Despite a disorganised queuing system that made entering Alexandra Palace a challenge in itself, I arrived in time to catch Atilla open up the Main Stage. Though why Kevin Lyman gave them the time of day is beyond me, as their offensive, racist and sexist slurs failed to impress. I can’t imagine anyone over 13 would appreciate watching someone endlessly repeat the phrase “suck my fuck” and use lyrics which gratuitously drop words like, “cocaine” and “nigga”. Tacky and dated, even Hollywood Undead would think they were crass. (0/5)
Over on the Jaegermeister Stage things weren’t looking much better, as the UK’s shittest The Story So Far tribute Neck Deep were ham-fistedly groping their way through their set. Considering I quite liked their first EP, when watching them live it quickly transpired that vocalist Ben Barlow can’t actually sing, making me wonder if ‘Rain in July’’s sound was purely the result of auto tune. At points I can’t even tell what song they’re supposed to be playing, as everything sounds like a garbled mumbling mess. (1/5)
Luckily The Wonder Years are on next to show them how it’s done, and they deliver a solid set blasting through singles ‘Melrose Diner’, ‘Passing Through the Screen Door’ and ‘Woke Up Older’, among others. My only criticism is that their set is too short, and I feel they could have benefited from a longer set list as when they finished it felt like something was missing – such as more songs of ‘The Greatest Generation’. Hopefully a full UK tour next year will remedy this. (3.5/5)
Back on the Jaegermeister Stage, Real Friends make their first jaunt into London memorable with the best set of the day. Showing that the pop punk trend is not slowing down yet, they blast through an amazing set of sing-along moments, including ‘Anchor Down’ – during which nearly everyone watching them sings along and a heart wrenching rendition of ‘I’ve Given up on You’ which was brilliant to watch. I still think the endless repetition of “sleepy eyes and bony knees” is a little trite but have to admit it works live. (5/5)
On the Main Stage Yellowcard delivered a by-the-numbers set, which felt overblown and overlong, probably due to the fact the majority of the crowd were waiting for ‘Ocean Avenue’. The sound on their stage wasn’t great, making it hard to get involved in their set, however the mass choruses of both ‘Ocean Avenue’ and ‘Breathing’ (which I’m pretty sure included everyone from the front to the back of the room) made up for it. (3/5)
Fortunately this year the access problems that plagued the Kevin Says stage have been rectified, meaning I get to enjoy Handguns play an intimate basement show. Benefiting from the smaller venue, none of their energy is lost as they storm the stage, jumping like crazy and blasting through a mix of their best material. ‘Early Retirement’ has already become a full on crowd favourite, while older songs like ‘I Hope He Kills You’ still sound stellar when mixed in with new material. Undoubtedly the most fun set of the day from a band who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. (5/5)
Finally on the Main Stage it’s time for Rise Against to close things off, and they bring the building to a standstill with an amazing set encompassing their entire career. Tim McIlrath is undoubtedly a brilliant frontman, interweaving hits such as ‘The Good Left Undone’ and ‘Give It All’ with inspirational stage banter. The crowd reception to ‘Ready to Fall’ shows how far reaching Rise Against’s popularity is, as everyone from teenagers with their parents to people in their 30’s sing the chorus back. It’s nigh impossible to walk away from the end of their set without feeling uplifted, capping off a mixed day of music. (5/5)
Despite a shaky start, Kevin Lyman has proven that he (more or less) can put together a showcase of some of the most important bands on the scene today. I for one, will be excited to see what Warped Tour holds next year.
Words by Jay Sullivan. Photos by Heather Fitsell.