Review: Good Things kicked off a huge second year in Melbourne

Good Things 2019 kicked off with a huge, diverse-filled first day in Melbourne at Flemington Racecourse last week, with our favourite sets coming from Parkway Drive, Ice Nine Kills, Dance Gavin Dance, & The Veronicas.
[PC: Digital Beard Photography.]

What Good Things is nailing as a festival is having loads of variation. It isn’t just a metal event, but it’s not just a pop-punk one, either. This was evident by the diverse-list of early-slotted artists for the festival’s first 2019 date at Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse last week. For instance, over on the local-focused stage 5, Melbourne comp winners Sisters Doll were opening this side of the festival up with 80’s rock and glam outfits. It was like watching a parody of Steel Panther – who are in of themselves a parody act – but with serious-ish lyrics. It was kinda weird, and they were definitely not the local Melbourne band that I would’ve first picked, but good for them in nabbing said opening slot.

First up on the main-stage was Poppy. The weird cult-leader, pop singer and YouTube phenomena themself, Poppy was backed up by a live guitarist and drummer, both wearing strange mannequin masks and dressed all in black, with much of the arrangements and instrumentals – synths, screams, bass (as director, bassist and POS Titanic Sinclair is seemingly no longer working with Poppy), and lots of vocals – placed on a backing track. Given the music Poppy is known for, none of that’s surprising. Yet this is an artist who’s sound and “pop-singer with a child’s personality that jumps up and down on the spot” vibe would work infinitely better at a club headliner with their own production and lighting. At a music festival in the middle of the day with no fancy production, a so-so mix as it was the first set on that stage, and nothing interesting about the lighting? It all felt very flat.

After stomaching through ‘Concrete,’ ‘Metal,’ ‘Scary Mask,’ ‘I Believe,’ and ‘Bloodmoney,’ I’d more than had my fill of Poppy and headed over to the3 and 4, where something different was going down in the shape of Man With A Mission. If you don’t know, they’re a funky Japanese pop-rock band that sounds like a J-rock version of old Zebrahead tunes. As my mate and I rocked up, the excited wolf-head-wearing six-piece kicked into their own heavily stylized version of ‘Smells Like A Teen Spirit,’ getting a great reaction. For many, this would’ve been their first exposure to Man With A Mission and the amused faces of many watching on were soaking it all right up. Yet just next door, a whole other beast was about to roar: Ice Nine Kills.

After hearing rave reviews of their sold-out Melbourne headliner the night before at Stay Gold, the excitement for Ice Nine Kills was HUGE. And the American band made their second-ever Australian showing one to remember with what was one of the best sets experienced all bloody day. Kicking off with ‘American Nightmare,’ INK cut deeply through the best songs off of 2018’s ‘The Silver Scream‘ LP, including the recently released Scream-inspired take, ‘Your Numbers Up.’ Also including a quick throwback to 2015’s ‘Every Trick in the Book‘ by getting their demonic possession on via ‘Communion of the Cursed,’ helping turn this early December arvo setting into a brutal Halloween evening.

With the band dressed in their finest horror-movie get-ups – like always-animated guitarist/vocalist Ricky Armellino dressed as Georgie from IT, bloody right arm and all – INK tore through plenty of fresh material. What made this set work so well, what made it stand out so much, was the theatrical nature of it all. As INK’s performance was just that: a real performance. For instance, the setlist was stitched together via faux-interview and news report samples hinting at the next song to come and seeing frontman Spencer Charnas changing costumes frequently after every song to portray the villain of each movie their songs were referencing; originally coming out dressed as Freddy Kruger, claws and all. Hell, during ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ one of the band’s team came out dressed as Mrs. Voorhees from the first Friday The 13th; with ‘Your Numbers Up,’ she came back out dressed as Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore’s character) from the original Scream, with Spencer dressed as Ghost Face, “murdering” her come the end of the song; and with ‘Communion of the Cursed,’ she was then dressed up as the possessed little girl from The Exorcist, going ham with freaky on-stage movements throughout the song.

Spencer Charnas, Ice Nine Kills.

The devil was all in the details, right down to the wigs, props, and costumes used, to having it all backed up by the fitting music and lyricism. It was a complete package; they went all out on their horror movie gimmick and it was so endearing as a result. If the band just played in their every-day clothes, it would have zero intrigue or impact. Now, was it all a little silly and campy? Yeah, maybe, but so are most horror flicks. Was it even a little gratuitous, despite there being no bloody squibs? Kinda. But I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a whole lot of fun! Outside of the band struck by a slightly muddy mix at first, a costume-changing, horror film-inspired metalcore band like INK would’ve perhaps worked better playing an in-doors stage instead of an open-air one and billed later at night rather than the middle of the day. Still, those are my only real criticisms of what was a highly memorable and vastly entertaining 40 or so minutes. As days on from the fest, I still think about and fondly remember their set.

Having listened to Ice Nine Kills for over ten years now, it was so worth the wait to finally catch them live on our shores, and in damn fine form. With a “one more song” chant erupting immediately as they left the stage, expect to see them back out here in 2020.

So within the first two hours of Good Things 2019, I’ve witnessed a weird electro-pop-metal singer, a cheesy 80’s glam-rock local band, funky and poppy J-rock from a bunch of Furries, and a melodic, symphonic and deathcore-infused metalcore band who loves horror movies just a little bit too much. This shit is what can make music festivals so interesting. Again, Good Things are their own beast.

Right after the horror-movie feast of Ice Nine Kills, it was time for something more straightforward. As Dance Gavin Dance never seem to aim high for the bells and whistles of their live shows, instead just leaving it all on-stage with the songs they perform. The members of DGD all look like they come from six other bands, yet together they make some of the most colorful, funky and expressive progressive post-hardcore around. Starting with ‘The Jiggler‘ – taken from 2013’s ‘Acceptance Speech,’ which the band re-released earlier this year – DGD have become such a good live band over these last couple of years. Everything is much smoother now, and each of the member’s roles translate very well in the flesh: whether its Jon Mess’s harsh screams, the insane guitar interplay between Will Swan and Andrew Wells, drummer Matt Mingus‘ ait-tight playing, or Tilian Pearson’s singing.

Stemming from that, the song performances are better too. As always, ‘Chucky vs. Giant Tortise‘ sounds larger and fuller than it’s recorded version, and ‘The Frozen One‘ is always a high-point of any DGD live show of late The funky, pop and groovy madness of ‘Summertime Gladness‘ was just perfect for a festival setting, and ‘Count Bassy‘ got a sing-along from all of the die-hards in attendance. Plus, ‘Head Hunter‘ is going to become a clear live fave for years to come. And even when Will slightly botched one of the tapping parts in ‘Frozen One,’ no one cared. Because it showed that it was real, that we’re all human – even for a guitarist as talented and as prolific as he.

In tandem with that, the band’s body language and facial expressions were in high spirits too. The hip-shaking dance moves from Tilian and his beaming smile showed that they wanted to be here, playing for Aussies for the second time in 2019. And that enthusiasm makes all the difference for those of us watching on. However, the only knock I have against their set is that it finished ten minutes earlier than scheduled, but that was more or less made up for by them ending with ‘We Own The Night,’ a certified DGD banger.

Tilian Pearson, Dance Gavin Dance.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the biggest crowds of the day was pulled by The Veronicas. Alongside Poppy, The Veronicas were the left-of-field “Babymetal” drawcard when compared with last year’s line-up, but that’s not at all a bad thing. As their show was a mid-fest highlight, backed up by a full live band, with a set spanning some of their biggest, catchiest numbers; ‘4eva,’ ‘Take Me On The Floor,’ ‘In My Blood,’ ‘Everything I’m Not,’ and, of course, ‘Untouched,’ which was modified for this show with a new, killer half-time groove feel. There was even a nice little Blink-182 cover of ‘I Miss You‘ thrown in, showing that The Veronicas knew their audience very well. And as for that wall of death during ‘Untouched‘? Well… it was definitely a wall of death, I can say that much. (Thy Art Is Murder definitely had the gnarliest one of the day, though no big shock there.) Even so, it was still just a lot of fuckin’ fun, and that’s all I and many others were hoping for.

Yet while the Origliasso twins have indeed had some huge hits in the last decade, songs that you could visibly see people realizing they remembered and enjoyed as they were played in the moment, let’s be real: part of their appearance was down to the memes. Case in point: that ‘Untouched‘ wall of death Facebook page that sprung up following this festival’s line-up announcement and Jessica even saying early on in their set that “the wall of death is coming, Melbourne.” They were self-aware of why many had come to watch them, but they had fun with it, and so did the crowd. (But fuck that weirdo who got up on-stage to hug one of them.) Even those getting a good spot for Trivium’s following performance on the other main stage, all in metal shirts, were bobbing their heads and singing along.

Love or hate ’em, The Veronicas were and are clearly a major act for Australian pop music. Good Things 2019 was better off with their inclusion this year than without the twins. Oh, and Jess saying “please stand for the national anthem” to introduce ‘Untouched‘ and at another point yelling “open up this fucking pit” are two of the most baller things I’ve ever heard given the context.

Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, The Veronicas.

One of the biggest live music regrets of my life was seeing another band instead of Bad Religion at Soundwave Melbourne 2012, only to then rock up to the last half of Bad Religion’s set and find that their performance was canceled due to a stage beam that had come loose and was now hanging off from the top of the steelworks. It was then a long seven-year wait to see them again for yours truly, but the punk rock veterans returned to Australia for this festival, coming with good tidings of both new and old material.

For one of the oldest, longest-running bands in punk rock today, Bad Religion played as fast as you’d expect any others to do, with this punk rock political and philosophical musical lecture driven by charismatic singer, Greg Gaffin, who has more stage personality than singers half his age. This is a band whose youngest member is in his 40’s – drummer Jamie Miller – and the oldest being in their mid and late 50’s, yet that didn’t stop them from rocking the fuck out! During the push-pits down the front, some utter bastard that’d stolen toilet paper (AKA “shit tickets,” as the band called them), began throwing freshly opened rolls of clean toilet paper at the stage, soon turning Bad Religion’s returning Aussie set into a tee-pee bonanza. Though, the funniest part of this came when Jamie punched a roll heading straight for him without missing a beat behind the kit, much to the cheers of onlookers. Absolute legend.

Generator,’ ‘Infected,’ ‘Stranger Than Fiction,’ ‘Do What You Want,’ ‘Sinister Rogue‘ (with the ‘Overture‘ intro) and ‘Fuck You‘ all came down hard for all eager fans. The Cali legends also took it all the way back to day one with ‘Fuck Armaggeddon… This is Hell‘, as well as finding time for the better selections off this year’s ‘Age Of Unreason,’ like ‘Chaos From Within‘ and ‘My Sanity.’ Ending with the seminal Bad Religion hit of ‘American Jesus,’ all I could think was: “please don’t let it be another seven years until I can see Bad Religion again.

Greg Gaffin, Bad Religion.

After seeing and hearing some of the major sound issues plaguing Falling In Reverse’s set, and as a result, the crabby attitude coming from frontman Ronnie Radke, I didn’t even bother long seeing them. Instead, I went and stuck it out with Simple Plan. No one is coming to Simple Plan for deep lyrical content or complex songs; people come to this French-Canadian band to hear some sweet 2000’s pop-punk songs that defined their childhoods. And that’s exactly what the group delivered! ‘I’d Do Anything,’ ‘Thank You,’ ‘Shut Up,’ ‘Jump,’ ‘Welcome To My Life,’ ‘Addicted,’ ‘Perfect,’ and even ‘Jet Lag’ (with Erin Reus from Stateside coming out as a guest vocalist), among others, saw a tightly-wound and simple but nostalgic setlist from Simple Plan. And one that their large adoring crowd just couldn’t seem to get enough of. Also, you know a band doesn’t give an ounce of a shit when they play live their theme tune for What’s New Scooby-Doo. No, I’m not joking, they did actually it. That’s a new level of hardcore.

Sébastien Lefebvre and Jeff Stinco, Simple Plan.

Seeing A Day To Remember’s late evening set made me realize something: ADTR are not a bad live band, but they aren’t a great one either. What makes most people love their live shows is the fact that currently, and over the last few years, they attract huge crowds, so there’s plenty of massive sing-alongs and audience participation, really adding to the hectic energy of their shows. That, and there is lots more production boosting up their live performances now too, ranging from air-canons, pyrotechnics, and confetti explosions. But when it comes right down to it, ADTR just plays a lot of the same old chugs, breakdowns, and choruses. And that’s simply it.

While that’s hard to fuck up, ADTR still curated a decent selection of new and old songs, surprisingly sticking to a lot of ‘What Separates Me From You‘ material as well – which I won’t ever say no to, as it’s my favourite record of theirs. Opening up with ‘Downfall Of Us All‘ and closing with the almighty scene throwback of ‘The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle,’ every big song they’ve ever had was present. Well, except for ‘Mr. Highway’s Thinking About The End,’ which was shafted in favour of their collab song with Marshmello, ‘Rescue Me.’ Which I’m sure disgruntled many mosh lords to no end. Also, given the circumstances, there was a big missed opportunity here for them to play their song, ‘Good Things,’ a ‘Common Courtesy‘ bonus track. Just sayin’.

Jeremy McKinnon, A Day To Remember.

Parkway Drive aren’t just the biggest band in Australia right now, they’re set to become the next big metal band period. Their live shows over the last year or two have only grown bigger and more insane. More production, more people, more flames, more lights, more moving cogs – it just doesn’t know when to fucking end, and that’s so exciting. Their Good Things headliner slot is proof of that extraordinary growth and just how far they’ve come, and how far they will likely go in 2020. Their shows now are simply that: shows. These mighty performances that make the youth center and basketball arena gigs of their earlier days look utterly minuscule by comparison. Viva the underdogs, indeed.

With the band at first making their way through the Flemington Racecourse grounds and through the gathered crowd, as torchbearers and crew covered in black balaclava’s moved punters out of the way, the band took their place upon the stage one by one, before slowly moving into the dark, acoustic intro of ‘Wishing Wells‘ – a crushing, emotional metal track that soon exploded with red-hot riffs, huge drum-hits, and attention-grabbing flashbangs and explosions. Mixing some oldies in like ‘Carrion,’ ‘Karma‘ and ‘Wild Eyes‘ into the setlist, Parkway stuck to the big guns of their last two records, with massive songs like ‘Vice Grip,’ ‘Crushed‘ (coming complete with Ben “Gaz” Gordon’s spinning and lit-up drumkit during the choruses), ‘Bottom Feeder,’ and even tracks that I’m not all that keen on myself, like ‘The Void, ‘Dedicated,’ and ‘Prey,’ all came into their own.

As giant and as a solid of a showing as this closing headline set was, in having already seen Parkway Drive on this current cycle back in December 2018, the impact upon me personally wasn’t as impressive as the first time around. Still, it was a good cap off for the day regardless, and for those who hadn’t yet witnessed Parkway at this level before, this would’ve been something else for their eyes.

Parkway Drive.

Looking back, one of the biggest issues of the day was something that was completely out of the organizer’s hands’: the fucking wind. With overcast clouds severely contrasting the sweltering mid-30’s degree sunny weather of last year, the wind plagued most bands’ sets. Any large or small gust of wind would minimize the mix of any artist playing, scooping out so much of the needed higher frequency content. Again, this is something that no one can control, but it was a factor in the sound quality of various sets suffering a fair bit if you were standing or sitting further back.

Similarly, in one aspect that may mitigate any nasty wind in the future, and with the festival’s larger site set-up this year more than likely only going to grow, having delay PA stacks implemented wouldn’t at all go amiss. These added PA systems would help push back against any pesky wind that threatens to sweep up all the vocals and guitars of a bands set, and would also mean that those who don’t want to pack right down the front of the main stage area can chill up the back on the grass and not be struck by boxy-sounding mixes. Of course, such improvements will more than likely come in time, and it’s still only Good Things’ second year as an entity too. One can already see the event’s expansion happening first-hand this year with larger stage areas, noticeably bigger audiences, and a new fifth stage. It’s all onwards and upwards from here, as I’m sure the Good Things experience will only become more refined.

Lastly, whilst Good Things’ class of 2019 wasn’t the best festival that I’ve ever attended in my life, it was still a solid day out nonetheless. That, and that fact that this fest is clearly onto something; they’re doing shit the right way, trying their best to put punter convenience first with bigger food and seating areas, managing site layouts better, cutting down on the number of boutique stalls getting in the way of foot traffic. And with a fun and diverse array of artists, they’re also the closest an event has ever come to truly re-capturing what Soundwave did back in the day, and what made that particular touring festival so special in the eyes of so many. Moving forward, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Good Things likely growing into one of the biggest and best new music festivals in Australia. Here’s to Good Things in 2020.


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