Dregg’s Free Melbourne Show Was Bloody Wild

A boiling Friday night? Face paint, hip-hop and hardcore? A sweltering room full of friends and good times? Various sex dolls tied to the venue’s PA and central support column? Cut out masks of Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump floating around? An ageing punk dude by the name of Phunk Phil announcing each band like an MC? Yep, this sure as shit was a Dregg show!

Local 613 thrash-death crossover band, Overpower opened the night for their first show of 2018 with their own brand of Power Trip-worship. (Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you). Playing in front of a surprisingly filled out Workers Club band room, a fair few friends, and having the home-field advantage so to speak, a handful of punters moshing throughout the band’s short but heavy set; from the very first riff right to the final scream. Through all of the furious riffs and moshing, though, one really sombre moment came about halfway through when they played a new song – culled from an upcoming EP – that I sadly missed the name of – in which their vocalist dedicated this unreleased track to a deceased friend of his, Kyle, who tragically killed himself two years ago, stating that “every song I sing is for you”. And this is something that really struck me about Overpower’s music and their live show; no, it’s not original but man, there’s quite clearly a lot of love and heart that goes into what they write and play. For both the members themselves, the people close to the band, and for those who watch them live. Wrapping up with last year’s single ‘Endless Suffering‘ (which, according to the band themselves, was originally and charmingly called ‘I hate myself and I want to die’), Overpower definitely weren’t the tightest band of the night, but honestly, they didn’t need to be to make a solid impact.

You’d do yourself well to keep a close eye on these guys in 2018.

Underminer’s music is as generic as any number of other down-tuned, mosh-loving, metalcore bands can get these days. But what will always – always – save such bands is the energy, skill and sound of their live shows. As for Underminer, they do this part well, especially their vocalist Lachlan Woods who is an utter beast live behind the mic; growling and screaming away without missing a beat or even breaking a sweat. Sharing members with Life’s Ill, whether it was their latest single ‘Hate Grips‘ (which due to the name, just makes me want to listen to Death Grips every time I hear it), a yet to be released song as the closer, among a few others, Underminer had a commanding presence. Again, on-record, while it’s still undoubtedly heavy stuff, many will just pass them off as yet another breakdown-worshipping copy-cat and while they’d more or less be right, for the most part, these Sydney dudes deliver their shit live well enough.

Although, the main highlight of Underminer’s set was when they ripped out a solid rendition of ‘Ghost‘ from the now long-defunct Aussie beatdown-kings, Shinto Katana. As this was announced to the crowd, every single edgy pit lord in the venue lost their collective shit and that tight, obnoxiously slowed-down breakdown finale of “you’ll never see my face again” was just fucking gnarly in the moment. And that would actually be my advice for any local band such as Underminer: cover a well-known song from a now broken up Australian metalcore band and just watch as you win everyone in the room over.

By this time in the night, the live room was at fucking face-melting levels; with the only people finding reprieve from the heat being those smart enough to remain outside in the beer garden or those who stayed home in front of the AC like sane individuals. Which made it a near-perfect time (I guess?) for Van Dieman’s Break Through to tear shit up for about 25 minutes. With their stomping grooves, slamming riffs and high-energy levels on-stage, the life.lair.regret act ran through songs from their both seven inch and their 2017 cassette, with frontman Luke Engels being one crazed, maniacal vocalist throughout their short but blistering set.

Moving away from the noisy sounds of Tassie’s Break Through, we got the chug-laden hardcore breakdowns from Sydney’s Life’s Ill, keeping up this show’s running pattern of sub-genres started out by Overpower and Underminer earlier. And look, their set was fine. I do think that them being right below the headliners that many were here, coupled with the fact that this was a five-band show during a disgustingly hot night where you might as well heard the fuckin’ trees scream in pain carried with it some weariness by the time their set hit. Life’s Ill’s music is very by the numbers for this style of hardcore, as evident by their showings of ‘Time Of Pain‘ and ‘Drowned‘, but the band are at their strongest with songs like ‘Still Ill‘ – easily their standout tune as it’s short, heavy, straight to the point, and it doesn’t fuck around at all. And hopefully, it’s that kind of material that we see from the band moving forward.

Capitalising on their well-received Unify Gathering performance from the week before, Dregg’s first headline show of 2018, their first free show in a while and the proper launch show of their 2017 EP was to put it simply, a great success. From the friendly vibes in the room, the solid crowd turnout overall, the atmosphere and (dare I say it) hype in the room that was hanging around Dregg and to the wicked setlist that they would offer, this was hands down the best show I’ve seen from the band in their short lifespan as a group. 2018 will no doubt be their year.

However, I cannot at all say the same for the brief DJ/hip-hop set from local trio Too Birds, who played right before Dregg played – the least heavy band on the whole lineup now that I think about it. Too Birds‘ inclusion just seemed unnecessary; left most people perplexed and confused, was plagued by a couple backing track/”technical” issues and really just made me wish that Dregg would hurry up and play already. Every second of it made me pray for death and I suppose all great moments have their occasional downsides. But once the Melbourne quintet actually took to the Workers’ small stage to close out this fun night, it was great times and smooth sailing throughout.

Guitarist Jordan Mcquitty, drummer James Heath and goofball bassist and backing vocalist Glenn Romano were all battle ready in their usual colourful face-paint getups with new(ish) member, guitarist Sam Yates donning his classic steam-punk-like face mask as he riffed away. All with frontman Christopher Mackertich – still the most “normal” looking member of the band – leading his comrades in bouncy grooves and hardcore shenanigans. From stage dives, mosh pits and mic grabs abounding throughout each and every song (Mason Bunt from Pridelands lent his vocals to ‘Don’t Go Into The Mangroves‘), the earlier mentioned sex dolls being thrown around the room at a viciously frequent rate, some decent use of the venue’s lights and smoke machine, to the band’s strong physical energy and an eagerly rowdy crowd damned-well ready to party; everyone was on the same page here. And what exactly was that page? To just have a whole lot of fucking fun, really! (That being said, I did notice one female punter leave halfway through their set with blood on her face after being apparently hit by a stray flying limb near the pit and I sincerely hope that she’s okay).

Of course, a live show is often only as good as the material performed and always quirky hip-hop-tinged hardcore band cut together a killer set of their very best songs. Pulling from both of their ‘No Comment‘ EP and last year’s ‘The Dregg EP‘, their set ranged from oldies like ‘GET OWT‘ and ‘Dawg Dayz‘ to newer tunes like ‘Offended‘ and ‘Don’t Go Into The Mangroves‘. Mixed in with such solid material was, of course, the band’s two mainstay tracks, the bangers that are their singles ‘Sorry Daddy‘ and ‘Weirdo‘. While I have a lot of love for Dregg’s music and the way that they own their look and their art overall, I am rather unsure if anything they do in the future will be as good as those two tracks. I do very much hope I’m wrong, though.

Closing their main set with ‘Weirdo‘, a chant of “one more song” began near instantly and sure enough, the band were back up for a final encore in no time flat. If you saw any Dregg show back in 2016, you should have fond memories of them covering the System Of A Down classic, ‘Sugar‘; a band who are, just in case you somehow couldn’t fucking tell, a very big influence on Dregg. And. It. Went. Off!

After retiring this cover back at Invasion Fest 2016, they suitably brought it back for this show and rightfully so: it’s a fucking great song, is a really good set closer too, and with this being one of Dregg’s biggest headlining shows of late, the occasion was definitely warranted. Now, not many bands can get away with a SOAD cover and make it work well (Enter Shikari’s cover of ‘Chop Suey‘ is also one of the rare good ones) but Dregg have sure enough made ‘Sugar‘ into their own and it fits so well within their own aesthetic and message too. Something that this band make no qualms about nor back down from, which is what I also really respect about them.

After this damn fine showing of 90’s alt-metal/nu-metal from Dregg came to an end, and after saying goodbye to a few people and heading off into the still hot air night on my way home, I thought about how we don’t see a whole lot of free hardcore shows these days around Melbourne. I mean, I can understand why, but when it’s done right and with the right bands, it can be such a great time; for punters, band members and the venue alike. Hell, even Mackertich himself admitted during their set that, “We didn’t expect this many fucking people to show up. We’re gonna have to do more of these…”.

That sounds good to me, mate!

PC: Owen Jones (Digital Beard). 

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