Photos by Dylan Martin
There’s one thing you can count on in Melbourne, and that is the weather. It’ll either be torrential rain, or it’ll be a scorcher. Thankfully today it’s the latter. The sun is shining, the drinks are flowing, and Day 1 of Unify Festival is shaping up to be a fantastic day!
To begin with, we were honoured with a traditional welcoming fire to the land by the local Aboriginal Elder, and everyone was encouraged to walk through the cleaning fire. It was a beautiful showing of respect and everyone kept silent and listened throughout.
Kicking off day 1 was Melbourne five piece, Better Half. Considering it’s day 1 and things are just starting, the Melbourners drew a respectably sized crowd. The energetic crowd was not afraid to move and mosh and sing and the boys were more than happy to encourage it. Repeatedly thanking the crowd for coming early, Better Half put on an energetic, exciting and fun opening set.
Second up is Ocean Sleeper and talk about a change of pace! Whilst Better Half swung more towards the pop punk genre, Ocean Sleeper are more of a hardcore band. With a mix of clean and screamed vocals, they definitely appeal to the heavier fans. With the exciting news that the band is releasing an album later this year, Ocean Sleeper closed out their set with an older track that had a lot of the large crowd singing along.
Drown This City were up next and are the first of several bands on the festival to be female fronted. While the first 30 seconds or so provided difficult with a few technical difficulties, Alex pulled it back and they recovered. Their set also included another first, the first circle pit of the day and it was huge! While the day is still just kicking into gear, the crowd went off. A really great reaction for the locals, and one of the day’s biggest so far.
The first of the international acts was up next, Welsh group Dream State. Dream State was also female fronted and without doing too much of a comparison, they drew certain similarities to Drown This City. While Drown This City are a little more hardcore, whilst Dream State are more rock. There was a lot of great crowd interaction, and with an international act, especially the first of the lineup, that’s always awesome to see.
The first of the super heavy bands was up next, Sydney’s Hand Of Mercy. After calling it quits several years ago, the boys have reunited to play Unify. The record has been set by the Sydney siders with them pulling the biggest and rowdiest crowd so far today. Mosh pits, circle pits and crowdsurfers were abundant for Hand Of Mercy and they put on a show that was impressive to say the least. One of the best sets of the day so far.
Next is American metal band, The Plot In You. They’re the first Americans to grace the stage for the weekend and they did not disappoint! There was no hesitation from the crowd in singing along and getting involved. It’s always nice to see when a crowd really connects with a band and vice versa, and The Plot In You really brought their A game to the set. If you missed The Plot In You this time around, have no fear as they have promised that they will be returning to our shores in the very near future.
A band that has been a very big part of the Australian heavy scene is crowd favourites, Dream On Dreamer. There’s a reason why they’ve been around a long time, and it really shows in their performance and the crowd reaction. Surprisingly, there was still a first to be had, and Dream On Dreamer had the first confetti cannon of the day, first with black confetti early on in the set, and white towards the end.
Another group from across the pond are up next – While She Sleeps – and the crowd reaction is incredible once the boys from Sheffield hit the stage. Although the heat began to leave the Tarwin Lower day and the sun began to set, the While She Sleeps lads were definitely not phased. There was hardly a moment throughout the 30 minute set that didn’t include crowd surfers, a circle pit or the crowd singing. The set was also over way too quickly in my eyes, and especially in the eyes of the fans. While She Sleeps are full of chugging power chords and epic breakdowns and the right kind of heavy to get your heart, lungs and brain pumping in all the right ways.
Drinking straight Jack Daniel’s and Jameson’s during soundcheck, Japanese hard-partying techno-metalcore sensation Crossfaith were mosh-ready from the second the ominous countdown caved into booms of smoke and insane pyrotechnics, foregrounding a wall of riffs and flailing bodies. The enigmatic frontman Kenta Koie and keyboardist Terufumi Tamano moved through every imaginable range of sung, shrieked and growled vocals possible against the whirling backdrop of their fellow crazed costumed lunatics. Burning through crowd pleasers such as the dubstep-heavy Monolith and inciting more than a few circle pits and walls of death, the electronica-meets-metalcore spectacle was only slightly marred by a couple of minutes’ worth of technical difficulties – that didn’t even stop an impromptu circle pit or a furious drum solo, however. As confetti shot to the skies to thundering crowd feedback, it was clear that Crossfaith were to be one of most talked-about sets of the day, if not the entire festival.
Putting such a frantic set before any other band might build unreasonable expectations in terms of follow-up; however, Ocean Grove laid those fears to rest immediately. Opening with a heartfelt home video montage of the band before dropping theatrical visual aesthetics, stage performance and soundscape that perfectly channels the best of late-90’s/early-2000s rap-metal, nu-metal and alt-rock, this young Australian outfits’ ridiculously infectious stage energy got the swarming throng before them bobbing and popping like a sea of corks. Their seamless marriage of modern hardcore with both scat-rap, screams and soaring melodies earned an absolutely fanatical reaction from the roaring audience. The sci-fi decorum and liberal use of pyrotechnics augmented the nostalgia-trip-goes-2019 vibe to great effect, the eager applause evidently appealing to fans across the spectrum of both age and musical preference.
It now came to Hellions, rock and roll having an acid trip in the best way possible. If you were after something completely different than Crossfaith and Ocean Grove, then you’ve come to the right place with Hellions. Epic crowd participation, big drum fills and rocky guitars, these Melbourne boys had it all. High energy, high intensity and big sounds, that’s what Hellions brought. Throw in so groovy graphics playing in the background and you’ve got a fun package from start to finish.
You can always assume that at a festival, things that are unpredictable are bound to happen, and during In Hearts Wake, they did! First frontman Jake Taylor excused himself to the crowd to find a young woman named Ainsley, and once he did he handed her the mic and she proposed to her partner. Spoiler alert – they said yes! Secondly, Jake and the bands mascot, a koala toy named Charlie, boarded an inflatable boat to the sound desk to retrieve the In Hearts Wake flag, which was a successful mission. In Hearts Wake put on an incredible performance, full of variety, even including guest vocals on Skydancer, from Crossfaith’s Ken!
There’s another long-popular, Aussie mainstay on tonight’s lineup and it’s Karnivool. Karnivool has been, and probably always will be one of the most popular live Australian bands. With the time in between appearances, it’s no surprise that the crowd was lively as hell. Frontman and vocalist Ian Kenny has an undoubtedly unique way of ‘dancing’ while he performs (think Peter Garrett but more majestic!) and the crowd weren’t shy to immitate and mimic this style and everyone was loving it. There is nothing to fault with Karnivool and the fact that they always give 110% when they perform says a lot about why they’ve been around as long as they have.
What a better way to end an incredible day 1 of Unify, than with Floridian hardcore six piece, Underoath. If you need an example of how having years of experience playing festivals can help you in a time when you’re having major technical difficulties for most of the first song, then you really don’t have to look any further as this is exactly what happened. The issue was dealt with gracefully by the band, with frontman Spencer Chamberlain remarking “can you hear me now?” shortly before the first song ended. The band changed effortlessly between playing their more intense and hardcore older songs, and their newer rockier songs from their recent album ‘Erase Me’, the bands first release in 10 years after a short hiatus and then reformation.
Despite Underoath not kicking off their set until just after 1am, the latest set the band have ever played in their long and colourful history, the crowd that showed up, showed up. There was a mixed reaction from the crowd, with some fans only singing along to newer songs, and vice versa, but overall the large crowd enjoyed the bands set. Despite their early technical difficulties occaisonally making a reappearance, and the lateness of the evening, Chamberlain and company provided everyone with one hell of an energetic and enthusiastic performance.
Overall, Unify Day 1 was a complete success with fans giving the bands their full attention, and every single band that took to the stage gave the crowd everything they had.