"This band's backstory is hard to get past, but Northlane make it easy to forget as soon as they get up there."
The starting times of this evening's bands have all been pushed back since Buried In Verona are stranded in Bali and hence unable to perform. Ocean Grove frontman Luke Holmes aggressively implores for more crowd participation. It's not that we don't wanna get involved, we're just not feeling it. They have a long way to go before they're international touring circuit-ready.
Au contraire with the most aptly titled Ohio band that follows: Like Moths To Flames. The millisecond they hit the stage, frontman Chris Roetter demands our full attention. "Middle fucking fingers in the air!" Roetter bellows and then it's a circle-pit frenzy in the front stalls. Like Moths To Flames unapologetically play new material and none complain. It's all about the five-piece for this genre: rhythm plus lead guitar combine to produce dense riff layers. Bookmark Like Moths To Flames for repeat doses.
Like Moths To Flames appear in the running order where Buried In Verona were advertised (flight cancellations due to "volcanic ash in the air in Bali" have meant the band missed Perth, Adelaide and now their first Melbourne appearance on this Node tour) and an audience member is overheard pondering, "So they're not playing at all? That sucks."
August Burns Red's banner has been up all night and five is the magic number once again since the Pennsylvania quintet also bring it, pronto. Frontman Jake Luhrs sure loves swinging that mic around from its cord like a lasso, catching it just in time for required demon incarnations (like a boss). The precision in this band's rhythm is echoed in Luhrs' every gesture. His moves are quite fluid and instinctive unlike most metalcore frontmen. When Composure strikes, we lose ours. The true sign of a great band is when they make the stage look too small for them. Closer Empire gets everyone salivating like Looney Tunes' Big Bad Wolf.
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Does anyone else hit up the ladies bathroom in this venue more often than is necessary to perve on the giant Marky Mark for Calvin Klein wall? Just an observation.
Backdrops are swapped to reflect the Node cover artwork and it's Northlane time. Upside-down LED triangles illuminate the stage space with varying colours and, as soon as the band take the stage, there's immediately no doubt as to who deserves headliner status tonight. (It's also a bonus that they're Australian.) This band's backstory (with regards to Marcus Bridge being a replacement singer after Adrian Fitipaldes' departure in 2014 and various other rotating musicians throughout their history) is hard to get past, but Northlane make it easy to forget as soon as they get up there. These shows are billed as Bridge's "first domestic headline" performances. Imagine becoming Northlane 2.0's new singer after submitting an audition video? Incredible. He has charisma in bucket loads. That ponytail needs snipping though. Smoke cannons detonate downstage during the excellent Quantum Flux, which the crowd screams along with. Amazingly, all in attendance (except this note-taking scribe) leave smartphones in pockets and that's pleasing to see. Impulse lyrics, "So alone in our digital world," make a statement. Bridge even nails what many would describe as Northlane's biggest song from the Fitipaldes era, Scarab.
The front section is 100% committed, but those toward the back of the venue don't exactly holler their enthusiasm. Northlane completely bring it, however, so the reason for this shall forever remain a mystery. "This one's for everyone who stuck around through all our changes," Bridge acknowledges and there's a rabid circle pit during the band's closer. It's a case of "Who dat?" when a dude invades the stage with a non-functioning mic and gets involved before departing without notice. Encore? Apparently not. Punters swarm toward the exit as if a fire's broken out. Perhaps to make the last train home to the 'burbs?