Takedown Festival 2023 returns after an eight-year hiatus, now held at the Portsmouth Guildhall. With a cracking lineup, a new venue, and the addition of an outdoor stage, this festival promises an action-packed day filled with the best alternative music around. With nearly 40 bands performing across five stages, Takedown Festival sets the bar high from the get-go with a fantastic and eager crowd that arrives early, unlike many other one-day festivals.
I head straight outside to catch the first act on the outdoor stage, “Autumn Fires.” Although they’re a new band to me, their catchy punk-pop tunes immediately strike a chord with the early crowd. Stepping indoors to the main stage, we’re treated to the melodic metalcore of “Dendera,” a band far more melodic than I expected. Meanwhile, “Slackrr” leaves nothing in the tank for their “Total Rock” stage set, delivering a sound perfect for the mid-afternoon sunshine.
“Red Method” has plenty of support for their main arena show, with the stage bathed in red, complementing their painted faces and devilish masks. The festival features five stages, showcasing nearly 40 acts, with many artists also performing an acoustic set on the VIP stage upstairs. Unfortunately, due to timing conflicts, it’s hard to see all the bands I wished, but I found slipping between the large outdoor stage, and the main stage was my best route, with occasional visits to the “Out Of Line” and “Down For Life” stages when I got the chance.
“CLT DRP” absolutely smashes it outdoors, and I can only see bigger things for this Brighton trio. “Seething Akira” gets the crowd surfing started in style, with the best response from the crowd so far for these hometown nu-metallers. Back outside, “The Bottom Line” bounce and smile the whole way through their catchy punk-pop set, while “Fearless Vampire Killers” leave fans wanting more of their emo-punk theatrics, complete with great looks and strong sing-a-longs.
My highlight of the day is “Saint Agnes” on the “Total Rock” stage. Every time I see this band, they get better and hit harder than ever. Their set features the latest single, “Bloodsuckers,” a blistering cover of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter,” and the banging “Middle Finger.” After a well-deserved break, I, unfortunately, miss “As December Falls” set, which I hear good things about, but manage to swing upstairs to the VIP stage to catch the end of “Skindred’s” stripped-back set, which nicely mixes tunes and chat.
It’s packed outside when “INME” take control of the stage, blasting off with “Underdose” and delivering a 12-song set that delights fans. On the main stage, “Jamie Lenman” gets the crowd moving with a swift but sweet show that includes five songs from his latest album, “The Atheist.” I squeeze into the packed and sweaty “Out Of Line” stage for a riotous set from the fantastic “ITHACA” before top punk rock shenanigans from the “Punk Rock Factory” with some classic punked-up covers, including “Running Up That Hill” and Elton John’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.”
“Loathe” takes me by surprise back in the main arena with an energetic set that leaves the crowd wanting more. However, the Celtic punk of “Black Water County” wins me over as my favourite band of the evening, and one that I must see again.
As the festival nears its end, “Skindred” and “Sleep Token” face off in a headliner clash. Opting for “Sleep Token,” I’m not disappointed, despite a delayed start due to lighting issues. Their mesmerizing performance makes the wait worthwhile.
Takedown Festival 2023 is an unforgettable day filled with incredible music, great, reasonably priced food, and a contagiously friendly atmosphere. Takedown Festival has secured a permanent spot on my festival calendar.