UK Tech-Fest at Home 2020
In these unusual times, live gigs are on hold, festivals postponed for a year, but a new alternative has emerged.
Virtual festivals have started appearing online. They are much shorter than the real thing and the quality varies hugely, but for those eager to play and those hungry for a live performance, it has become the next best thing. The UK Tech-Fest at Home 2020 was broadcast over two nights to coincide with what would have been the first two days of the actual festival. As these things go, I thought it was one of the better ones, with the Thursday show coming in the better of the two nights (but not by much). Both shows had their highlights and more on that shortly. The combined presentations clocked in at around two hours and featured 20 of the bands that were booked for the festival. Hopefully, a good number of these will be on at the rescheduled event in July 2021.
As the Thursday 8pm start time approached, I felt a genuine sense of excitement. Not the same anticipation I get before the four-day marathon on Newark Showground, but something palpable. So, we settled down with some carefully selected beer from our lockdown stash. Much nicer beer than the usual Tech-Fest fare, I have to say!
After locating the YouTube event on our TV, we waited for it to start. The start time arrived and there was a countdown of 2 minutes, followed by a further countdown lasting 5 minutes. Were we supposed to shout “Wooo” at this point? Needless to say; we did not. Then finally, it began.
First up was multi-instrumentalist Matt Ball playing an 8 minutes long song, ‘Ghosts’. A three-part piece that weaved its way through many different moods. As well as doing most of the vocals (there was a guest appearance by Adam Barkley – vocalist with Hellth), Matt played guitar, keyboards, and bass guitar (he is also the live bass player for Uneven Structure). Somewhere else in the country, from Leviathan Owl, Andrew Scott provided the drums for the performance. This was not his only appearance on the show.
Next up were Thaeia from Rome. Their video featured members of the band playing from their homes, with snippets of live footage slotted in here and there. Their chosen song was ‘Cactus’, an enjoyable, soulful piece, albeit quite short.
Third band of the night were Altostratus from Newcastle with an instrumental piece called ‘Concord Dawn’. Jordan Harris, Andrew Smith and Jack Thomas on guitar, bass and drums respectively played this intricate Tech-Metal composition flawlessly. The band’s other guitarist Alex Hek did not feature, but guitarist Alex Verghese stood in admirably
Then came a band who we saw at Tech-Fest in 2018, Tiberius. We enjoyed them live, and so were looking forward to their slot. We were not to be disappointed. Resplendent in their dressing gowns the band gave us a brilliant rendition of ‘Mechanical Messiah’ from their new album ‘A Peaceful Annihilation’. The guys from Edinburgh by their own admission have a tongue in cheek attitude when writing their songs, but still convey serious messages. A definite highlight on this first evening of UK Tech-Fest at Home 2020.
Sertraline’s home video was bookended with short speeches from band members Lizzie and Mike. The track they chose to play was ‘2205’ from their 2020 EP ”Clouded Minds & Silver Lines“. It soon became clear that the band have a very, strong arsenal of talent. Vocalist Lizzie has the full range of styles at her disposal and uses them all during this song. Another highlight of the evening for me.
Onto a band that some of us are missing twice this year. From Cardiff, Godsticks playing ‘Time’ – in isolation. Vocalist/ keys/guitarist Darren Charles managed to appear with himself in his personal window, one of him singing and the other playing guitar. Little comedic moments popped up throughout this very enjoyable video. Hopefully, the band will be appearing at both UK Tech-Fest and ProgPower Europe in 2021.
Then, a complete change of pace and style as The Voynich Code from Lisbon launch into a blistering rendition of ‘Cage of Innocence’. In one window guitarists Vinicius Cunha and André Afonso sitting side by side, spat out intricate brutal riffs, while in the other window, Nelson Rebelo performed guttural vocal gymnastics. There were drums but no drummer visible. Eular Morais, their drummer appeared to be on a backing track. Those who attended UK Tech-Fest in 2019 may have seen him playing drums for Felix Martin. Nevertheless, another fine track on this first night.
More of the same from the UK’s Divine Chaos. Four members of the band occupied the four corners of the screen. There were vocals, but no vocalist visible, as the band thrashed through ‘Suicide Salvation’, a track from their 2020 album ”The Way to Oblivion“. It was still enjoyable though, but I would like to see the whole band live. Tech-Fest 2021?
On the 51-minute mark, the penultimate band, France’s Uneven Structure took us through the next six minutes, with a fantastic performance of ‘Outlaw’ from their 2019 album ”Paragon“. A beautiful song with lots of moods and time changes, clean and harsh vocals, sumptuously progressive and technical, what’s not to like?
With just under an hour gone, it was time for the last band. A band that a lot of people had been waiting for, Slice the Cake. The next sixteen minutes or so, showcased the full live band that would have headlined the Thursday night in Newark. They performed the ‘Stone and Silver Suite’ from “Odyssey to the West”; “Part I – The Mountains of Man”, “Part II – The Horned God” and “Part III – The Man of Papyrus Limbs”. Andrew Scott made his second appearance of the evening on drums. The rest of the band; Matthew “Moat” Lowe (Novena, Slugdge) on bass guitar, Harrison White (Novena) on keyboards, and the original members Galen Stapley and Jonas Johansson on guitars and Gareth Mason on vocals. A brilliant finale to a great Tech-Fest evening.
Friday’s show started with the same countdowns before getting underway with Axiom from Birmingham. The 3-piece treated us to an instrumental called ‘Slumber’, from their 2019 EP “Metathesis”. A great start to the proceedings.
Next up were Azazel, with a complete change of style. The Deathcore band from Nottingham gave us their track ‘Voices’. Taken from their 2018 album “Bedlam”, it’s dark, punchy, in part doomy, definitely the heavier end of the Tech-Fest spectrum.
Onward with a Tech Death Metal band from Germany, Controversial. Vocalist Jonas Langhammer introduced the song ‘Fault Finder’ by stating “This is our first time playing in the UK, but we’re still in Germany”. Rather than the now familiar multi window array, showing individual musicians at home, this was filmed with all the band members present (plus a camera man) in the same room. A nicely produced video with multiple camera angles. An enjoyable track with some fine guitar work.
KMAC2021 is not something I have come across before. It appears to one un-named person with some un-named hired guns. The song was called ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’. Everyone played from their homes, in a well-made enjoyable video.
The next band’s video rapidly became my highlight of the show. At just under 9 minutes their song, ‘The Tyrant’ showcased UK band Novena at their best. Again, all members played from their homes. Gareth Mason, Harrison White, and Matthew “Moat” Lowe had of course, appeared the previous evening with Slice the Cake. The rest of the band members are, vocals – Ross Jennings (Haken), guitar – Dan Thornton (Abhorrent Decimation), and Cameron Spence on drums. The track which is taken from their debut album “Eleventh Hour’, is ever changing, with growls from Gareth and cleans from Ross and some harmonies with Harrison joining these two. Harrison played both keyboards and guitar on the track and both him and Dan delivered some fine lead breaks.
Red Method treated us to their official lockdown video of ‘Euphoria of Transformation’ from their album “For the Sick”. Although quite short at just over 2 minutes, this instrumental track was very enjoyable, and did not have the look of a home-made video.
The contribution from The Modern Age Slavery came from their rehearsal room in Italy, in the form of a live performance of ‘The Reprisal Within’ from their album “Stygian”. Fast and hard hitting from the Italians.
Another instrumental, this time from Polish band Materia. It was in fact, a playthrough of their track ‘The Rising’, one of the singles from the album of the same name, without vocals. The full official version can be found on youtube.
One of the more eclectic band to grace the Tech-Fest stage are Project Mishram from India. They were the first main stage band on Sunday in 2019 and played for 30 minutes to a packed house and went down a storm. Tonight, they gave us a lockdown version of ‘TamasaT’. Three members of the seven-piece band occupied the screen in this rendition of east meets west music. On vocals – Shivaraj Natraj, on violin – Pranav Swaroop, and on guitar SriShankar Sundar.
Then it was all over bar the shouting. Except there was to be no shouting from the last band Reflections. What they gave us instead was not one, but two playthrough videos from the album “Willow Instrumental”. Firstly ‘Empathy’ in which we saw a very, nice eight-string Kiesel guitar being played, but not much of the person playing it.
To finish proceeding, a video of ‘From Nothing’. This was a drum play-through in which our view was several angles from the rear of the kit. So, it was a completely different sort of ending to the previous night.
Thanks go to Simon and the Tech-Fest team, Loki Films, Invicta Magazine and all the bands who did their bit to bring us this lockdown festival. But with all due respect, I really hope we do not have this next year. We miss the real thing.
Links to the full shows on YouTube:
Thursday 2nd July
Friday 3rd July