The warning signs were all flashing in the days leading up to Hevy festival. My bank account had seen better days, any chance of an easy lift had fallen through and the forecast was predicting nothing but thunderstorms throughout the impending weekend. Rarely discouraged by a soggy mosh-pit, I prepared to throw all caution into the encroaching gale force 9 winds and set off to to Port Lympne Safari Park in Kent.
One of the first things worth noting is that Port Lympne is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a comfortable train journey from London but then you’re on your own. No official shuttle in sight, just a public bus filled with frustrated locals and a driver that can drop you off “about 15 minutes away” from the site. Thankfully the rain was holding off so we arrived soaked only in our own sweat. We strolled right in and set up moments before the sky turned black and hundreds of nearby monkeys predictably shat themselves at one of the most dramatic and disheartening storms I’ve ever been caught in. I was just debating whether my tent would hold up when the rain fell silent, the skies cleared and the storm passed for good. There wasn’t a single drop for the rest of the weekend. Nothing but blue skies, shining sun and a field full of grateful hardcore kids.
The first night consisted of acoustic sets under the tent which was a great way to ease everyone into the festival before the forthcoming mosh-pits and crowd-surfing (more on that later) of Friday kicked in. We used this as an opportunity to see if we could sneak some tinnies into the arena, with great success! The organisers of Hevy need not panic though, as we also bought plenty of alcohol from their bar, which by festival standards, was reasonably priced, and had a couple of ales as well as the standard Tuborg-by-numbers (No complaints here, I love Somersby Cider!). As someone who has recently moved to London, it was nice to actually pay less for a pint.
After attending a few festivals you start to look forward to the weirdos you’ll inevitably run into; the sort of characters you can’t imagine living a normal life outside of music festivals and raves. At Hevy however everyone seemed peculiarly… normal! It appears the line-up was just contemporary and original enough to attract a crowd of relatively well-rounded, composed and genuine people. It took time to adjust to complete strangers actually being able to carry a conversation past indistinct drunken ramblings but in the end made for a nice change of pace, even if you do start to miss the freaks. Perhaps I was the freak? I mean, I was wearing a Sherlock hat and telling everyone that I was getting “on the case”, but that’s just what you do at a festival, right? Continuing to get suitably wasted to compensate for the lack of freaks, we became well acquainted with our neighbours and woke the next morning to unbearably perfect weather.
We took this opportunity to work off our hangovers by checking out the safari park as free entry was granted to festival patrons. A short walk, ushered along by a hilarious old Chinese steward kicking off over people dropping ice creams, found us at the animal park. Here we were informatively enlightened as to what a myriad of exotic animals looked like when they’re asleep. It’s debatable however whether the majesty of these creatures would’ve been enhanced by consciousness. We watched a Scottish Wildcat stay awake long enough to recklessly disembowel a baby chicken and spray guts over anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in the splash zone. Inspired by this grand display of nature we returned to the festival site, picking up a Magnum on the way for the old Chinese woman to make up for all the wasted desserts.
Chon eased us into the day’s music. Self proclaimed as “the least heavy band at Hevy festival”, their mellow instrumentals matched the early afternoon vibe perfectly. This delicate start may have caught the security off-guard however, as the excellent Touchè Amorè hit the stage and a close friend of mine immediately crowd surfed over the barrier completely unaided. Hitting the ground face first and busting out a tooth, he scored a gnarly scar and an unfortunate trip to A&E costing him the rest of the evening. Being a man down dampened our spirits for most of the day, fortunately The Dillinger Escape Plan destroyed any fucks we had left to give with one of the most ferocious and unforgiving sets of the weekend. I was sympathetically forbidden from discussing their outstanding performance with our hospitalised friend, so if you’re reading this mate they weren’t actually that good and you really didn’t miss much…
Saturday evening was an interesting one, kicked off by an argument between a drunk couple in my camp over the burger place on-site being good/not good (okay). We were left with a conclusion – my mate going back to camp and his girlfriend coming to party at the Uprawr after-party with us; her levels of inebriation at levels I strived, but ultimately failed to reach all weekend. Whilst seeing Radio 1 DJ Dan P Carter do his thing behind the decks, we took a break outside. This lead to meeting the man who’s name we will never know, but will always remember by one defining feature – He was half-naked, repping a pair of Mastodon booty shorts. Asstodon, we may never meet again, but your determination to be fabulous, even in the cold at 2am has my eternal respect.
With our fallen comrade back in the mix, rocking a plaster on his top lip that sadly resembled a Hitler tash, he spent the Saturday avoiding mosh-pits and showing off his freshly disjointed grill. Most of us were completely out for the count thanks to the previous night’s 4:30am finish, but a trip in the car to the nearest KFC fixed this, so thanks Hevy for finally removing the no re-entry policy! For my camp, the music, whilst sounding decent all day whilst listening from afar, didn’t really kick in until the evening so we continued to drink for a couple of hours before getting to watch Arcane Roots prove why they’re one of the best British rock bands at the moment, followed by The Fall Of Troy playing what I could only describe as my favourite album ever, and Thrice delivering one of the best shows they’ve ever put on by a country mile.
Sunday night provided choice – Go to Facedown and listen to some pop-rock/metal, or go to the Ultimate Power Silent Disco and belt out some power ballads. We opted for the former, but in hindsight we could have done both, for there were a lot of people who bought the headphones and strolled across to the Facedown tent, giving them complete choice to dance to whichever song was better. It also has to be mentioned that the music played by the Facedown DJs was actually a pretty good mix! I was expecting the same old identikit set-list that they play every month downstairs in the Scala, but colour me surprised, they changed it up a bit – Perhaps you can do this at your actual club night too? In all seriousness though, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and went back to camp leaving the festival on a high note.
Hevy for me had made a lot of changes from when I last went in 2011 that has clearly improved the standard of the festival. I did feel that a few things need to be improved for next time. Firstly I think that there should have been late night entertainment on the Thursday as well as Friday and Saturday. Whilst it’s easy to make your own fun at a festival, it doesn’t hurt to have something in place to push you in the right direction. I also felt that the food stands weren’t open early enough, and could have benefited more if they were in the campsite side, rather than the arena (meaning they could have opened earlier and provided breakfast). Finally, getting a license sorted to start the music closer to midday would have been ideal – The worst thing about this festival was that there were so many good bands. By starting earlier, the main and second stages could have been staggered, meaning clashes such as A Wilhelm Scream vs Protest The Hero, and Dillinger Escape Plan vs Fightstar could have been avoided. Yes they’re both vastly different genres, but judging from the crowd in attendance, we all have a varied taste in alternative music.
With all that said, I appreciate that Hevy has found the magic formula to be able to maintain a great line-up for a few thousand attendees, and whilst I see that the ticket prices will increase next year (even at Tier 1 pricing), I truly believe that this will be for the greater good, and will allow the festival to expand to the levels that make it a premier festival whilst maintaining the “small festival” vibes.