Words: Alex Sievers/Nick Dominko.
You know, there’s a lot stuff that one could do in eight and a half hours time; from flying New York to London, to watching the theatrical cuts of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, or to playing through the solid but flawed PS4 exclusive that was Until Dawn (and never again because a second playthrough ruins that game); you have a fair few options at your disposal. Yet another use for that many hours of your time could be to head out to an event like Invasion Fest, which went down on Saturday, December 10th. The sold-out all-ages show featured a mixed lineup of 19 bands – 18 Australian and one international act in the form of the almighty Kublai Khan – and a couple hundred punters packing out Arrow on Swanson for a grand old time.
Now, we could just give you all a relatively short and sweet generalisation of the show but Mitch Alexander from Heavy Mag already did that in his own solid review, so fuck it! Here’s a play-by-play of the day’s events from Invasion. You’re welcome, Internet.
After getting inside the venue and away from the blissful sunny day outside, we see hardcore locals Blinded kick off the show on the main stage and there was no shortage of mosh warriors out in force. Which was always great to see but even better because this was merely the first fucking band! Next up was the first band to play on the Sea Shepard stage – Dregg. Oh boy. Each member of Dregg was donning their usual face paint and delivering their general eccentricity (with guitarist Matt Henley rocking a sweet Jason Vorhees mask) this set would also be the last time the Melbourne band would perform their faithful cover of System Of A Down’s ‘Sugar’. If you hadn’t seen that cover before this show, then man, you’ve really missed out! Their newest single ‘Weirdo’ and previous banger, ‘Sorry Daddy’, go down scarily well live and the “older” tracks from the ‘No Comment‘ EP like ‘Dawg Dayz’, ‘Fuck The World’, ‘Goof Troop‘, ‘Get Owt’ (of which vocalist Christopher Mackertich dedicates to the blokes who put their fists on their missus – i.e. dick heads) are good live… but it is easy to see that this band are just getting better with each new release they drop. It has been a joy to watch these guys develop their live set as well as their visual aesthetic over the past year and there should hopefully be many doors open for Dregg in 2017.
The first interstate band of the day was Perth’s Iconoclast, and if you aren’t familiar with them, then let us state an obvious fact that these guys are very heavy and very tight, both on the record and live. Yet their songs were very indistinguishable from one another, meaning that by the end of their set, things were getting quite tiresome and we just wanted it all to end. An interesting distinction between these guys and Dregg was (excluding the painfully obvious genre differences) that the previous band needed no backing tracks nor any laptops for their set; rather just themselves and their respective instruments. Now, that’s not a dig at Iconoclast’s setup by any means – their brand of metal basically requires it – it’s just an observation of two different bands; one who received both a far better response and who had a stronger set. We think you can figure out which one we’re referring to. To be fair, though, Iconoclast’s set wasn’t bad and they did get the first real intense mosh pit of the day, even if that was stolen out from under by them by Newcastle’s Staunch.
Staunch’s solid yet generic, straight up hardcore sound resonated with many crowd members and they were the first band of the day to receive what was easily the most insane mosh pit response, especially at the very end of their set which was just. Pure. Fucking. Anarchy. And a whole lot of fun to watch, especially when someone brought in a blow-up doll to the pit with someone’s face taped to it. We’re not sure what that was about but laughs were had.
Despite some mosh pit blow-up doll action, it was Adelaide’s Hindsight who easily had one of the strongest sets of the whole goddamn day.
Changing the pace of the show from mosh heavy to feels heavy, the group had many fans out in force and vocalist Jack Nelligan performed like a man possessed. From his throaty, abrasive screams to the way he ran and jumped across the stage, his interaction with the crowd, to the madman-like stare that he gave the crowd from underneath his long hair and snap back; he may just be one of the better front men in the local scene. The quintet ripped through their most recent EP, ‘Disposable Paradise’, which was a great idea as that’s easily been their best work to date. Now, Arrow on Swanson isn’t known for its grand light shows and production a lot of the time, but the slightly softer, darkened lighting was really fitting for a band like Hindsight and as a cool breeze floated on down from Swanson Street, the mood was perfectly set. However, the clean vocals were rather hard to hear in the mix early on, yet that wasn’t that big of an issue as the fans filling the main room provided plenty of vocal support for the songs. This was best exemplified when the group ended with ‘Loveover’. Now, every band has “their” song, that one song that more or less defines them and their careers (or at least, a particular era of their band) and for Hindsight that song is ‘Loveover‘, a near-perfect song to end their killer set with.
Moving from one cathartic, emotional experience to another, Brisbane’s Stepson performed right after their Hindsight buds over on the smaller stage, and blimey, that may just have been one of Stepson’s best sets. Period. Having seen the band play twice before, their live mix (save for some harsh feedback early on), their crowd involvement, the actual performance itself, and each members energy and enthusiasm were all on-point and songs like ‘TV‘, ‘Blue‘ and ‘Leak‘ drove all of that home. How-fucking-ever! The only issue with their set was that their new EP, ‘The Beautiful Lie‘, did not get a look in – not even the title track, which is also their latest music video/single. Considering the electronic, sample-heavy and layered instrumentation of these new songs, they would perhaps be best showcased when they support Storm The Sky next year in March, but even so, their absence was indeed felt that day and their inclusion would’ve made Stepson’s set really stand out from the other acts of the day.
Invasion Fest also marked the final milestone, the final show, for one of the band’s on its lineup – Melbourne’s very own, Sentinel. Much like Iconoclast before them, Sentinel’s approach to metal music is cold, calculated, tight and heavy as fuck! The band announced they would be calling it quits earlier this year and it was only within the last month or so that they announced that Invasion Fest would be their final show. Their latest (and final) song ‘Journey‘ got a look in during their short set, as did ‘Odium‘ from their ‘Primordial Ruin‘ EP – perhaps one of that releases better tracks. Mason Bunt of Pridelands came out quickly to join the band for the EP’s title track, and as for hectic fan-favourite ‘Nadir‘, Bailey Schembri of up and comers Bury The Kings came out to perform Mark Poida’s original guest vocals, and god-fucking-dammit, did Schembri do it justice and help his mates wind down Sentinel in fine fashion. Considering the sheer musical ability held within Sentinel’s sound, it’s a shame to see them go.
Now we go from one side of the heavy music spectrum to the other, from metal to pop-punk. Sydney’s Our Past Days had a surprisingly smaller turnout – less than we were expecting anyway – but none of that seemed to matter with their strong delivery of pop-punk and melodic hardcore featured prime cuts from their debut album, ‘Keep Safe’. Fans crammed right down the front for their set and suddenly, things didn’t feel as small anymore. Now, yes, The Story So Far comparison to their sound is inescapable with a lot of their songs, but even so, Our Past Days still put on a solid live show. Plus, ending with their first big single, ‘Bloom Where You’re Planted’, was a great, if expected, choice but one that proves exactly why they were selected as the flagship artist for Greyscale Records.
Kicking the event’s energy into overdrive were Melbourne favourites Belle Haven (pictured atop in the header photo), who much like their Adelaide peers, put on one of the best sets of the day. Just looking at the band on-stage, it was clear to see the excitement and pure elation on each of their faces at various points throughout their set, showing that they really cared about being there and putting on a good show for everyone. And oh, lordy, what a show it was! Watching them live is like watching the Australian version of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or The Chariot in terms of their adrenaline pumping, high-octane sets. Songs like ‘Hunt For Health’ and ‘Closet’ define this aspect of their live shows as guitars fly (both around the bodies of the band members and getting some nice airtime in general), drummer Jake Zammit pounds away at the drums like anything less would result in his death, and vocalist David Vernon screams like it’s his last time performing. Sure, they may not be THE tightest band live but to do so would fly in the face of the kind of intense, lively performance the band presents. Belle Haven even dug into their back catalogue to bring out ‘Sister In Law‘ – a more metalcore affair for the band, and in retrospect, a more dated sound for them as well – which, of course, had Glorified’s former vocalist, Miles Philipp, joining them up on-stage. Stepping out of 2012 and back into the now, the group ended with their latest single, ‘The Carving Knife‘, and it was right about then that we realised that we have yet to see a bad Belle Haven performance. And we doubt that’s even possible at this point!
Next up was Perth’s Cursed Earth, who completely packed out the smaller room with those curious to see just what the hell all the buzz about them was about and those who were ready to fuck shit up. And Cursed Earth then proceeded to prove why they have garnered such interest with a truly blistering set that laid waste to the stage and crowd, with songs like ‘Suffocation’ and a handful of other cuts from this year’s release, ‘Enslaved By The Insignificant‘ all being delivered so bloody well. At the very end of their heavy, domineering set, vocalist Jazmine Luders states humbly to us all that “we don’t deserve this”. On the contrary, Jazmine, you and your band mates just proved why you do indeed deserve all of this love and support!
So here’s to that new album…
As the show shifts from one display of power to another, Sydney’s Justice For The Damned are a band that is really going places. At last year’s Invasion Fest, they played an early set to maybe 50 people. Skip forward a year and they were in the main room, much higher up on the bill and just like their Perth peers before them, it was packed out. Their latest and intense release ‘Please Don’t Leave Me‘ is a sheer experience live, and so to was their entire set now that we think about it; heavy, ruthless, but just so engaging to watch. Ending with ‘Deep Rotting Fear’, which saw Polaris screamer Jamie Hails joining his mates for a solid end to an already great set. Seriously, whenever JFTD drop a full-length album, it is going to be a massive deal for the hardcore scene in this country.
Now, look, if you have a problem with bands preaching their beliefs and their messages before each and every song, then Rebirth are not the band for you. The Melbourne hardcore outfit’s set recalls an older time of hardcore music and the values instilled then, both musically and in their message, all of which is their sound in a nutshell; hardcore with a message. And the band did not shy away from the themes of their music during their solid set, which was also quite repetitive and same-same. Thankfully, though, their songs are relatively short which alleviated a lot of the repetition.
One of Australia’s up and coming bands right now is Polaris, no fucking question. Polaris had a slightly more tame reaction from the crowd at first when compared with the big names that followed at least, but once ‘The Undertow’ kicked in, a circle pit erupted (of which Nick couldn’t help but partake in) and the energy definitely stepped up. This is something the band really maintained with other songs like ‘Unfamiliar’ and ‘Regress’, which capped off their set.
[At this point, Alex left to go see Anti-Flag over at Max Watts, with Nick Dominko covering the rest of Invasion Fest].
Just like Polaris, Harbours have a lot of support in the local scene right now, and they jump started that by beginning their set with newest single ‘Flicker And Fade’ (yo, Taking Back Sunday’s ‘Flicker Fade‘ is much better – Alex). That song’s ending, complete with a key change, definitely works wonders in a live setting. This show was also guitarist Sam Bassal’s final show with Harbours so that he can commit full time to the other massive band that he’s in (that’s Ocean Grove if you weren’t aware). As such, the end of the band’s set was slightly more sombre than usual, but nonetheless, this was still a decent showing from the boys.
One of the day’s late game highlights for national acts was easily Newcastle’s Graves. Graves were playing Invasion as part of their album tour with JFTD, Cursed Earth and Kublai Khan (but more on them very soon), and with their debut album, ‘Monster‘, new songs like ‘Fear’ went absolutely off. Of course, so too did their hectic single ‘506’, which had the biggest response from the crowd thus far, and that heavy as fuck half time breakdown at the end was just crushing as ever.
While Graves killed it live, out of the day’s whole lineup, one of the biggest attractions of this show was that of Texan outfit Kublai Khan, who was playing as a part of their tour with Graves, which was a really good tour package, as their Invasion Fest set was only the band’s eighth ever show in Australia, and it was nothing but mosh central. Couple that with the fact that Sydney legends Relentless were on right after the US band, and that Adelaide’s Reactions played before Kublai Khan, and hardcore kids left, right and centre would have been in heaven for well over an hour there. Pits for days.
Now, by this point, some punters had upped and left due to the long nature of the event, and hey, that’s totally fair enough. But doing so made one miss out on the headliners – Ocean Grove. So to round off this long day of music were the homegrown heroes in Ocean Grove, whose tight set more than proved that they’re very deserving of their recent signing to UNFD. As you may expect, the usual suspects from their ‘Black Label‘ release got plenty of attention, as did ‘Lights On Kind Of Lover‘ as well as their brand new banger, ‘These Boys Light Fire‘. And then…that was it! Over eight hours of music done and dusted.
Save for one apparent punch on, really shitty phone reception, some wanker(s) tagging up the bathrooms with graffiti, this was a great day out and a great example of why all-ages shows are so important to the growth of local music scenes. The venue itself, which was easily accessible from all parts of Melbourne and was barely a five-minute walk from Melbourne Central and the CBD, was a good pick. The show’s overall vibe was just fantastic, those Sea Shepard treats were tasty as fuck, and there was a truly great mix of bands playing (sure, some better than others) and with so many different varieties of music on offer for all. Which is what matters most and Invasion Fest delivered that yet again!
Oh, and finally, to the show’s organiser, Ash Hull, here are a couple bands we think that you should secure for Invasion Fest 2017:
- The Red Shore
- I, Valiance
- Justice For The Damned
- Belle Haven
- Miles Away
- and Sierra (yes, it won’t happen, but we remain ever hopeful).
All photo credit goes out to Andrew Bromley, who was more than kind enough to lend us his great snaps for this review. Check out his work here!