Set in the outskirts of an animal park in Fort Lympne, Kent, Hevy Fest produced a fantastic weekend for a sold-out crowd of five-thousand enthusiastic music fans. For such a small, independently-run festival the organisers managed to book some big names, playing exclusive sets, including Coheed and Cambria (playing In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth in full), The Fall of Troy (playing Doppelganger in full) and a reformed Thrice.

I’ll be posting a general review of my festival experience on PPcorn over the next week, but until then here’s my round-up of the bands I saw on Friday 14th August, in order of play:

Press to Meco (8)
This was my first experience seeing three-piece alternative act Press to Meco and they certainly impressed with an energetic, enthusiastic performance under the circus-style tent of the second stage. Playing an interesting blend of alternative, pop and punk with some heavy riffs interspersed every now and then, the band illuminated the stage and put on an excellent show to get the crowd warmed up. All three members of the band are competent singers and undoubtedly the band sounds its best when all three mingle together to create superb three-part harmonies. Press to Meco’s debut album is out in October and this performance certainly piqued my interest in hearing how it sounds.

Chon (6)
Chon are an insanely talented instrumental band from California and Hevy Fest marked their first live show outside of the United States. There may have been some initial nerves as the first few tracks of the set sounded a little clumsy before they eventually warmed up and enjoyed themselves. Bass player Drew Pelisek was animated throughout and did a good job lifting the band although Pelisek aside, the rest of the band were rather static and lacked stage presence, which made them seem overwhelmed by the occasion. In part this is due to the complexity of the band’s music; the guitarists in particular play some highly challenging parts which clearly takes focus, but unfortunately this led to an underwhelming performance. Hopefully by the time ArcTanGent comes around in a week’s time they’ll have warmed up in time to put on a great show.

Black Peaks (9)
Explosive, energetic, superb musicianship and perfectly controlled vocals: what’s not to like about Black Peaks? It’s great to see the band getting exposure on festivals such as this and based on the crowd’s reaction to their set I’d like to think Black Peaks will be heading back to Brighton with the blessing of some new fans. Mixing elements of hardcore, alternative and math rock, Black Peaks put on a fantastic show, led as always by an incredible vocal performance by singer Will Gardner. New song “Drums” is particularly impressive vocally, as each chorus is punctuated by a piercing scream, which flows seamlessly into perfectly-controlled clean singing without missing a beat. This is the sort of band that makes live music an absolute joy to behold; yes you can listen to these songs on a record, but after you’ve seen the band in flesh once, you’ll just want to keep on doing it as often as you can.

Fightstar (7)
Despite the set starting twenty minutes late and another ten minute pause part way through while the bass guitar was restrung, Fightstar put on an enjoyable show. As always, the band performed their songs well, keeping the crowd entertained with a good selection of heavier material from the band’s back catalogue. Fightstar recently announced a come-back album scheduled for release in October and when they hit the stage at Download Festival they performed with all the enthusiasm of a band re-launching themselves to world again. Against the frantic, energetic set at Download this performance seemed a little muted in comparison, but for those who weren’t present for that show, this set would have done enough to please.

Coheed and Cambria (9)
This was a special performance from Coheed and Cambria, playing through one of my favourite albums: In Keeping Secrets… It was great to see the band’s live show pared back to just four guys and their instruments; the backing choir, big stage productions and any other such nonsense nowhere to be seen. Watching this album of anthem after anthem unfold onstage was a sight to behold and is a reminder of how special those early days of the band were. Clearly they’ve grown beyond this album in terms of their career but it was a pleasure to relive its brilliance and judging by the electricity flowing through the crowd, whose voices were on full volume, I wasn’t alone. It would’ve been nice to hear the band introduce the album or interact with the crowd at some point during the album’s play-through as I felt was a missed opportunity to draw out some nostalgia by regaling the audience with tales of its creation. That aside though, a wonderful performance that will live long in the memory.