Badger Fest 2017
The innagural Badger Fest achieved far more than even the optimists expected and Phil Weller was there to watch it unfold
Photos: Michelle Adamson
Badger Fest is already well underway by the time we step inside The Star and Garter. Outside the sky is a typically Mancunian grey as the rain rips down from angry looking clouds and, as such, all outside is quiet and unassuming. Inside is a different matter. Instantly we are hit with a warm, welcoming and stuffy atmosphere. Downstairs is busy, fizzing with energy whilst the ceiling rumbles under a barage of blast beats.
The volume is loud and the lights are dark yet vibrant as Beyond Salvation are busy breathing rapid and rabid riffs into a packed room, their breakneck thrash mentality iced by some sizzling lead guitar and John Pedley's burly roars. Pedley is the man behind the poster artwork no less, but his talents go beyond illustration and he commands his band with presence and power here. There is plenty of violent fun down front throughout and it was the crowd's energy that propelled Amethsyt's set. Drummer Aaron Youd adrenalising the crowd from the off, coming from behind the kit and orchestrating those in front of the stage to clap along late on. It's just a shame, however, that their sticksman is the only one deserving such a positive audience response. While the band's live show is slick, greased with inter-song transitions, the guitars are lost in a wall of opaque mud, all their flare is buried and their on-stage personalities are more off putting than engaging at times. Aaron steals the show for them.
his all follows a host of early sets that, judging by people's rhapsodies as we mingle downstairs, went down a storm. The bombastic brass of Kringer and the Battle Katz brought smiles to everyone's faces while Liverpool's Metal To The Masses 2017 champions Reaper proved their mettel with a fierce performance that will have many eager for a return to Manchester.
Compères help keep things moving between sets, making sure the energy in the room never depletes. It is one of many little professional touches festival curator John Badger has sprinkled onto proceedings to make it more than just a load of quality bands playing upstairs in an age old pub round the back of Piccadilly Station. Other features include between set magic and a 'name the teddy badger' raffle.
Deified begin a slew of performances marked by lone vocalists and Jamie Hughes capitlaises on his ability to patrol the stage. He is a singer with a real gravity; dramatic gesticulations emphasising his lyrics and drawing your attention while lead guitarist Matthew Pike unravel's a host of sweet and clever licks. It's a polished and thoroughly entertainig performance.
Impavidus, featuring the man of the hour John Badger himself behind the kit, start off with creases needing to be ironing out. Michelle Adamson's vocals are hit and miss, every killer note followed or preceded by one off the mark, but their energy and fire is overwhelming from the first note to the last. Coupled with the crowd's admiration for Badger pulling this event off - and in such style - they are mobilised by the warmth of the crowd and by the end of their set they had produced a performance befitting of their fan favourite tag. This was by far Michelle's most visually stimulating performance we've seen her play to date. Alongside bags of technical ability they become the highlight of the day.
Your scribe is off paddling through downpouring rain, on a quest for food, as Bloodyard take to stage. Their experience and grit though, from gauging fan reactions when returning to the venue, saw them through a set which didn't leave anyone disappointed.
And so it was down to final headliners Krysthla to round off what had been a roaring success from the very start. The Wellingborough, Northamptonshire band are fast on the rise. Building on from their Metal Hammer approved debut album A War Of Souls And Desires (2015), new record Peace In Our Time appears to be quashing any concerns about the difficult second album. The band's two guitarists, who are as tight and aggressive as a clenched fist tonight, have recently bagged a Jackson endorsement and it is easy to see why. New drummer Nick Plews may have been playing one of his first shows with the band but had you not known, you wouldn't have had a clue. In all, while some punters had already headed off (a few too many afternoon beers perhaps), their heady mix of extreme metal, technically forged diversions and a more typical metallic rumble sees them smash out a noise that has plenty of substance to it. The crowd had reserved the last of their energy for this set and they, more so than the band in a way, bow out in style.
Badger Fest 2018 is already being organised. Our calendars are marked.