By Ashley Bailey and Lauren Brooks (and credit to Danielle Partis for the first 4 lines)
It is theorized that all life on Earth evolved from something as simple as a single-celled organism through a long and complex process. The idea that everything starts off tiny and almost insignificant, and gradually becomes something more advanced is one that could be applied to any development; Sunkfest being no exception. When Sunkfest was created in 2007 it featured one band and around fifty guests; this year featured twelve bands and four times as many guests, and there is also talk that Sunkfest 2012 could be a two-day event. It seems that with every iteration Sunkfest is slowly becoming bigger, heavier and more likely to one day become an underground Mecca. Part of the reason for its success is the taking of the most important elements of a festival – the all-important booze, some neck-shredding band performances and the incredible social vibe, and slotting it into somewhere that feels a great deal more intimate and less like it was orchestrated by a capitalist shill.
We arrived at Stray Road shortly before the first act was scheduled to be on stage, and immediately upon arriving there was already a great laid-back atmosphere, and a decent number of people had turned up. This annual event being, in all probability, the only couple of days in the year when the rural, sleepy and secluded Sunk Island is invaded by a large motley crew of the stud-covered, the corset-clad and the rock-booted. Even the God of Storms, Set, was seemingly being co-operative for it was a mild day with little chance of rain. A variety of songs by artists such as Heaven + Hell, Steel Panther, Depeche Mode, Pantera and Faith No More were blasted through the speakers before and in between acts, which provided the perfect accompaniment to heavy alcohol consumption.
Opening proceedings was Half Deaf Clatch, otherwise better known as Battalion guitarist Andrew McLatchie (but more on that later). Andrew’s set provided a light and laid back start to the festival as the revellers sat and soaked up the sun, downing beer by the gallon and listening to the delta blues maestro. The self attributed description of Half Deaf Clatch is ‘Slide Stomp Resonator Blues’ which couldn’t have been more apt, as that’s exactly what it was. He utilized the slide guitar (or bottleneck) technique, which he played on a resonator guitar and was accompanied by the use of a stompbox. Andrew treated the crowd to five Mississippi inspired tracks, including one about rain which he introduced by saying “it’s not going to rain and if it does it is not my fault”, and another he dedicated to Matt Walker (the drummer from Battalions) stating that “he was on his tractor” – or tra’or because we are Yorkshire. The set showcased a good vocal range and refreshing tunes that left the audience asking for more, and the great spirit of Sunkfest wasn’t dampened in the slightest by minor stompbox related issues.
Second to take to the stage, Lancashire’s traditional metal/thrash quintet Nitronein at first struggled to set up the unruly bass. Once this initial problem was sorted, however, their set commenced with a goliath instrumental intro track, which included some awesomely technical guitarwork from Sam. Next played were Embrace the Storm and The Hunted which comprised of some extremely well executed screams from vocalist Adam, aka Hendy, intermingled with vocals that reminded me of Serj Tankian’s. Not the only hark to System of a Down, I thought Phil’s bass also contained elements of their style. I also found that Nitronein employed some skilful changes of pace led by Chris’ drumwork, keeping the audience engaged as the music switched from a steady speed to break-neck pace. Their set continued with three more full songs, thrashy The Martyred, the thundering My Abuser and catchy Burn the Fucking Witch, coming to an end with a final instrumental, which I felt was a nice finishing touch. Overall, I thought this band was impressive, and loved their traditional metal style with elements of speed metal and alt metal. The band, in particular Hendy, captivated the audience with some lively interaction, and a set as strong as steel. Nitronein are a band that I will watch out for in future, like a voyeuristic clairvoyant.
Righteous Indignation were next on the bill, bringing their Hull-grown hardcore to the stage. The band also brought with them the first headbanger of the event, as this dedicated individual let hell loose. Eventually by the time of second song No Son of Mine more revellers had ventured to the front, drawn in by vocalist Joe’s none too subtle enticement – “why the fuck is everyone sat down at a festival?” Continuing with the aggression of a starving tarantula, RI went into strong drum and bass (Dan and Craig respectively) led Heads Will Roll, a catchy track that engaged the crowd. By the time of Dead Man’s Shoes and Nobody’s and Somebody’s Righteous had attracted a fairly large crowd, making them the first band of the evening to do so. Righteous Boogie was vastly different compared to their earlier tracks, as it had a distinct 80’s Thrash sound – particularly reminiscent of Anthrax. They managed to marry their intense hardcore/thrash side with a decidedly funk sound, and the end result was as infectious as the Plague of Athens and twice as devastating. With a technical solo from guitarist Sam and flowing vocals from Joe this was probably my favourite Righteous song played. Next up was Front Row Tickets to the End of the World, which succeeded in coaxing the crowd into chanting along during the bass led bridge. The final song of the set, Condemned and Righteous, was unarguably their heaviest featuring explosive drum work, sharp bass, raging guitars and booming vocals. During the song bassist Craig left the comfort of the stage and went to play directly to the wild crowd that had gathered, literally encompassing Righteous Indignation’s in your face attitude.
Hard rock band Shotgun Effect were the last band to take to the stage before an impromptu break due to technical faults during SE’s set i.e. issues with vocal output (tinny and quiet). They introduced themselves by stating: “we probably sound like ABBA compared to previous bands”. Whilst anyone unfortunate enough to follow Righteous would probably struggle to top their act, Shotgun Effect brought with them some well honed hard rock. Whilst guitarist Martin is officially the lead vocalist, they were a three piece outfit and were unusual in that all of the members performed vocals at some point in their set; with bassist Jaymes performing backing vocals and drummer Richard even taking lead on closing song I Dream of You. As I mentioned previously Martin’s vocals were hampered by PA difficulties so it did detract from the effect slightly – though it wasn’t entirely detrimental to their performance as a whole. Songs included Heart Attack and Waster!These two songswere characterised by a punk ethosand featured strong, powerful guitar riffs, crisp bass riffs and ominously clashing cymbals. Also on the list wasthe unexpectedly more melodic Headfuck and Lone Star State introduced by Jaymes who stated that – “You sound like a pissed audience but then I probably sound like a pissed bassist”. Shotgun Effect performed an amalgamation of the best of the hard rock and punk genres, and they pulled this off remarkably well. They lacked the attitude to match their music, as aside from the joking banter with the crowd and Jaymes coming to play on ground level, they had a rather placid stage presence. Still, after their final song I was gifted several cans of Strongbow by Jaymes, which marks them up in my book – and they were already pretty high up.
After Shotgun Effect’s set finished Chunk announced that there would bea short break whilst the sound engineer attempted to solve the audio issues. This was a welcome announcement for at this point a free buffet had been dished up and I was so ravenously hungry that I would even have eaten Casu Marzu given half the chance, and judging from the dense mass of bodies which accumulated around the table, this was the case for everyone.