Gig Reviews

Good Things Festival – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne 06/12/19

The inaugural Melbourne leg of the Good Things Festival was one of the best (albeit hottest), days of 2018. So with another absolute corker of a lineup booked and significantly more chilled weather forecast, I walked through the 2019 festival gates hoping for even gooder things, and that’s exactly what I got.

The Bennies were chosen to kick the day off and everyone’s favourite ‘party machines’ wasted no time taking the vibes from zero to 420, as they smashed through a set featuring the likes of ‘Knights Forever’ and of course ‘Party Machine’. Magnetic frontman Anty ensured everyone was wearing a smile on their dial. Walking away with a bit of a contact high, I made my way to the mainstage to see one of my personal favourite musical discoveries of 2019, Poppy.

Taking to the stage clad like a goth pixie, the genre hopping enigma had a curious crowd enchanted from the set’s opening moments. Flanked by a minimalistic backing band, Poppy put on a breathtaking display of musical dexterity and performance art, bringing the wild mood swings of ‘Scary Mask’ and ‘X’ to life before our very eyes. If this is the future of alt-pop, I’m all in. What a ride. Give it to me bloody, please!

The sound of horns can mean only one thing at a rock festival, time to skank! Which is exactly what I and a merry mass of thirty somethings did the moment Reel Big Fish took the stage. Good times are guaranteed whenever RBF come to town and hyper renditions of ‘Everything Sucks’, ‘Sell Out’, ‘Suburban Rhythm’ and of course ‘Beer’ had the field feeling like a giant love in. In the words of their latest album, “Life sucks, let’s dance”.

Over on stage three, Ice Nine Kills whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their horror-themed mosh mashup, effortlessly switching between 2000s screamo passages, progressive post-hardcore and pop melodies, proving they are anything but a gimmick band. Dressed to kill in full Pennywise getup, vocalist Spencer cut a menacing figure as I9K absolutely delivered on the hype with a frighteningly fun rip through ‘IT is the End’ to close out a star making set. We all float down under.

After sinking a coffee blacker than the snot I’ll have in the morning, it was Dance Gavin Dance’s turn to melt minds with their progressive post-hardcore. Technically speaking, very impressive but if I’m being honest, not really for me, so kudos, but I had a date with a wall of death and ‘Untouched’ by The Veronicas, with a side helping of two songs by Skeggs. Those two songs both went down a treat. Skeggs are on a good thing, and good things was a sign of what’s to come for these scuzz rockers.

If there was any doubt as to the suitability of The Veronicas for this festival setting they disappeared the second that ‘Take Me on the Floor’ dropped and the massive crowd lost its collective mind.

Backed by an energetic band, Jess and Lisa rocked the hell out of pop bangers ‘Everything I’m Not’ and ‘Hook Me Up’ before bringing a little bit of the nightclub with ‘In My Blood’. They also inspired an enormous group singalong with an acoustic cover of Blink 182’s ‘I Miss You’ which was honestly a really wholesome experience. Every festival needs a carefree party anthem and The Veronicas have one of the best in their back catalogue in the form of ‘4 Ever’.

Then the moment arrived. ‘Untouched’ hit and the biggest wall of death a pop band has ever inspired laid waste to the mainstage. It was ridiculous and awesome and honestly if you didn’t enjoy it you are allergic to fun. This was an iconic moment.

 

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Clint Boge talked earlier in the week about how thankful The Butterfly Effect were for a second chance at rocker life and from the moment I was in earshot of their set it was obvious they plan on making the most of it. There was a definite nostalgic trip in the air as Australia’s prodigal sons of early ’00s progrock delivered a captivating performance that had fans singing themselves hoarse to the soaring melodies of ‘Window and The Watcher’ while wetting appetites for 2020 with recent single ‘Unbroken’ before closing out with anthemic ‘Reach’. Refreshed, revitalised and ready to rule again, The Butterfly Effect are back.

Trivium never went away, they’ve just carried on being one of the world’s better modern mainstream metal bands for 20 years and every bit of their metal cred was on display as they brought some of the thrashiest riffs this side of ’80s Metallica to Good Things and the crowd responded with an old school mosh pit. Proud owners of some genuine crossover hits, Matt Heafy and co. put on a show, the highlight of which was bonafide banger ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’ which is as epic today as it was in 2006. Departing the stage to a sea of thousands of metal horns held aloft, Trivium did what Trivium do, metal.

Opening with ’21st Century Digital Boy’, Bad Religion had the crowd of mostly older fans busting out their mosh moves for the first time in years. Displaying energy belying a band going into their 40th year of existence, Bad Religion proceeded to put on punk rock masterclass, tearing through classics including ‘Stranger than Fiction’, ‘Generator’, ‘You’ ‘Fuck Armageddon, This Is Hell’ and the first guitar riff I ever learned “‘American Jesus’. It all sounded as relevant and poignant as ever, especially the latter track given the current state of the US. With the patented twin guitars, frantic rhythms, three part harmonies and a whole lot of things to say, Bad Religion might be the same age as your Dad, but they are still a vitally important band with a message and a sound that continues to permeate and provoke.

If there was a polar opposite in the punk rock world to Bad Religion it would be Canadian’s Simple Plan. Which is not to say that what they do is wrong, it just serves a very different purpose. Thankfully that purpose is to provide sugary pop-punk songs to sing along to in the afternoon sun, and they are quite frankly rather fantastic at it. Vocalist Pierre Bouvier played the role of nasal voiced choir leader as he lead his band and the Good Things faithful through classic cuts ‘I’d Do Anything’, ‘I’m Just a Kid’ and ‘Welcome to My Life’.

Closing out with tearjerker “Perfect” which finally gave all the toilet paper that had been pilfering the stage for the whole set a practical use (to wipe up tears), Simple Plan left Good Things crowd in an open, sharing, communal mood with smiles being worn by every single person.

Aussie baby-boomer-baiting grunge revival icons Violent Soho brought those “hell fuck yeah” vibes to the early evening, with the well lubricated crowd ready to scream their heads off to their swagbag full of triple j approved anthems. Kicking things off with megahit ‘Like Soda’ the Violent Soho boys had the crowd onside immediately, with every line being sung back with passion by punters of all ages. Violent Soho’s whole set felt like a celebration. Hell fuck yeah.

Love them or loathe them, there is no denying A Day to Remember are HUGE and it took only until the chorus of opener to understand why. This band is a well oiled machine that pumps out chug powered earworms by the dozen and their energy is absolutely infectious.

Jeremy McKinnon is a powerhouse vocalist who transitions effortlessly between sweet melodies and throat shredding screams and his range was on full display as ADTR whipped through a set consisting of hit after hit. Every element of the ADTR popcore sound translates from stereo to stage and they are magnetic performers. Closing with ‘A Plot to Bomb The Panhandle’ ADTR exited the stage amidst a massive explosion of confetti and streamers. A Day to Remember at Good Things Festival was a set to remember.

Prior to tonight, Parkway Drive had never headlined a festival in Australia. After tonight they have earned the right to headline all of them, whenever they want. Book it. I’ll go. We’ll all go. Every time. From the moment the Byron Bay behemoths made their way through the enormous crowd, literally carrying the torch of Australian heavy music to the stage with them, it was clear they were not here to fuck spiders, they were here to make a statement.

Vocalist Winston McCall’s moody spoken word intro to ‘Wishing Wells’ set a menacing tone, before his trademark throaty growl of “Tonight I’m killing gods” acted as the detonation switch for band and crowd alike. As Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick’s twin guitar attack locked in with drummer Ben Gordon and bassist Jia O’Connor’s crushing rhythm, Parkway Drive went into beast mode, inspiring carnage in the pit below.

As they powered their way through ‘Prey’ the call and response with the crowd was deafening, the iconic ‘Carrion’ followed, resulting in one of the loudest mosh calls Australia has ever heard, as pyrotechnics went off and ‘Vice Grip’s’ twin guitar harmonies had spirit fingers and voices high, it became very apparent that these songs are absolutely suited to a headliner slot. They can write a banger, those Parkway Drive boys.

Of course, you don’t get to this size without a solid understanding of set dynamics, so tonight we were treated to haunting renditions of ‘Cemetery Bloom’, ‘Shadow Boxing’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’ (complete with string quartet!). These moments show off the band’s growth as musicians (especially Winston’s as a vocalist) and gave them a chance to take in the moment and control the mood before smiling at the masses before them and unleashing hell with a gargantuan ‘Wild Eyes’. As all of Good Things made guitar noises with their mouths, and moshed so hard they shook the earth, the band wore massive smiles, with Winston taking on the role of leader as we collectively went in search of the biggest circle pit ever. There was fire, there was pyro, there was light, there was flying bodies and then it all went dark.

For a few moments it seemed that the night had come to a premature end, but then the spotlight shone down on Ben Gordon, alone on stage behind his kit. Having seen this before, I knew what would come next, but many in the crowd didn’t so when he started playing and his kit STARTED SPINNING, people lost their damn minds. It’s a cool visual, but it’s not quite as cool as WHEN IT SETS ON FIRE, which is exactly what happened next! As Gordon was rejoined by his bandmates for a BRUTAL ‘Crushed’, the entire stage became engulfed in flames. As the biggest breakdown of the day hit, enormous flamethrowers filled the arena with fire from all angles, creating an incredible visual that will no doubt live with all in attendance for a lifetime. What a moment.

 

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We’re set for @goodthingsfestival. @lucasenglund #GoodThingsFestival #DrumCageOfDeath

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Ever the affable gentleman, Winston thanked us all one final time, explaining how much it meant for Parkway Drive to headline a major Australian festival and then instructed us all to “snap our necks to this.” As the band launched into the metal monstrosity that is ‘Bottom Feeder’, we were all only too happy to obey. As the entire venue became one giant mosh, the band looked on in awe of what they’d built, and the crowd looked back in reverence at the five surfer dudes from Byron who built it. Then the flamethrowers went off again and we collectively returned to our native state, giving ourselves over to the awesome power of Parkway Drive. That is a very good thing.

Good Things Festival continues today in Sydney and will finish up tomorrow in Brisbane. Head here for set times.

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