2017’s ‘You, Me and Everything In Between’ isn’t just the personal life experiences of frontman David De La Hoz, it’s also the professional and industry bullshit Belle Haven experienced while touring overseas and whilst creating their second LP. And that’s what makes it such a great release; how personal and honest it is, front to back. Among the killer song-writing and infectious hooks, of course! I loved the album upon it’s initial release and I still do now – time won’t ever change that fact. Add in Casey’s debut Australian shows on a tour that’s seeing Belle Haven perform this sophomore in-full and you can bet I wasn’t missing out on this run. Read all about the tour’s Evelyn Hotel stopover in Melbourne from the weekend below, friends. [PC: Digital Beard Photography].
Reside are a young and inexperienced band, and that shows in their live sets. But you know what else also shows up in their sets? Real enthusiasm, fun and passion too. This local five-piece knew that no one was there just to solely seem them play but they still put on a decent opening performance nonetheless. Their mixture of pop-punk and melodic hardcore does admittedly come off as Movements or ‘Chemical Miracle‘ era Trophy Eyes worship, but there’s heart there, at least.
The small-time openers had also pulled a few friends along in the audience, all of whom were happy to participate as the Evelyn’s live band room slowly filled up. While there was some feedback issues early on and while frontman Liam Guinane (who you’ll also find playing guitar in Windwaker) did have his vocals quite low in their live mix, ’twas not a bad set at all. Ending with ‘We’re Not Monsters (Yet)‘, following the live showcasing of a new, unreleased track, Reside are indeed a band to keep an eye out for. And I mean that with complete and utter sincerity.
Melbourne alt-rock locals Fever Speak actually helped Belle Haven launch their second album last year at the Northcote Social Club, and it was great to see them returning to support their peers once again. Creating a nice change in pace and style from Reside and what would come later on with the remaining three bands, this four-piece act had a powerful set. Mixing elements of alternative rock, modern emo, with some noise and grunge aspects, Fever Speak have a truly dynamic sound too. No gimmicks, no bullshit, just four dudes simply playing real music they enjoy, as best they can.
At first, I felt that Ben Frizon’s bass was way too prominent in the mix, almost over-taking other instruments and guitarist/frontman Brenton Marsh’s equally soothing and gritty vocals at times. But as Fever Speak’s set went on and as they unfolded their songs, I understood this was intentional to lend massive weight to the explosive dynamic range of their tracks. Want an example? I’ve go two words for ya: ‘Venus Gaze‘. Just listen to that song and I’ll tell you that it’s damn near-perfect when created live.
I know that this band have been tracking with Melbourne producer/engineer Beau McKee for future material, and based on a brand new song that was also performed, Fever Speak’s next release cannot come soon enough. Seriously, just hook it up to my fuckin’ veins already! (Also, it’s really nice to see that their drummer, CJ, is still doing music after The Evercold, as I do miss that band).
Before Queensland’s Stateside had even hit the stage, I’d had not one, not two, but three different mates on the night tell me that they’re really good live; mentioning their apparently awesome opening shows with Simple Plan and Eat Your Heart Out earlier in 2018. Even with some hectic driving hours done for this tour, and with the fast-rising Aussie pop-punk band being the odd ones out on this bill – situated between the alt-rock of Fever Speak and the highly emotive melodic hardcore of Casey – it was perhaps always going to be a tough sell. But the band did have some fans out in-force on the night, I can say that much.
Now, personally, I don’t at all care for this style of pop-punk anymore. Thus, with that in mind, it’s then no shock that I wasn’t at all sold by Stateside’s performance. Despite that, the Brisbane outfit did have a good stage presence, with bassist Jackson Lehane and vocalist Erin Reus both giving off high-energy levels. (Even though the latter member was apparently sick, you sure could’ve fooled me with good pitch and heaps of on-stage movement). Armed with singles such as ‘This Is War‘, ‘Neon‘, and ‘The Way We Were‘, the group ran through a barely half-hour set to thankfully keep things succinct. At one point, though, they did pull out a cover song of Katy Perry’s ‘E.T.‘. which was seemingly lost on much of the crowd. As for the rendition itself, it just sounded like one of those horrendous Punk Goes Pop covers that gets squirted out every year for people who don’t listen to any other music beyond their own small bubbles. So no real loss, honestly. (Stateside, bring back the ‘Heathens‘ cover, please – that one was solid).
During the band’s set, however, I suddenly realized something. And that was that Stateside are basically Wiggles Go Pop-Punk. No, not because of their look – I don’t give a fuck about image or aesthetic. It’s because there’s this thin air around the band of it all being forced, fake smiles and all. Maybe to the band themselves, these songs are actually genuine and to them what they say in their lyrics and between songs is real, but it doesn’t come off as such in the live environment. I wasn’t engaged in the slightest and I didn’t buy a single word being sung or said. I spoke with a few other people afterwards who felt the exact same way too. Only difference is, you won’t see them writing about that on some random music website, so do with this shinfo what you will.
Every single thing I am about to say about Casey is extremely biased, as I’ve been following the band since their ‘Teeth‘, ‘Hell‘ and ‘Fade‘ beginnings. Back when they’d barely played any shows, had just a three-track to their name, and hadn’t stepped foot beyond the U.K. as a unit. To finally see them live in Australia is what 20-year-old me dreamed of just three years ago, and now it what was a full-blown reality.
The genuine atmosphere and attention that Tom Weaver and co. create is brilliant, with guitarist/clean singer Toby Evans showing off his vocal chops and bassist Adam Smith kicking up dust whenever he could. Also, just putting it out there, Max Nicolai is one underrated-as-fuck drummer! Hell, just in general, this band’s live sound is as raw and as authentic as their studio recordings are – newest album ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping‘ especially so. Most of us know that Casey don’t bullshit listeners or their fans, and this live set was even further proof of this ethos.
Starting off with ‘Making Weight‘ – the beautiful opening track from the band’s latest LP – the Welsh outfit ran through both new and old favorites. Newies like ‘Phosphenes‘, Fluorescents‘ and ‘Bruise‘ all received wonderful mentions and loving responses from the tightly gathered crowd. What with older songs such as ‘Fade‘, ‘Ceremony‘, ‘Hell‘, and ‘Little Bird‘ just bloody well going off; proving exactly why Casey’s first ever Australian tour had such a local buzz about it.
With the mosh opening up during the heavier sections (and oddly enough during the quieter, sparser parts too), Casey’s on-stage energy was vastly different to that of the crowd watching. Calm and collected during most moments was the five-piece’s strong, often stoic yet inviting energy, whereas on-looking fans were loud, a little drunk and very lively; all the while showing real adoration for a band playing their emotionally palpable music on the other side of the planet. And it was quite clear from the smiles and faces of Casey themselves that being this far away from home yet receiving such great reactions was really taking them aback.
Please come back soon when you guys can, Casey – we will all be waiting with warm, open arms.
After playing ‘Africa‘ by Toto over the PA before their set (I can’t wait for that meme to die), Belle Haven stormed out of the proverbial gate with the anthemic and endearing gut-punch of ‘You.‘ – the first-off-the-ranks cut from ‘You, Me and Everything In Between‘. (Which I’m just gonna call YMED from now onward to save time). However, to keep people on their toes somewhat and to ensure that this wasn’t just another “full album” show like so many tours are these days, tonight’s set list was the entire album, but played out of order. Evident as the band swung hard from that first opener right into YMEB’s fifth song, ‘Little Polaroid Boy‘.
Mostly running their own light show, and performing in front of their classic black-and-white eye logo, the Melbourne-bred band were as on-point as ever. Even a few microphone issues early on couldn’t dash the band’s or the crowds spirits, though perhaps did impact the pacing. But the warm and loving vibes in the room wouldn’t be squandered – a communal aspect of their live shows that I never tire of.
There were many highlights to be had within the band’s 40-ish minute set. For instance, while I’m not super fond of the song on the album, seeing ‘Hollywood‘ be fully replicated live was actually pretty great. The band’s former drummer, James Vernon, actually came out to recreate the hard left and hard right panned drum tracks of the original song; playing in time with drummer Jake Zammit from down in the crowd with a quickly set-up second drum kit. With the band going bonkers on-stage, guitarist Daniel “Mara” Marinakis ditching his six-strings to grab a strobe light and stalk the front of the stage, screaming the lyrics into anyone’s on-looking face whilst fist-punching the air, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a new-found admiration for this track.
Beyond that, the extended drumming/hand-clap rhythm section during ‘HighfLIAR‘ was an awesome addition. The fitting red lights bathing the band as they ripped-through one of their most aggressive tracks second to ‘Hunt For Health‘, ‘Burn The Witch‘ was a great touch. Seeing the short but always lethal SOS of ‘Egophobia‘ live is just fuckin’ sick and I love that song even more now. And one cannot forgo the night’s emotional fever-point with the second ever performance of ‘By Hook Or By Crook‘.
If you don’t know, ‘By Hook Or By Crook‘ is a heartbreaking piano-vocal piece about the death of David’s grandfather to cancer, and the ensuing anger and survivor guilt felt. With only bassist Tom Mitchel (taking on the keys role) and David himself left up on stage, it was apparent just how nervous the duo were in performing such an intimate song. While some backing track issues with the keyboard and laptop made for an anti-climactic start, the pair handled it fine. Besides, the crowd was more than happy to get behind David (and the band) for such a thematically heavy track, allowing them whatever necessary to prepare. Once things got off the ground, it was hiccup free, and when the song’s mid-section arrived and David’s soft clean singing turns into rabid, frustrated screams, it’s hard to write and convey about what is such a personally important song to Belle Haven. So I won’t.
What I will talk about, though, is the song’s “aftermath”. As the rest of the band came back on-stage, and with David departing to mentally recuperate for a few minutes, the now four-piece launched into an earth-shattering noise-rock/post-rock instrumental. One that was as beautiful as it was heavy. Like the ascension after one’s death, or the closing credits after a film’s heartfelt farewell.
From that mammoth moment, and with the full band back on-stage, they shared with us the idea and purpose of suffering; how we all suffer, the necessity of it, and how it’s a powerful teacher. Which is fitting given that the songs that followed this speech were the likes of ‘Me.‘ and ‘The Carving Knife‘; another two of the most suffering-driven tracks to be found on YMEB.
This headline tour is important for Belle Haven for two reasons. One is, obviously, the full-album nature of the tour for a record that’s special to each member. But the second is a more inter-personal element to make this run more bittersweet: the last tour for drummer Jake Zammit. So, once ‘The Carving Knife‘ had slashed out everyone’s throats from singing along, the band showed the outside the inside with Jake’s favourite Belle Haven song – ‘Closet‘. With Steffanie Adele from Melbourne hardcore newcomers Caged Existence joining the band on-stage for the cacophonous outro, with James coming out again to bash the shit out of a floor tom in time with the song, and with David from hanging from venue’s support beam, it was pure and utter chaos. Exactly how a great song like ‘Closet‘ should go down live. Just like how any great Belle Haven set should end, really.
‘You, Me and Everything In Between’ is out now. Go get it here. Check out the remaining tour dates below:
WEDNESDAY 11 JULY – Rad Bar, Woollongong AA w/ Whatever Forever
FRIDAY 13 JULY – Crowbar, Brisbane 18+ w/ Wildheart & Tired Eyes
SATURDAY 14 JULY – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle 18+ w/ Elk Locker
SUNDAY 15 JULY – The Red Rattler, Sydney LIC AA w/ Watchtowers & Oaks