Since leaving Colchester this June I have yearned to return to see friends and witness its amazing local scene. When Free Fest was announced, I knew I had to go back as it featured some of the best bands Colchester has to offer alongside some of the best underground bands in the country. The first five bands played outside in Castle Park and the others in The Waiting Room. What followed was an entertaining day full of local talent and the best of the underground.
A lot of people didn’t know what was about to happen because the bands were playing outside to members of the general public. It was safe to say though that a few people who turned up hungry for heavy music, walked away as fans. Up first was the instrumental powerhouse Three Thrones, who thoroughly warmed up the crowd. Opening with a wonderful ‘Supernovascotia’ the band wasted no time in leveling Castle Park. The riffs came as fast as The Flash with the marksmanship of Green Arrow. Playing a new song (with some vocals from drummer Ben Harris), the band showcased an interesting new direction that I cannot wait to hear. For the short two-song set they had, Three Thrones nailed it.
“Trust me it’s just as weird for us as it is for you” remarked Chestburster frontman Rob Saunders. Seeing a grindcore band play an open air park with children running about was something I never thought I’d see, but here I was. The set was gory business as usual from Chestburster, hilarious and incredibly entertaining… with alien Chestbursters hanging from the mic stands. Even if they scared people away, the people who were there to see them had bucket-loads of fun. ‘I’m a Vampire’, ‘John Saxon’, ‘Who Will Survive’ and many other hits from their back catalogue certainly made an impact as the mosh pit never stopped. The traditional Zombie Mosh Pit occurred much to the confusion of the onlookers. Chestburster killed it.
If the local scene was a family, Old Man Lizard would be the cool uncle who played guitar and told interesting stories from a deckchair. Suffolk’s sludge warriors were a blast, the country-influenced riffs oozed with cool and their mark was made. Old Man Lizard are just a wonderful band, ‘Beelzebeer Blues’ was the highlight of the set as the Baroness and Clutch influences proved clear. Everyone in attendance agreed the set was too short and they wanted more. I wanted more but good things come to those who wait.
Up next was one of Colchester’s finest exports, Jøtnarr. The sky darkened as they took the stage and launched into ‘Relics’, following it up with ‘Sunless’ and ‘Rise by Sin.’ It was my sixth time seeing Jøtnarr and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. As usual they were pure class and a stand out of the day. I can’t ever imagine being bored of seeing Jøtnarr live, they are a stellar force of riffs that the country is glad to have. Expect them in a town near you soon.
It’s been exactly a year since I last saw Earthmass live in Colchester. It had been a wait too long and one that I didn’t want to go through again. Seeing Earthmass live is like meeting God, holy, overwhelming and incredibly powerful. Everything was well-structured, every note well-placed, every build up and quiet moment worth it for a pay off. At one point during ‘Loom’, from latest release Collapse, guitarist Chris Saunders whispered into the mic “this is the quiet part“. The fans knew what was coming, everyone else felt something was nigh. Then all hell broke lose as the planets collided and the sheer power of their music flooded Colchester. Stunning as always, a perfect end to the day’s festivities at the outdoor festival.
Moving over to The Waiting Room it was time for some hardcore courtesy of Rad Pitt, who were playing their first ever gig. For a first show, they really impressed me. The Essex lads’ hardcore put a smile on the face of all who attended and got the crowd moving from the start. Reminding me a bit of Cancer Bats and armed with one of the best band names of recent years, expect Rad Pitt to be a name you will be hearing about more.
I last saw Telepathy at their headline appearance at Col’d By Death Fest back in November and since then I had wanted to see them again. With a new bassist Teddy-James Driscoll in the fold, Telepathy returned to their usual business of blowing everyone away. Opening with ‘Cystine Knot’, the band smashed the packed venue with the wall of sound their music creates. Outsiders were quick to realise why they were so loved by the local scene, the sheer technical brilliance of it was outstanding. The new songs sounded extremely promising and hopeful while ‘Sleepwalker’ from 12 Areas was flawlessly executed. Welcome back boys, we missed you.
The last time The Atrocity Exhibit played Colchester I missed them as I was watching ‘The Lego Movie’ at a friend’s birthday. But now I was watching them and having a blast. The Atrocity Exhibit were the most fun band of the day by miles, everyone was getting stuck into the fray. Whether they were moshing, jumping on each others backs, hugging their mates or however they were expressing themselves. An absolute thrill ride from start to finish.
“If you are a racist, a sexist, a homophobe please get out” stated the frontman of The Domestics. However, after a few minutes tragedy struck the East Anglian legends as ‘electrical gremlins’ halted the set. After multiple attempts to revive the set, it unfortunately had to be cancelled. Luckily the band returned a month later to headline the venue to a rapturous reception.
Luckily though Ghold were able to play and boy did they go down a treat. With their big band line-up (the usual bass and drummer line-up had an added guitarist and saxophone player) on display tonight, pumping so much smoke into the crowd I nearly had an asthma attack. Aside from my near death, Ghold delivered a mysterious, hypnotic and intense set to the people of Colchester that ended the night in style. It didn’t take a genius to work out why they are one of the most loved bands in the British Isles right now. With the underground truly behind them and a U.S. tour already completed, it’s time for Ghold to shine.
Ultimately the day was a success, the strength of Colchester’s community was shown with the local scene out in full force.