazingly memorable tunes that just stick in your head for ages after even without actually knowing that its them. Appearing on stage they quickly went into ‘Fisticuffs’, which immediately got the crowd going, moshing and arms waving, which continued throughout the set. Each song performed as well, if not better than on the studio albums and the crowd giving a great reaction confirmed this was a mutual thought. Kids in Glass Houses are an excellent band, and it will be a sad day when they finish their ‘break up’ tour in October.

1. Fisticuffs
2. Easy Tiger
3. Give Me What I Want
4. Artbreaker I
5. Sunshine
6. Youngblood (Let It Out)
7. Set Me Free
8. Undercover Lover
9. Peace
10. Drive
11. Hunt the Haunted
12. Saturday
13. Matters at All

Steve Gerrard Photography
Steve Gerrard Photography

An Indie Alt Rock 4 piece band from New Jersey, Saves the Day have been doing the gig scene for 20 years now with almost as many previous members! Front man Chris Conley is the driving force of the band though and without him I very much doubt the band would still be alive today. Having been into Saves the Day during my teens I was excited to finally see the man who ‘had a large mouth in the At Your Funeral video’ which had remained in my memory for all these years. We arrived during ‘Anywhere With You’ — a single from their 2003 album ‘In Reverie’ and immediately I could hear that they were as good as they were in the studio. The main room at Rock City was already packed and the atmosphere was very positive, you could tell there were a lot of people excited to see Saves the Day. They managed to play a good variety of songs from their 8 albums, notably halfway through they did play At Your Funeral which made me smile and I could see a lot of people singing along to it. (And no, his mouth isn’t abnormally large, so my young mind can now rest!) Closer to the end of their set they got a few crowd surfers, which to me means you’re doing a good job. Although not the most talkative of bands, their songs did them justice and keep the crowd entertained throughout.

1. Remember
2. Let It All Go
3. Cars & Calories
4. Shoulder to the Wheel
5. Anywhere With You
6. Freakish
7. Z
8. Xenophobic Blind Left Hook
9. At Your Funeral
10. The Tide of Our Times
11. Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots
12. Firefly
13. Undress Me

Steve Gerrard Photography

Headliners on the Rescue Rooms stage are Norway’s Kvelertek, complete with owl mask and enough dirty riffs to satisfy any self-respecting rocker. The name means stranglehold in Norwegian, and tonight they grab everyone by the throat and don’t let go until the final distorted chord fades away. Heavy yet absolute fun, I can’t recommend them enough.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Brutality Will Prevail have been doing their hardcore thing long enough to know exactly what’s required to end the evening back in Stealth. No nonsense, down-the-line, in-your-face hardcore with integrity and in beefed up frontman, Louis Gauthier, they have a formidable focal point.

Steve Gerrard Photography

After Saves the Day and a big singalong to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it was finally time for Brand New. They came out and played a completely different setlist to their other headline shows. This time, they started with instrumental track “Welcome to Bangkok” which slowly faded into “You Won’t Know”; the band’s usual closer. This got the crowd excited straight away and the band carried on playing hit after hit, including a section of around six “Deja Entendu” songs in a row before launching into “Seventy Times Seven” which got perhaps the loudest reaction of the day. The set only slowed down very briefly during “You Stole” from “Daisy” which fell slightly flat but things soon picked up again when they played “Millstone”. They then ended with the combination of “Jesus” and acoustic track “Soco Amaretto Lime” which lead singer Jesse Lacey played alone, concluding the day on a somber but happy note. This is a band who have a gigantic cult following and their live show proves that they deserve it. Playing different setlists every night, being insanely into their music and throwing themselves around the stage; it’s obvious that even if they come off as pretentious at times, they really do put on the best show for their fans.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Reviews – Max Quayyum, Shaz Rafferty and Steve Gerrard
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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