Flemington Racecourse holds a pretty significant piece of Australian culture in its location.
The Melbourne Cup is one of the biggest horse racing events worldwide, which is probably the least memorable socialite event and a huge waste of my time. Never mind all the hosing around, because there’s a new kid in town. I flew down to Melbourne from little old BrisVegas to get a good idea as to what was going on with this exportation from England.
The Download Festival came to Australia.
But first, The one main negative I have about Australia’s take on the iconic UK festival. Why the hell was there no pizza? Or even a somerset cider?! Download UK is sponsored by Somersby cider, the greatest cider of them all in my skinny white boy opinion. Yet, no Somersby for Download Down Under? And no pizza to feed this hungry pop-punk shmuck? Come on guys, step it up.
(If you can’t see the humour in that, I really feel sorry for your childhood)
But enough of the bollocks, lets get to the sex, yeah?
Starting off my Download Experience on the Red Stage was High Tension. A four-piece of Melbourne heritage that danced on the line between beatdown punk and heavy metal. Overall I thought that the performance was strong, a good start to the day, but they were not for my taste. They struggled to bring a crowd as it was so early in the day, but the fans that were present seemed to enjoy themselves, yet there was no mosh, no wild pits. Frontwoman Karina Utomo has an incredible scream, but even with all the winning factors, I think it may have been the wrong stage for them. They may have been better off at the Dogtooth stage with all the other heavier acts instead of the main. Regardless, a strong start to the day.
A crazy and energetic crowd formed to greet hometown heroes Ocean Grove. These Boys were lighting fires throughout the mosh. It’s true to form to see them put on such a splendid show that matches the raving and hype behind their debut album 'The Rhapsody Tapes'. Luke Holmes as the frontman packed so much power into his voice. If he said jump, they jumped. And bloody hell they jumped alright! But that wasn’t even the highlight. You see that zany looking bastard there next to Luke? That there’s Dale Tanner. “Why the hell is he dressed like that” you ask? I answer “Why the fuck not mate?!”
When Orange Grove took to the stage the crowd was cheering out, but the second this suave trotter appeared on stage and raised his hand, that cheering turned to screaming. These Victorians must love Dale, and so you should. In between tunes, Luke asked Dale to give his thoughts. And what came out of his mouth?
“This is fucking sick, cheers mates!” As he downs a VB tinny.
The man is more Australian than Vegemite on toast, and they fucking love him for it.
The set played was flawless. All of them played with their hearts on their sleeve and gave the audience plenty of antics to tarry on with. Toilet rolls and beach balls flying in the air and crowd surfing like it’s Bondi. Alas, for such a killer time and monstrous energy they gave, I felt Download had wasted one of their best acts too early. Had they been playing later on in the day, they could’ve pulled off something beyond the limits. Maybe we’ll find out next year.
A mad dash followed Ocean Grove back to the Red Stage to catch Northlane, one of the big names in Progressive Metal here and now. The last time I saw them was with their previous vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes, some years ago. Now with Marcus Bridge at the mic, I wasn’t sure what I was to expect thanks to all of the close-minded bigots on the internet whom I unfortunately took into consideration. He came across to me as more of a clean singer. And as a result, this different style would mean a different vibe. I was uncertain of the show. But seeing the crowd numbers build gave me hope. Then Jon took to the stage in his black mask and contact lenses and started off the intro to a crowd favourite. 'Quantum Flux' wasn’t bent out of its original way as I thought it may have. If anything Marcus took that track and breathed new life into it.
Jon, Josh, Alex and Nic all played with that perfect robotic precision that they are known for. Not an off note, beat or riff. But with this new vocalist at the helm of the ship, this crew of machines can no produce something more organic than I remember seeing from the past. Some people would say they long for the original steel to return in full force. They want Adrian back. But after all this time so far, I think it’s safe to say the flesh wins out on that fight. I can’t wait to see them again.
Of Mice & Men
And another band with a new frontman. Of Mice & Men’s Austin Carlile has been forced to leave music for the time being in order to focus on his everlong battle against Marfan Syndrome. Leaving ex-Jamie’s Elsewhere vocalist and current bassist Aaron Pauley to take up the reins and march onwards. Although lacking a big hitter in the metal scream game, most fans seem to have forgotten that Aaron can still belt those banshee highs and wolfish lows.
Their latest album Defy has proven this simple fact for those of you in disbelief. Their style of modern active-radio metal play proved to be immensely popular with the fans, although dare I say it may be, too popular? Some silly woman decided it would be a great idea to throw her bra on-stage, only for the rather large lingerie to fall ghastly short of it’s target and land on one of the security guards. I just pray that chick didn’t leave her 'Bones Exposed' in the process, if you catch my drift.
And over to the Avalanche stage I found a bunch of Novocastrians called Trophy Eyes. I remember first seeing them strut their stuff at a Jimmy Eat World show in 2017, and I’ve been dying for another piece of them ever since. Mainly because vocalist John Floreani can fuckin’ deliver those heart wrenching lyrics from 'Chlorine' like it’s nobody’s business. After two songs, John screamed out to expect a new album and the land under the tent went ballistic. I couldn’t believe how worked up their fans could get, and they kept feeding them energy. Thankfully it didn’t go to waste! A punk show filled my every craving after going through four metal bands and I thought I could taste it on my lips. Sour beer, sweat, bodies pressed up to each other, ninnies flying through the air, people standing on shoulders and an occasional call out to the band every second crowd surfer.
Even their newest single 'Hurt' was given a bit ore of an upbeat show, instead of going for the pulled back delivery on the recording, John let loose and belted that sucker for all it’s worth.
The ending of their set was unexpectedly true to form. John left the crowd with a final farewell as the band remained to play out the last of the song, every throat called out the lyrics. A really special moment that was, and to have broken it out in such a method, the kid’s got class.
I managed to duck outside quickly to grab a glimpse of ISSUES carrying out the beginning of their set. A starting point for these guys in their live game is carrying on without their unclean vocalist. (Seriously how is a hashtag related to bands losing screamers not trending on twitter?!) Whilst Tyler Carter presents the soulful side of all things singing to a crew of die hard lovers of moshing, ISSUES make the whole shenanigan work out quite well. A fusion of RnB on the radio with the things your parents don’t exactly consider “music”.
While Tyler and the other band members stepped up to the screaming plate with Michael’s absence, it isn’t the same. Sure ISSUES are still playing, sounding, performing and are the same old that their fans have grown to love, but there was something missing that three men can’t replace one guy for. From what little I witnessed, they still had their live game down to a sustainable and pleasing format. Not as methodical as Northlane are with their instrumental performance in comparison, but still, something noteworthy.
And at last we come to my personal best moment of the Download festival: The set where I dislocated a rib.
This only proves that these Welshmen, or Welsh boys as you can say, go hard. Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow reasserted that way of life through their show. They didn’t miss a second out on filling the room with the spirit of punk and that nonsensical catchiness of pop. For myself, seeing Matt and Sam slamming out their tune 'Can’t Kick Up The Roots' through a set of audience participation, spinning while playing, crazy drum grooves and a monstrous mosh that saw Ben get right up on the barrier and please the masses.
It was refreshing to see the boys on stage just enjoying themselves. Ben’s got a penchant for dancing like nobody’s watching. Matt likes to put on a bit of a show for whoever’s watching. Dani’s just up the back grooving his ass off and grinning from ear to ear when he’s not concentrating. For a bunch of kids straight outta Wales that haven’t even hit their prime yet, I’m excited to see what happens with them in the future.
The Story So Far
Before you read this one, take a good look at that photo and ask yourself this.
“Is that Liam Gallagher’s son?"
Sorry for those who said yes, because it ain’t. Despite Parker from The Story So Far pulling off one of the most memorable Liam Gallagher impressions I’ve ever seen, he’s not related to the legendary Oasis member. After every song he thanked the audience by saying “cheers”, said next to nothing the whole set apart from a little introduction and three seconds of banter and sang with his hands behind his back while wearing sunglasses and barely moving from the mic.
Halfway through the set, some bastard in the crowd started to get everyone chanting for one of them to do a shoey. How bogan can you get? I mean yeah I was chanting too but who cares...I wanna see it too! Kevin approached his mic to confirm what we were saying in our strange Australian accent. Will then picked up a shoe that was thrown onstage much to the delight of us all. We nearly succeeded until Parker said “Well pass the man a beer!” Until three of us in the crowd took it a little too literally and threw a full tinny each on the stage, nearly hitting Parker and Kelen and knocking a cymbal on Ryan’s drumkit. Parker chuckled, and in his words called us all a “bunch of crazy cunts” before launching into 'Roam'.
Hearing 'Empty Space' and 'Out Of It' live definitely cemented that whether or not Parker keeps going with this new style or not, the fans will still pull through for him and the other lads. And honestly, despite all my jests, I definitely will too.
After TSSF I quite badly needed to answer the call of nature. So as I relieved myself and walked back out into the rainy Melbourne air, A familiar sound wafted to my hears. Wafted? Maybe that was the scent of marijuana floating around at the time. But who cares what it was, because Good Charlotte were rocking out 'I Just Wanna Live' on one of the Main Stages. Although I normally would have a different playlist going for toilet tunes (you never know when inspiration might strike), having the Madden brothers back in town certainly had my ears perking up. Benji still had all his range intact, although there was a little shakiness with of those falsetto highs in the chorus.
But who cares? He still owned the song.
If I was more of a fan I would have stayed to absorb the set, but to be fair with you, after all the bands I’d seen already, the amount of energy I had was starting to run low. I needed a break. Maybe next time I’ll give them a good spin.
As I meandered along for a relaxing beverage with my favourite photographer. I looked out over the crowd to see some shuck jumping on stage with a red cap and, red shoes? Then I noticed a man in all black facepaint with a crazy Flying V shape guitar. Then the riff for 'Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)' kicked on into overdrive with what looked like 10’000 people throw their hands in the air and scream delight.
Some would say Limp Bizkit wouldn’t be able to draw a crowd, that they’re just a has-been of the 90’s rap rock scene. What you forget is that with Nu Metal back on the resurgence, Limp Bizkit were one of the pioneers of Nu Metal, which makes these suckers just as valuable as all the others. And even more so in this case. Because it’s Limp Bizkit!
Fred still has enough steam left in him to pull out that angry side to deliver the anger of the music, and Wes Borland clearly still has his normal patterns about him. I think it’s only natural they continue playing, and with DJ Lethal back with them, old fans are in for a treat.
Whilst I’d love to stay behind for the whole of Limp Bizkit and witness Korn’s only Australian appearance for the year, I had enough energy to last me one more set. Korn would take two sets worth out of me and I probably wouldn’t be able to get back home.
I witnessed Hot Water Music’s return to Australia in over ten years on the night of Download, and I shan’t forget it in a hurry.
I’m surprisingly quite a big fan of Chuck Ragan’s solo work in the folk side of things, so when I had the opportunity to at last see him in a live set but playing with Hot Water Music, I couldn’t leave it alone. Whilst Chuck’s spitting of gravel notes lent itself to grand effect with 'Drag My Body' and the newer tunes from 'Light It Up' like 'Bury Your Idols'.
Seeing these guys perform was an exhilarating experience. Not because the moshing wasn’t crazy like it was for all the other shows. Not due to the energy the band was feeding the audience. Not because I was the youngest one there in the crowd. And definitely not because those old buffoons in the middle of the crowd weren’t so much moshing as they were falling tripping over their own hands. It was because of the intensity of what they were singing about, the faith they have in their art.
Even after all this time, Hot Water Music still sing for a purpose. To better the world, the real spirit behind punk still lives. To go against the system, to search for a better way instead of following the wrong way. A few tears emerged from my eyes as the audience erupted into applause at the end of 'State Of Grace'. A true-to-life will to continue the betterment of humanity still exists.
So despite the torrential downpour that happened on the day. Regardless of not being able to see the entirety of the line-up. Even though there was not a slice of pizza to be seen anywhere. So the line-up may not have catered to all forms of rock in today's world. Was the newest incarnation of Download worth it?
Well overall it’s the first year of a brand new festival, at least it us to us Australians. Nothing is ever going to go perfectly in the first version. I mean even though there were potentially a few mess ups where I could not have noticed, and even the obvious things that grated me we trivial at best. Download in Australia was best summarized by Luke from Ocean Grove. In a nutshell, we’ve lost our big winners for rock music. Soundwave and Big Day Out are no more, and since that happened we have suffered as a nation in our music industry. What Download represents for us is a chance to start anew. To reignite the fire that we held oh so very dear. And for that opportunity alone, I will stand by Download as our saving grace until the cows come home. The simple fact that it went off so brilliantly despite the situation and odds against it show that we have hope. Some solid fucking hope and real chance to bring live rock and metal music back to Australia in every state.
So raise your beers and wines, your tacos and pizzas with mine. Three Cheers to Download, may you never fucking die, cheers!
All Photography Courtesy of WezzyCruze and Rogue Inc
Words, Jabbering and Banter Courtesy of Yours Truly; Patchification
FULL DOWNLOAD 2018 GALLERY COMING SOON!!