Photo credit: Alysa O’Connor

Alex Salisbury
Alex Salisbury

DIY Promoter. Sometimes anti-social, always anti-fascist.

Photos By ALYSA O'CONNOR

Boneyard Promotions (BYP) festival was postponed last year, but came back swinging in 2021 with a heavy-hitting event stacked out with some of the finest alternative bands the UK scene has to offer.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a festival (for obvious reasons) and Burn It Down was a great re-introduction to the joys and positive energy a large-scale music event can bring you.

Boneyard Promotions (BYP) festival was postponed last year, but came back swinging in 2021 with a heavy-hitting event stacked out with some of the finest alternative bands the UK scene has to offer. Running over three venues in the English Riviera town of Torquay the crowds were out in force and were hungry for their rock, metal and punk fix after all the delays of the last 18 months.

A herd of alternative music fans were eager and out en mass from the very start of the first set of the weekend from the electronica-influenced, heavy punk of CRASHFACE. ‘Molotov Smile’, their The Prodigy infused 2021 single, was a real highlight of their set, which was full of punishing rhythm sections and attitude filled frontman swagger. It was a great opener to the festival and set the high standard for the weekend.

CRASHFACE at Burn It Down Festival

One of the beauties of the festival (apart from the excellent music) is the ease of getting from stage to stage to catch different bands. Spread across iconic Devon venues The Apple & Parrot, The Foundry and The Attic, it was merely a walk across the road to catch the next band, which made it really effortless to watch every act if you so wished.

We quickly breezed through sets from BYP favourites FES, Lockjaw Records’ DRONES and the ever excellent Last Hyena, who’s brand of heavy, supertight, intricate and effortless time-signature-switching math-rock is always a joy to consume live. The crowd were enthralled and were happily singing along to ‘Doctorpus’ within minutes of their set.

FES at Burn It Down Festival
Drones at Burn It Down Festival
Last Hyena at Burn It Down Festival

Denmark’s own SIAMESE were the only non-UK band on the bill and shocked me with how good they were, a little dash of Deftones, a hint of SLAVES and drum sound that physically shook me from the inside out. They crushed their extended set (due to VUKOVI unfortunately having to pull out due to the obvious) and garnered a huge amount of love and adoration from the crowd who were able to catch them.

Siamese at Burn It Down Festival

The indomitable Saint Agnes headlined The Apple & Parrot to close out the stage on Friday. A live show full of sex, sleaze and slander, topped off with the sultry and enthralling performance of Kitty A. Austen, one of the best frontwomen I’ve ever seen. It was a real headbangers ball, in a hot as hell venue, that had sweat dripping down the walls and guitar stands being launched into the crowd by their Guinness swilling ‘Mia Wallace on steroids’ singer. A real highlight of the weekend.

Saint Agnes at Burn It Down Festival

Topping off Friday’s bill was the legendary Jamie Lenman, who’s two pronged rock assault shook The Foundry to its foundations! The ex-Reuben frontman reeled through a strong setlist of favourites such as ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend’ and his irreverent stage presence had the crowd eating out of his palm throughout. The pit was a swirling vision of bodies colliding and surfing around on top of the mayhem, Burn It Down day 1 was at an end, but there was still plenty more to come!

Jamie Lenman at Burn It Down Festival

After a night sponsored by Red Stripe and Cafe Patron, I needed something to shake off Friday nights haze and Saturday’s opening run of performances from IDESTROY, Mother Vulture, Soot Sprite and EL MOONO were the perfect remedy to cure a hangover. Bristol’s IDESTROY’s energetic punk-rock woke me up before Mother Vulture’s bone shaking rock explosion shook out the last of my hangover. Nothing really ever prepares you for your first time seeing them. 

IDestroy at Burn It Down Festival

A furious brigade of rock n roll vagabonds, full of animation, energy and power that never disappoints live, I watched their set with a big stupid grin on my face and The Foundry was rocking, with guitarist Brodie whirlwinding in the crowd whilst playing one of his trademark solos. I doubt they’ll forget their first time experiencing Mother Vulture, I certainly needed a post-set cigarette afterwards!

Mother Vulture at Burn It Down Festival

Next up Exeter’s Soot Sprite brought their dreamy shoegaze to The Parrot, a perfectly chilled palette cleanser after the fury of the Mother Vulture set. The three-piece band have a wonderful sound that just feels so easy to watch live and just enjoy their zen vibes.

Soot Sprite at Burn It Down Festival

In complete zen-shattering contrast were the hairy boys of EL MOONO. The Brighton-based grunge monsters are the epitome of the ‘wall of sound’, a proper musical sledgehammer to the face. Heavy riffs, dirty breakdowns, pummeling drums and ton of screaming, it was fucking excellent (as always)!

El Moono at Burn It Down Festival

My other new favourite discovery of the weekend were GNARLAH, another heavy, Brighton-based band. The three-piece reminded me a lot of the proto-grunge band TAD with a healthy dose of groove thrown in, super heavy but something you could easily dance away to at the same time, especially when the breakdown hits. These guys are certainly one to catch live if you have the chance.

Gnarlah at Burn It Down Festival

I then caught the live techno-esque post-punk of another Brighton based band CLT DRP. Their performance is captivating, with lead singer Annie cutting and isolating her dance moves to her fierce and penetrating lyrical content, which breaks down the normal social constructs of everyday life for a female. Much like Peaches these guys ain’t backwards about coming forwards.

CLT DRP at Burn It Down Festival

We swung back over to The Foundry to catch Phoxjaw, one of the South West’s most exciting and unique heavy acts. Their all red assault was full of crunching bass lines, screams, thick South West accents and circle pits, always a pleasure to see these guys get down to business.

Phoxjaw at Burn It Down Festival

WARGASM(UK) were next, and wow, I completely understand why they just won the best emerging UK act at the Heavy Music Awards last week. The toxic peroxide twins Milkie Way and Sam Matlock’s double vocals bounce off each other so well, backed with hard riffs and breakdowns a plenty. Their cover of N*E*R*D*s ‘Lapdance’ sent the crowd wild, and we even got a cameo from ASHESTOANGELS frontman Adam Crilly, filling in for Fred Durst, which included a monumental dive from him from the upper level of The Foundry into the waiting pit below.

Wargasm at Burn It Down Festival

WITCH FEVER blew us away with their Sabbath-bass-backed sound, this Manchester outfit are mean as fuck, and don’t take prisoners with their live shows.

Witch Fever at Burn It Down Festival

After some minor technical difficulties KID KAPICHI brought their buckfast-swigging-swagger to Torquay. Their creeper-shuffling tunes sit somewhere between the sound of SLAVES and the lyrical content of Arctic Monkeys, from the set opener ‘Working Men’s Town’ the crowd were singing along throughout.

Kid Kapachi at Burn It Down Festival

Now, we need to talk about NOVA TWINS. There is no doubt that they were the set of the weekend in my opinion. A furious, dynamic duo, combining more than a bit of RATM and the heavy electronica of The Prodigy in a pedal-smashing-madness filled set that peddled the right sort of madness for the crowd to completely buy-in to. I felt sorry for the abuse their pedalboards received during their performance, with the girls quite literally stomping the shit out of them like a broken skateboard. I was honestly left speechless after watching them, and for me, that’s something very out of the ordinary.

Nova Twins at Burn It Down Festival

Wrapping up the whole festival were alt-rockers DINOSAUR PILE-UP, the perfect ending to a great weekend of music. The set took in their whole back catalogue and the crowd were rocking out to their unique brand of heavy party music from start to finish. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many people crowd surfing during a set, it was a constant stream of them reappearing from behind the barrier and re-entering the pit.

Dinosaur Pile Up at Burn It Down Festival

Overall Burn It Down was excellent! BYP should be extremely proud of this year’s festival, after a really tough time for the music industry, they rolled with the punches (unfortunately Bob Vylan had to drop out last minute, but were replaced by a back-to-back Moriarty party) and they pulled off a real haven for alternative music lovers from across the UK. I’d highly recommend it to anyone for next year, early bird tickets are already available (and selling fast) for the 2nd and 3rd of September 2022.

The crowd at Burn It Down Festival

To finish, the one thing I’ll take from this years festival was the immense amount of female talent that’s emerging and challenging the boys club of the rock scene for their crowns. NOVA TWINS, WARGASM and Saint Agnes should all be on your hitlist for the coming years! The king is dead, long live the queens!