Photos by Bethany Mafrici
Thanks to Live Nation, Triple J and UNIFY, The Amity Affliction are back touring home soil in light of their latest album This Could Be Heartbreak which has gained an impressive #1 spot on the ARIA charts. The band have made a name for themselves over the years with their impactful and emotive methods of musical expression, and not being ones to shy away from the darkest themes of humanity; This Could Be Heartbreak is rife with raw devastation and despair, delivered with brutal honesty and utmost vulnerability. Needless to say, fans across the country had flocked to secure their tickets in anticipation of another string of spirited live performances. After having first stopped in Adelaide the night before, Sunday night saw Melbourne’s Festival Hall packed to the brim for a sold-out show. As I sat in my balcony seat, patiently awaiting the night to commence, I took a moment to take in the layout of the venue, and it occurred to me that Festival Hall (aptly named) provides the look and feel of a festival setting, only within a more intimate setting of a hall; which is a best-of-both-worlds situation. A quick glance around at the different seating locations and it’s clear that the shape and size mean that virtually any placement in the venue is within close enough proximity to fully see and experience the impact of the stage. As time neared for the opening band to commence, it was pleasing to see people getting settled in early regardless of allocated seating; once again a testament to the support Melbourne punters show for live music as a whole.
6:30pm arrived and Perth’s own Make Them Suffer took to the stage and brought it to life with ease. I had never seen these guys before, but they had managed to put their own stamp on the sound they produced, with thrashy guitar elements accompanying hardcore blast beats, with an added mixture of melody injected with resonating female vocals accompanied by keyboard, in contrast with the screams and growls of their male lead vocalist. The members of the band had a lively stage presence, with the bassist in particular capturing attention with his charismatic behaviour. There was no real sense of the lead vocalist being a frontman, so much as each member contributed to creating crowd hype. The bassist and guitarist fist pumped towards the crowd with fierce conviction, determined to make the audience feel the same enthusiasm that they themselves visibly were. They would kick and stomp around the stage, occasionally spinning around whilst playing, in between various different forms of headbanging. The audience were repeatedly encouraged to “get the fuck up and open up the pit”, and the crowd eagerly complied, mostly central to the pit. Several circle pits occurred, with audience members hardcore dancing, moshing, jumping and fist pumping in unison. At the end of the set the crowd were told to give themselves a round of applause, as well as the rest of the bands on the line-up.
Before long it was 7:20pm and time for Beartooth to take the stage. Frontman Caleb Shomo is extraordinarily good at getting a crowd going. He doesn’t leave the option to stay idle; he was what I would describe as a “motivational speaker for moshing”. He first addressed the crowd saying “You will mosh, you will crowd surf, you will stage dive. Get alive, get your money’s worth!” (He had a fair point!) Opening with ‘Aggressive’, followed by ‘Body Bag” which the crowd were prompted to shout “one life, one decision”. The crowd were asked if anyone had seen them before, to which they gained a positive response, and so further went on to asked “are you having a good time?” and praised the crowd in return saying “that was fucking beautiful” in response to the crowds reception. They went on to play another track called ‘Sick Of Me’, before which the crowd were told to “put your arm around the person next to you, dance around, make out, whatever the fuck you wanna do”. At another point the crowd was also asked to “relax and take a little break, get down on one knee and get the fuck down; do not move a fucking muscle!” There was a dramatic pause before saying “welcome to the show, motherfuckers!” and the entire pit erupted. It was seriously impressive, and I had not seen a pit explode in its entirety like that for some time; quite a feat for an opening band! A final circle pit erupted during ‘Hated’, and the swirls of the pit resembled a cyclone amidst an ocean. The set concluded with the farewell “we have been Beartooth, enjoy the rest of the fucking show!” The crowd began to chant “Beartooth!” on their departure.
8:20pm came along and it saw a change of pace, with PVRIS hitting the stage. The highly melodic three-piece filled the venue with sounds heavy in keys and synth elements, alongside ambient guitar and bass. Lynn Gunn’s stage presence reminded me of a hybrid between Halsey and Taylor Momson. Her voice rang true to this also, with her impressive tonal shifts ranging between soaring songbird highs, and throaty rasps reminiscent of old-school rock chicks such as Joan Jett and Janis Joplin. She had a unique stage presence, with her erratic moving and pacing about the stage and spontaneous vocal licks. Even her directions toward the crowd at times were made rhythmically, opposed to ordinary spoken word, which holds a certain originality. They successfully engaged the crowd, sparking up various different clap chants. At one point of the set she grabbed a pair of drum sticks and proceeded to play a beat on a cymbal, whilst the drummer was still also playing the kit. The set concluded with an address to the crowd, thanking them for being “awesome shit”.
9:30pm prompted the room to blacken whilst video imagery played over The Amity Affliction’s backdrop as they made their way onto the stage. The stage set-up consisted of Ryan Burt’s kit being stationed atop of a platform, with square LED light stands of various heights that would later display various different shapes and patterns throughout the set, small platforms positioned in front of Dan Brown, Ahren Stringer and Joel Birch which they would go on to periodically stand on for dramatic effect in climactic moments of the set, and pyrotechnics lined at the front of the stage. Joel Birch yelled out to the crowd “let’s fucking jam!” right before confetti cannons exploded and rained down over the crowd as they dove right into their opening track ‘Open Letter’ from the Chasing Ghosts album, receiving much excitement from the mosh pit. The crowd eagerly belted out “FUCK NO!” on que to the lyrics; a fast reminder of the healthy release of life’s stresses that so many turn to The Amity Affliction’s music for.
‘Lost And Fading’ commenced with Birch screaming for the crowd to “Get Up! Up! Up! U-U-U-P!” which immediately transformed the crowd into a wave of bodies jumping up and down. The crowd were told that it would be the last time they play here for a while, and thanked them for coming out to support them. During ‘Never Alone’ Birch stood up on a platform in front of the microphone stand with outstretched arms motioning for the mosh to split down the middle, which created a visual reminiscent of the biblical parting of the red sea due to the crimson glow of the stage lights blanketing over the crowd at the time. A breakdown commenced thereafter, wreaking havoc throughout the entire floor standing area. If you weren’t in the pit, you were longing to be.
Introducing ‘I Hate Hartley’ from their Youngbloods album, Birch shouted “fuck yeah, Melbourne! Here’s a throwback to 2010”, which got fans rowdy in excitement; needing no encouragement to set the pit alight, and further fuelling the bands performance which was already off to a booming start. Addressing the crowd once more, Birch commanded “ I want to see a circle pit out there tonight, this song is called ‘Chasing Ghosts’, let’s get it going” with smoke clouds immediately bursting from the stage, and the crowd happily obliging. Birch responded to this with “fuck yeah, you guys having a good time? Very good, it’s good to be back down here”.
‘The Weigh Down’ treated the audience to the first burst of fire from the stage, filling the veins of audience members with a rush of adrenaline in anticipation for what was yet to come. The strike of chimes sounded, sparking an outburst of cheers and whistles from the crowd at the realization of the next track, ‘I Bring The Weather With Me’ which Birch promptly roared as the opening lyric, sending the pit into disarray as the drum and keys section picked up the pace. Birch made use of theatrical hand gestures simulating rain, and pounding his fist over his heart with pain and empowerment simultaneously painted on his facial expressions. The composition of Birch’s screams followed by Stringer’s beautiful cleans gripped the crowd from start to end. This was particularly prevalent at the heights of transitioning between Birch belting out “so I wonder; did I burn out, make a mark or fade away?” followed by Stringer’s desolate echoes “will you miss me when I’m gone?” The stage lights blackened, transforming the band into silhouettes as they simulated placing pennies over their eyes, creating a dramatic visual and atmospheric tension in accordance with the lyrics. Dan Brown’s guitar soulfully wept out in solo.
Birch took to the mic once again, but on a more serious note announcing “this song is for anyone who has lost someone to suicide; probably most of you. If you’re feeling suicidal, turn to the person next to you and have a chat” which gained heartfelt applause. It’s wonderful to see bands using their platform to speak out about such prevalent issues, and focusing more on what’s going on in the world around them instead of the element of fame. ‘ All Fucked Up’ commenced and it was probably the most emotionally heavy song performed from their set, and the tone was further set in the way it’s more of a melodic ballad than their other high octane songs that make a point with aggressive exertion. The juxtaposition of melody between the guitar riffs and vocals was quite moving, particularly the inclusion of female vocals in the climax of the song. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few tears were shed quietly amongst the crowd. The lyrical content is so raw and telling, The Amity Affliction should be commended for having the courage to put it out there. It’s a powerful song (even more-so live) that many will be able to relate to and take something away from.
‘Death’s Hand’ threw fuel into the fire of the pit again with people screaming the lyrics “hey, death, get fucked!” in unison where the crowd and Birch alike would throw their middle fingers up in the air aggressively in protest and rebellion against the ugliness of depression that so many lives are affected by. This concluded with Birch shouting “fuck yeah, Melbourne! You’re always so good to us!” The stage lit up for ‘Some Friends’ and was compliment by circular LED stage light patterns in the background. The opening verse was sung in such an agonizingly drawn-out way that the emotion expressed seemed tangible. Once the song reached the line “I always knew you’d turn your back on me” the timing of the following pound of drums alongside the deep, slow ambient guitar really helped to drive the mood home. The single release track ‘Shine On’ also made an appearance with shredding screams in desperation to “lift us up”, and if elation is what they aimed for, the crowd delivered. It succeeds as an uplifting and motivating anthem due to the determination and resolve it affirms both lyrically and sonically, in defiance of defeat. By this point of the set, I had noticed audience members in the seated sections had also been rising from their seats to impulsively exert passion back towards the stage. Observing just how many people the ‘Amity’ guys were able to move, both physically and emotionally, was quite incredible to comprehend. It’s an accomplishment that certainly warrants pride.
‘Nightmare’ was introduced as having never been played live before, and the crowd were requested to “sing it as loud as they can”. The crowd went into frenzy and it was performed with such power and conviction that it shall likely remain imprinted in the minds of those privileged enough to witness it. The pre-chorus rippled through the venue due to the raw wrenching growl tones, particularly in the first line “don’t be so quick to shut me out”. If that wasn’t enough, the track built up into a climactic verse including the lyric “you know, love still fills your lungs” with Birch’s vocal delivery punctuating every word, before the line “and you are far too fucking young to let the weight of the world destroy you” hit hard into a breakdown, causing the pit to erupt into absolute chaos. Honestly, it gave me chills. ‘Fight My Regret’ kicked off with a bang and fire balls erupted from the stage front, in time with the aggressive burst into the first verse. The performance of this song made the hairs stand on the back of my neck. The desperation and rage trembled from Birch’s vocal chords in such a way that it provoked the crowd to thrust energetic fist pumping and shouting right back at the stage, with mutual saluting of middle fingers in the air during the lyric “NO, FUCK THAT!” The air was ripe with catharsis. The energy exchange between the band and crowd was so intense that I struggle to describe it; it’s something you had to be there to experience first-hand. The song concluded with the band exiting the stage, which prompted a chant for “one more song!” throughout the venue.
A video display appeared on the backdrop once more, before the band returned to the stage to perform ‘Pittsburgh’. Birch prompted the crowd once more “sing the first verse as loud as you can! Every fucking voice, let’s do it!” It’s such a beautiful song for such confronting lyrical themes. The crowd manifested all the energy they could muster, in gratitude and delight over their return to the stage.
‘Don’t Lean On Me’ chimed in with soothing piano melodies amidst enchanting riffs, before exploding quickly into more aggressively asserted verses, in true ‘Amity’ style. They truly pull off the constant back and forth between highs and lows in a way that it’s neither harsh nor startling; they sweep you with the current. Watching the crowd swirl in a collective direction was a nice correlation to this. The anthemic title track “This Could Be Heartbreak” concluded the set with a final compelling emotive performance where at one point Birch wrapped his microphone chord around his neck to simulate a noose, further intensifying the atmosphere. Sparks poured up from the stage with a piercing screech whilst a final burst of confetti rained down over the pit on conclusion of the song.
Despite all of the painful subject matter uniting people during the set, the only affliction fans left with were the grins ‘Amity’ had plastered on their faces; and that is a beautiful thing.
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You can catch The Amity Affliction for the remaining tour dates:
HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY THU JUNE 22
THE RIVERSTAGE, BRISBANE SAT JUNE 24
POWERSTATION, AUCKLAND NZ THU JULY 13
SAN FRAN, AUCKLAND NZ FRI JULY 14
THE FOUNDRY, CHRISTCHURCH NZ SAT JULY 15