Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unhelpful Postit notes, a scene without a home, and salutations to a lost friend - emotions run high at MK's first Metal Fest

MK Review – METAL FEST – One Dark Day, Primal Intent, Rampage. Thursday 19th Aug 2010

In front of me is the piece of paper that was in my pocket on the night of last Thursday’s metal fest. Upon it is scrawled, “Review not necessary. Two words will suffice: Fucking. Epic!”

Despite my impractical and decidedly inept attempts at note taking, I will attempt to form a semblance of a review because, as many of you will agree, this night sure as hell deserves one.

I arrived 15 minutes into Rampage’s set. You could hear the noise from three blocks away. It grew louder as I climbed the stairs, and thundered into the stairwell as I opened the door. Thank god for ear plugs. Now, the noise was to be expected, but the sheer amount of people took my breath away. I slowly made my way through the crowd, bewildered and confused. Was I at the right place? Sure, we’d had crowds here before, but not like this. I could hardly move. Attempts to push to the front were futile.

I appreciated the high energy “no bullshit” old school thrash of Rampage from the back of the crowd, periodically standing on tippy toes in an attempt to see the singer over the sea of nodding metal fans. Now, I’m sure they were doing loads of crazy and amazing stunts up the front, like fire breathing, juggling, and perhaps even jousting. Heck, nipple tassels may have even been involved. Being of small stature as I am however, (I stand at an intimidating altitude of 152.5cm,) I can only report on the sound. Rampage brought on a feeling of nostalgia. Their music had a smile on my pressed-up-against-the-guy-in-front-of-me face the whole time. It was loud, fast, and it was fun.

As One Dark Day set up their gear, I realised a strange phenomenon had occurred. This ensemble of ragtag people, who had turned out in force, represented a scene without a home. A scene that is unrivalled in its consistent and enthusiastic support for the bands – new and old, local and touring, good and even bad. A scene where people know each other, where they make the effort to turn up to gigs, and where they rock out to every song in respect for the bands that play them. A scene that was made up of familiar faces I hadn’t run into since the Oxford closed.

The Wollongong metal scene, shaken and dispersed after the loss of its flawed but charming local venue, and deeply hurt by the untimely death of one of its greatest musicians, had banded together and appeared in staggering numbers. I realised that here we were, a lost people united once again by our commitment to the bands, and our passion for getting sweaty and letting loose to the music we love. It was like some sort of dark, twisted high school reunion...only with more mirror balls.

One Dark Day is seriously good. No amount of sweaty bodies were going to stop me from seeing these guys. Aside from the odd Karnivool show at Waves, this was the first local gig where I found myself sitting on an accommodating boy’s shoulders in order to see the band. Nathan Glover’s powerful voice rang out over the fervent mob, switching effortlessly between a low metal roar and strong, melodious vocals. Bassist Byron Frencham’s long hair shone a myriad of colours under the changing lights, as he lobbed his head about to the music. Danny King’s signature headbanging-while-rocking-out-on-guitar featured heavily. I find Danny’s moves enthralling – how he can still play while keeping up his instinctive and furious energy is beyond me. Dane Geltch, second guitarist, was the antithesis – cool, calm, and bizarrely unaffected by the entire ordeal. As for the drumming, I have never seen a drummer enjoy himself more than Brendan Mackay – this is a guy who drums with his whole self, not just his arms. Sweat dripped from his beaming smile – the parts of the song he wasn’t mouthing the words to were marked by the sheer enjoyment on his face.

The crowd went absolutely insane. If you acted like this outside of a metal gig you’d be expelled, grounded, arrested, or at least scare the shit out of any unfortunate bystanders. Engrossed in the music, each person was throwing their head around with vicious urgency, while a crew of five or six lads (we won’t name names) punched, kicked, ripped their shirts off, and clawed at the air, the crowd, and each other, in a frantic and possessed reaction to the heavy bass and infectious sound.

At one point, Nathan had the whole crowd chanting with him, heads banging violently, fists punching the air to the rhythm, fingers pointed in a metal salute. Byron antagonised the crowd with a devious half-smile on his face, “Come up here if you’ve got anything to fucking say, I’ll give you the fucking finger”.

Towards the end of the set, Nath calmed the room down for a moment of reflection for one of the Wollongong metal scene’s most influential and dedicated members. “A lot of our songs are about death,” he said. The room fell silent. “A band mate and a friend of quite a lot of the guys here died in a horrible accident recently, so this next song goes out to him”. Throughout the ensuing song, the room was united in salutation of the memory of one of their own. Emotions ran high. Clenched fists were raised as teary eyes were cast down. An atmosphere of solidarity and respect resonated through the pierced, tattooed, dread locked, black clad and bearded crowd.
By the last song it was evident that One Dark Day had given it their all. Exhausted but triumphant, sweat dripping over his defiant grin, Brendan hit the last cymbal, and the crowd erupted in a roaring applause of whistles, cheers, and a barrage of well-humoured expletives aimed at Byron.

I couldn’t stay for Primal Intent’s headlining set, but Nathan’s words rang in my ears, “stick around for Primal Intent. These guys are young, but they’ll go far.”

If you missed this round, get your arse down to the next one.

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