If you’re familiar with the Melbourne heavy music scene, you would sure be familiar with the larger venues that host associated acts. You’ve got The Forum, and Festival Hall, which is perhaps the biggest when not counting Margaret Court and Rod Laver Arena, etc. (Bring Me The Horizon are playing there, but are they even heavy now anyway?). Then there’s 170 Russell, which might I add is “a fucking horrible name” in the words of Shane Told, vocalist of Silverstein, and of course, there’s Richmond’s Corner Hotel, that one venue that has stupid pillars in the middle of the room. [Don’t forget that fucking pillar that’s right in front of the Prince Of Wales’ stage – Ed.]
So, on a relatively chilly Friday night last week, I headed out to that exact stupid pillar venue, surprisingly for a far more hardcore-orientated tour package.
So without any local openers, the bottom of the bill and local Australian hardcore up-and-comers Reactions attempted to initiate the mosh fest. Unfortunately, though, and to my surprise, the Adelaide band didn’t get much of a reaction (aha aha aha) at all. I know an openers’ response can be quite hit and miss in general, and I understand that they’re probably more popular with an all-ages crowd, but the lacklustre response was quite disappointing. Regardless, they put on a solid set playing most of the bangers from their debut and killer record Soul Witness, as well as two new ones.
As more people started filling the venue, Australian hardcore veterans (I guess you could call them that these days?) Relentless took the stage. Unlike Reactions, their fan base is definitely more suited to a slightly older crowd, playing a more classic brand of hardcore, and they got a stronger response from the audience as a result. Although the set wasn’t largely memorable, vocalist Trent mentioning “we don’t hate cops, we hate people with power… that abuse it” as an introduction to their track ‘Blue Rage‘ really stuck out to me. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s always great seeing and hearing of bands out there being actually rational and up front about social/political issues rather than the typical “fuck this person, fuck that group!” nonsense that can litter this genre.
Now I mean no disrespect to headliners Stick to Your Guns, but their US counterparts and primary support act Knocked Loose seemed to be the main drawcard for a large portion of punters on this tour. There’s been an incredible amount of hype surrounding this Oldham County group ever since the drop of their ‘Pop Culture‘, and even more so since releasing their debut record ‘Laugh Tracks‘. Their intense and ferocious concoction of hardcore, metalcore and deathcore have earned them a huge amount of international acclaim, so of course, we were all curious to see just how well they could back it up in a live setting. For the record, oh boy did they deliver!
Opening with crowd favourite ‘Oblivion’s Peak‘, the floor was a non-stop schoolyard brawl until the very end. Although it wasn’t as crazy as say, maybe that old Code Orange or Xibalba Australian tours of 2016, Knocked Loose were even more relentless than Relentless (kill me). Vocalist Bryan Garris executed his tortured yells surprisingly well, and the instrumental section was super tight too. The whole band sounded huge, definitely cementing them as one worthy of all the hype they’re getting in my eyes. They’re not selling out and they’re definitely not reinventing the wheel, they just know what they want to do and they’re damn good at it! Highlights of the set included Laugh Tracks’ first single and set closer Deadringer, the old but gold The Gospel and of course, the cult-followed ‘Counting Worms‘ (that’s the arf arf/woof woof/bork bork song for you all of you normies out there).
One thing that always gets me down is being excited to see the headlining band, only to have a decent portion of the crowd leave after the main support. I was expecting this to be the case yet again, but no! Fortunately, most people stuck around for Stick To Your Guns. Which was a very good choice on their behalf, I must say (I know what you’re thinking, that I’m going to make a ‘What Choice Did You Give Us?’ pun here, but I’m trying to restrain myself).
As usual, the band nailed the balance between the melodic and the heavy from start to finish, never missing a beat – figuratively and literally. Although not playing old favourite ‘This Is More‘ even after an outcry on social media, STYG smashed through most of their ‘Diamond‘ and ‘Disobedient‘ staples, with ‘The Hope Division‘ getting a single mention – ‘Amber‘ (of course), and a few cuts off their latest offering, the ‘Better Ash Than Dust‘. Taking more inspiration from ‘Diamond‘ than ‘Disobedient‘, the newest songs were a lot faster and heavier than recent releases and were taken quite well by their Melbourne fans. In contrast to this, though, they also played the EP’s closer The Suspend, a very progressive and atmospheric track. It’s relatively slow and anthemic yet there were still people moshing to it and having a good time, so that has to be a good sign of how the set went.
Lastly, a Stick To Your Guns show would not be a STYG show without vocalist Jesse Barnett speaking his mind, and mentioning his beliefs regarding social issues. Although some may find him to be preachy and annoying, I respect his views and love listening to people that are so passionate about what they believe in. That’s definitely something to get behind. He’s got that no bullshit, straight up hardcore attitude. Hence there was no encore either, which is quite a rarity these days.
I am tempted to follow this trend and finish without a conclusion, but I just cannot bring myself to do it. Therefore I will leave you with a few closing points:
1. Support Australian hardcore, there’s an abundance of talent right at your doorstep.
2. No, you won’t literally die at a Knocked Loose show, but they’re going to be huge for a very good reason.
3. Stick To Your Guns remain one of the better heavy bands you will see today, and they have very real, very genuine and important message to share. You may not like how it’s delivered, but that doesn’t change its validity.
4. Pester anyone and everyone to get rid of barriers at shows like this, they are the worst.
PC: Digital Beard.