EdFest 2023. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Ed Bartlam passed. I met him briefly. He sat opposite me on a coach to London. We were both headed to different gigs, but we had a brief chat about Metal as we were reading the same Metal magazine.
Livewire Youth Music, Saltash – 22 September 2023
Words: Jools Green
Photography: Keith Conlin
Then, a couple of weeks later, we gave each other a passing nod at a local Metal gig. Not long after, I heard the devastating news of a young local Metalhead passing and was horrified to discover it was the same, at the time, unnamed person I had had a conversation with only weeks before.
Gone but never forgotten, it’s become a tradition to celebrate and remember him with a music event, EdFest. It has been held in more recent times at Livewire Youth Club, Saltash, home of Livewire Youth Music, a charity for young people primarily aged from 13 to 21, which provides a full range of music activities and support for young people.
It has a superbly equipped music studio and decent sized fully equipped live venue, hosting a range of live music events and was where Ed and his band rehearsed and played.
This year, as well as remembering Ed, they were remembering everyone that they have lost in whatever circumstances over the years and also raising money for the youth club and Epilepsy Research UK. The organizers were determined to make this one even more special, with some of the Southwest’s finest bands across the genres, all of whom, I believe, had some link to Ed.
The band with the honour of opening the event was Exeter’s Melodic Metal five-piece, Ashen. Regulars on the Plymouth live Metal scene, they got things off to a thunderous start with their groove-infused sound and superb balance of clean male and female vocals alongside harsh male vocals.
Unfazed at the minor technical issues with microphones, the curse of being an opening act, their bass player jokily said, “Hello, we are Ashen, and we break everything.” Their set opened on S.T.F.U., then Wannabe, Take Me, The Endless, ending on Infection. An engagingly good start to the evening.
Next up were progressive Death Thrashers Atom Smasher, a band that always delivers a superb set, and this occasion was no exception. They are famously known for their highly developed sense of humour and very long tracks.
So, as a result, we just had three and a half pieces from them. The first three were the usual monster-length numbers, opening with a new track, Unleashed, followed by a couple of regular crowd pleasers, The Rush, affectionately known as the song about space cocaine and the anthemic singalong Thunburg And Lightning, which doesn’t need any explanation.
They closed on the half-track, Dead Inside because it’s the only three-and-a-half minute song they have, and they needed a short track for their remaining set time, with everything else in their catalogue lavishly and unapologetically pushing the ten-minute mark.
This was also their penultimate gig, next Friday being the final one, where they’ll be supporting Osiah and Necrotted before they halt live performances temporarily to concentrate on recording their album. So exciting things are expected there.
The band with the hard task of following after were the masked NuCore outfit Lacerta. They rose magnificently to the challenge, delivering a blisteringly engaging set. I felt their performance greatly benefited from this larger venue.
Their set featured several tracks from their album, From The Gutter, released in April, namely Dahmer, Mutual Violence and Yellow Brick Road, as well as This Body I Must Take, Disciple and The Flesh.
As good as their studio work is, it doesn’t come close to matching the full-on, audio-visual, sensory overload of their live performances, with their sinisterly hooded vocalist Charlie even descending into the midst of the crowd to deliver his lines. A brutally enthralling performance.
Next and ramping the brutality all the way up to 100% were Cornish Death Metal outfit Human Mycosis, whose track, Smashed Bodies, started the first pit action of the evening.
Their blisteringly good set also included Feasting On Faecal Matter, The Human Mycosis, Treehouse Porn Stash from Pile Pillow EP, and Foaming At The Muff from their Scattsville EP. They dedicated this to Jake “Mettle” Ettle-Iles of Body Harvest, another great musician the Metal community lost last December.
They delivered an utterly stunning set that tore the place apart and infused some lively action into the room.
Before the two co-headlining bands hit the stage, time was taken to reflect on why everyone was attending to remember those we lost. The most touching moment was when one of the Livewire Team, Mike Snook, read a poem, written as a rap originally, by Ed’s best friend Cameron, followed by a humorous song sung by Ed’s closest friends and his sister.
“The fun song is actually called the Steak Song,” Mike Snook told us. “It was a little ditty that Ed wrote. We finally convinced him to perform it the night Minor Offences supported Abandon The Weak at the Junction the night before he passed.”
Butt Plug Babies
Next, the first of the two co-headliners, The Butt Plug Babies. There was a bit of a hold-up to the start of the set, with bassist Billi seemingly missing, only to arrive onstage fashionably late to chants of “Billi, Billi”, and sporting a dinosaur/dragon onesie.
Even Morv and Fatlip made the effort with their hair, Morv sporting a mohawk and Fatlip liberty spikes. They were seemingly the odd guys out, being the only Punk band of the evening. A fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Fatlip, who said, “It feels strange following after so many heavy bands, but it is Ed fest!!”
Ed had a broad and eclectic taste in music and was close friends with The Butt Plug Babies.
You can always rely on the Butt Plug Babies to bring the party atmosphere to any gig. Opening on Cont-servative, then breaking into Beer Song, at the end of which Fatlip chugs a whole pint of cider and lobs the empty vessel into the crowd.
Thankfully, Livewire has a plastic container-only policy. Even more miraculous was the rapid return of the plastic mug to the front of the crowd. And it was full again!
The rest of their set included many of the usual crowd pleasers, MP, the horror punk gem Stay Away, Salmon Flop, Fuck You Too, the hilarious true story Grand Slam, the equally funny Shave My Balls, where Fatlip delivered a superbly protracted and brutally raw opening line of “I once tried to shave my balls!”
Maybe the preceding Metal bands inspired him. They ended on the Pennywise cover that has now become a staple to their set, Bro’ Hymn, which has, for the last five years, at the end of every performance been dedicated to Ed with the lyrics changed to:
“To all my friends, present, past and beyond
Especially those who weren’t with us too long
Life is the most precious thing you can lose
While you were here, the fun was never ending
Laugh a minute was only beginning
Edward Bartlam, this one’s for you!”
Fatlip closed the set with one of his infamous Kazoo solos.
It must also be mentioned that last minute stand-in drummer Jez did a superb job behind the kit. With very little “with band” practice, he gave a first-rate performance.
Abandon The Weak
Closing headliners, South West Deathcore/Death Groove Metal outfit Abandon The Weak, make their long-awaited return to the stage after nearly a year out.
Vocalist Garf confessed he had endured his own serious, self-endangering struggles, urging people to talk to someone if they found themselves in a similar situation.
So it was great to see them back again and on top form. Having witnessed some superbly brutal performances from them in the past, this return was like they had never been away.
Their utterly crushing set consisted of Death’s List, and Tortured Minds, about which Garf mentioned that they had Ed in mind when they wrote it, continuing that we should raise a glass to him.
As a loose pit began to develop with the song, The Final Chapter, the set continued with Fury, End Of Days, Nuclear World Order, War Torn Battle Born, and ending on Mask Of Futility, their new single released the morning of the gig in honour of Ed and everyone we have lost.
As Ed was one of their biggest fans, they thought this would be a fitting tribute to him, and it was great to witness Garf getting into the crowd to deliver the lyrics with a circle pit developing around him.
EdFest 2023 A Success
Throughout all the sets, there was one item always onstage with every band. On the right-hand side, as you faced the stage, resting prominently on top of an upturned bass drum, was Ed’s flying V guitar, accompanying every band that came to pay tribute to him.
Overall, it was a superb evening in support of worthy causes. Ultimately and most importantly, at Livewire Youth Club/Music, Andy Rance and his dedicated team have changed the lives and saved the lives of more than have been lost, giving youngsters a purpose as well as helping to create some superb emerging bands.
As at lunchtime, 25 September, Andy Rance reported that £400 had been raised for each of Livewire Youth Music and Epilepsy Research UK. The MetalTalk Team send their heartfelt congratulations to all involved.