With a sold-out headliner at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel over the weekend, Dance Gavin Dance proved why they aren’t betrayed by the game & why they’re at their peak right now.
[PC: Digital Beard.]
Mixed bills are sick, honestly. Who wants a three to four, or even five band bill where everyone sounds the fucking same? Sycophantic weirdos and cringey genre die-hards, that’s who! So it was very interesting yet also quite refreshing to transition from the mechanical Marc Okubo riffage and headless-stock bass antics of Danny Hauser for Veil Of Maya’s prog-metal, to the spiralling, colourful and hooky post-hardcore of Dance Gavin Dance. All in a single night, no less, with Melbourne alternative heroes Belle Haven opening up the show for those who came down early to sweat their asses off inside of Richmond’s finest.
Kicking off their glowing spotlight moment with ‘Son Of Robot‘ and ‘Frozen One‘, Dance Gavin Dance came out swinging hard and didn’t let up until an obligatory encore nearly 45 or so killer minutes later. This headline set was just DGD bangers, pure and simple. Predominantly made up of ‘Mothership‘ and ‘Artificial Selection‘ material with a couple solid ‘Instant Gratification‘ tunes like ‘We Own The Night‘ and ‘Death Of A Strawberry‘? Yeah, sign me the fuck up! Add in the throw-back of ‘Lemon Meringue Tie‘ from the first ‘Downtown Battle Mountain‘ (AKA the non-shit ‘Downtown Battle Mountain‘) for all of the OG fans in-attendance who never moved beyond 2007? Sure, throw it in and let’s have some goddamn fun. Because no matter how you spun it, this show was just fun!
DGD’s dozen song setlist flew by in what felt like mere minutes; there was such momentum to their pace. It was such a good set, in fact, that even Mark from Veil Of Maya couldn’t help but crowdsurf around the Corner’s infamous pillar at one point; such a good set that even some of Belle Haven’s members watched on lovingly from side-of-stage. ‘Suspended In This Disaster‘ and ‘Count Bassy‘ both received some real love, with the former’s chorus being HUGE and the anthemic, well-layered outro of the latter sounding so pristine. Some of the best ‘Mothership‘ faves like ‘Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise‘, ‘Flossie Dickey Bounce‘ – a song where the lines “cocaine cringefest” have never sounded so dire – and, of course, the religion-starting ‘Inspire The Liars‘ all went down like well-oiled machines from a band acting at their zenith. Eight albums in, Dance Gavin Dance are at their most popular and at their most critically revered right now; with shows like this, with songs like this, confirming that fact without the shadow of a doubt.
There was plenty of bounce and engagement given these songs from the ravenous fans who haven’t had a headline DGD tour out here in Australia for nearly four years now. Let alone a completely sold-out one, with people that love all of the varying eras of DGD’s career. Hungry and greedy defined the affection of many tonight, but in the best way possible. And this setlist seemed perfectly curated for a live audience; the Corner’s band room being filled out wall-to-wall with loud’n’proud voices for every single track. Even the sunny and quirky 2017 jam of ‘Summertime Gladness‘ went off too; people boogieing left, right and centre to it’s funky rhythms and charmingly bright chords.
However, one point of criticism from me is that it was very odd to not see ‘Care‘ and ‘Midnight Crusade‘ get a mention. Bizarre considering both are two of the best tracks from 2018’s brilliant ‘Artificial Selection‘ LP and that they were both big singles for said record too. (That final breakdown of ‘Midnight Crusade‘ is well-written bliss.) There was also no love for ‘Betrayed By The Game‘,’Young Robot‘ and ‘On The Run‘, which was a real shame, honestly. Obviously, beggars cannot ever be choosers, and there’s only so much time in the day (or rather, night) that a band can get while on-stage, but these absences were indeed noticeable.
Now, whenever Dance Gavin Dance come up in conversation with fans or even people who aren’t quite on-board, there’s always a topic of discussion that gets brought up lighting fast: the vocals. And there are two opposing opinions that will get mentioned here about singer Tilian Pearson. The first goes something along the lines of: “I saw DGD at X venue back in Y, and he was so good live, great singer“. Whereas the second contrasting opinion is usually something like: “Oh, that guy is so inconsistent vocally, I saw a YouTube video of him singing live and it sucked.”
So, as for this Melbourne show? Well, Tilian was truly in fine form! No lie, the dude had great pitch, projection, and control throughout their entire set. While the odd insanely high-note near the last bit of their set wasn’t fully attempted, as there’s some crazy head-voice going on there and the dude’s already been up there for almost an hour belting it out, he’d hit slightly lower notes within a more comfortable range. Even so, if anyone tells you that he was off or not good live, then they’re talking complete and utter bollocks. Also, Tilian is one sexy motherfucker with some fine-ass dance moves that saw him simply strutting what God gave him. And I could never discredit that.
As for the other side of DGD’s vocal coin, there’s screamer Jon Mess. What’s equally great and amusing about Jon is that he’s always had this semi-awkward stage-presence like he doesn’t know what to do at any point, armed with the whitest guy dance moves around. Just watch any live videos from their shows over the few years. But then he opens his mouth and out-comes this raw yet real scream, the very one that’s defined so much of the band’s musical dynamic since day one. Just as he’s the weird and cryptic yin to Tilian’s yang, that dual-vocal dynamic is lethal when they’re side-by-side on-stage together; brothers in vocal arms.
Which also brings me to the best thing about Dance Gavin Dance currently: they’re all such clean players, with every member being scarily good in their respective performances. For instance, drummer and bearded-wonder Matt Mingus is an air-tight rhythm monster up on the drum riser, and the man himself, guitarist Will Swan doesn’t skimp on his stellar tone, busy fretwork nor his textured, tapping riff-output live either. The word ‘immaculate’ comes to my mind, and often.
Ending with ‘Evaporate‘ is pretty much the perfect swan-song for this current cycle; playing the last song off of their most recent album that also sees a reprisal section of their storied past material; from ‘Me And Zoloft Get Along Just Fine‘ and ‘Alex English‘ to ‘Acceptance Speech‘. All as touring and session guitarist Andrew Wells (ex-Eidola, who’s basically officially in the band at this point) performs his guest vocal and guitar duties wonderfully so. He’s become such an asset to this band over the last couple years and it was lovely seeing how well he’s since integrated into the unit with ‘Evaporate‘, both on-record and live. Which sums up the impressive skills of Dance Gavin Dance too; great studio band, great live band.
After two previous headline runs out here in 2013 and 2015 in smaller venues and to smaller crowds, with no coveted red “sold out” signs anywhere in sight, this recent successful tour is like a victory lap; a win for the band out here in Australia. This was actually my first live experience with Dance Gavin Dance, and it sure as shit won’t be my last! They are just such a satisfying live band to experience, it’s almost hard to put it down into words. Their evolution over the years has only made them more agile and honed musically. Honestly, missing DGD live at this stage in their career just makes you a fucking pelican. And you definitely don’t wanna be a pelican, friends, trust me.