It is 1pm on a glorious Saturday afternoon in the seaside town of Worthing, West Sussex as first band Vektrill hit the stage. Lead singer Scott Miller is sporting a pink and purple shirt that complements the uplighters and he’s playing an equally colourful red glitter guitar. It is a bright start to the festival! During Loveless Machine, a track never played live before, he encourages the crowd to mimic the guitar sounds and they reciprocate. An air raid siren precedes a politically charged intro to a subsequent track, before Scott does a couple of laps of the dance floor, and he falls to his knees before skipping a further couple of times around the crowd.
The energy levels are high, and the crowd continue to warm up for Brighton duo The Better DeaD. The hall is filling up nicely as Cameron Jessop has to take a break to adjust the drum kit, leaving singer Steven Speck to ad lib, while he fixes it. “Have you got something we can stick in front of the bass drum to stop it sliding? No volunteers? he chuckles. The crowd is fully engaged and fixated as they play Sweet Soul Sanctuary, you would never guess that they played their debut gig just three months ago. Four-piece Feral Sun are up next and play a passionate set including recent release and crowd favourite Save Yourself , before dedicating Stand Up to festival organiser Harry White. Guitarist Mark Hosri leapfrogs into first place in the most beautiful guitar of the weekend competition, with his stunning blue Ormsby.
After a slight delay to tweak the sound, Seething Akira are straight out of the starting blocks with the opening line, “Raise your fingers up”, as singers Charlie and Kit grin inanely from the stage throughout Punishment Instructions. By the second track, Charlie is up on the speaker stack, before Kit leaps into the crowd. An effervescent mosh pit erupts and a spillage on the floor is quickly wiped up with a hoodie. Before the set is over, Charlie crowdsurfs and the crowd ruptures again for Gravity. An emotional performance follows as Mordecai deliver the first farewell of the weekend. With his flame red hair, Dan Hicks and co. open with Fight Fire with Fire before the chugging guitars of Method In Your Madness and words of encouragement from Dan’s mum in the crowd. If the heart strings had not already been tugged, Dan explains, “This is a personal song about my grandfather and the first time I’ve played it live since he passed away”, before playing Lifeline. James Sanger-Brown from Caine makes a guest appearance on aptly named Final Curtain and it is soon time for precisely this. As the band leave the stage, Dan raises his guitar above his head in a pensive moment.
There are smiles all round as we arrive for day two, and the buzz from Saturday is still lingering in the air as the sun yet again is shining on this coastal town. With ten more bands on offer, it wouldn’t be a festival in 2022 without a last-minute change in line up. Doctor Payne is unfortunately not able to attend but Glass Grave slide effortlessly into the slot, and bedecked in a white boiler suit and blue and pink hair, singer Adam Connor is soon leaping into the audience and getting up close and personal. It is a great turnout for such an early start and this usually five-piece wake everyone from their Sunday slumber. No sooner does the crowd comply with the now familiar “move forward” and Adam is back on the dance floor cutting a swathe through them like a strimmer! After just 17 minutes the set is over and the audience are left wanting more.
After a Ted Nugent Stranglehold soundcheck, Lost Asylum are ready to be discovered. Resplendent in a NWOBHM vibe studded jacket, frontman Ryan O’Donovan uses a voice effect for a Terminator-style intro to the set. Opening with Asylum, their five-song hard rock performance ends with the recording of their latest video for Dysfunctional Me, explained as “about taking pride in everything that is dysfunctional”.
There is much discussion in the ERB camp about the name of the next band – Drallion – and we settle on Dragons and Marillion being the inspiration, but singer James Watts later explains it is in fact Dragons and Lions! James’ Michael Poulson (Volbeat) sounding voice, with added growl, delivers a polished five-song set. The band are heavy and impassioned, owning the stage and oozing confidence. As a mosh pit appears, punters from the back of the hall are seen running to join in and the church organ style intro to Song For A Fall sounds resplendent in the former church setting and again we are treated to a sneak preview of a yet to be released track.
Another final hurrah next and a more gentile band with, according to fellow ERB presenter Wardy, “a Hootie and The Blowfish vibe”. Southbank Crows play a set that includes Runaway Boots and Paradise Park. Self-described as “just as bunch of guys who love what we do and live for what we love”, they certainly look like they are enjoying playing and we wish them luck with their future endeavours.
As the evening progresses the raised platform is further used as Bleed Again vocalist James Dawson stands on high, as if commanding the crowd. Making his second appearance of the weekend, Seething Akira’s Simon Williams is also in the line-up. As the band play Walk Through Fire, the crowd demonstrates beautifully synchronised headbanging. As the set list progresses, this turns into moshing and then a melee, and then finally a mostly topless rendition of the Macarena is performed. As the sun goes down, the energy levels in the audience certainly do not, and this is credit to the band, who deliver a captivating performance from melodic intros to growling vocals, and everything in between.
The job of closing the two-day event falls to THECITYISOURS. Singer Oli Duncanson bookends the pink theme of the festival in a fuchsia jacket, just as Scott Miller started it in pink the previous day. Looking like a metalcore boyband, there were also moments when there was also a hint of this in the songs, aspects of So Sad being an example. This was soon contrasted, “This song is called Body Count. Body Count by name and Body Count by nature”, explains Oli. This song definitely did not sound like a boyband and as the weekend draws to a close, the audience is singing right to the end.
Organiser Harry White confirmed at the event that Hammerdown will be back next year, so if you fancy a tantalising line-up, friendly and helpful staff, a beautiful venue with grandeur and history and a weekend at the seaside, follow Hammerdown Festival on their social media pages to keep to date with all their plans.