With one of the best line-ups I have ever seen for any festival, Highwire Daze decided to travel across the country to a little town called Elizabeth, NJ to check out this year’s edition of Hellfest. After clearing up something involving a “revolving pass,” Highwire Daze was allowed in to do what we came to New Jersey for – write about bands! During the first two hours of the day, some kid jumped off the balcony, breaking his back and both legs. Was this a sign of bigger disasters to come? Other than that, the first day went off without too many problems.
The first band to play on the main stage was Draw Blood from Boston, who presented to the audience an extremely moshworthy set early on in the day. Their latest EP is entitled The Calm Before The Storm, available on the infamous Trash Art record label. There was nothing calm about the Draw Blood set, but the hardcore dancing and sheer intensity of the band was definitely a pre-cursor of brutal things to come for this year’s Hellfest. While their songs are short and to the point, there is something about this band that can easily break away from defining genre clichés. Perhaps it’s the dynamics in their music or the great tunes such as From Fanatic To Fool. Expect to hear from this band again in the future.
Next up on the main stage was All Else Failed, a band whose introduction was so intense, that lead vocalist Luke Muir fell off the stage and into the audience at the very start of the show. Keeping up the intensity at such as early hour, All Else Failed sent the mosh well into overdrive with their powerful brand of compelling hardcore. Based out of Philadelphia, PA, the band performed songs from their soon to be released Abacus CD entitled This Never Happened. Their set was a mighty assault to the senses, sending the venue into a chaotic rage. A mighty show of strength from a band destined to break into the hardcore elite.
Currently on tour with Aloveforenemies, Anterrabae made an appearance at Hellfest and presented a thrilling and rambunctious set. While the band lands squarely in the hardcore category, there is quite a lot going on within their sonic musical soundscapes. Breakdowns were combined with moments of sheer musical dynamics that rang throughout the Hot Topic side stage area. And while they are definitely a cut above what is normally expected from the genre, this fact certainly did not stop the audience from dog piling vocalist Neal Carter at every given opportunity. The powerful set included How Joey Got His Groove Back, Dressed To Thrill, and Ready Set Explode. Their CD is entitled Shakedown Tonight and it’s available from Triple Crown Records.
One of Drive Thru Records latest signings is Adelphi from Baltimore, MD. Not hardcore in the least, Adelphi play extremely catchy songs that fans of New Found Glory or the Starting Line would really enjoy. The mosh dancers were long gone, replaced by those who prefer their music with more melody and less violence. There were a lot of girls by the stage who seemed to appreciate not having to worry about some guy knocking her in the head while flying off the stage. The emo pop songs of Adelphi were instantly memorable, especially Attention, a tune which may be found on the Pure Volume website. Even at a hardcore fest, Adelphi’s performance soared and left a lasting impression on those who ventured out of the pit to check them out.
The first band I was to see perform on the small Dinosaur Stage, Calico System were in full force, ripping the area to shreds. The band started out playing to a near empty room, yet managed to draw the crowd in with their aggressive brand of emo-core. Hailing from St Louis, MO, the band has been on tour with Glasseater and Hawthorne Heights, with Hellfest marking one of the first stops. Performing songs from their Eulogy release The Duplicated Memory as well as new material, Calico System’s intensive music could appeal to both the hardcore and emo kids. A highly effective show from a band that is more than able to present the listener with a brilliantly diverse, yet always heavy sound. Those into Thursday and Thrice should check out what Calico System has to offer.
While Glasseater and Calico System were touring together, the bands were playing at opposite ends of the building, with these Florida-based musicians taking over the Hot Topic stage. The new Glasseater album Everything Is Beautiful When You Don’t Look Down has a highly commercial, polished sound and was produced by James Paul Wisner. Live, the band remains even truer to their hardcore roots, rocking out and causing a slam pit with tunes such as Medicine and Nonsense To You, Everything To Us. Even their potential hit single Greetings Goodbye had a much harder edge to it when performed in front of an enthusiastic audience. Glasseater has emerged as a force to be reckoned with and are sure to break through with their spirited live performance and impressive recordings.
Immediately following Glasseater on the Hot Topic stage was Hawthorne Heights from Dayton, Ohio. Since their recent tour with Alexisonfire and Silverstein, their Victory Records release has seen the light of day, and many in the audience were singing along to songs such as Ohio Is For Lovers and Niki FM. Having the distinction of possessing three guitar players, the sound emitting from Hawthorne Heights is filled with dynamics. One of the few bands at Hellfest to feature quieter passages amongst the hardcore madness, these guys really won over the crowd with their highly impassioned set. Be sure to check out their new album The Silence In Black And White and see what the commotion is all about. Expect these guys to be as big as Taking Back Sunday and Thursday by this time next year.
Fired up from their recent tour dates with Morbid Angel and Satyricon, Premonitions Of War came blasting through the Rexplex with a mighty ferocity. Based out of Toledo, Ohio, these guys proceeded to devastate the premises with their intensive brand of metallic hardcore. New vocalist Nate Johnson makes a formidable presence, tearing into the material with the relentlessness of a rabid pit bull. These guys are extremely brutal and had an out of control pit breaking out in no time. Highlights of their fierce set included Black Den, Layover, and The True Face Of Panic. Their Victory Records debut Left In Kowloon was produced by Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal and Morbid Angel fame, and POW has a new split coming out with Burnt By The Sun any day now. A fantastic set that resonated through the venue long after the band left the stage.
Back to the Dinosaur stage, where Saving Throw was presenting a dynamic set of driving hardcore. With an album entitled Never Race With Time available through Blatherskythe Records, these Syracuse, NY guys raised the roof with an intensive set. Songs that stood out included White Out, My Reward, and To Friends. From impassioned vocals to a powerhouse wall of crankin’ sound, the band had a nice pit going in no time. One of the most underrated hardcore outfits on the East Coast, Saving Throw never fail to put on an impressive live show and are not to be missed.
Now over to the main stage, where Spitalfield from Chicago were in the midst of entertaining the Hellfest masses. The entire day had been filled with hardcore and pits of death and destruction, so it was nice to see a melodic band like Spitalfield making an impact. Known for their melodic, infectious pop songs, Spitalfield attracted a good number of people with their winning collection of tunes. Even a lot of the hardcore kids could appreciate a good pop rock song, and tunes such as Those Days You Felt Alive and Make My Heart Attack rang throughout the room. An exciting set from a band destined to go places. Be sure to check out their current CD Remember Right Now, available on Victory Records.
Once the Massachusetts based band Shadows Fall hit the main stage, a wave of utter chaos hit the room. There were fans jumping off the stage and causing such a rabid commotion, even members of the band were remarking how completely out of control the entire situation was. But the music of Shadows Fall has always been inspiring and filled with a naked aggression, so it’s little wonder that the audience was showing their utmost appreciation. In addition to playing old favorites, the band introduced several new songs from their forthcoming Century Media album The War Within. Vocalist Brian Fair delivered the lyrics with a fiery magnetism, and swung the microphone and his dreadlocks wildly throughout the set. The musicianship of Shadows Fall is undeniably first rate. Expect these guys to clean up with their new release and shows as powerful as the one delivered at Hellfest!
One band who did not look the least bit excited to be at Hellfest was The Ataris. Wandering onstage in the main area, The Ataris performed a lackluster set to a half empty room of the mostly curious and downright apathetic. While there were other non-hardcore bands that put on impressive sets throughout the day, The Ataris didn’t even appear to try. There was some punk dancing in the pit and the lead vocalist did encourage everyone to stay and see the legendary Misfits. The band even started to lighten up and delivered a somewhat passable set at the end, but it was too little, too late – and a rather dismal end to the first day of Hellfest.
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DAY TWO OF HELLFEST: Including Comeback Kid, Figure Four, Underoath and more...