• Charlotte Hardman

Teddy Rocks 2019- Festival Highlights / Louder Live

2019 was the biggest year for Teddy Rocks Festival in its history. More activities, food vendors and bands than ever before, and double the capacity for weekend campers, all in an effort of raising what was also their biggest fundraising target of all time- £100,000 to go towards fighting children’s cancer. Festival founder Tom Newton lost his younger brother Ted to a rare form of bone cancer when he was just ten years old, and now, nine years on, the festival they created as a means of fundraising for Teddy20, the charity founded in Ted’s honour, has grown beyond what anyone had anticipated, welcoming thousands of punters through its doors across the weekend. Teddy20 does incredible work, helping to fund research into a cure for rare forms of cancer than do not receive adequate funding from larger cancer charities, as well as providing children who are facing the fight against cancer and their families support, advice, and respite care to make their fight as comfortable as is possible. As well as having the privilege of being involved in raising money for such an incredibly important cause, attendees of Teddy Rocks were treated to a wonderful weekend of amazing bands- here is our round up of our favourites from across the weekend. And if you want to know whether that £100,000 fundraising target was reached, keep reading to the end to find out…

The Vocalzone Stage:

Representing the new age of the underground British post-hardcore scene was the haunting, blistering enigma that is Manchester-based Parting Gift. Crunchier and grittier than on record, each track carried both more bounce and more bite than anyone in the tent could have prepared for. Launching a wall of pummelling guitars out from the stage, the band scythed through ‘Pale’, the lead single for their latest EP ‘Ensom’, with its forceful sting and drums that crash like hailstones at its centre. ‘Asleep’ was dramatic and subterranean, while ‘Without Sin’ carried a vaguely lighter touch that made it slightly more penetrable, and all the more engaging for it. Competing in such a rapidly expanding field of music can be tough, but Parting Gift certainly have the charisma and the creative drive behind them to rise up to compete in the domains of post-hardcore royalty.

Flying the flag for the upcoming stars of tomorrow were fresh-faced pop punkers Wolf Culture. Bringing their characteristically blithe yet angst-driven sound to the Vocalzone stage in a big way, the band shone, from ‘The Side Effects of Being Happy’, with its relentlessly lively guitar line and contrastingly despondent lyrics, to closer ‘Wreck’, which resonated out through every member of the crowd- bubbly and shattering in equal measure. And with the glimpse of a new track that we were treated to, which was haunted by an intriguing country twang, and their forthcoming record set to break away from the limiting mould of the ‘pop punk’ genre conventions, this young band are a very exciting prospect indeed!

Putting your own band on the second stage on the Saturday afternoon of your own festival is a great expression of a humble nature and total commitment to a cause far larger then yourself: and nobody would expect anything less from festival organiser Tom Newton, who also doubles as guitarist in pop punk outfit The Bottom Line, who have been steadily rising to prominence over the past few years, having toured with both genre newcomers Waterparks as well as pogoing titans Simple Plan. With a new record on the ever-approaching horizon, the band pulled heavily from their new release with playful single ‘Gone’ receiving a rousing reception. It was their slightly older tracks- ‘A Little Much’, with its infectious shout-along refrains, and raucous closer ‘Insecure’- that whipped the stagnant Saturday hoards into a true melee- a sign of great things on the horizon, for both the festival itself and the band’s upcoming sophomore release.

The Onbuy Stage:

Backed by blazing sunshine, which was outshone only by the bursts of pyro that adorned their set, pop rock trio Press to Meco blend some much needed warmth back into the chilly spring winds with their effervescent melodies, yet there was an added snarl to the fringes of their sound that is less discernible on record, and it certainly drew the approving gaze of several passers-by. Opening with their distinctive single ‘Familiar Ground’, which was packed full of supple guitar lines and pulsating drums, the band took a short-but-sweet saunter through much of their most recent full-length, from the petulant bassline of ‘Itchy Fingers’, to the record’s eponymous track, which roared with an impressive power for a three-piece outfit. If the approving murmurs that floated over the crowd following their set are anything to go by, Press to Meco are definitely a band you can’t afford to ignore over the coming year.

Realising that many of the crowd, yourself included, are far younger than a band’s debut album is a strange experience in itself- not that that dampened the response to alt rock local lads Toploader. Hailing from Eastbourne, the band did the south coast scene proud with their offering of a plethora of easy-going, palatable rock tunes. A perfect soundtrack to the slow, hazy sunset was the delicately shimmering opening piano notes of ‘Achilles Heel’, while the airy, danceable melody of ‘Time of My Life’ bubbled and fizzed in the cool evening air. In a moment of psychic intuition as to what will undoubtedly be the summer’s hottest musical renaissance, the band busted out a cover of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’, which, while it drew a newfound shade of engagement from the crowd, would have definitely been a vivaciously welcomed display in a few months’ time. Any signs of placidity were erased, however, with the introduction of ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, the band’s 2009 superhit, which had hips swaying and lovers’ arms wrapping around their paramour’s necks- the kind of precious moments that make intimate festivals like this so undeniably special.

The Greyhound Stage:

The Greyhound Stage is one of Teddy Rocks’ biggest draws. Boasting a huge selection of the finest cover bands from across the country, it gives punters the unique chance to dance, sing and scream along to the greatest hits from some of rock’s biggest legends, in a crowd of no more than a few hundred.

Bringing all the self-aware cheesiness that one could ask for, both Tenacious G (a tribute to the Jack Black and Kyle Gass duo) and nu metal impersonators Stiff Bizkit provided ample opportunities to leave go of one’s critical rock connoisseur sensibilities and indulge in the single-minded revelry. As expected, both bands’ biggest tracks drew the most raucous reception: the former’s cover of ‘Tribute’ was almost drowned out by the excitable screams of the crowd, while the latter’s rendition of ‘Break Stuff’ turned every 20-something metalhead back into 14-year-old spin-kicking teenagers!

‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ has been revitalised as an anthem for unity and togetherness over the past two years, and so it was no surprise that when Oas-is brought out those firstinimitable piano notes, they were met with a chorus of screaming voices from the densely packed crowd inside the tent! The band’s entire set was one huge sing-along, with the band’s album tracks garnering just as momentous a reception as the iconic ‘Wonderwall’, about which so many words have already been written that attempting to write any more seems farcical. The low, grumbling bassline of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ pulsated out across the field, while ‘Live Forever’ floated amongst the trees, as airy and grandiose as ever. It was a set that any indie music fan would have been beyond envious to have witnessed.

Rather than attempting to match their namesakes as closely as possible, the acapella trio The Lounge Kittens took an entirely different approach to honouring their musical inspirations, morphing classic rock and pop tracks into crystalline gems of lightweight acapella. Ducking and diving through the realms of pop punk history, their medley of tracks that ranged from Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy, to the All-American Rejects and Blink 182 had the whole tent nostalgic for Myspace, long black bangs and studded belts, while their full-length cover of The Offspring’s ‘Want You Bad’ retained its tongue-in-cheek attitude even with the added glossier overtones. Closing out with a maelstrom of dancefloor-filling classics, The Lounge Kittens had moulded seemingly incompatible genres into one deeply satisfying musical tapestry.

Similarly, the Decatonics embraced their love of ska music with a wide-ranging discography, ranging from across the history books of ska and reggae, and bringing the blazing warmth of the summer sunshine to the distinctly chilly Dorset countryside! A particular highlight was their performance of ‘Three Little Birds’, the very epitome of uplifting, summery tunes, with its bright message of hope and perseverance through the dark times- a message that was very much appreciated after two perishingly cold nights in the camping fields! Seeing music which is so often wrongly associated with hatred, discrimination and division, being such a force for shared joy and unity was a pleasure to behold.

Muddling through a set packed with already challenging guitar work and with the reputation of unparalled onstage chemistry to uphold, Blinked 182 had a rough ride on the technical side, the lack of monitors leaving them struggling to remain in sync between '‘Travis’'s pummelling drums and '‘Tom’'s flighty guitar lines. Smoothing out towards the end of the set, however, their rendition of ‘All the Small Things’ was fairly tight, and elicited near the same levels of fever-pitch fervour that the original Blink can induce in a crowd! And despite the discrepancies between the timings, the inclusion of ‘Reckless Abandon’ was packed full of youthful vigour, and the lyrics of ‘Anthem Part 2’ remained as universally significant as ever. Admirably, the band had great fun making light of the situation, tossing around some characteristic Blink dick jokes and taking any mishaps on the chin, which made for an entertaining set despite the technical issues.

Few bands come bigger and more revered than punk legends Green Day. It therefore takes a brave soul to attempt to morph into their doppelgängers- yet it is a challenge that Dookie have more than taken in their stride. Sharing members with the aforementioned Blinked 182, Dookie continued the party late into the Saturday night, whipping up mosh pits so fierce that even being on the outskirts left you with some shining bruises to show for it! Drenching the crowd in rolls of toilet paper, the band clattered through all the classics: from the chugging guitars of ‘Holiday’, through the heart-wrenching ballad of ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, peaking with their blistering rendition of ‘Basket Case’, with its unmistakable opening lyrics, accompanied by that grumbling guitar tone, that sent the crowd into bacchanalian realms of revelry! One thing is for sure, nobody in that tent was winding down to sleep any time soon!

Closing out the final night of the festival will be the job of the original Foo Fighters come the end of Reading Festival this summer, however the Foo Forgers did an equally admirable job of rounding out the festival weekend in the style! Blasting through a packed rendition of all the classic Foos tracks, the energy of the crowd showed no signs of waning, as the soaring chorus of ‘Learn to Fly’ breezed into ‘The Pretender’, with its rousing bassline and adrenaline-inducing guitars, fading into the sobering ‘Everlong’ with apparent ease. Vocally and physically, in the case of frontman ‘Dave’, the band were a more than fitting tribute to one of rock’s biggest legends, and the perfect way to close an insanely brilliant weekend of music.

The Headliners:

Of course, no festival would be complete without its big names closing out the night’s festivities, and as names go, they don’t get much more intriguing than a double bill featuring The Darkness and The Zutons.

‘Hawkins’ chair work was unparalleled, as he sat down on the foldable chair, then stood up… and at the end of the song, sat down again’- Justin Hawkins

As the literal darkness drew in on the Saturday night revellers like a thick, icy blanket, the band who share that title took to the stage, in a blaze of screaming pyro (much appreciated by the frozen sea of spectators!).

The Darkness had arrived.

Racing through a myriad of tracks from across their 19-year-long career, all thoughts of the biting cold were soon forgotten. From riotous, upbeat refrains such as ‘Friday Night’, with its roadtrip-ready bassline and its guitars full of a springy elasticity, through the grinding, sultry tones of ‘Every Inch of You’; rounded out with the wistful noodling melodies of ‘Love Is Only a Feeling’, it was a set that paid great homage to the wonderfully expansive reach of rock and roll.

The enigmatic stage presence of their frontman Justin Hawkins kept the crowd’s attention buoyant throughout the course of their mammoth 2-hour set, cracking off-the-wall jokes at every turn and drawing all eyes with him as he bounded about the stage like an excitable puppy. His mid-set ramblings, regarding everything from the brand of water onstage to the colour-co-ordination of his stage towel and outfit, were infinitely entertaining- one can’t help but feeling that should music cease to be his passion, his true calling may well lie in stand-up comedy!

It is easy to feel sympathy for so-called ‘one-hit wonders’, particularly when evident is the fact that a crowd of thousands is hanging on your every word purely for the opening notes of the one song that they know. However, the sheer velocity of the crowd’s reaction when the distinctive introductory distorted guitar of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ roared into life was more than compensation for all concerned! Dedicating the track -self-proclaimed as ‘our only recognisable song’- to ‘anyone who has ever had a pet, or has known anyone who has ever had pets’, The Darkness hit each squealing high note with impeccable precision, carrying the entire field along with them through each revving pre-chorus and thunderous crash into the titular lines of the chorus. This is what true rock stars look like.

Packed full of smooth, gliding saxophone and elegant, sashaying guitars, The Zutons took the challenge of closing out the Sunday night of the festival more than comfortably in their stride!. The musicianship was unparalleled, as each element of the band’s set ducked and weaved seamlessly in amongst one another- an incredibly impressive display to any trained ear. The wickedly low bass tone on opener ‘Zuton Fever’ slithered out over the arena, calling forth the crowd like a missile tract, promising a comprehensive education in how to put on a clean, unsullied headline set that flows like a majestic river through its setlist.

In a surprise move, it was still relatively early in the set when the band cracked out their most iconic track, (further popularised by the widely-appreciated Amy Winehouse cover) ‘Valerie’. A chorus of cracked voices, strained after a weekend of singing and indulging in the delights of the onsite bars, rose up in unison, screaming along to every word, the last remaining dregs of their energy being sapped in the process! ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love’ brought all the leaping melodies and cyclic bassline one could ask for, while the fizzling opening notes of ‘Pressure Point’, punctuated with its lulls of deeply plush bass, rollicked and rolled. That lead fluidly into the crisp, buttery sax of ‘Oh Stacey’, married perfectly with its lazily meandering guitars, and all too soon it was the turn of closer ‘You Will, You Won’t’, where fist-pumping drums command the choruses, punching with a chest-beating thump that would remain nestled in the beating of the crowd’s hearts throughout their long, arduous journeys back to reality.

This year, Teddy Rocks Festival had a fundraising target of £100,000 to go towards funding research to help fight children's cancer. By the end of the final day of the festival, this was the grand fundraising total (and it's still climbing!)

Tickets for Teddy Rocks 2020 are on sale now, at an incredible discount (even more than the local discount!). Head over to the Teddy Rocks website to purchase yours now!

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