The Bullingdon, Oxford
18/08/2019, Day Three
Review by Beth Jones & Rick Tilley
They say that as you get older, time goes quicker. They also say that time flies when you are having fun, so for us oldies having fun, time seems to go very quickly indeed, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, here we were at the last day of Rabidfest, which again promised a very full, and very heavy line-up back at the Bullingdon. Bring on the metal!!!
The task of opening the final day fell to Oxford based, King Bolete, who offer a fusion of blues riffs, fuzz and groove, and harsh vocals, combining to make a sort of sleazy stoner metal which was very akin to a lazy, and for some, slightly hungover Sunday lunch time. They were the perfect way to start, went down well with the crowd and set the tone for the day ahead.
The Final Clause Of Tacitus
From the moment these guys took to the stage, I could see they had the 90’s written all over them, and this made me pay attention – this was my era!! If you liked Rage Against The Machine and Clawfinger, you will love these guys. Rick already knew about them and really likes them because they had been featured on Ever Metal before. They offered a solid dose of Rap/Funk Metal executed brilliantly. I know this doesn’t happen very often, but I am going to give a special mention to Andy, the bass player (I know right – get the flags out)! He was the epitome of funk and was great to watch – definitely grand master level cool! The guitarist Tom, on the other hand, was a total nutter!! I have never seen someone go quite as bat shit on stage – there was definitely some sort of exorcism brought on by their music I would say! Trying to take his picture was like trying to herd cats! When we spoke to them afterwards, he told us that he had actually passed out on stage not so long back, from all the crazy jumping about! Lunatic! They were, very definitely, one of our highlights of the whole event, and when we got home I ordered both of their EP’s straight away!
From the old to the new, with a good dose of modern hard rock, Broken Empire! We liked these guys because they are fresh and very current – I could see my teenage daughters going wild to them, especially frontman ‘Ieuan’ with his far-out hairstyle! They have only been together since 2017 but have been gigging regularly and with two EP’s released already they are very well rehearsed and know exactly what sound works for them. Very enjoyable and definitely a band to keep an eye on!
This was a band that we had been really looking forward to seeing. We had heard a lot about them, and they are Welsh, so that alone makes them better than everyone else by default! They didn’t disappoint! Melodic death metal, with a more than sizable nod to classic metal, they ripped up the room for the entire of their set, with vocal powerhouse Steve Jenkins telling a story with his facial expressions, and engaging the assembled throng with some audience participation! There music was like a checklist of how to make it sound good – soaring power vocals – check, face melting guitar – check, epic rhythms – check, a hangman’s noose – che-wait, what?! Yes readers, you did read that right – towards the end of their set things became slightly more menacing when Steve produced a noose and promptly simulated hanging the other band members then himself, which was fun! (Don’t try that at home kids, not unless you are into that kind of stuff of course!) This was a really great performance and Democratus are now definitely on the list of bands to see again!
I have decided that I am definitely getting old, as here was yet another band that looked like they could be my daughter’s mates! From just up the road in Whitney, Bloodshot brought us some progressive death metal, with tricky stops and cross rhythms, and harsh vocals, on top of intricate guitar work. They were good to bang your head to and two characters in the crowd, who we very originally named ‘Dancing Guy’ and ‘Dancing Girl’, were having an absolute blast to them! I’m going to again mention the bass player, Will, just because he pulled some epic bass faces, a couple of which I managed to capture on camera!
Rick Here, I’m going to add that sometimes I find the harsher, more extreme bands a little difficult to listen along to at home or in the car, but seeing them live is a different thing entirely. To me this is where really heavy music completely comes alive and shines, it’s almost primal and Bloodshot were definitely a band that invaded my brain and intestines in a good way!
The Five Hundred
Guitars with too many strings alert!! It was time to get technical again with The Five Hundred. Thankfully I have no need to rant about having too many strings just for the sake of it, as the technical prowess of the musicians in this band required the extra strings. They were very very good. Down tuned and powerful riffs, intricate melodies, and on point vocals, mixed with killer drops that made the roof rattle, made their performance exciting and exhilarating. We were at the mid-point of the day, which historically is where I start to flag, however The Five Hundred made sure that this was a break from the norm by really waking me up! Again I am putting these on the ones to see again list!
Next up were Groove/Sludge Metal quartet, Gutlocker (or Stomach Padlock as many in the know were calling them!!). Again they were a name that we had heard quite a bit about and were looking forward to seeing. They were groovy, they were sludgy, and front man Craig McBrearty’s vocals were terrifying (in a good way, of course). I don’t know about my guts being locked – the rumbling bass licks were enough to replace all the fibre in my diet in that department – oosh! Again one thing that was not lacking in their performance was energy – a running theme from just about every band over the weekend, and they had the entire room banging their heads good style. Very pleasing indeed!
Coming to us all the way from the wild North, Scotland to be more precise (you know, that place where wild Haggis roam the hills – Rick), were Dog Tired. They were a mix of the brutality of Death Metal with the riffs of good old-fashioned Thrash but also a thundering Groove which, brought together, quite simply makes battle music! It kind of made us want to paint our faces blue, grab a big mother of a sword and stand on a hill shouting FREEEDOMMMMMMMMMM!! They were bloody good. We got a bit of hair envy again though, as guitarist Luke James has a proper mane of Pantene hair which was incredibly flickable! Their whole set was fast paced and full of growl and we loved it! Who’d have thunk that two genres I don’t get on with usually (You’re on your own there Beth, I love Death and Thrash – Rick) could come together to make something pretty frikkin good! Bought the album, listened to it in the car on the way home! Their new album is out in September and it’s a beast, in fact it makes us a want a pet haggis!!
This may make me unpopular, so be warned. If you are a fan of doom, these guys are for you. For me, there is only one thing worse than doom, and that’s experimental doom. Bast are experimental doom. Whilst there is no denying that they are talented and competent musicians, and that they work well together as a group, I just don’t get it. I want to feel excited, like the rest of the weekend has built me up to be, but I just couldn’t get into a groove. Admittedly some of the songs were quicker paced than the sort of slow doom that Conan inflicted the night before, but I just couldn’t do the guttural screamed vocals, the melodies that were kind of smudged together, and the weird beats that were impossible to go nuts to. Sorry!
So, yeah, erm. Papa Shango. It wasn’t what we were expecting! I spent a good few minutes wondering if my Pepsi had been spiked, and if this was a very vivid hallucination! Rick was actually concerned he had overdosed on his medication! Papa Shango are a many many pieced group of complete nutters, who bring together a Day of the Dead-esque shaman, a rock band, and RaRa girls adorned with Day of the Dead make-up, because why not eh? Whilst musically Papa Steve, Papa Dale, Papa Ryan and Papa Barry would be just a normal, half decent rock band on their own, the addition of The Pappettes Shango, and Papa Shango himself, turns them into a very hallucinogenic experience, full of double entendre, crazy naughtiness and hundreds of props! They were such good fun, and most of the musicians, including Papa Shango, spent a lot of time out in the audience! Were they under-rehearsed with some of the change overs? Yes! Did they go completely over the top? Yes! Were they extremely silly? Yes! Did anyone care? Not one bit in the slightest! They were good, light-hearted Sunday afternoon madness and we loved it! If you love the thought of Papa Lazarou from The League of Gentlemen TV Series joining forces with The Rocky Horror Show then Papa Shango will be your bag. They were also a photographer’s dream because of all the vivid colours and beautiful make-up. Awesome!
After the half hour transportation to the lunatic asylum that had just happened, things got quickly back to normal for our penultimate band of the festival, with the entry of Desert Storm. Another local band, they brought a good mix of sludge and blues into their metal, and they did it very well. The room was full and getting back into the groove. There were definite nods to the old greats such as Sabbath and Zeppelin, but they were very current, and their performance notched up a level for me when there was suddenly a digeridoo type sound which took me aback for a moment – I was wondering who was playing it, then realised that it was actually a technique that vocalist Matt Ryan was using, which was similar to Tibetan throat singing, and was very mysterious and enticing, and gave the whole sound an added depth which was impressive and made them unique. They were a perfect balance of modern and classic, with some really great riffs and melodies, and toe tapping rhythms. I like this sort of stuff because it is clever, but not pretentious. Well done guys! We are Desert Storm converts!
Here we were at the final band, and it appeared it was going to be Groundhog Day. Once again, on paper, they were a good choice as they have a large following but they just didn’t do it for us. It was an anti-climax. They spent more than twice as long as any other band sound-checking, a large proportion of which was getting their Apple MacBook to work, only for it to stop working three songs in, when they stopped playing half way through a song because most of the song was on samples. Call me old fashioned, but if you rely that heavily on samples, and can’t play it live, don’t put it in. Whilst they did manage to carry on without it after, what I’m guessing was a quick set-list change, I, like a fair proportion of the crowd, had seen enough. I know this will again make me unpopular, but honesty is the best policy and I don’t do blowing smoke up people’s arses. If I reflect on them from a purely musical point of view, yes they could play their instruments well, and the front man did have an angry sort of charisma, and they are indeed slamming death metal, but without the samples it was just another death metal band. If you like death metal, you will love them – so definitely check them out. If you don’t, then don’t. That’s all I have to say.
And that was that. We took some last pictures, said our goodbyes, and headed off for our digs, via our new favourite food place, the Chinese restaurant a bit further down the road for take-two of the night before’s supper. It had been a great three days. We met some absolutely fab people and saw some really cracking bands. Our heartfelt thanks go out to the organisers for having us, and the great team that made the whole event run like clockwork. A huge shout out must go to the in-house sound guys at The Bullingdon, who were seasoned pros and were in control at every second – hats off to you chaps, a great job well done! Also to Mark Gibbs for being mad enough to attempt a three day festival, and to Greg Brown and our own Sheri Bicheno for making the chaos organised, and to the rest of the team for doing all the jobs that needed doing, and being genuinely fab people – we look forward to seeing you all again.
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