With the arrival last year of Good Things on the Australian festival calendar it promised a brighter musical landscape for live music fans after the demise of popular events Soundwave and Big Day Out.
Suddenly the future seemed alive and even the announcement of this years line-up featuring a more accessible assembling of acts did little to dull people’s enthusiasm.
And rightfully so.
I must admit I was initially sceptical of a line-up that featured far fewer heavier acts than last year, but by the time I found my way to the exit late Sunday night I had to (reluctantly) agree with the organiser’s vision.
The mixing of genres on paper looked like a logistical nightmare but to their credit, Good Things mixed and matched each act beautifully, refusing to bow to expectations of creating stages for like-sounded bands and instead splattering them across all four main stages in what proved to be a masterstroke.
Fans were being coerced into watching bands from outside of their comfort zone, forcing many (including myself) to give bands a chance they may not otherwise have.
I arrived just in time to catch Ice Nine Kills, whose theatrics and love of the big screen was there for all to see. From the movie-set like stage production which featured red balloons paying homage to the It films and costumes from the Scream series, this band look like they were born for the big time. They are much heavier live than on CD, with the use of voice-over narrative punctuated by screaming guitars and full effects having a massive impact.
Over on the main stage, Reel Big Fish delivered their usual ska-punk antics to a growing crowd that were treated to favourites ‘Everything Sucks’, ‘Sell Out’ and, of course, ‘Beer’. These guys have been plying their trade for a long time and their professionalism and interaction with the crowd was once again on point. Their now classic rendition of A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ sent the crowd into a frenzy in the hottest part of the day, with many a sweat-soaked body seen leaving the pit afterwards.
Dance Gavin Dance, with their progressive post-hardcore sound, were certainly well supported by the crowd but were a little lost on me. They worked best with the harsher vocals over the cleaner versions, at times coming across like teenagers, which I guess they probably are. Their performance had the desired effect, with multitudes of screaming teenagers losing their minds.
The Butterfly Effect vocalist Clint Boje has alluded to this being the band’s second crack at rock stardom, and his band backed up these sentiments, starting with ‘A Slow Descent’ and powering through a back catalogue including ‘Window and the Watcher’ and ‘Reach’ in an emphatic performance that proved some bands deserve a second bite at the cherry. Slotting in new single ‘Unbroken’, The Butterfly Effect are by no means a spent force and should use these shows as a perfect launching platform into a revitalised 2020 and beyond.
Trivium threw themselves into their main stage afternoon slot as only Trivium can. They have been atop of their genre for many years now and proved it with a decimating set that featured songs ‘Silence in the Snow’, and ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’. In winding up the tour cycle for latest album ‘The Sin and the Sentence’, the only fault I could pick with their show was vocalist Matt Heafy continually trying to get a rise out of the audience by comparing them to the Sydney crowd. He would have been much better served to let his music incite aggression and besides, it was just too damned hot for anyone to get upset – even at Sydney-siders.
Bad Religion opened with ’21st Century Digital Boy’ and powered through a collection of hits including ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, ‘Generator’ and ‘This Is Hell’, using every ounce of their 40-year experience to whip the crowd into a frenzy. They proved that age shalt not weary the punk in anyone, with the rendition of ‘Fuck You’ still sounding as relevant and timeless as when it first came out.
Enter Shikari are a band I have been looking forward to seeing for some time. I remember when they first came out I was instantly attracted to their quirky and up-beat approach to music but unfortunately I was left a little disappointed when I finally got to see them. Not that they were bad by any means, it’s just that what was quirky and original 10 years ago is unfortunately now mundane and run-of-the-mill in the music industry. They did their job well and entertained the mass of younger fans assembled for them, but it was only the fun ‘four songs in seven minutes’ approach the band adopted midway through the set that managed to etch them into my memory.
Falling In Reverse would have to be my discovery of the day. Having heard their name sprouted mainly by the younger generation, I had managed to avoid their music until now. Honestly, if anything else on the other stages had have slightly interested me I would probably have been there but I stayed to watch them purely by default.
And I am glad I did.
I could not name one of their songs but I know they were much heavier than I had envisaged and a lot more fun. They had possibly the biggest crowd of the day on the smaller stages and people were screaming and singing back at them from the front to the back, creating an almost eerie connection that was enough to make me put them on my future to-do-list.
Thy Art Is Murder were by far the heaviest act on the bill, and from the moment the air raid sirens began, leading into a massive array of double kicking, you knew TAIM were here to take bodies. The sound was dominated by vocals and kick drums – which was not a bad thing – and the boys delivered a tight, uncompromising set with awesome timing and structure changes throughout. Giving a speech about donating to the fire relief fund and the animals injured was a massive plus, but when the band started almost preaching about the rights of animals and vegans the message overpowered the music too much and it was time for break number two for my weary legs.
Karnivool were high on my list of must-sees going into Good Things and from the first note and light display they proved me right.
These guys have the live performance down to a fine art. It is as if their lighting and music are connected as one, with the stage awash with blue, purple, red, orange and green that accentuated every note and guitar lick.
Their subtle timing and tempo changes work even better on the stage and it seems with Karnivool every instrument breathes a life of its own into each musical note. Each song builds beautifully within itself, almost drawing you in like a tractor-beam and holding you until it seems your senses can take no more. It truly is a visual and aural experience unlike most others presently doing the rounds.
Powering through ‘Simple Boy’, ‘Roquefort’ and ‘Themata’, Karnivool’s songs have stood the test of time and if anything have become better for it. By the time they closed with ‘New Day’ I could happily have pulled stumps for the day, but with only headliner Parkway Drive to go, I decided to battle the growing army of punters headed for the main stage and was soon made to feel grateful that I did.
Seemingly haphazard firecrackers resonated through the area, almost scaring the proverbial out of those close by, including myself.
They were only a teaser of what was to come, however, when the band made their announcement by being led, shrouded in cloaks, through the crowd from somewhere beyond by torch-bearers of extreme light and real fire.
It was an arrival befitting a satanic ritual and for the next 75 minutes, Parkway Drive took the crowd on a rapid descent into the fiery pits with a show featuring fireworks, pyrotechnics and fire.
The spoken word introduction by vocalist Winston McCall to ‘Wishing Wells’ was akin to a demonic reverend calling the minions of hell into battle, with ‘Prey’, ‘Carrion’, ‘Vice Grip’, ‘Writing on the Wall’ and ‘Cemetry Bloom’ each hitting with the power and precision of a sledgehammer.
It was a true coming of age performance by Parkway Drive, finally allowing their home audience an opportunity to witness first hand the band they have become. After spending much time abroad honing their craft to rave reviews, Parkway Drive are currently a band having fun at the top of their game and only getting better.
Good Things 2019 was the first time in recent memory an Australian band has headlined an international performance and tonight Parkway Drive proved not only can Australian bands compete on the big stage with the heavyweights, but they can also knock them out in the first round.
Well done Good Things. I, for one, will never doubt your judgement again!
Images (C) Brendan Shanahan Photography