In the gripping finale of the classic 1996 Adam Sandler film Happy Gilmore, things go pear-shaped for the titular protagonist when a crazed golf fan mows him down with a Volkswagen Beetle during the final 18 hole stretch of his do-or-die PGA tour clash against arch nemesis, Shooter McGavin. As a result, Happy sustains a shoulder injury that robs him of the power to hit “the long ball”, the cross-country power drive technique that made him an overnight golfing sensation and gave him a serious edge over the competition. Now seriously handicapped, Happy is forced to re-focus and take his game back to the basics, in order to beat the fiendish McGavin, win the gold jacket, and save his grandmother’s house from being turned into that asshole’s trophy room.
This is a similar situation to what Melbourne’s Belle Haven found themselves in at Sydney’s Factory Floor during their recent Nobody Likes A Hospital Tour. In the metalcore world, so much of fans’ live music experience comes from the pit. The primal catharsis of hurling your body around a sweaty sea of humans with euphoric abandon, singing along at the top of your lungs as you smash into the stranger next to you, and the electronic symbiosis that occurs when the energy of the crowd collides with the energy of the band onstage. It’s a voltaic monster that feeds off itself. A living, breathing, organic power circuit. Strap some jumper cables to it and you could light up the whole of Sydney city.
But, like many heavy bands during the COVID-19 pandemic, Belle Haven found themselves in the predicament of having to perform without the power of the pit. Instead, they faced a sold-out crowd of fans sat awkwardly on chairs, discouraged from singing along, and forced to remain firmly on their asses under pain of getting turfed out of the building. A daunting circuit-breaker for any artist that plays high-energy live music.
In short, they lost the ability to hit the long ball.
But, in this environment, where less practiced bands would crumble, instead, Belle Haven shone. The four friends, joined by Tapestry’s Ben Masters on drums, put on a masterclass in heavy rock showmanship. The theatre atmosphere put the nuances of the band’s live show on full display, from the light and shade of frontman David de la Hoz’s charismatic vocals, buoyed in pitch-perfect lockstep by guitarist and backing vocalist Chris Vernon’s superb harmonies, to the tightly-greased mechanics of the band’s rhythmic engine room. Belle Haven delivered a mesmerising performance wrought with chaotic emotion, haywire energy and watertight musicianship, with an artfully programmed light show adding even more visual punch to the set’s most explosive moments. And the fans, with their legs strapped down by the pandemic’s invisible ropes, enjoyed a rare opportunity to sit back and take it all in.
Much like Gilmore, Belle Haven were able to triumph over the odds, and find their “happy place”.
Apt too, seeings as that’s roughly what their band name translates to.
Belle Haven’s new EP, ‘Time Changes Nothing‘, is out on April 16 via Greyscale Records.