Guilfest - Stoke Park, Guildford - 18th, 19th & 20th July 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Ross Welford   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 04:00

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Guilfest is a weird and wonderful experience for anyone that likes Punk and Metal. Forget your full on experiences of Punk weekenders in Butlins, forget the 100,000 people that descend for Download or Sonisphere and forget the Hyde Park corporate weekends. This place turns into a field of absolutely anything goes for one weekend (after an absence of two years - this ain't no money making scheme).
 
Sure, you can sit and watch Punk all weekend but when bands such as The Human League, Boomtown Rats, Space, Boney M, Miss Dynamite and, ahem, Ashley Roberts, plus other 'known' pop and dance acts are around a mere few hundred yards away you'd be missing the point of the chilled-out nature of this place.

 

So while you'd expect the Mohawks and the tattooed necks to be in one place only, don't be surprised to see them (and their families) checking out The Enemy or The Sugar Hill Gang and vice versa. Where else is a young teen going to be able to check out hardcore metal without their Mother worrying all night? And not every teenage son and daughter will want to check out yesterday's 'legends' with Dad -  It's all a great exposure to an often unlikely fanbase... and with over 60 rock, ska, punk and metal bands alone, there's plenty to watch.

 

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Friday

 

So Friday starts us off and due to work, it's an early evening start - I've seemingly missed no one I massively would have wanted to see so I grab a beer and stand in the blistering evening sun as The Fun Lovin Criminals blast out of the blocks on the main stage. Still looking sharp, still sounding good and seemingly as pissed as the crowd watching them, they swear their way through 'We The Three' and 'The King Of New York' before I head to the Vive Le Rock stage where I catch the two last songs of The Vibrators who are kicking ass in a 1/2 full tent - It's soooooo hot in here that many sit outside and choose the fresher (cooler) air to listen to the band from. The band sound good and many smiling and sweating bodies emerge from the crowd as they finish their set.

 

The heat is a killer and on the second stage, purely by accident, I catch a dance band from Bristol called The Other Tribe - maybe it's the heat but there was just something about this lot that caught the moment: think The Beloved from back in the day and you'd be close. What was meant to be a quick 10 minute look and chill turned into watching pretty much their whole set so Chelsea got overlooked (I know, I can hear you groaning and shaking your heads in disappointment at me as you read this) but I did get to see them perform 'Last Drink' and 'Right To Work' for a full crowd that seemed more than happy with the band. That's festivals for you - plans go awry sometimes.

 

Welsh band The Blackout get my attention next in The Big Cheese tent and FUCK ME! what a start - Bang! Serious musical chops burst from the speakers as one of the two singers bursts from the stage to run rabid through the crowd and engage in high end running and vocals to impress all those watching agog at the madness. With the heat being intense, the crowds don't come in the tent until they hear the songs and within 5 minutes of their blistering opening, the crowd has multiplied. This is modern metal - like or not - and the youth of today are lapping it up as the band run through all they have including a hard hitting 'This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things'. Musically this band are spot on and in today's market, they'll do well - I just still don't get the point of two singers as one always seems to end up being the 'Bez of rock music'. And a special mention to their request "Every bloke take your top off.....and every girl over 18, take your bottoms off"  - Who says we've learned nothing from The Lostprophets. As quality an introduction to The Blackout as you can get.

 

Mere seconds away Sham 69 - the original line-up - are playing to a rammed tent. Wrinklier yet still as vitriolic, they smash through their classics to make you realise (if you didn't already) that this band deserve the plaudits. They play exactly what you want and need to hear with 'Questions And Answers' getting 'dedicated' to the current Russian situation before they explode into their version of the classic 'White Riot', which makes the already happy crowd just grin, dance and rock to another level. They might not get the commercial accolades of their 'higher' comrades but without doubt you can see and tell - especially on tonight's showing - that Sham 69 are every bit as important to UK punk than any of them.

 

And as The Boomtown Rats play me out with 'Rat Trap' and a John Lee Hooker cover from the main stage, the promised rain starts to trickle.....

 

Not a bad intro to Guilfest.....

 

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Saturday

 

Saturday is hot. Again. For all the talk of thunder and downpours of the apocalypse, it's simply muggy and blisteringly hot. Today should be good with Kool & The Gang and Sam Bailey headlining and, as tempting as that is, rock lovers are probably more likely to want to see Soulfly and The Buzzcocks.

 

Starting the day off with a beer (obviously - who doesn't want to pay £4.50 for a cardboard pint of Tuborg) and after witnessing the atrocious start of Miss Dynamite (tee-hee) we head off to see Black Futures. This is the band that almost hit it big as Subsource but for whatever reasons have changed their name? They still sound as ferocious live and the Pendulum, Prodigy and current era Korn comparisons are not only impossible to ignore but are a compliment to just how good this band are. 'My Chemical' spills out across the tent and this band are giving one of the best sound systems I've heard in a long time some serious food for thought. They play a rip-snorting cover of The Prodigy's 'Poison' which sends the crowd mental (including a watching and smiling Max Cavalera out front with the rest of us) before they introduce a new track - written only that week ('Force Of Nature' ?) - and just like the rest of their set, it simply exudes energy, force, power and that ability to unite dance and rock. If you ever get a chance to see this band play live, simply go.

 

Another quick beer is needed as The Farm blast out from across the main stage and as the nectar flows, I fancy taking a look at a band I'd not heard of, Servers. All I knew is that one or more members were in GU Medicine and Sunlounger beforehand and I liked the promo blurb - not always a true indicator. Yes, it's still bloody hot and the black tent is sweltering but from the outset of pummeling drums and droning guitars, I know I've made a good choice. This band sound tight - this is proper metal and rock, you can give me your dance and dub and ska and funk metal but THIS is what it's all about. Clutch meets Biffy Clyro were my instant thoughts - the heaviness of Clutch but less doomy and ALWAYS a melody underneath the HUGE wall of sound they're creating. I like it when a band I've no expectations of simply pull me in to want and need more. The epic 'Save Me From Myself', the catchy and gloomy 'King Things' and the single 'Universe And Supernovas' are belting tunes that deserve to be heard by you lot reading this, and despite the relatively small crowd, the band put on easily one of the best performances of the weekend that I'll see and, for a trio, these boys make an impressive statement - expect to hear more (CD review coming soon) and in their own environment, away from the early evening, short festival set, I'm sure this band can offer even more. Impressive.

 

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A quick note when playing a festival to all bands - put your band name on the drums! The amount of people that I saw come in and liked stuff with no idea who the band were was quite high. Some people need feeding like sheep......feed 'em, they're customers after all so make sure they buy.

 

A small walk and The Bermondsey Joyriders are on and they give you exactly what you want. Another smaller than anticipated crowd hear the band's quality, with stand out tracks 'Who R Ya', 'Brian Jones' and 'Johnny Thunders Was A Human Being' stamping their authority down and leaving the crowd happy. It's simple and it works.

 

I came here three years ago and the tent for The Sex Pistols Experience was bulging at the seams - today it's the same story. I stay for 'Seventeen', 'New York', 'EMI' and 'Bodies' before my brain kicks in. I KNOW how important the Pistols were & are - I'm a fan and those songs still sound immense - but when a tribute act gets this much attention when others don't even get a 1/4 full tent it's a shame so I vote with my feet (this goes for tomorrow's tribute band The Ramonas too).

 

The Urban Voodoo Machine are up next and a decent enough crowd arrive but one of only two delays all weekend interrupt my plans so I just get to see the start of their Dusk Til Dawn proceedings and drift off for a beer and chill before Soulfly.

 

Now I have to say, I'm not a massive Soulfly fan - nor Sepultura for that matter - and the crowd was smaller than I'd expected, especially after getting very good reviews at Hyde Park amongst other places recently, but they needed to be seen. They hit the stage hard with 'Blood, Fire, War, Hate' shaking the foundations and quickly follow it up with 'Refuse/Resist', which instantly whipped up a massive circle pit as the band took no prisoners from the very beginning. It's hard not to be entertained and enthralled by the power a heavy metal band on form delivers and Soulfy certain know what they're doing on this performance. I'll admit it was more of a curiosity to see this band live than anything else and I'm glad I have, but to these eyes and ears, they were blown away by others - especially the following day as it turned out - but I'm sure there were fans there that would wholeheartedly disagree with me.  

 

Done.

 

Another hot day in the weekend sun over as Kool & The Gang play me to the train station with a seemingly endless version of 'Get Down On It'.....

 

(I missed The Buzzcocks set on the other stage but after a quick scout around it seems that a 15 track setlist of near perfect pop-punk was reported and witnessed by a large crowd - seems that they do still turn up for non tribute acts)

 

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Sunday

 

I start the day half way through (nothing to do with avoiding both Shane Richie and the Preludes or Katrina & The Waves though...) and head straight to Vive Le Rock to witness New Town Kings, a 9 piece ska collective and, to be honest, they do exactly what you'd expect them to with the crowd quite happily singing and bouncing around without a care in the world. It's not doing it for me though so I bounce out and take a quick look at Gnarwolves from Brighton - described in the press as one of the most exciting bands in British Punk. They certainly lay it down hard and although that description may be a tad excessive, there's no doubt the passion and anger that spills forth (the drummer is hitting the drums with such ferocity that he's blatantly not been laid in a while or needs a serious wank - I fear for his next girlfriend). There's definitely a hint of melody lying low underneath the aggression and songs such as 'History Is Bunk' and 'Coffee' (from their £2.50 debut EP CRU) are certainly not pop punk Kerrang! songs - there's more than a hint of '90s alt rock in there too.

 

In the ACM tent (this is the Academy Of Contemporary Arts tent which I've not really visited yet - Roni Size headlined last night) and witness the last droppings of Hanshotfirst which without too much effort, sound like The Charlatans crossed with Oasis - a shockingly low turn out for a band that certainly made a decent noise. I catch The Correspondents on the second stage, who are blurting out a weird and wonderful party atmosphere via a mix of dance, pop and synth tunes to an ever growing audience that are hearing their Pied Piperesque tunes.

 

And with beer in hand I start to think "Big Beards - trying to make ugly people cool since 2013." What's that all about? And along with teens with pulled-up white tube socks, I realise that age is not on my side.......

 

So I do what any self respecting adult would do - I go and watch Itch. A rap, beats poet that used to be in the punk band The King Blues. Now this is weird. Seriously weird. Whilst the political rap of main man Itch gets (rightly so) the attention from the media, it's his keyboard/mixer/band accomplice that get's everybody talking. With a mask that can only be described as a mix of a deformed small boy and an alien...crying, he doesn't miss a beat. The fact one chap walked in, looked at me, then the stage and said to me "I can't watch this, I'll have nightmares.......but it sounds great," should sum it all up!

 

I catch the vibe in the other tent where The Skints are throwing out their ska/reggae/rock/pop hybrid to a packed out crowd and they're sounding great but I need to Feed The Rhino so walk into a small crowd waiting for the bruisers to arrive whilst mellow dance music softly plays over the PA..........the irony.

 

I first caught this lot supporting Gallows last year in Brighton and was eagerly awaiting the storm they'd bring. Despite the (again) small crowd, the band waste no time in pummeling you into the ground with their ferocious display of power. Songs such as the mosh-tastic 'Give Up', 'Tides', 'Revelation Not Revolution' and a brilliant new song all get manically aired with both singer and guitarist leaving the stage to perform amongst the masses in the middle of the tent (whilst also giving praise to their friends The Skints). It's at times like this you realise what effect this must have on a young teenager - you don't see this on TV, you can't feel it through the internet but to be here, amongst the band who are simply giving their all must be dazzling to the youth and non-believers. It certainly is a show worth the entrance fee...and one that sets us up nicely for headline act Gallows that they precede.

 

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I'd had a Ruts Vs Gallows argument going on in my head all weekend and felt that maybe starting with Gallows to leave for The Ruts DC would do neither full justice so I decide to go with Ruts DC and lo and behold.....they're late on and I immediately turn away to see the Watford bruisers from the start and, after only one song, Wade MacNeil places the mic in the middle of the tent, high fives a young lad in a wheelchair who must have thought his wishes had came true and proceeds to whip up a circle pit and general manic moshing all around them to their classic song 'Misery' as him and his new friend simply collect the smiles and sweat from all gathered. It's a sight to behold that's for sure. 'Everybody Loves You When You're Dead', 'Wristslitter' and 'Austere' all follow in typically loud fashion and the band are on fine form, not missing a beat. And then comes something you probably would never associate with Gallows: a stunning young lady with a voice to match appears on stage (Helena from Dios Mio to be precise) and as the band launch into the duet of 'Chains' alongside her, you realise that this band are more than the one trick ponies people often pigeonhole them as - it's a stunning display of confidence and ability and after a quick rant 'at some prick' in the audience who gets a verbal slaying from Wade, 'Cult Of Mary', 'True Colours' and 'Belly Of The Shark' all get aired and all sound like a band on top, top form. Feed The Rhino join Gallows onstage/in crowd for a blistering finale of 'Orchestra Of Wolves' - Brutal.

 

I quickly run to see the delayed Ruts DC perform 'In The Cold' before a quick technical glitch tells the story of how that very guitar was used to write 'Babylon's Burning'... but the slow tempo was exactly what I didn't want but I give them their chance with 'Love In Vain' and 'Something That I Said' both sounding great to me and the disappointingly low turn out (to be fair, loads are sat outside listening) but after an evening of hard rock, I knew I'd feel this way - hardly their fault.

 

Still hot and sweaty from the heat and what I'd just witnessed, I walk out to the fresh air to go home.......yet a Gallows sounding noise emits from the ACM stage and I rush in to hear the last song from Welsh band En Garde - 'One Day I Wanna Be Famous' - and it's like a bonus track at the end of an LP - unexpected and a treat. I'll be checking them out for sure.

 

So then finally, it's now time to trawl home and as a quite breathtaking, visually stunning Human League play me out with 'Listen To The Voices', I rejoice and smile to myself that there's still places that love music for what it is, not simply for the ££££££££s.

 

Congrats to Guilfest.

 

[Photos by Dijana at DVision Images]