"This was a triumph worthy of closing a festival."
Back for a second go-around – this time at a new venue – the Good Things Festival again offered a melange of metal, punk and rock sounds, with a few curveballs thrown in, which we'll get to soon enough.
Online sensation Poppy has built a following around confounding the public. Making a career transition from pop star to heavy music artist, fare that borrowed from both worlds was well-received and at times intriguing, if not universally applauded. Some of the intricacies and theatrics perhaps were a little lost in the post-midday conditions, and perhaps a 45-minute set was pushing some attendees' patience, though.
Judging by the early gathering, American metalcore mob Ice Nine Kills had garnered a passionate fan-base primed to finally experience their live show. The group conveyed a likeable demeanour, plenty of energy and a few catchy choruses, although the horror movie themes and props did feel akin to window dressing at times. The diehards adored it, but for others the schtick perhaps wore a tad thin as the set progressed.
It's been suggested there should be no such proposition as a musical guilty pleasure, and the many punters in metal shirts dancing to The Veronicas would surely adhere to this ethos. The pop duo's inclusion led to furrowed brows for some, and for selected punters the poses and choreography could be considered an affront to the ethos of a rock festival. But they drew an extensive crowd, whether audience members were legitimately embracing it, a curious onlooker or enjoying proceedings ironically. An on-stage endorsement from The Used's Bert McCracken (who had reportedly been coaching the siblings in the art of screaming) and closing wall of death for Untouched capped off a (somewhat surprisingly) popular display.
While eliciting a decidedly smaller attendance by comparison, the combination of Skegss' lighthearted banter, laid-back vibes and just outright fun brand of surf-punk meant they were an appropriate soundtrack for downing a few afternoon beers. The Byron Bay crew also had the benefit of a multitude of cuts boasting the sing-a-long factor, including the nostalgic Got On My Skateboard and Infinity.
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Far from the brash youths of 2005 breakthrough album Ascendancy, Trivium have slowly but surely morphed into the role of seasoned, accomplished festival metal band. Engaging main-man Matt Heafy's banter erred on the cheesy side in spots, but had the desired effect as circle-pit enthusiasts kicked up a large cloud of dust. Said devotees went as berserk for the old (Like Light To The Flies, Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr) as the newer songs (infectious The Heart From Your Hate). There's a reason the US quartet keep returning to these shores – the fans always show up in droves.
Over on the smallest stage was Perth's Voyager. Perhaps it's their shameless pop sensibilities, but the keytar-sporting prog-metallers have long projected a personality and demeanour larger than the pub and club venues they've frequented in the past. They've played to larger festival crowds in Sydney, but still applied themselves to the task, attacking Brightstar and Lost with typical aplomb. The majority may have missed it, but this was another impressive showing.
Dreaded technical gremlins meant, among other issues, rappin' Ronnie Radke's vocals couldn't be heard by anyone bar the first few rows of Falling In Reverse's set early on. A comedy of errors resulted, as further delays occurred and the singer reportedly lost his in-ears. The American outfit's metalcore/post-hardcore eventually got somewhat back on track, but momentum had definitely been lost and some fans had already departed for other stages.
Back at the smaller stage, amid far less fanfare and definitely pleased to be there was The Beautiful Monument. The alternative/melodic hard rockers' latest effort I’m The Reaper has won rave reviews, and a clutch of said songs resonated with those present. A friendly, energetic stage presence furthered their cause. This is a band still on the rise.
Eager moshers ensured security earned their pay when Thy Art Is Murder immediately launched into Death Squad Anthem and Make America Hate Again with purpose and efficiency. Growler CJ McMahon had the faithful doing his bidding at will, brutal slabs of deathcore The Purest Strain Of Hate and Slaves Beyond Death spawning a flurry of blood, bruises and beatdowns. Celebrating their “hometown” show meant the vocalist was in a jovial, expletive-laden mood, a sentiment improved by the increasingly sizeable circle-pits.
Violent Soho are old hands at the festival caper, and packed more hits than a heavyweight slugfest, making them ideal fodder for the dinnertime slot. While some acts on the bill may have been polarising, the grungy rockers appeared to be the festival's inclusion that most punters could agree on. Having those 'arms-around-your-mates' anthems certainly helped. Aside from new track Vacation Forever, Jesus Stole My Girlfriend, a returning Liars and Covered In Chrome were among the standouts.
A Day To Remember's bridging of metalcore and pop/punk has proven a winning formula that's reaped them considerable commercial rewards. This also translated to the live environment, with stadium-sized choruses and beefy breakdowns supported by a hefty budget of flamethrowers, Co2 cannons and other assorted shenanigans. “Sydney, let's get this party started,” vocalist Jeremy McKinnon bellowed at the outset, but it's not like the Florida mob's large, rabid audience required the encouragement. Numerous circle-pits ensued, crowd surfers got involved and sing-a-longs for the likes of All I Want, Sticks & Bricks and 2nd Sucks were among the day's loudest. Fresh songs like Degenerates slotted easily among the already well-worn tunes. It seemed a little too slick and well-honed at certain moments, but there's far worse prospects than giving your audience precisely what they crave.
Given the competition on other stages, it perhaps wasn't overly surprising Simple Creatures' synth-pop/rock drew a modest turnout at best. Accompanied by a plethora of backing tracks, this union of Mark Hoppus (blink-182) and Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low) attracted a respectable level of enthusiasm from their more dedicated followers up-front, but felt somewhat flat overall. Hoppus' zingers about All Time Low being a “blink cover band” were amusing, though.
It was preposterous to this reviewer that upon their announcement as headliners, some questioned Parkway Drive's credentials to top the bill at this event. Remember – the Byron Bay metalcore-turned-arena-metal stars had already earned leading slots at overseas juggernauts such as Wacken, Download UK and Bloodstock. Not only that, but as their previous Australian tour bruisingly indicated – and this performance reinforced - they possessed the pyrotechnic-spouting, eye-boggling production values, a set stacked with crowd-pleasing bangers and stage presence to more than justify their position on this evening.
Entering the stage via the crowd and flanked by flaming torches, and kicking off with the one-two of Wishing Wells' intensity and mosh-stirring Prey, they were there to make a statement – and did so emphatically. In addition to frontman Winston McCall being able to work a crowd better than most, the enhanced presentation heightened the impact of already visceral songs. A blinding light show, more flames than a season of Chicago Fire, live strings on a couple of tracks and the much-vaunted, 360-degree spinning drum kit during Crushed all furthered the spectacle. The mass audience interaction for closer Bottom Feeder sent all and sundry home with grins you'd have required a sand-blaster to remove. This was a triumph worthy of closing a festival.
Overall, the second instalment of Good Things seemed a success on all fronts. Bring on another diverse offering for round three.