Macmillan Fest, Nottingham review

MACMILLANBorn in 2010, the charity festival for Macmillan Cancer Research has held huge growth each year, and now in its fourth and biggest round up, the event boasted over forty acts across five stages. Between Spanky Van Dykes and the four stages around Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms there were a host of other fundraising events, from standard raffles to bands members getting themselves waxed, and festival organiser Kris Davis getting Macmillan’s logo tattooed on his bottom. The tight, communal and almost homely atmosphere elicited by the intimate stages and packed venues makes this event unique in the community it creates.

The most intimate of the stages at the festival, Rescue Rooms turned its bar into a maze of sofas to suit the acoustic stage it held for the day, sponsored by Nottingham Live. With ambient duo A City Alight taking to the stage second, the pair controlled the environment with the perfect mix of subtly and poise. Passionate and determined, Nottingham’s own pair did the quaint venue justice, providing a simplistic but solid start to the event. In contrast, next door on the festival’s main stage the venue was being shaken up with the hardcore riffs of We Are Tyrants, refusing to hold back for anything. Unfortunately at half three it still seemed a little early for the crowd’s total enthusiasm to come through, despite the band’s determined harsh vocals and head banging. That didn’t stop the manic screaming at the end of each track though, and managing to get the crowd chanting along successfully. Back on the acoustic stage, pop-punk quintet As December Falls show their softer side, as the vocals of Bethany Curtis and Ande Hunter blend together to caress the iconic line, “we’re all addicted to something that takes away the pain”, adding a delicate edge to the track to suit the venue.

A few metres from the main building, chaos was kicking off in the hardcore stage of Stealth, with the sound of Spangled Corps bouncing off every wall. The strong pop-punk edge shone through in their set, built up by a hardcore percussion slant that often drowned out the vocals. Becoming progressively heavier through the show, the Nottingham quintet dominated the intimate space with their powerful performance; in juxtaposition, the upstairs NCN Rocks stage held a more fragile atmosphere. James Gooch’s impressive vocals were most definitely worthy of a larger stage, with a set featuring a stunning cover of Paolo Nutini’s New Shoes highlighting the young man’s talent.

As Conor Peek of Cabin Boy Jumped Ship took to the stage, he was met with all the screaming and excitement of a crowd fit-to-burst. With commanding harsh vocals and a phenomenal light show to match, all the energy on stage was doubled by those in the crowd, ready to rock. Turning the volume down a little, Derby emo/alternative quartet Garden State took to the acoustic stage, with vocals so powerful they almost tripped over and drowned the instrumental, and despite the more stripped back sound to the show, the set felt a little on the rough side to suit the venue as well as some had. What began as a bit of a ragged start for The Inside Is Live soon led into a colossal set opener at Stealth. Determined anthemic vocal work ploughed through the set-driving percussion, and ground shaking riffs that orchestrated the show rolled over the occasional flat moment. With an enthusiastic crowd chanting, “we are the reckless youth”, the quintet proved to own the stage.

Layby chose to step away from their usual easycore sound to play their part on the acoustic stage, providing a shockingly new slant on the debut EP, and incorporating hints of spoken word to add a grounded sound among the vibrant instrumental. A mash-up of Blink’s Always and Dammit settled brilliantly with the crowd, received by cheers. Although vocalist Aaron Bowes look as though he’d rather have been standing up and unleashing the energy, the band held a tight set throughout – even through a few technical issues – to showcase a promising new track, Chronic, off their next release. Meanwhile, a small earthquake was cracking off next door in the form of The Winter Hill Syndicate. Vocalist Tom Walker took the chance to show off an impressive range, without the need of harsh vocals to command the room, and the crowd took the chance to burst into a pit. The rockers looked right at home on the main stage, as did London’s Arthur Walwin in the quaint acoustic bar. Without making a huge deal out of himself, Arthur managed to maintain the attention of the crowd through his soft and controlled vocals, perfectly suited to the venue. Having worked with more than a handful of bands on the line-up, Arthur’s extensive musical ability and stage presence weren’t hidden in his set, displayed alongside a magnificent range.

As the main stage became home for Adelphia, the tight sets became a common theme. Although through the opening a large amount of the vocals became drowned out, when they did get a chance to shine their closeness prevailed and they managed to display their usual solid style of a show. Towards the close of the festival Anavae took Stealth’s stage to reinforce that being a female-fronted rock band is not any form of gimmick, with a set far from any of the usual cliches it entails. With the most powerful vocals of the day, the band had no trouble encouraging the crowd, with the enthusiasm that encompassed the stage spreading like wildfire. The Safety Fire took their chance on the main stage to show that the festival was only picking up pace through the day, with almost tangible electricity in the air. Finally, Hype Theory’s soulful and powerful close to the acoustic stage highlighted why they had the honour of headlining it, and incorporated a spectacular Bring Me The Horizon cover. Needless to say, it resulted in being a magnificent finale to a brilliant and packed day – and all in the name of Macmillan!

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