Good Things Sydney 2019 (Sydney, NSW)

7 December 2019 at Centennial Parklands

What a day. Despite the smoky haze that took up residence in Sydney over the past few days alternate and heavy metal music fans were out in full force to attend Australia’s second ever Good Things Festival. Variety was the defining feature of the festival’s line-up, some of the heaviest bands out there such as Thy Art is Murder playing alongside commercial-radio pop artists such as The Veronicas. Between these 2 extremes there were a variety of different bands to cater for all music tastes across the scene, rap/pop/metal fusion act Falling in Reverse and prog-pop locals Voyager notable standouts in this respect. Add to the mix a healthy dose of up-and-coming Australian talent virtue of the Good Things band comp and the character that is Poppy and the result was a music festival that definitely has something for everyone.

 

Given the 5 stages within the festival, up to which 3 were operating simultaneously, it of course wasn’t possible to check out all of the amazing talent on display Saturday. As such my review covers only those bands I was fortunate enough to see and obtain a true experience of.

 

Poppy is an artist that is hard to pin down. To the layman (myself included) Poppy’s initial release Poppy.Computer could understandably be considered a pop album with a few metal influenced tracks and iconography thrown in for shock value. Her more recent release  Am I A Girl, however, proved myself and others wrong, the album undoubtedly cementing her as a metal musician and dismantling the argument her success is predicated off a ‘gimmick’. Contrast is a very powerful element within metal music and Poppy uses this technique to great effect, her soft voice seemingly at odds with the music underscoring it, the end result being the creation of a musical soundscape almost transcendental in nature. 

There was huge social, and even mainstream, media anticipation and questions regarding the place of The Veronicas on the Good Things lineup.  The band, consisting of twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, are known as a commercially successful pop act who’s tracks such as 4ever and Untouched held a special place in the hearts of many of Australia’s youth due to it’s inescapability during the 2000’s. Their presence somewhat dropped off as the 2010’s progressed so to see them announced alongside bands who couldn’t be much further away from commercial radio play certainly raised some eyebrows. As such there was a certain element of tongue-in-check irony in which their set had been amped up, most obviously demonstrated by the Facebook event ‘Wall of Death during The Veronicas set’ which attracted thousands of responses. The Veronica’s were clearly well aware of this and went to extra-lengths to mould their set to the heavier crowd. In addition to turning the guitars up to 11, this was most visibly done through Jessica’s fantastic and sparing use of screams in favour of her traditional vocals. Speaking from the centre of the moshpit, when her first scream rang out there was a visible wave of surprised and then pleased energy that spread throughout the packed main stage crowd, energizing everybody watching to a new level of intensity and simultaneously dispelling all thoughts of  irony from the attendees enjoyment of the set; this was a heavy metal show. As this energy built and continually swelled  it became clear very little urging would be required or the aforementioned ‘wall of death’ and during their set not just 1 but 2 walls of death were successfully executed, much to the enjoyment of the band. I also think there may have been a row-pit, but to be completely honest after the 10+ row pits throughout the course of the day you start to lose track.

It was an incredibly enjoyable set and I am very interested to see what their success at Good Things may mean for The Veronicas going forward, the potential to expand further into the heavier side of their music readily available and, judging by the crowd response, very desired.

While waiting for Trivium I tagged along with a friend to see Dance Gavin Dance, who I had never heard of or listened to. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of elements going on within their performance, the presence of both a clean and dirty vocalist meaning both were equally as strong which is unfortunately rarely the case with vocalists who do both cleans and dirty vocals. The band’s set gave off the feeling they were absolutely stoked to be playing Good Things and I found myself enjoying their set notwithstanding my unfamiliarity with the music, the dance-y tracks contrasting enjoyable with the dirty vocals of Jon Mess. Frontman Tilian Pearson was incredibly charismatic and kept the ever-growing crowd jumping for the entire set. Will definitely be looking further into their music.

Trivium has been a bucket list band of mine for an incredibly long time and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to review them by Metalroos. Opening with crowd favourite Heart From Your Hate thousands of festival-goers bounced as one, and as the chorus came around the first of many, many circle pits emerged. The band played the perfect mix of old and new material, my personal favourite The Calamity making an unexpectedly welcome appearance in addition to Strife and Beyond Oblivion.  Matt Heafy’s screams were as strong as ever, something that I’m sure brought a huge smile to all Trivium fans, and his militaristic stage-presence allowed him to control the crowd with seeming ease. Corey Beaulieu’s provided fantastic support in this respect, his screams clearly continuing to develop in terms of both strength and tone, and Paolo Gregoletto’s clean vocals didn’t fail to bring a smile to my face (#InWeeves).  Playing for the first time in Australia since joining the band drummer Alex Bent was also a real pleasure to listen to, his live performance just as strong as that lauded online.

As Trivium continued to play the crowd’s intensity exponentially rose, the circle-pit growing in time with the music’s beat. When it came time for the band’s closing song In Waves the entire crowd was instructed to take a seat and await Matt’s signal. The tension in the ‘sitting-mosh’ (or Pre mosh-pit if you prefer) reached a fever pitch as the opening riff to the track echoed across Centennial Park before finally the signal was given and a guttural yell was simultaneously made by thousands of Australian metal-heads as they launched themselves into the most brutal mosh-pit of the day so far. It was about halfway though In Waves my entire right shoe fell apart, leaving me with no other viably metal exit option other than to crowd-surf my way to the front holding my destroyed shoe in one hand – awesome.  After 20 years it is so refreshing to see a band like Trivium still able to kill it live and not afraid to vastly alter their sound album to album. Really excited for their next record and return to Australia.

I then limped my battered and bruised 5ft10 frame (the mosh was seemingly 90% giants) over the small side stage, designed to showcase smaller bands as well as local up-and-comers. I was very keen to see Voyager again after catching them at their July Sydney show. Their unique mix of metal music, electronica and what I can only described as a ‘disco-vibe’, all underscored by fantastically complex progressive music and associated breakdowns, is incredibly enjoyable to listen to. More an experience than a show, I found myself watching each band member individually for extended periods of time throughout the set, so entertaining were their individual performances.

I had next planned to see Falling In Reverse, their recently released track Popular Monster significantly impressing me. Their fusion of pop hooks, rap verses and heavy guitar  is very unique within the genre and despite my initial misgivings about such a combination I found it incredibly enjoyable to listen to. Songs like Good Girls, Bad Boys clearly cater to the younger, alt-pop demographic but it isn’t fair to categorise their entire sound off these ‘bubble-gum metal’ tracks. Tracks such as Drugs as well as Popular Monster demonstrate incredibly complex instrumentation and technical guitar and drum work which is often ignored in favour of the admittedly somewhat generic lyrics. That isn’t to say the lyrics aren’t good for the music in question, but I can readily understand why they may deter metalheads who would otherwise be more invested in the band. Despite my best intentions, however, the aforementioned shoe incident prevented this from occurring as I was traversing the entirety of the festival grounds trying to find a kind soundman to lend me some tape.
 
By the time a soundie eventually took mercy on me, as well as a security guard who “lent” me a cable tie (picture potentially attached below!) they had finished. What I heard from hearsay, however, was that the initial mix was essentially 90% guitar, frontman Ronnie Radke proceeded to talk smack about the soundguy and lead a crowd chant against him, and then the soundguy proceeded to turn him down even further. I can’t verify any of this but form what I have heard it sounds about right:).

Missing Falling In Reverse wasn’t all bad however, as I managed to catch some The Beautiful Monument’s set while taping up my shoe so I was able to walk. Once again this was a band I hadn’t been fortunate to check out before I saw them. The flipside, however, was that I was able to view them with completely fresh eyes free of any external influence. These girls absolutely killed it and were very enjoyable to watch. Playing at the same time as Falling In Reverse, Simple Plan and Thy Art is Murder is surely an intimidating endeavour but they took it all in their stride and gave a confident performance that was well attended notwithstanding the above clashes. Definitely adding these guys to my list of bands to dive deeper into!

Thy Art is Murder was next on my ‘to view’ list and this time I decided to review them from the relative safety of ‘anywhere except the pit’, choosing a nice hill suitably far away from any rouge karate-in-the-pit enthusiasts. While I had listened to the band prior seeing them live was a whole new experience and Chris McMahon’s vocal consistency and aggressive delivery was fantastic to see live. The undoubted highlight of the set was the circle pit extending around the sound tent, and the associated cyclone of dust it stirred up – definitely a festival highlight.

Down to the final 2 bands I would be seeing that night, A Day to Remember took the main stage and gave an absolutely breathtaking performance to an enormous crowd. Rocking out to the anthem no-one can resist singing along to The Downfall of Us All was a very nostalgic moment for me as well as the rest of the crowd who delivered an passionate vocal performance alongside Jeremy McKinnon. Whilst I didn’t know many songs outside of this I was impressed by the intensity of the fan support and the gratitude demonstrated by the band. These guys are incredibly talented and well-deserving of all their success.

Parkway Drive was finally up to close out the night. It seemed very appropriate that arguably Australia’s most successful metal band in recent years would play last in a festival that demonstrates the resurgence of the Australia heavy metal/alternate festival scene, a reward of sorts for all they have done to contribute to where it is today. A well-produced cinematic to build tension followed by the liberal use of pyros set the tone of the whole set – uncompromising and raw yet incredibly polished at the same time with rock solid performances by the entire band. Whilst it isn’t my personal genre of choice, no argument can be made that these guys aren’t great at what they do and that they don’t put on an enjoyable set. I found myself drawn to the music, moving closer throughout the entire set, as the vocals of Winston McCall and catchy breakdowns.

All in all a fantastic and very dusty day – I eagerly look forward to Good Things 2020!

Line-up: Parkway Drive, A Day To Remember, Violent Soho, Simple Plan, Bad Religion, Trivium, Skegss, Simple Creatures, Karnivool, The Butterfly Effect, The Veronicas, Falling In Reverse, Enter Shikari, Dance Gavin Dance, Reel Big Fish, Poppy, Nine InchKills, Thy Art Is Murder, Slowly Slowly, Man With A Mission, The Bennies, Voyager, Yours Truly, Wind Maker, The Beautiful Monument, Gravemind

Reviewer: Cal McGlinchey
Photocredits: Hold Still Photography