Slugfest 8 (Friday) - Abertillery, The Doll's House - 3rd July 2015 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Tuesday, 14 July 2015 03:00

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I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something about the eighth instalment of Slugfest, the ultimate free music festival, had me convinced that it would be the biggest, brashest and best weekend yet in the event's history. There was an electricity in the air, a bottling of lightning, an aligning of the planets, a magic set to be captured that can be anticipated yet never truly expected.

 

In hindsight, Slugfest 8 was simply incredible; the three day explosion of incendiary music, good natured naughtiness and quite simply the best people on the planet the most unlikely success story to those who don't 'get it'... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.....

 

Slugfest has wandered around looking for a place to rest its many heads in the past - not unlike a punk rock David Banner - but its now-permanent home, Abertillery's Doll's House, is as good a venue for a ballsy coming together of the tribes as any you'll find. With two floors, three stages, and lashings of awesomeness combined with that oft-mentioned welcome in the hillsides, this place and these people are second to none.

 

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With the excitement of what was to come barely being contained, a trip to Abertillery's Kickplate Gallery proved to be the ultimate apéritif. The gallery's month-long exhibition dedicated to the history of Slugfest was not just a labour of love, but also a celebration of something that will never be universally adored, yet echoes the sentiments of those that live on the fringes of society, blurring the lines of convention and forever offering an alternative viewpoint. This is counter pop culture and the exhibition, and those that fashioned it, perfectly captured the chaos, humour, and camaraderie that has shaped Slugfest.

 

I laughed at the varied ridiculousness of costumes from previous years that hung around like teasing, great memories; marvelled at the wealth of material preserved over the eight years, especially after having witnessed many of the beatings that sobriety has taken in that time by those in attendance; and got choked up at the hundreds of photographs that not only document the happiest of times, but also bring back memories of those that have been lost along the way. The walk back to the Doll's House was full of laughs and excitement, yes, but also with an added, acute sentimentality: it's always been there, but the nostalgia mixing with pride never as heady a mix as now.

 

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Gallini were named after a cheap brand of clothing purely because it meant that the band members could have their name on a T-shirt without having to go to the trouble of having them printed themselves. Like cockroaches in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, these fuckers always seem to make an appearance and with the brute force of the idiotic, quasi-legendary song, 'Ma Baker', tearing out of the PA, Slugfest 8 was officially upon us. Like Bill Cosby. But with slightly less drugs.

 

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First band proper, Bag Of Bones, had the unenviable task of kickstarting episode 8 of this fucked-up saga into life. These guys have been around for a long time - singer Scotty once fronted Johnny Hayward's '80s thrash band Gangland, fact fans - but they've never been better. The brand of hard rock peddled by these patrons of Pontypool Rock City is more straightforward than some of that which would follow over the weekend, but it has a bite that certainly leaves a mark. Swedish types might call this Street Metal, I call it pretty damn solid rock 'n' flippin' roll. Scotty sounds better than ever - much more impressive than when he had that multi-thumbed Uber Rocker struggling to string two bass notes together behind him - sounding not unlike former Gun singer Mark Rankin on songs like '4th of Whenever'.

 

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I knew little of Meat Hook prior to them taking to Stage 2 of The Doll's House. I expected them to be a gnarly punk outfit, I just never expected them to be as gnarly! The Birmingham three-piece fuse a well-worn punk aesthetic to some pretty ferocious metal, the resulting noise a punishing chimera that would sit nicely alongside the likes of Biohazard in your troubled mind. The riffs came thick and fast, then thicker and faster, and those whose heads were not nodding along to the savage guitar work had to have their pulses checked to make sure they were still alive.

 

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The buzz around Pizzatramp's set was almost at the same level as that around the soiled Tuppaware that the terror trio passed around mid-set; those who dared indulge in its tepid, sweaty contents not heard from since. This six-legged creature from Caldicot is equal parts mental and magnificent, with songs from their self-titled EP - the crazed 'Charlie Don't Surf', the similarly insane 'Wrecked and Decked on the 9:53' - spat out alongside newer stuff like the brilliant 'Crackula', the power ballad 'Chunderbus', and the essential 'Long Songs Are Shit', which lasted all of four seconds. With Exit_International's disbanding imminent, Pizzatramp are shoe-ins for the vacant 'Most Exciting Band in Wales' title.

 

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The chaotic festivities were interrupted not long after Beneath The Divine took to the stage, with officials from the Trade Descriptions Act responding to a report that former Cinderella bass player Tim Evans was actually smiling. Yes, Slugfest can bring happiness to even the gloomiest of bands. Forthcoming EP, 'Voice of the Deceiver', is as massive as the band members' appetites and the songs played from it, including the excellent 'Fire in Heaven', bode well for this band's immediate future.

 

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It's hard to imagine Piss Viper being a side-project of sorts, as was originally the case with this terrifyingly adept bunch of metalli-miscreants. This frenetic five-piece deals in dastardly, demon-smeared punked-up heavy metal that rattles the teeth, bruises the ears, bloodies the nose and induces horn-throwing and head-banging, frontman David Malpass speaking in tongues in accompaniment to blunt trauma in riff form. Piss Viper play Bloodstock next month and, on this showing, it will not be the only major metal festival that they lay waste to.

 

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If the aim of Slugfest 8 was to mix things up, band-wise, more than ever before then that aim was true. How could Bristol's Radio Nasties ever hope to follow the brutality of what came before them, with their timeless rock 'n' roll and stray cat strut? Well, follow it they did, and in some style too. As temperatures reached Lauda face level, these three guys brought the cool, somehow pulling off the '50s B-movie juvenile delinquent look, complete with leather bike jackets, as everyone else in the room contemplated a dip in Quimtillery Lakes to cool off. A crowd dance-off followed, my Eighties dance moves somehow usurped by a Sick Livered recreation of Shakey's finest shapes, the soundtrack to it all one of the most surprising success stories in Slugfest history.

 

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It should surprise no-one, however, when I write of Wonk Unit absolutely owning Slugfest 8's opening night. Alex and his cocksure cast of wonkers have become almost adopted sons of these parts and, after a recent local show resulted in a bare-chested orgy of man-on-man action, the next logical step was full-on male nudity: I looked around all four musk-soured corners of The Doll's House at one point during Wonk Unit's stupendous set and knew exactly how one of those German goo girls must have felt, surrounded by middle-aged men shorn of clothing and morals. Beloved songs were welcomed like old, slightly simple friends; 'Go Easy', 'Nan', 'Lewisham' and 'Kings Road Sporting Heroes' ejaculated into the faces of a crowd ready to sing every word of 'Horses', 'Plasterer' and 'Je M'appelle Alex'. The set peaked with 'Elbows', but there was still enough time for a legion of sweat-wet bodies to join the band in the stage area for 'Rambo', the set's end a proper sausagefest. Well, chipolata.....

 

Clammy hand on heart, I had witnessed the best ever Friday night in Slugfest history, the gauntlet thrown down to the always-fantastic Saturday and the supposedly-subtle Sunday, the message quite clear - "Beat that!"

 

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[Live photo high fives to the awesome Ashlea Matthews: https://www.facebook.com/AshleaBeaPhotography]

 

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