Wotsit Called Fest 2017
Date: 29th – 30th September
Venue: Palace, Hastings
Last year, Toxic Wotsit promotions branched further than booking the occasional gig in their hometown of Hastings to bring a DIY punk rock community in the United Kingdom together for a much bigger event on the south coast, Wotsit Called Fest. After the success of the inaugural year, Toxic Wotsit decided it was more beneficial to focus more on the festival and less on the one-off shows, so they ended on a high by booking The Roughneck Riot as the last standalone gig, and put all efforts into Wotsit Called Fest 2017.
Due to the sad closure of The Tubman, a new venue had to be found for the second year; however, keeping things local to Hastings, with the options of Flairz and The Carlisle as expected possible new homes, Palace was the surprise new venue. Formerly known as a regular gig venue as The Pig In Paradise, Palace has mostly been considered a bar and food outlet in recent years, so it was always going to be intriguing how this event might turn out.
What is also new is that Wotsit Called Fest is set over two days, instead of the initial one-day test last year, this means more bands rising from the original seven, up to a now fourteen acts; Including Nosebleed, who impressed massively last year, and The Restarts as Headliners for each day.
This year we were eased into Wotsit Called Fest, which kicked off at the respectable time of 8:30 on Friday evening. The queries of how the venue might be set up were answered quickly; the back room of Palace has been shaped differently over the years, from having a small stage in the corner, to a weird tiki bar. All of that had been stripped back to find a large stage along the back wall, leaving plenty of room for at least 100 or so people to pack the venue out.
It didn’t take long for the room to fill as soon as Brighton’s Rotten Foxes hit the stage. The best way to describe this so-called “deathpunk” act is basically if cock-rock had a punk equivalent. The full frontal attitude, the tighter than tight shorts and vests, the atmosphere was rather similar. Musically, Rotten Foxes were far more aggressive and obnoxious, right in your face with shouting vocals. The riffs and rhythms were rather catchy and the topics were quite amusing; including a track about wrestling which I think was called ‘Over The Rope’. As it was the first act the crowd was rather stagnant, mostly applauding after each song and doing not a lot else, though at the end of the performance Rotten Foxes received a deafening roar of appreciation and a lot of praise. Not a bad opening to the weekend. (6.5)
Rock n roll trio, Knocksville followed up with what is essentially punk with a rockabilly backbone. Now I’m not a fan of rockabilly, but the Eastbourne lads packed far more punch than I was expecting, they had a lot more energy, making them far more entertaining to watch. For starters, there was a huge double bass completely covered in stickers, which Jason Walder liked to spin around, sit on, stand on, all sorts to grab your attention. The drummer, Chris Cooper also liked to show off by spinning his sticks between unleashing intricate beats. The riffs were pretty hard-hitting for most of the set, but Knocksville unleashed the occasional skank-worthy hit that was reminiscent of Sublime in the upstroke rhythms. We also had a cover of ‘Tainted Love’, in which several people in the filled up room sang along to nicely. This was certainly a captivating set and an awesome first impression of the band. (7.5)
The Roughneck Riot show I mentioned earlier was the last time Hastings folk punks, Matilda’s Scoundrels, played their hometown, which was eight months prior to this event. Another feat is in that time, the sextet unleashed their debut album, ‘As The Tides Turn‘, so this was considered a hometown release show for the album. As expected most of the setlist was dominated by material from the new release; opening with the politically charged ‘Shackles and Bones’, the Scoundrels hyped the crowd quickly and pulled out other new favourites such as ‘Bow To The Powers,’ ‘Take It To The Streets’, ‘Godforsaken Sea’ and their awesomely epic album closer ‘Into The Fire’. All of which had a great reaction, awesome singalongs, dancing, people jumping on each other’s shoulders, human pyramids and much more silly antics. The highlight, of course, came from the requested performance of fan favourite, ‘Pissheads Anthem’, in which the entire room was singing the usual “Buy Me Whiskey, Buy Me Beer” lyrics with great aplomb. (8)
After an impressive set at Wotsit Called Fest last year, and stealing the show (in my opinion) at Boomtown this year, Leeds punks, Nosebleed was definitely near the top of my list of bands to be excited about this year. Quite frankly the suited and booted musicians didn’t disappoint as they burst straight into their popular hit, ‘Time & Time Again’. The trio delivered waves of hard-hitting lo-fi rock n roll; unleashed a barrage of crunchy riffs and hooking melodies. This caused plenty of people to dance and rock out while singing along.
Things got rowdier as soon as the Nosebleed three took off the blazers and pulled out ‘Secret’; guitarist Eliott Verity came out into the crowd and was swiftly followed by bassist, Ben Hannah, in which both proceeded to perform surrounded by this wild audience who moshed around crowd surfed around them. At one point while the guitarists were in the crowd, the fans invaded the stage and danced around the drummer, Dicky Riddums; it was a beautiful sight to witness, and you could see how happy this crowd reaction made the band. After a while, the band returned to the stage, which only allowed more carnage on the dancefloor, more stage dives, and more singing along. This was a perfect way to end the night and day one of Wotsit Called Fest; Nosebleed continues to impress and create some of the sweatiest performances I’ve seen. (9)
Day two of Wotsit Called Fest was sponsored by Friday night’s hangovers, that was the general mood early on. Luckly for those sufferers, local skiffle act, Cheap Dates kicked off the day with some chirpy tunes performed with a washboard as a percussion instrument and a box with a string and stick as a bass guitar, it was very DIY ethics. The performance was all acoustic sounding, with an uplifting atmosphere. One track was humorously about cunnilingus, call ‘Let Me Teach You How To Eat’, which was followed shortly after with a cover of ‘So What’ by Anti-Nowhere League. This was an easy-going set, which was just what the rather small, haggard early crowd needed to kick their day off with. (6)
The Dead Anyways followed suit with some melodic punk vibes, packing a bit more “oomph” into their performance compared to the openers, but still toned down enough that it was still quite light in contrast to what was to follow much later. The performance was laced with catchy riffs and hooking vocal melodies. Most tracks had a simple and steady double snare beat, apart from one song which the band admitted was a blatant Bad Religion rip-off; it was a bit more up-tempo and a lot more skate punk esque. Out of all the songs, that one was probably my favourite, there definitely needed to be a few more faster songs to really perk up the crowd. The banter was there, and even singing guitarist Dave Cullern joked he was feeling the hungover strain and couldn’t wait for the set to be over. This was a “nice” set, for an early afternoon performance the relaxed mood was expected from both the band and the crowd. (6.5)
Following two rather calmer performances, someone had certainly given Oldham punks, The Crash Mats some caffeine as they were bouncier than a child on sugar. “YAY, IT’S THE CRASH MATS” shouted Danny Barrett with pure excitement, as the trio performed a set of gritty punk rock anthems with some skank-worthy segments. As great as the banter was for The Dead Anyways, it was nothing compared to the waves of humor thrown at us by The Crash Mats; from talking about the local Greggs to chippy Fridays and Oldham Athletic. Not only that but a song about not wanting to go to grandma’s house is now my second favourite song about a grandparent. I think the highlight came from the amazing cover of the tv theme tune of ‘Chucklevision’ I never knew I wanted a punk cover of this but I’m glad I heard one. (8)
Yorkshire quartet, Natterers, followed up as something far more ferocious and hardcore fronted. Frontwoman, Emma certainly didn’t “natter”, it was more of a dominant bark as she threw herself around the room, getting up in the grill of the onlooking audience. The riffs were punishing and the delivery was like that of a rabid animal, really aggressive and energetic. In contrast to The Crash Mats, who were incredibly talkative, Natterers were quite the opposite and were rather quiet between songs, some more chat between the band and crowd would have been very welcome. One thing that grabbed our attention and made us all laugh however was Emma crawling under the stage out of nowhere midsong. It was even more humorous when the band waited for her to come out to play next song, yet we all just heard her voice say, “go on” as if to continue, in which the band erupted into more noise as she crawled out backwards to the final song. Apparently, it needed a bit of a dust under there. Natterers were certainly an intense experience. (7)
Last year’s openers had moved up the bill, in which this time The Barracks were treated to a much larger crowd than the mere possible 20 people the previous year. This was a set laced with usual favourites, ‘Back In Our Home Town’ and ‘Drinking Song’ just to name a couple. Shortly after the set started, packs of Wotsits were thrown around the room and then individual cheese puffs were thrown at the band by the crowd for a laugh. Local fans sang along and rocked out, even more so to the popular hit, ‘Fuck You’, in which Matilda’s Scoundrels’ Jason Stirling took to the stage to perform vocal duties. Shockingly this might have been the soberest and possibly the tightest set I’ve seen The Barracks play, with one member hungover, and the others turning up about ten minutes before hitting the stage, there wasn’t time to drink beforehand. It’s a different experience, but no less enjoyable. (7.5)
Leeds act The Fuckin’ Glorious are formed from former members of other popular punk acts, including Acid Drop, Dead Pets and Lowlife. So, with that there was a level of familiarity of the members of the stage and some hype to see what the rather newly formed act can provide. What we got was gritty roots punk-rock with hardcore influences, taking a nod to the likes of Revenge of the Psychotronic Man and The Domestics. The music was aggressive and punchy in atmosphere, but the delivery had a cheeky charm to it and a lot of humour between songs. The crowd was still in the warm-up phase, so the reaction was still rather stagnant apart from the odd rowdy few; a couple of people ran around and got on top of friends shoulders to the energetic songs. (7)
Ska punks Millie Manders and The Shut Up were in Hastings for the first I believe, or at least the first time in a long time if they had visited before. Millie was certainly proud she found a road called “Douches Passage”. The room was rather packed out as the band opened with ‘Little Big Mouth’, before Manders and co unleashed the “crazy” early with the psychotic number, ‘Teddy’. The music varied from moshable aggressive tracks to skanktastic hits, in which the singer’s vocal range went from power cleans to harsh roars. Highlight’s came in various forms, from everyone singing happy birthday to the drummer’s child, having a drinking game to ‘Bacchus’ due to the suitable lyrics, and the band performing their usual awesome cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Hearing everyone singing the “Shalala” moment is always a great moment. I did also leave the set with the brass melody for ‘Obsession Transgression’ stuck in my head; it was a pretty awesome performance overall. (8)
I don’t think I’ve been so excited for a set in so long as I was for Pizzatramp’s. The welsh punks have put on some great sets this year and there was no doubt with was going to be just as rowdy. It didn’t take long for the pits to start and fans to shout along to the likes of ‘Blowing Chunks’ and ‘Claire Voyant’; the chaos didn’t stop, in fact it exacerbated with waves of crowd surfing throughout the set.
The entertainment value of Pizzatramp is what makes them so great, so I was in particular excited about ‘Hope You Die’, which was aimed at the people outside the room not watching, followed by the alternate lyrics of “I’m glad you didn’t die” aimed at everyone who was watching. Jim then spurted “fuck it I’m drunk so we’re doing it again”, in which the lyrics were changed to “I love you mum and dad”; I’ve never heard those words sang so hilariously aggressive before. It was another incredible set from the Welsh lads. (9)
Wigan act, Riggots, were without a doubt the hardest hitters of the whole lineup in terms of sounds, they were the heaviest by a long shot. Guitarist, Martin Battle, screamed at the top of his lungs to kick the set off, this was backed by frantic riffs and in the most intricate beats I’ve seen performed live for a “non-metal” band. Riggots was previously known as a two-piece, however, since seeing them in April, a third member has been added to the form of bassist “Dirty Joseph”. This appointment only added a further brutality to what was already a monstrous sound. Right from the start the guitarist left the stage to perform right in front of the crowd’s faces, and shortly after, the pits started hard again. For a hardcore band, the technique was mind-blowingly progressive, more like Every Time I Die meets The Chariot and Refused instead of comparing to the likes of grooving “core” bands such as Terror. The time signatures were out of this world, and the drum patterns left everyone in awe. It was just phenomenal to watch, from the impeccable musicianship, to the worthy reaction and huge roars from the crowd after each song. (9)
It was time for the final act of the weekend, the highly anticipated street punks, The Restarts. There was a crack rock, crust punk, ska-punk and thrashy hardcore mix to the veterans’ sound. It was gritty and aggressive, but occasionally fun with the skankable upstroke rhythms. The pits, the dancing and the outright excitement had truly piqued. My knowledge of this band before they were announced wasn’t great and I admit I hadn’t checked them out a lot before the show. I regret that decision.
The performance was one of the tightest I saw all weekend, as expected for a headline act. The anthems flowed, and fan favourites such as ‘Frustration’, ‘Independentzia’ and ‘Time Waster’ had fans unleashing all kinds of hell and jumping on top of each other, it was just a beautiful mess. This was the first set that demanded an encore as fans kept shouting for one more song, though as punk songs are pretty short we were all treated to a few more before they ended the weekend on an absolute high. (9)
I was asked after this set if this was the best show I’ve ever seen in Hastings, that’s a tough call because The Filaments with Faintest Idea at The Tubman in 2013 was just intensely wild. And Revenge of the Psychotronic Man always put on great shows when they came down. This was definitely up there though, and the Toxic Wotsit crew (if that’s what they are still calling themselves) can be incredibly proud of the massive growth this festival has had in just one year. It’s going to be a hot sell out again next year I think. I have had some insider info on who could be the headliners and I’m very excited about the options. I sadly can’t reveal them as they are just hopes for now and not confirmed, either way, keep your eyes peeled as I certainly will be.
As far as the venue goes, I used to love love The Pig In Paradise, so Palace was almost a wave of nostalgia to the days when I was a regular, without the seedy crack den vibe it used to have. The staff were great, so was the food, and the cocktails that were designed purely for this festival. If Wotsit Called Fest returns to the same venue next year I won’t be disappointed.
For more of each band