Townsville took the missive ‘Hotter Than Hell’ as a challenge last week, with the mercury soaring well into the 40s (with ‘feels like’ temps over 57 degrees), so it’s no surprise numbers were slightly down on the second Hotter Than Hell festival. Punters who weren’t scared off by the scorching heat were treated to a stellar day of entertainment, kicked off by local punk/pop act Catalyst Ct.
Although there was a line by the time gates opened at 2pm, the locals played to a small crowd, with a short and energetic set showcasing a number of original tracks like their latest single, ‘Friends With No Benefits’ with some genre-related covers by bands like Blink-182.
The max temperatures had definitely been reached by the time 28 Days hit the stage, and vocalist Jay Dunne made no secret of the fact the band were feeling the heat, asking the crowd several times, “Does anyone have a defibrillator handy?” and making jokes about locals climbing Castle Hill with a death wish. Guitarist Simon Hepburn even hit the stage in thongs – from the outset it was going to be a fun show.
The band rolled through a set of hits and festival faves, including ‘What’s The Deal,’ ‘Stealing Chairs’ and ‘Say What’ – with a beer in hand for some of the tracks, because of course. Because the show was already running slightly late, the band cut their final song off their set list, joking about performing a new track (to a resounding “boo” from the audience) before they launched into a sweaty, slightly out of breath version of ‘Rip It Up’ – which the crowd promptly did.
Fellow Melburnians Bodyjar also hit the stage in shorts and singlets, joined briefly by Dunne, who seemed to have recovered pretty quickly, for backing vocals on a couple of tracks mid-set.
Vocalist Cameron Baines looked appreciative of Dunne’s assistance, also mentioning the stifling heat and how much the guys were struggling. Still, he led the charge through a blistering back catalogue of tracks, including their 1997 Strange Harvest EP’s ‘You Say’ and 1996’s Rimshot! track ‘Windsok.’
Of course, the crowd went crazy for ‘Not The Same’ and ‘One in a Million,’ kicking up clouds of dust as they showed their enthusiasm.
By the time Magic Dirt hit the stage at 5.30pm, the sun was setting and the temperature dropped from sauna-like to almost bearable.
This was the act many were here to see – their first show in nine years, as vocalist Adalita Srsen reminded the crowd. Bringing back the heavy guitar distortion and riffs of late-90s rock, Srsen and the boys rolled through a bevy of hits, including ‘Watch Out Boys,’ ‘Dirty Jeans’ and ‘Plastic Loveless Letter,’ as well as pulling out some older classics like, ‘She-Riff.’
In honour of their debut EP Signs of Satanic Youth being re-released on vinyl, they also played ‘Redhead’ from said EP. The band also paused and raised a glass to founding bassist Dean Turner, who passed away from cancer in 2009.
Shihad swiftly followed up with a ridiculously amazing set. The band has been touring for the General Electric’s 20th anniversary, so their set was tight, but they proved they are getting better with age – it was certainly a more memorable show than their Uni Bar gig here 17 years or so ago (but that may have a little to do with one reviewer’s alcohol consumption at the age of 18)…
With a huge back catalogue to pull from, Jon Toogood and the guys kicked off early with newer hits ‘Think You’re So Free’ and ‘FVEY’ and ended with 1996’s ‘Home Again,’ peppering bangers like ‘Comfort Me’ and ‘Pacifier’ throughout.
Toogood took full advantage of the band’s wireless setup, traversing the stage and climbing the speakers, holding his microphone stand out for the crowd to sing; at one point almost clocking security on the head with it (accidentally, of course – we don’t have our own Josh Homme on our hands). The crowd also got involved with the band’s rendition of ‘Pacifier’ by providing all the light source via their mobile phones.
Spiderbait closed the night with a bang, kicking off their set with ‘Straight Through The Sun,’ which was one of their first new tracks when they reformed in 2013.
Of course, no Spiderbait set would be complete without ‘Fuckin Awesome,’ ‘Calypso’ and ‘Black Betty,’ which the ended the show with.
When the band performed ‘Buy Me A Pony,’ those who couldn’t see the stage could have been forgiven for thinking they had overheated the system, as Jebediah did at the event in January – but it was just Kram and co pausing for the crowd to sing along.
One of the best things about Hotter Than Hell is the fact each band has a range of fans buying tickets – from OGs who listened to their tracks in primary or high school in the ‘90s, right through to newer fans who are just discovering some of the best live acts Australia has to offer.
With the Townsville event being the first for the whole tour both in January and now, it has been a place for teething problems, but organisers for this tour certainly took all of the feedback on board last time, creating an incredible experience for punters and artists alike. The only thing that could make it better would be somehow air-conditioning the whole event. But then, it wouldn’t really be Hotter Than Hell…