Photo credit: Massive thanks to Sara-Louise Bowrey (Festival Flyer) for the brilliant photos.
Now in its second year, Wotsit Called Fest is a 2-day DIY punk extravaganza in Hastings. Organised by Toxic Wotsit, there’s a great diversity of bands across the two days: hardcore, skiffle, aggro-folk, ska and plenty of snotty straight-up punk. This is its first year at The Palace and my first year as a punter, so I’m excited to see what all the hype is about.
Bumbling into the bar on Friday night, half an hour before the music’s due to start, it’s good to see the venue already looking packed. There are a lot of excited punks here, including many like me who’ve travelled from further afield, treating the weekend as a little seaside holiday.
Rotten Foxes kick off the festivities with loud and lairy hardcore, and an immediate demand to get pints flying through the air. Unlikely bastions of body-positivity, they’re wearing the absolute minimum on stage: bare bellies, leopard print boxers, denim cut-offs so short that you don’t quite know where to look. Bassist, Jimi, has a costume change into a Stone Cold Steve Austin vest midway through the set, in celebration of a wrestling themed tune. They close their set with an enjoyable shoutalong about Danny Dyer – the best kick-up-the-arse the crowd could wish for.
Following them, Knocksville properly get the party started with a hip-shaking rockabilly riot. They blend in punk and ska, to create a potent combo that’s impossible to resist dancing to. There isn’t a still body in the house for their cover of Tainted Love. The smoke machine (amusingly located in a spot that suggests the mixing-desk has caught fire) kicks in just in time for the breakdown, getting everyone moving.
Jason Walder uses his heavily stickered double-bass as a crowd-pleasing prop throughout the show. He whirls it through the air, straddles its side, and lays it on the floor to play an instrumental section during their biggest stomper, Lockdown. The peak is a song played while standing precariously on the side of the bass, where he courteously pauses mid-tune to give the front row a photo-opportunity. It’s a winning performance and a huge hit with the crowd.
Knocksville would be the ideal lead-in for the headline band, Nosebleed, however before them we have the most hotly-anticipated performance of the weekend: the launch of Matilda’s Scoundrels’ new album As The Tide Turns. This is the first hometown show for the infamous folk-punks since releasing the record on September 8th. Dan and Jens also form half of Toxic Wotsit, the promoters responsible for the festival. This is their show, their hometown and their time.
As expected, they play most of the new album, celebrating months of hard work. Bow To The Powers slays, as does Take It To The Streets and drunken dancefloor-filler Bottle of Rum. Never before have I heard a group of people scream so loud for a tin-whistle as they do on the introduction to Into The Fire. This is a band that have mastered the art of the build-up; starting soft to let the crowd’s heart-rate quicken, before tearing into stomping, swashbuckling madness. Dan Flanagan’s heavy overdriven guitar gives the sound its guts, but it’s the combination of a hardcore backline and the lighter, intricate melodies from the accordion, mandolin and tin-whistle that make Matilda’s Scoundrels so uniquely appealing. Thomas Quinn and Jason Stirling’s gravelly dual vocals -always raw and easy to sing with – combine to make your blood boil in the best way, awakening an anger we can all unite behind.
The mass of people crammed into The Palace are completely enthused by the Scoundrels, pulling out every conceivable punk-gig dance move possible: human pyramids, piggybacks, crowd-surfing, swing dancing, jousting and a can-can line. There’s a notable absence of row-boats and rubber dinghies, but it’d be tough to fit one into The Palace without a disaster. Every single verse is yelled back at the band, all of us stomping to keep pace with their riotous speed and rabble-rousing choruses. Their traditional set-closer Godforsaken Sea instantly transforms the room into a melee of bouncing, reckless, happy-drunk punks, all of us having the best night possible.
At the audience’s yelled demand, they agree to play old favourite Pisshead’s Anthem as an encore, on the condition that we ‘tear the place to pieces’. It takes a lot of skill to write an understated lyric as anthemic as this chorus: “Buy me whiskey, buy me beer. Get me drunk as fuck and leave me here!” A lot of thought and passion goes into the crafting their songs and it’s gratifying to see Matilda’s Scoundrels beginning to receive the success and recognition they deserve.
Matilda’s Scoundrels are a hard act to follow, especially in their own hometown, but if there is a band up to the challenge then it’s Nosebleed. The Yorkshire garage punk ‘n’ rollers instantly have the crowd enthralled, thundering straight into hit-parade classics I’m Okay, Time & Time Again and It’s Alright.
Eliott Verity doesn’t hesitate to venture out onto the dancefloor, hauling his guitar and his mic-stand with him, and encouraging bassist Ben Hannah to join him after a song. Their showmanship is second-to-none. Eliott is the master of rock ‘n’ roll axe-wielding, hoisting his Fender aloft for solos and soaking up the adoration of the fans he’s rubbing shoulders with.
Ben and Eliott’s offstage antics leave chronically under-appreciated drummer Dicky Riddims alone on stage, so some of us take it upon ourselves to show him the love he deserves. When a handful of us jump on stage to dance around the drumkit the look of happy bewilderment on Dicky’s face is priceless.
The invasion causes the sound to briefly cut out, so Elliott swiftly reclaims the stage so they can resume their barrage of back-to-back bangers. They treat us to a couple of tunes ‘never before heard by human ears’ (discounting their own supernatural ears): Start Again, Wrong and Scratching Circles on The Dancefloor. All are well received by the crowd, promising even bigger things for the next album. Finally, they end the evening with their traditional set-closer, All Radio Is Dead, getting us to crouch down and jump up, transforming the dancefloor into chaos for one last time.
As punks stumble sweatily out of The Palace afterwards, you can feel the excitement bubbling for the main day tomorrow. With The Restarts, Riggots and Pizzatramp on the bill, it’s bound to be a mad one.
Keep an eye out for Part Two of my review tomorrow!
Thanks once again to Sara-Louise Bowrey (Festival Flyer) for the great photos.