Slugfest 666 - Abertillery, The Dolls House - 5th and 6th July 2013 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E & Johhny H   
Friday, 19 July 2013 03:00

Plug header Slugfest


How the organisers of the UK's biggest festivals can sit and count the money made on their insipid, clichéd events while the people behind honest, free festivals like Slugfest donate all their free time to raising money for charity (Cancer Research UK and Hospice of the Valleys benefitting this year) is a question only those clued-in enough to attend the likes of the latter are fully qualified to answer.


With fervent music fans determined to let the cool of a cadre of high-end bands - ranging from glunk to hardcore and covering almost every base in between - wash over them as the country wilted under all-too-rare healing rays of glorious sunshine, Slugfest 666 returned to The Dolls House in Abertillery after a two year gap, last year's venue, The Railway Inn, home to the Acoustic Slug sister event, spiritual home The Mount now a boarded-up mausoleum of debauched memories. And while the Satanic connotations brought out the worst in a few thieving Christians, they also brought out the best in hundreds of like-minded festival attendees hellbent on having a good time yet helping innocent victims at the same time. "You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another." Ever wondered why churches are so full of confessionals?


Kneeling before the altar of bad taste, Gallini, perennial openers of Slugfest, threw down the noise gauntlet at around 7pm on a hugely-anticipated Friday evening, exposing a horned hand and around ninety seconds of unadulterated ear maiming: yes, Slugfest had arrived.


Against all odds - just like the song by Phil Collins, a musical legend whose stylish haircut has been copied by at least a couple of band members - Trigger McPoopshute have fashioned quite a following with their self-proclaimed Backdoor Rock 'n' Roll. With more and more people singing along to every one of their troubled lyrics and arriving clad in the band's tasteful - almost - merchandise, the disease appears to be spreading ever further. With McSong standards like 'Plug's House', 'Mr. Motherfucker' and 'American Manc' rubbing soiled shoulders with newer 'tunes' like 'Skidmarks and Spencers' and 'Headfuck', the Trigger bandwagon rolled on shit on the wheel, obviously.


Ten Cent Toy


[Ten Cent Toy] found themselves back on the Doll's House Slug stage (well, one of them as the festival now boasts two stages) for the first time in a couple of years, this a first though with Tom Damsell, formerly of Slugfest favourites Outgunned, as a fully-fledged member. The guitarist's addition to the band's ranks certainly adds a whole extra dynamic to these eyes and ears, but it is the development of Kevin Davies as a frontman since the last time I saw the band that really impresses. It may well be de rigueur for vocalists to spend more time with the crowd than on the stage these days, but as Davies stalked the floor stabbing out words that wound, few in spitting distance could deny that he was fronting a band on top of their game.


Bring To RuinIf you see the name Bring To Ruin on a gig bill then you generally know what you're letting yourself in for, the band's previous appearances at the fest (and sister events) now legendary, singer Ross's can bin tombstone at last year's Slugfest a particular crazed highlight for me. Since April though the South Wales noisemakers have been gigging as a three-piece with Ross now handling bass and vocal duties. It's a development that worried me initially as part of the band's live appeal - and I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking along these lines - is the frontman's dizzying performance, the insanely-haired mouthpiece a blur across stages, floors and bars. I needn't have worried though as, although somewhat tied to that four-stringed beast, the wired wordsmith fronted a band still as vicious as they were essential, their powerful crust-infested brand of hardcore no worse off for having been sliced back to a six-legged beast creepy-crawling around the premises.


Not Since The Accident are a new name on me but, as happy accidents go, one that I'm unlikely to forget any time soon. Boasting former members of No Choice (performing at Slugfest the following day), Gung Ho and The Shove Its, the band arrived at Slugfest 666 off the back of a nine date tour of the US that saw them cross thirteen states and rack up a cool 2500 miles in their bus. With songs like 'Nothing Left To Hate' - "I hate haters cos there's nothing left to hate" - Not Since The Accident held the Slugs (can we call Slugfest attendees 'Slugs'?!) captive with manic songsmithery and no shortage of savagely fast bass playing the likes of which Matt Freeman would have been proud to put his name too. A fine performance.


36 StrategiesGreat things were expected of Thirty Six Strategies as the female-fronted outfit took to Stage 2, solely because the guy playing bass for the band is none other than Ian Glasper, former Stampin' Ground/Decadence Within member, celebrated punk rock author, and Terrorizer contributor. It's a rather uncalled for pressure then that the band find themselves under from those attendees in the know. The band hardly advertise the fact that their bassist possesses such an impressive CV but, to those who do know, the expectancy of something, well, a bit special almost crackles through the air. Influenced by late '80s punk and self-described as "Debbie Harry singing for Dag Nasty" Thirty Six Strategies throw out nothing less than an excellent performance, but I couldn't help but notice people finding it hard to conceal a little disappointment with what played out before them. Kirsty Harding's vocals were a little weak, yes, but the Achilles' heel of the band is the very thing that makes people take extra notice of them...


The difference between 2 and 36 is more than just 34. Y'see, the anticipation held by festival goers - this fucked-up festival's at least - for both Thirty Six Strategies and 2 Sick Monkeys was highly comparable, the pay-offs, however, wholly different. 2 Sick Monkeys have been to Slugfest before, reigned supreme on a Friday night here too, so the buzz of anticipation that awaits their arrival on Stage 1 is, calamity excepted, sure to be satiated by a pair of mentalists who have taken the two-piece band format considered very much in vogue over the past several years and slapped it upside the head: there's no twisted take on blues rock here, no highbrow critic-friendly noodling, instead 2 Sick Monkeys knock out a skewed, oft hilarious, punk rock noise that is as infectious as it is grin-inducing. These two fellas of questionable age named Fred and Pete never disappoint, their very own version of drum and bass a tune and laugh riot.


Sick Livers Snow


If you call your album 'Motors, Women, Drugs, Booze & Killing' then the debauchery, as prominent in the air at Slugfest as oxygen and methane, of this festival should empower rather than intimidate. That The Sick Livers bust out arguably the finest performance ever witnessed in the history of the fest should tell you just how much this bunch of gnarled glunk rockers revel in the sleaze, sweat and snot of nights like these. The band's now-legendary half hour of glam punk power at Slugfe5t was a mess (literally) of gutter-fuelled tuneage and confetti bombs thrown by a nefarious degeneration terrorist: said individual would up his thrill kill count this year with The Doll's House resembling the opening of Hong Kong Phooey within seconds of the Livers hitting their skin tight stride(s). Songs like 'Hell Of A Girl', 'Blood On Your Halo' and 'Pussy Disease' have become virtual back door lovers of the grisled clutch of ne'er-do-wells throwing shapes - badly - on the dance floor, and throwing shredded bank statements - vigourously - into the eyes, mouths and beers of everyone in reach, yet even those hot pop classics pale into significance when confronted by the closing, apocalyptic one-two of 'Gimme The Drugs' and 'Bummed To Death', the latter not the tender power ballad that some uninitiated readers might imagine from such a title. The Sick Livers have gone from (rent) boys to men in 2013 already, shows like this and an album to die (or at least autoerotically asphyxiate) for have made them genuine contenders, our very own great white (line) hope.


Web LiferHow could anyone have hoped to follow such a mind-blower and expect to live to tell the tale? Luckily (unluckily for the more precious of auditory canals, possibly), Lifer were on hand to shake the debris from the foundations with an expected yet no less bombastic performance. Two of the brightest musical lights in South Wales in quick succession....and for could anyone not love Slugfest? Not merely opening but slaying with first song, 'Curse Them Out', Lifer seem to be accepting the swell of appreciation that now follows them around, the promise that many of us saw some years ago now finally, and justifiably, reaching out and clawing at the masses, the songs from their massive debut album now devoured by the noise-hungry denizens of every venue they invariably take control of. New songs, the future hurting bombs 'Bastard Sons Of Sabbath' and 'Wired', slug it out with old favourites and jab at every skull in attendance in the process. They say that death is just the beginning but, even though the majority of the band members have certainly seen younger and more handsome days, you can't help but feel that this is just the beginning of a celebrated career in metal for these lifers.


As the '666anarchists' (man, I wish I could come up with literary genius like that) burst into human steam shapes as they left the venue/sauna/Turkish bath and hit the fresh air in the early hours of Saturday morning I'm guessing that many of them were wondering how the events of the main day could possibly follow some of the greatest ever Slugfest moments that had just played out before them. (Gaz E)




Sutton header


Disappearing into a field full of stinging nettles in the wee small hours of Saturday morning to an imaginary tune playing out his is head that was brought to life via the classic one step forwards two steps back dance move, Slugfest’s Darrel Sutton was looking surprising chipper for 1pm on a Saturday afternoon. However, the fact that overnight he had also suddenly metamorphosed into Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, albeit that this time around the role had Alexi Sayle in the lead, was not exactly the easiest thing on the eye I can tell you.


Wasting no time at all in just getting on with the show Sutton and his Gallini cohorts were back in the gig saddle quicker than the real life Trigger would be trying to get off with one of his cousins, and before most of us had even had time to think about a drink never mind ordering one, Sutton was bellowing out many a classic in tribute of the aforementioned Mr McPoopshute much to the bewilderment of most of those in attendance. At the very heart of the shambolic (yet hilarious) display these four idiots like to call music is a toast to Goobey one of our mates who’s no longer with us, so it’s glasses to the air as day two of Slugfest kicks off properly.


Dirty Bob then are not a local nonce but in fact four lads from the South Wales valleys who are a welcome early afternoon musical kick in the gonads after the aural assault of the day’s openers, and whilst they might not be as funny as what they have to follow they are most certainly 100% better than it. Specialising in a Sabbath-y like metal sludge that has just an edge of punk about it, “let the headbanging commence.”


The BlundersNo sooner do we get a good neck rhythm going to the sounds of Dirty Bob, than the sonic shock that is Wessex quartet (reduced to a trio today for some unexplained reason) The Blunders pop in to give us a dose of punk rock that is straight out of the school of ’77. There’s a sneer in singer/guitarist Mark Gunstone’s voice that speaks volumes during tracks like ‘Facebook Update’ and ‘D.I.S.C.O’ and there’s no questioning the fact he really means it man. This lot really did catch me totally by surprise, so much so that I don’t even realise that two bands (Hacksaw and The Kirkz) have had to cancel their scheduled appearances. Oh well I’m sure we’ll see them both again very soon.


A band we’d been looking forward to catching live for quite some time here at URHQ is Bloodlung from The ‘Port. We’d heard all about their bowel loosening bass driven metal but never managed to actually see if they could carry out on the musical picolax promise. Thank fuck we’d all worn our brown trousers then, because tracks like ‘Bound, Gagged & Force Fed Viagra’ are epic slabs of doom/sludge that had not only our internal organs rattling around but also anything that wasn’t nailed down within the venue. Mightily impressive and heavy as fuck Blood Lung will make you shit your pants, just like a night on Special VAT.




What we needed after that assault on the senses (and as the mid-afternoon temperature both inside and outside The Dolls House hit Mediterranean proportions) was something a little bit different, something that could only be delivered by Dead Beat Deluxe. Bringing together the country twang of Cash with the goth coolness of Lords Of The New Church, lead singer/guitarist Sticky and his cohorts were just what the rock ‘n’ roll doctor ordered in such ummm… sticky conditions, and to many of those who ventured inside for perhaps the first time they were a welcome introduction to the bad craziness of Slugfest 666.


Kev DoomchildStaying very much south of heaven as we entered into early evening, it was left to the return of Doomchild and their early Paradise Lost influenced metal par excellence to make things even more claustrophobic than anyone could ever have thought humanly possible. The coupling of the intense riffage of songs like set opener ‘Fear The Preacher’ and the desolate ‘Solitude’ with the growing humidity made taking breathes of air between each humongous riff something of a premium. With guitarist Kev Stait’s superb choice of T shirt for the afternoon I can almost forgive singer Scriv changing his trousers late in the band’s set as I had initially put this down to the fact that the lead growler had simply needed to let his love blobs hang loose for a while, but on reflection perhaps said frontman had just had his very own Bloodlung moment, who knows? Either way Doomchild were intense and immense…as always.


Keeping the musical mix flowing from metal to punk by way of a little bit of something different, up next were Bath quintet The Setbacks who set out to wow those of us who could stand the heat as they rocketed through their half hour set of fast and frantic punk rock ‘n’ roll demolishing the second stage’s drum kit in the process (well the floor tom at least). Premiering tracks from their new EP, ‘Now You’re Gone’ was a real standout cut full to the brim with Bad Religion angst and Leatherface catchiness. A good few months on from last seeing The Setbacks live I still believe there is real potential in this band, all they really need now is some physical product out there that enforces that fact.


Also in the studio right now recording their debut album ‘The Devil’s Way’ which is due any time soon (well once singer Russ Cullis has finished his vocals apparently) are Ponytpool riff monsters Deathbullet. Now there is just something about this eight legged tour de force that has always wrung true with us here at URHQ, and as Russ states mid set “the band are not about circle pits and moshing” and perhaps with that single statement, for me at least, the singer strikes the truest chord. You see Deathbullet are all about the song, in a no fucking around heads down see you at the end good time heavy metal kind of way. So as set opener ‘Pocketful of Hate’ sets the pace for what is about to follow, you’ll perhaps forgive me for once that I do not scribble down the titles of the band’s seven song set and instead I just shake my head with the best of them.


JD and the FDCs


Having already mentioned that every Slugfest tends to throw up “something different” from within its mercurial melting pot of bands, it was Jamie Delerict and Joey Strange playing acoustic versions of JD and the FDCs tunes that secured that honour this year. I really don’t mean to be disrespectful to any of the bands playing before Messrs Delerict and Strange but the very fact that these guys had made it to Slugfest 666 at all deserved mucho kudos (the back story here being that their guitarist was once again away on holiday, whilst their drummer was apparently somewhere in the UK dressed up as Willy Wonka along with a load of nerds, ironically this being something he could have done at Slugfest albeit without the knowing glances). So whilst not at their fullest sounding as a band it was left to songs such as ‘Never Gonna Stop’ and ‘The Secret’, to deliver the goods. Songs which when stripped bare to the bone sounded every bit as good as the versions on the band’s debut album ‘Recognise’. As the dynamic duo’s set progressed they dealt with grammatically incorrect hecklers plus some dancing sumo wrestlers with barely a carefully tossed plectrum to write home about. In fact the boys in the black shirts and armbands turned in a near perfect festival set of “something different” that had the faithful screaming all the way to the bar as ‘This Town Of Infamy’ (which as usual sounded suitably piratey) and set closer ‘Burn This City Down’ proving to be the perfect soundtrack for a quick refuel before the band many people were looking forward to seeing finally took to the stage.




That band of course is Dirt Box Disco, a motley crew of five psycho punks who hadn’t so much closed down Slugfest 2012 as demolished it in a wave of awesomeness. Since losing my Dirt Box cherry that fateful night I must have seen the crazy fuckers from Burton live a further three or four times, each time with them playing to a slightly bigger, crazier crowd. With their two albums and one EP to date still getting regular rotations on the URHQ deathdeck, I have to admit that Sutton getting Spunk, Weab, Maff, Danny and Chris back for this year’s shindig was actually something of a coup. Why? Well it’s obvious that these guys are destined to be huge. They are larger than life, loveable antiheroes that write songs that most bands would kill to be able to write, and they do this oh so effortlessly. It’s like Spunk Volcano was born to play guitar dressed in not much else other than a tatty graffiti strewn vest and his best Spiderman underpants, his true identity hidden from the world behind a pseudo-intellectual disguise that only the most warped of minds will ever be able to unravel. Hence when he and the freaks decide to distil their releases down into a nine song set you know it’s going to destroy everything before it, as the likes of ‘Burning’, ‘Tragic Roundabout’, ‘Smackhead’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out With You’ along with set closer ‘Let’s Get Wasted’ turned the dance floor into a toxic mixture of beer, sweat and frivolity.


Never mind how much faith I have in Dirt Box Disco, no matter how many times I think “that’s about as good as it gets”, they always seem to be able to take it to the next level. So here’s to Dirt Box album number three (which is apparently already in the writing bag) and a must see appearance at Rebellion in just a few short weeks. Phew I’m exhausted just thinking about it!


FOBDSo how do metal titans Fell On Black Days follow such a riotous performance? Well, they do exactly what Lifer did the previous evening, by simply doing what they do best, and that is play super intense modern day heavy metal music and not give a fuck what anyone thinks. This means that by the time I’ve managed to gulp a quick lungful of fresh air in some feeble attempt to try and cool off, FOBD frontman Gavin Robinson was already down to his underpants tormenting the front rows wearing one of the left over fancy dress items that a certain Slugfest organiser tends to shed with gay abandon. But in saying this FOBD should also be well accustomed to the madness of Slugfest by now, this was their fifth year playing the event and they relish the chance to rock and shock. Delivering a set featuring not only tracks from the band’s hugely impressive debut album ‘Talion’, but also two new tracks (one of which I think was called ‘Son Of Man’ but don’t shoot me if that is wrong it was fucking mental down the front for these guys after all) and ending with an impromptu run through of ‘Ace Of Spades’, the guys from Ebbw Vale did themselves proud here tonight. They can certainly hold their heads high as the future looks theirs for the taking.


Hip Priests 1


Declaring Slugfest to be ”Abertillery’s Live Aid” it must mean those dirty fuckers The Hip Priests have finally arrived for their thirty minute slot of porno punk rock, and once again the boys from ingensteds set the bar when it comes to delivering some of the best garage punk you’ll find anywhere in the world today. So after a slightly restrained (but still excellent) gig just a few weeks previous at Newport’s Le Pub, it is frontman Nathan Von Cruz who is off the leash and on fire tonight, climbing walls to get to every single person who is packed into The Dolls House, he was literally spitting fire during ‘Motherfucker Superior’ the track by which all bands of this genre will be measured in the future. Whilst no two gigs by The Hip Priests are ever alike one particular feature that is now creeping into their set is that whenever Uber Rock’s Dom Daley is present the band dedicate ‘Jesus Died’ to his Lazarus-like figure, which they do again here tonight. Elsewhere it’s a ripride of epic proportions ladies and gentlemen as ‘Gang Of One’ and ‘Outta My Head’ fly by like deadly glunk rock excocets and things get rounded off when VJ and Matt from the Sick Livers join the Priests for a run through ‘Denim Demon’ by Turbonegro. It’s all fabulously filthy stuff that just about finishes me off (yup I’m spent) as I’m suddenly wearing my Heartbreakers T-shirt like a second skin.


So it’s at this point in proceedings with a dozen bands down I have to take a break, meaning I leave Nev Brooks to check out Brassick and Crowsaw whilst I step out for something to eat and a change of clothes. Returning to catch the very end of the latter’s set I was immediately blown away by the fact that The Dolls House had somehow got ever fuller than when I had left it, the blues rock of Rob Lomax’ gang attracting a far more diverse audience than any other band of the day. It might not be my cup of musical tea but plenty of people would disagree with me for sure. As for Worcester’s finest Anarcho punkers Brassick, well when I finally caught up with an “emotional looking” Brooks all he could muster up was one word for a review, and that word was “stunning”. ‘Nuff said I guess.


BFTInsideThankfully I’m back in my prime reviewing spot (for that read the dance floor) in time to catch all of Burning From The Inside who have once again travelled all the way down from Manchester just to play for us oiks. Okay there’s the less than small matter of the two charities that Slugfest 666 is supporting too, but after the quartet’s recent uproarious Welsh debut over at the Hog you can’t help but think that these guys understand that we Welsh know a decent band when we see one. Kicking off with ‘Falling Fast’ the lead track from the band’s ‘Alienated For Life’ EP their all too brief seven song set is the perfect pick me up for yours truly fusing fast and frantic punk choons with the Lydon-eque sneer of frontman Paul into a package that is meant to confront and provoke, just like their recent gigging buddies No Choice who are to follow. This is music with integrity, remember that word, it’s seldom used these days


So as the crowd watching the bands start to dwindle slightly, due largely I guess to the alcohol and heat starting to take its effect, it’s left to the (fool)hardy and the straight edge to welcome Cardiff’s No Choice back to Abertillery. It was in this very venue that five years previous I first watched Gagz Williams and his gang (then promoting their excellent ‘Anesthetize This!’ album) totally throttle a largely indifferent audience with their politicised brand of agit punk. Now back supporting the release of their ‘Thru It’ LP the guys tonight deploy the slightly different tact of simply making everyone dance like idiots in a celebration of everything that is great about this particularly unique band. Bringing together reggae, pop, punk and metal influences whilst never once losing sight of the song, cuts like ‘Coalition Blues’, ‘Conclusion & Closure’ and ‘Rhetoric And Promises’ might appear to be Manics wordathons on paper, but that never stopped the boys from Blackwood writing a great chorus did it? Same goes for No Choice who specialise in music to make you think….oh and dance. If a mid-set cover of ‘Jah War’ (dedicated to Malcolm Owen) wasn’t enough for the more discerning amongst us then the closing strains of ‘Is This Punk Rock?’ surely was the most poignant question of the day.


Goat Leaf


The Saturday of Slugfest 666 had to come to an end somewhere, and in the safe hands as our good buddies Goat Leaf I could think of nothing better than a huge slab of acid tinged blues rock to take us into the early hours of Sunday morning. So as the final line check of the day was taken I started to notice a growing sense of anticipation around the room ahead of the quartet’s third Slugfest appearance, and almost immediately I started to hear comments such as “these guys are diesel rock, they are a rock ‘n’ roll engine” and (get this one) “this is the band Led Zeppelin would have loved to have been” being uttered amongst the faithful gathered stage front. I simply had to capture these within this write up because 1) I thought that not only would Goat Leaf love to read these, and 2) because they are also 100% bang on the button. So never mind how much journalistic rhetoric I want to gush over the thirty odd minutes of Theremin infused musical nirvana that followed I’ll just leave you to ponder those comments whilst I go off and dance my arse off with the freak following.


So as Saturday night edged its way into Sunday morning heralding for many the third and final day of Slugfest via its sister event the Acoustic Slug over at the nearby Railway public house, I set sail back to my adopted home of Risca safe in the knowledge that the good people of my spiritual home of Abertillery were doing a hell of a lot more for the community (and charity) than any of their elected political leaders. Seriously folks I ask you this if these guys can raise £2,000 in the space of 48 hours what could they do if they were doing this thing every day of the year? Kudos to everyone who attended, everyone who donated and here’s to Slugfest 777 - Pissheads Under Command.


Now there’s a few ideas for you to mull over to next year eh. (Johnny H)


Watkins album collection