Words: Brady Irwin & Kelsey Trevan
Photos: Neal Walters
Sounding off day two, you’d think the everyone would be a bit shabby and avoidant of the stage after reveling late into the night prior, alongside co-headliners Underoath. Not so, as evidenced by Sunday’s run which began with an upbeat and bouncy but soulful and passionate performance by openers Pridelands. Boasting two vocalists and a healthy mix of metallic riffs and post-hardcore melodic affiliations, they managed to induce circle pits, moshing and singalongs to a wakeful and keen crowd. A decidedly loyal had evidently formed from the get-go against the barrier but, by the end of their set, it was evident they’d collected a few new followers along the way.
Next up, and channeling a younger Paramore, female-fronted Yours Truly strutted fresh-faced onstage with a positive, dance-ready punk feel, aided in no small part to the soaring and robust, soulful vocal delivery of their vocalist, who dedicated Circles “to all the ladies out there.” Introducing tracks from their latest EP, the youngsters were highly grateful and thankful for the devoted circle of “surely very hungover breakfast crowd”. Equal parts fun-loving and emotive, it was great to see an empowered female-fronted band dancing as one to give the idea of gender nothing but an afterthought, in a typically male-dominated scene.
Demonstrating the concept of girl power on a completely different end of the spectrum, Adelaide’s super low-slung deathcore brutality peddler Falcifer blew out the cobwebs and probably sent a few pop-piunk kids with hangovers screaming back to their tents. Featuring a fearsomely guttural frontwoman who’d probably a Luciferian nod of approval, theirs was a set of ridiculously detuned, expansive and shattering breakdowns. A mix of screams and growls across the register supplemented by grooves so down-tuned they were more felt than heard, the ninja spin-kicks and flailing arms of the bros in the pit equally matched by the frantic pacing of the supercharged band members. Quashing the notion of deathcore as a man’s-only game, the boys behind the rabid singer were nonetheless banging heads on swivels with evil smirks as they unleashed a breakdown-laden groove assault. Time to get the Panadol.
Drawing the fearfully deathcore-averse back in to the arena with a more melodic brand of Aussie post-hardcore, After Touch came comparatively gentler to begin with but were in full swing by the end of the first track, extracting fire back out from the crowd once more. Mixing a tantalizing brew of atmosphere and ambience underneath their layered sounds, the mix of gruff barks and harmonized melodies kept both the pit in momentum and the arm-waves going, punters equally happy to bro-down on their breakdowns as they were to admire the lilting melodies and powerful choruses. A nice bookend to sandwich the ears a bit between two brutal acts.
Too late for those wanting a bit of reprieve from the heavy action though, as Gravemind took to the stage and absolutely decimated the stage. Cranking the heaviness factor up to a degree of ten, the band chugged and palm-muted and thrashed through hyperactive deathcore with all manner of blasts, tremolo picking, roars and shrieks at a tempo the audience could do naught but feverishly headbang to, or at least try. Curtailing these faster sections were devastating breakdowns that built high enough to seemingly to hammer from orbit, the arcs of windmilling arms and legs from the circle pit enough proof that the early crowd had blown out last nights’ shenanigans and were well prepared to throw some limbs and necks out. It’s a pity they didn’t have neck braces available at the merch stand.
As the proverbial and literal dust settled from that performance and the bells rang out, Pagan brought a shrieking, rollicking and intense performance of a more rock-and-roll nature to the fray. Peppering some small vestiges of brutality in there, the band were more concerned with bringing the party truly back to life. The histrionics of the shrieking and gesticulating frontwoman, who made some very un-subtle digs towards sexist comments made by a certain infamous figure in the scene was confident and energetic. Twirling and dancing, sipping red wine whilst her bassist compatriot assisted her in banging out some truly hooky heavy rock, the bands’ set conjured up aesthetic and musical imagery of punk legends Refused in a completely frantic sense. Affirming to us we’re “part of the Pagan cult now”, the flailing pile of grooving fans attested to a growth in membership to their hardcore punk-and-roll disco legion.
It might only be early days of Unify Day 2 but the boys in Thornhill have pulled the biggest crowd of the afternoon so far. The Melbourne hardcore unit have been playing some massive shows lately so Unify is the next logical step. The crowd were into Thornhill from the first note but the boys weren’t going to slack off. A heavy hitting, fast and dirty set in all the right ways and full of energy from everyone involved.
Now for a complete change of pace, Sydney pop punk 4 piece Stand Atlantic. While not pulling a crowd of Thornhill proportions, the Sydney siders still pulled a decent amount of fans. The fans weren’t afraid to make some noise either, and sung along with vocalist Bonnie several times throughout, sometimes even being louder than her. When the crowd are singing louder than you are and you have a microphone then you know you’re doing something right!
Perth melodic hardcore unit Saviour are up next, the 6 piece filling the Unify stage quite nicely. There were points in the set where Saviour swung more towards the hardcore, and other times when they were more melodic. The melodic side showing through when keyboardist and vocalist Shontay took over and her angelic voice filled the stage. The set came to an end far too quickly but the rapt audience was happy to show their approval and appreciation.
The first of todays internationals is up next with Chicago hardcore outfit, Harms Way. Big sound? Check! In your face and loud? Check! Totally awesome? Check! Performance of the day for me today from these guys, purely down to their heavy, fast and loud sound. You know how you feel after really amazing sex? That’s the feeling that your left with after seeing harms way. The best and worst part of the set was the last song. The worst because it was sadly over, but the best because of the incredible double kick work from the drummer!
Sydney five piece Endless Heights were next to grace the stage and they were on from the get go. There was mixed reactions from the crowd for the Sydney boys with some getting really into the music, while others were happier shoe-gazing on the edges of the pit. Those that were in the pit didn’t hold back and were moshing, pogoing and headbanging along. An interesting band to day the least but definitely one that you should be checking out if you haven’t already.
For those still reeling and pulling up from the previous nights’ festivities, perhaps also needing a bit of an auditory kick in the shins, Melbourne’s rock-and-rolling hardcore punks Clowns were down to torch those cobwebs. Firing off salvo after salvo of incendiary punk, with rock and roll theatrics such as the singer climbing high upon the scaffolding and delivering spin-kicks a-go-go, the dual vocal attack of the jacketed singer and headbanging bassist were barely the provocations needed to, at the singers’ request, “get fly or get maggot!” Making sure we would all help out someone if we saw that “they’ve had a bit too much of the disco sugar up the nose” was one a few lines that interjected a bit of comedy into the otherwise relentless wall of power chords, snare and snarky screams. The audience shifted very quickly from curious to furious across the span of this bands’ high-octane setlist.
Enigmatic band members weren’t in short supply in this afternoon’s round, as exemplified by the whirling, writhing and rolling of female-fronted alt-rock punks WAAX. With an arty post-punk modus operandi, the sincere exclamation of “Oi, how goods’ Aussie music?” between uncontainable dance energy was a logical conclusion to her own statement, herself and her long-haired compatriots providing a current of pulsing energy, reverb-drenched arpeggios and rock-steady breakdowns. Whilst definitely a step back in tempo and ferocity from the prior punk act, WAAX nonetheless held a captive and appreciative audience for something stylistically not your typical Unify stock. The gleefully appreciative singer and syncopated dance party onstage helped keep the vibes boosted, too.
Paring things back just a little (but not a lot) more, the Jimmy Eat World-inspired musical ethos of Citizen came across as nondescript initially, but powerfully straddled the lines between emotive rock and post-hardcore with an interchange of gentleness and force. The audience’s impassioned singalongs brought some booming choruses reverberating through the arena, hands and phones waving in the air through a soulful performance whereby the singer sought mostly to straddle the mic and tap his sampler in time to his infectiously groove-addled bandmates. By the end of their set, given the booming reflection of cheering feedback and audience participation, it was clear that going flat-stick wasn’t a prerequisite to inducing a strong rapport with a captivated audience.
That said, ringing in with an immediate blast into the frenetic, metal-inspired but melodic hardcore riffing, heavy punks Turnstile grabbed that dial and turned the tempo off the dial. With the evening crowd shaking the dust off, they were able to join the maniacally energetic vocal pairings of the vocalist and bassist in both raspy and soulful song and scream. The band very quickly a blindingly pumped display grasshopper-bounces, twirling, jumping and flipping around and over the stage, it was a decent reminder that hardcore punk can be referred to as a movement in the most literal of senses. Juxtaposing a snappy playthrough with only by a few brief and almost jazzy interludes, the bands’ set was otherwise pedal-to-the-floor with screams of “Hey! Hey!” and “Do it! Fucking do it!” whipping the mosh into a spin-cycle froth as the night finally descended on a sun-kissed but still eager audience.
Speaking of eager – wow. Up next, we had new-school pop-punk luminaries State Champs deliver a set of powerful melodies and harmonies with cleanliness and energy that saw a packed arena full of passionate shouters, singers and bouncers alongside them. Veiled in smoke but moving through the mist, respective band members all contributed to the almost sickly-sweet but still rousing energy with overjoyed frontman Derek DiScanio constantly asking a receptive (and obliging) audience to “get off your feet!” and “do some dancing!” We’re not sure much prompting was needed, however, as it seemed their legion of fans had all the lyrics and riffs imprinted of their collective punk mind, which they were losing as a single unit as well. As though entranced, the mood settled during quieter numbers snapped back from the brink just as quick, just as the set drew to a close to thunderous applause.
And as if that wasn’t enough, our next act blew the myth that punk, or pop-punk at least, dead out of the water. Easily sporting the biggest crowd of the day, Trophy Eyes apparently encouraged an ocean of pogo stick owners to muscle into every nook and cranny of the arena and reach skyward in an endless Mexican wave of heads, arms and shoulders. Twirling and wind-milling arms like a wind-up action figurine, dance-ready frontman John Floreani set the stage to the hugely popular set with his impassioned movements as he and his bandmates crooned, gang-shouted and sung their way through a very vocally collaborative set, a whole setlist of back-and-forth between a roaring crowd and a band belting out the numbers as one. Like with the former and obviously widely popular act, there was not even a hint of hesitation as to whether the loving crowd would omit one word or backup vocal throughout. A veritable flood of people had crammed in to see them, and now left grinning ear to ear.
Whilst retaining most but not all of the popularity of the band prior to them, the incendiary rocking mathcore troupe Every Time I Die brought arguably the most ferocity from both themselves and their audience. Shoveling riff after razor-sharp technical riff into the crowd like a fretted ball of sawblades, the intensity on offer here was incomparable to any other act of the night. Proclaiming their love for Australia after twenty years as a band, the combination of rock-and-roll theatrics, savage breakdowns and meandering dissonance had the crowd so frenzied the paramedics became involved. With band members piling up on top of amps, jumping repeatedly into the crowd and whirling like cut snakes onstage, the caustic and complex hardcore riffs were only briefly offset by more hard rock leanings of recent material, but even those couldn’t save the doomed circle pit (at one stage encasing the sound desk) from a blood-drunken fury.
Those who had had anything left in the tank at this point, whether copping a beating or having pogo-jumped themselves sick, were treated to a nice cap-off of their Saturday nights with a very special performance from co-headliners Taking Back Sunday, who are celebrating twenty years as a band. Sporting a Southern twang, a sense of etiquette and a few references to the bands’ status as a little bit longer in the tooth, Adam Lazarra was more than happy to take the growing crowd of singalong-happy fans down memory lane with his mic-twirling and warbly vocals as the band busted out their perennial classic album ‘Tell All Your Friends’ in full.
It was clear that those most devoted were likely to be among the crowd, and as the harmonious vocal refrains and iconic early post-hardcore riffs from numbers such as ever-popular Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team) and the opening refrains of There’s No ‘I’ In Team rang out, both band and audience reverberated off one another’s soulful singing and energy, the nostalgia thick within the air. Their sound a unique hybrid of forlorn alt-rock, emo, post-hardcore and jagged punk, reactions to shifting landscapes between the albums’ diverse cuts showed no sign of wavering through the whole set. Inviting those still with energy remaining to join him on the dancefloor at the silent disco later, the frontman and his compadres were evidently as stoked with their loyal fans, from the albums’ opener to their loudly appreciative exit. Wide eyes were a common sight as the fans ambled back to their tents, gleaming with the prospect of being treated to a very special set indeed.