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[Review] Rise Against @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 05/02/2024

Monday the 5th of February brought Sydney sweaty record breaking humidity and Chicago based rock band Rise Against playing at Sydney’s intimate Enmore Theatre. On their 25th year together, Rise Against are celebrating the occasion by joining Blink-182 on their Australian and New Zealand tour, but not before treating fans to a few special solo shows. One in Melbourne and one in Sydney.

The band, which was formed in 1999 and went by the name Transistor Revolt for a year before settling on Rise Against, which they have stuck with since then. The band is made up of Tim McIlrath on vocals and rhythm guitar, Zach Blair as lead guitarist, Joe Principe on bass, and Brandon Barnes on drums. They are well known for aggressive and catchy hooks, as well as their outspoken lyrics on social issues such as animal rights, political injustice and environmentalism. 

Setting the tone for the night was Redfern based punk rock band, Beerwolf. With a very similar sound to Rise Against, they were the perfect choice as opener for the night. The band chatted with the crowd between songs, and at 8:30pm the band played their last song for the night and cleared the stage. 

Sound checks were carried out and finally the lights went dark. As the band took the stage of the Enmore Theatre, I imagine they were reminded of the last time they walked out on the same stage on March 9th, 15 years earlier.

As the air conditioning of the intimate Theatre strains itself, the distinctive chord progression of Prayer of the Refugee begins to play and the crowd recognises it, pushing forward towards the stage. Rise Against absolutely fills the venue with their energy right from the start, an unmistakable characteristic of a Rise Against show. 

What follows is truly a set list for the fans. An ode to the early years of band. Taking the audience back through history, starting in 2003 with Like The Angel from their album Revolutions Per Minute and unraveling the set with some of the biggest hits from their early albums.

The set list featured the most tracks from the albums The Sufferer & the Witness and Appeal to Reason, such as Re-Education (Through Labor), Ready to Fall, Survive, The Good Left Undone and The Audience of One

The set also included the tracks Satellite and Make it Stop (September’s Children) from their 2011 album Endgame and was only sprinkled with tracks from 2017 onwards with the only tracks making an appearance being The Violence from their album Wolves and Nowhere Generation from their newest album of the same name. 

There were more than a few stand out parts of the night. One being the acoustic set before the encore. The first track Hero Of War was a treat only for Sydney, having been left off the setlist the night before in Melbourne. Following up with Swing Life Away, McIlrath dedicated the track to his late friend Chris Cornell, former member of Soundgarden and Audioslave. McIlrath seemingly takes a moment to reflect, speaking with the crowd about doing what you want to do today, in case tomorrow doesn’t come. 

The other absolute stand out moment of the night was the song Give It All. The energy put out by the band to the audience was reflected right back by the crowd. For the first time McIlrath was down off the stage, standing on the barricades and singing quite appropriately ‘I give it all

Now there’s a reason why I sing

So give it all

And it’s these reasons that belong to me’.

The mosh pit holds the energy after that for the last two songs, as the band close the set with one of their most well known songs, Savior

Even after being together for 25 years, Rise Against are still complete Punk-Rock powerhouses. It’s obvious that their passion for the music and the message are what keeps them releasing music and touring, with such intensity and vigor for so many years.

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[Review] The DMA’s @ The Enmore Theatre 14/10/2023

Australian rock trio DMA’s brought their unique blend of aussie soft rock and alt-pop to the stage at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Saturday night.

Formed in 2012, the band is composed of lead vocalist Tommy O’Dell, lead guitarist Matt Mason and rhythm guitarist Johnny Took. 11 years on, they are touring around Australia, stopping in for 2 hometown shows at the historic Enmore Theatre.

The night was opened by Fazerdaze, a Kiwi singer, songwriter and producer who was formerly part of Fremantle’s Indie-Rock band Spacey Jane, whose creative combination of alternative pop-grunge was just the warm up the crowd needed.

Before the band even steps out on stage, you feel the energy begin to mount. The feeling in the room is so unique to Enmore Theatre. With the high ceilings, the space is intimate without the claustrophobic feeling other venues can sometimes have, giving the room space for palpable excitement.

Finally, the boys appear on stage in their usual laid back attire, t-shirts, flannel shirts, jeans and sneakers. Something you would expect your brother to wear. And the crowd loves it.

The band opens the set with How Many Dreams, the second track of their latest album of the same name. Just like the song, the tension builds from the start and by the end of the song you can tell it’s going to be a special night.

The third song on the setlist, Silver, is one of the stand out performances of the night. The song begins softly and gently, by the end completely devolving into beautiful disarray. The opening guitar strum accompanied by the lyrics, ‘Did you feel like heaven’ puts the crowd on their toes. As the beat kicks in, it’s easy to see how listeners have drawn comparisons between 3 boys from Sydney and internationally renowned band Oasis.
The performance put into the music by the band is one that can sometimes be lacking in this genre of music. It feels like O’Dell takes the crowd under his wing, leading them into the chorus, inviting them to sing with him. This track seems to visibly connect each band member, while empty cans fly through the air and the whole crowd jumps in unison, singing ‘How do I redefine all my love for you?’.

Songs from their latest album are littered through the set, including Olympia, Something We Are Overcoming and Fading Like A Picture. But of course another huge moment of the night is when fellow Sydney boy, now international sensation Ruel, joins the stage to test out a work in progress unreleased track. Delighting fans was the way O’Dell’s vocals melted seamlessly with Ruel’s silky falsetto.

Not to be overshadowed by a night of big moments, was the band’s infamous cover of Cher’s Believe. Appearing first on Triple J’s Like A Version in 2017, the track has 12 million views on Youtube and couldn’t possibly be left out of the setlist. While the crowd sways and sings along, it’s clear that the live version is just as capable of giving goosebumps.

The band finishes their set with Feels like 37, a track from their 2014 self-titled EP, only to be cheered back on for an encore. The set of 3 tracks starts slow with In The Air, a song from their album For Now, and finds its faster tempo with their popular track Lay Down from their 2016 album Hills End. The band closes out the show with Everybody’s Saying Thursday’s The Weekend, a track from their latest album. The crowd sings ‘Everybody’s saying Thursday’s the weekend, Cold calamities from over-speaking’ while they dance to the catchy beat, seemingly aware that this song will sadly be the show’s last.

For some reason this concert made me consider just how important live music still is, even just on a human level. With the progression of social media and the internet, communication between musicians and fans has never been so open and available. A musician’s popularity isn’t as focused on music sales, and is based more heavily on Instagram followers. We now have visible markers to see their popularity go up or down. But what feeling could ever be as wonderful, or as validating as a musician, as seeing a crowd of 1600 people jumping to the beat of your music and screaming your own lyrics back at you. By nature, live music, especially that of the caliber displayed by DMA’s, will never lose its magic.

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[Review] Kisschasey @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 14/05/2023

Review By Samantha O'Neil

More than 20 years after they formed in Melbourne, two times Gold Certified Australian rock band Kisschasy are back on tour. After a successful appearance at Good Things Festival in 2022, 7 years after their last national tour, Kisschasy announced that all four original band members – lead vocalist Darren Cordeux, bassist Joel Vanderuit, guitarist Sean Thomas and drummer Karl Ammitzboll, would be coming back together to do it all again country wide. 

The band originally announced 9 shows, stopping in at most major cities, as well as Wollongong, Newcastle and Torquay. However due to overwhelmingly high demand, the final tally of shows came in at 15, and now included stops in Perth, Tasmania and Gosford, with most shows completely selling out. 

Friday’s show is the band’s second Sydney show, the first taking place back on the 3rd of May, and was added as a response to how quickly the first round of tickets sold out. The first show was held at Crowbar in Sydney’s Inner West, while Friday’s show was hosted at the laudable Metro Theatre. With its cozy ambience, it is the perfect setting for fans to gather and enjoy one of Australia’s most iconic, but relatively short-lived acts. 

The clock strikes 8pm and punters file into the venue, many racing to find their spot in front of the stage while some stop at the bar and others heading straight for the merch table, whereupon any purchase comes a free CD from Cordeux’s current band, Daz & the Demons. 

Opening the night was Melbourne based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed ‘Australian mutt’ Bec Stevens, who was followed by Adelaide’s up and comers Towns, who brought their unique blend of flavours, most dominant being 90’s pop punk and Australiana. 

While the openers were a delightful look at talent being produced in Australia right now, by the time their sets were over, the thrill in the air was palpable. Looking around, the crowd was conspicuously older. Having been out of the spotlight for so long, it seems like the people in attendance were all there to take a mosh down memory lane, which felt special. A room full of people bonded by the fact that over 15 years ago they listened to a band that really led the way in bringing this particular brand of pop rock to Australian audiences.  

Finally, the lights go down for the last time and before you can say Perfect Way to Meet, the band is on stage and the show is underway. An impeccable choice of opening track with its first lyrics drawing parallels to the last few hours and what’s about to come. 

Two hours ‘til doors

With my patience running short

I am shaking in my seat

As I grind my fucking teeth

While I would have paid good money to see Kisschasy perform their second album Hymns For The Non Believer backwards, forwards and sideways twice over, the setlist is littered with the best songs from it. The lesser known, but haunting nonetheless, Ugly Birds In A Beautiful Cage appeared around the middle of the set, while the other tracks from HFTNB were top and bottom heavy.  The band played 3 tracks from their third album Seizures, and a handful of tracks from United Paper People, including a fan favourite Face Without A Name which had the crowd unsure whether to dance or mosh. 

Towards the end of the main set, Vanderuit, Thomas and Ammitzboll exited the stage, leaving Cordeux to perform a few songs on his own, first of which was The Shake. To the crowd’s surprise and pleasure, Cordeux is joined on stage by Australian pop royalty Amy Shark to perform Dinosaur, on which her smooth vocals complement Cordeux’s, as if they were always meant to be there. Cordeux ends his solo slot with the beautifully eerie Black Dress

The final 3 songs Do-do’s and Woah-oh’s, Spray On Pants and Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night play like a dream. The crowd seems to morph into one entity, a sea of people moving together, completely at the whim of the music. Closing out a night of good old Australian pop rock and musical nostalgia, Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night steals the show by an overwhelming margin, transporting everybody to a time when its timeless lyrics and angsty beat lived rent free in your head. 

Not only has the tour been successful, it put their first album United Paper People back on the Aria Charts, coming in at #8 on the 24th of April, for top 10 Australian Albums. As well as this, they released a special edition vinyl of UPP, which hit #2 on the charts for top 10 vinyl albums. The fans, as the band put it, ‘revived an album released 18 years ago’, so it’s not surprising that part of what made the show feel so special was the frenzy of passion emanating off the crowd. 

Having never had the chance to see the band perform live while they were still together, their 2023 reunion did not disappoint. Their stage presence and energy really filled up the room, providing confirmation that these guys are still seasoned pros. With as much angst as they had 10 years ago, the only way you can really tell that it’s 2023 Kisschasy is from the band’s matured looks. No more are the daggy long sleeves and scarves, instead replaced with stylish tee’s and button downs. Opinions might not keep you warm at night, but Kisschasy sure will. 

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[Review] In Hearts Wake @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 28/04/2023

Review By Samantha O'Neil

The year is 2006, Google is buying YouTube for $1.65 billion, Pluto is being downgraded from planet status and 5 friends from Byron Bay are coming together to form a band which they would call In Hearts Wake.

They were likely unaware that 17 years later, as established heavy weights of the genre, they would be touring the country, playing their first studio album Divination from front to back to celebrate its release 10 years prior.

I’m sure they weren’t thinking that on an otherwise uneventful Friday night in April 2023, the band would be playing their first show of the Decade of Divination Tour. That they would be headlining at the legendary Metro Theatre in Sydney to a room of people who have come along that night to re-live an album that seemingly means as much to the fans as it does to the band.

Sporting an impressive list of opening acts, the show got started with Australian bands The Gloom In The Corner, a metalcore band from Melbourne and Diamond Construct, a metal band based in Sydney.

Third on the roster was Stray From the Path, a hardcore punk band from Long Island, New York. Fronted by charismatic Drew York, Stray From the Path were exceptional. SFTP had a look and a sound that was straight out of the heyday of the punk era with a stellar performance, worthy of its own headlining tour. Their high energy had the crowd completely transfixed the entire set, York even stopping the show at one point to make sure everybody knew that whoever you are, you will always be welcome at a Stray From The Path show. They were the perfect choice to warm up the audience.

As captivating as they were, eventually Stray From The Path had to wind down their set to make way for the main event. The stage transition was so smooth and efficient, giving the crowd only just enough time to grab a drink from the bar before the lights were down again and the final ride was about to begin.

All of a sudden, someone in a reindeer onesie appears from the left of the stage with a cardboard sign and a handwritten message that says, ‘Make some noise’ and the crowd complies. Guitarists Eaven Dall and Ben Nairne, bassist Kyle Erich, and drummer Conor Ward all emerge on stage and the reindeer rips off the head to the onesie to reveal that of vocalist Jake Taylor smiling underneath.

Almost immediately, they begin the first song Neverland (The Star) and it is mere seconds before the entire crowd is jumping.

Somehow it feels like no time has passed before they arrive at track 8, Shapeless (Judgement). Taylor begins speaking of the love and appreciation that the band has for the people they have made music with and without revealing what is to come, the crowd seems to know exactly what he’s saying. They start to chant. ‘Adrian, Adrian, Adrian’ and just as if the crowd had summoned him, Adrian Fitipaldes appears. Taking a break from his new career as a psychologist, the former vocalist of fellow Australian heavy metal band Northlane takes the stage with IHW to reprise his feature on the track, and it is one of the standout moments of the night.

Other notable moments include the impromptu game of capture the flag mid show and the extra 7 songs outside of the Divination track list that the band performed, their energy not waning for a second. 

In live music, a lot goes into the overall experience. The venue, the openers, the energy of the performers and the vibrancy of the crowd will all affect the feeling you get when you walk away from the show. Whether by design or by complete accident, all the ingredients were mixed together to perfection, to create the type of gig you hope never ends, where each song bleeds into the next and you never even think to check your watch because the time seems to just disappear.

Music can be such a unique and multi-faceted tool. Not only does it give the artists an outlet of expression, it can also be a sanctuary to those who listen, the lyrics potentially providing somebody their first instance of relating to something, of being understood. It can make us realise that we’re not alone in the world, and upon further research, it would seem that is exactly what Divination was to a lot of people. The intimate feeling of the Metro Theatre is superb at providing the perfect setting for the band to deliver such a special show, celebrating an album that even after 10 years, means so much to the fans.

In Hearts Wake ‘Decade Of Divination' Tour

w/ Stray From The Path (USA)

The Gloom In The Corner

Diamond Construct

 Tour Dates:

Thursday 4 May 2023 – Max Watt's, Melbourne

 Friday 5 May 2023 – Unibar, Adelaide

Saturday 6 May 2023 – Metropolis, Fremantle

Tickets from inheartswake.com

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[Review] Empire Of The Sun @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 21/02/2023

As the afternoon sun drew behind the clouds and the heavy rain beat down on the street, the doors to the historic Enmore Theatre were opened for the first of two sold out Empire of the Sun Sydney shows. 

It’s been 5 years since the Australian band, fronted by Luke Steele, performed on home soil, so you couldn’t help but feel like this was a special occasion. 

As the crowd filed into the venue, it was glaringly obvious that Empire of the Sun had not only retained fans from their inception, but had gained fans throughout the years, some of which were probably only babies when Walking on a Dream was first released. Even though EOTS released their first album in 2008, the crowd was brimming with punters of all ages.   

As soon as the show begins, it’s not hard to see why the band has held such a wide audience captive for so many years. From the very start, the energy was high octane. Electricity fills the air as the lights finally go down and other worldly visuals appear on the back screen.  As the music begins, the backup dancers walk across the stage, their silhouettes showing off the shape of their costumes, of which could be straight out of a science fiction movie.

Finally, Steele, recognisable from just his silhouette, makes his way to centre stage with his guitar slung casually over his shoulder. Drummer Olly Peacock and guitarist Ian Ball join Steele on stage and moving in unison to the beat with the dancers, they open the show with Standing On The Shore, a synthy hit from their first album. Not quite recognisable at first, the beat kicks in and familiarity washes over the crowd, giving them a taste of what’s to come over the next hour. While Steele remains the main character of the show, Peacock and Ball add stylistic flourishes to the music that would be vacant without them. 

The set list is a healthy variety of the band’s discography, including one of Steele’s solo projects Listen To The Water, a song he tells the crowd he wrote while he and his family were staying in a log cabin in California during the Covid pandemic. Steele occasionally stops the show to talk to the crowd, mentioning the pandemic a few times, mostly to point out how much he’d missed Australia and playing music to a live crowd. He stated that in the height of the pandemic, he’d promised his kids they were going to get back to Australia. Luckily for EOTS fans, this was a promise he kept! 

The band’s biggest hits are sprinkled through the set list, the first coming 5 songs in. We Are The People starts and the crowd roars. There are people all over the mosh climbing on their friends’ shoulders, while the entire crowd jumps to the beat. 

Coming in third last, I was disappointed when Walking On A Dream started to play, knowing it wouldn’t be the song to close out the show. The whole package of music and visual elements coming together and the vibe emanating off the crowd really felt like a finale.

When the real finale of the show starts and the discernible sound of Alive starts to play, the electricity of the crowd is palpable. I rejoice in being proven wrong in thinking I knew what song should close out the show. The bass thumps through everyone and the chorus kicks in, Loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive. The crowd knows every word and they sing it back to Steele while he runs wildly around the stage, giving us every last bit of himself.

The common thread throughout the whole show can only be described as quintessential Empire of the Sun. Every facet of the show is littered with elements of the band’s personality. From the various costume changes to the glittering lights and visuals that could have easily passed as a standalone show. This wasn’t just a display of the band’s musical talent, but a clear exhibition of their creativity and an example of what a very specific vision looks like when it comes to life. We can only hope that this is only the start of a new chapter for Empire Of The Sun.

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[Review] Yours and Owls Festival 2021

There were two live music festivals given the go-ahead for April in NSW. One was Yours and Owls, slated for April 17th and 18th and the other was Bluesfest, which was due to take place from the 1st to the 5th of April. Unfortunately due to a COVID-19 infection being recorded in Byron Bay right before Bluesfest was set to open, the whole event was canceled, breaking the hearts of artists and music lovers all over Australia’s east coast.

Enter Yours and Owls Festival, which would now be the first live music festival to take place since COVID-19. Under such immense pressure to deliver a fun, yet COVID safe event, organisers seemed to have taken the task in stride, and did not disappoint.

Image: Ruby Bowland

This was to be the first major event in NSW whereby attendees would not be restricted to a tiny section of the event or told off by COVID marshals for taking a sip of their drink on their way back to their friends from the bar.

Right from the moment you have your 2-day wristband secured to your arm as you enter, you can feel the daring anticipation in Wollongong’s crisp April air. The aura of excitement was palpable.

Amid a major worldwide pandemic, the majority of Australians wanted to do right by each other and stay home. Even though it meant missing out on those things like live music – things that we all once took for granted. Yet finally, over a year after the world went into lockdown, Yours and Owls were here to deliver what seemed near impossible.

Haiku Hands
Image: Jess Gleeson

From spotting huge breakout Instagram comedians The Inspired Unemployed enjoying the revelries, to basking in the feeling of bass thumping through your body again, those who were in attendance of NSW’s first big live music event of 2021 finally got to see the first glimpse of a new reality and the live entertainment industry post-COVID.   

In order for the festival to go ahead, the organisers had to get creative.

The festival was split into 4 zones– blue, peach, yellow and purple, each of which was fully self-contained. There were entry and exit points, bars, food trucks, merch stores, toilets and VIP areas. Each zone also had its own ‘Rad Stage’, a separate enclosed stage for those wanting to hang out with more of a more intimate gig vibe.

While it is a new concept, separating festival-goers into sections, it did make for much shorter lines, most noticeably at the bar. Even at the festivals busiest times, there was never more than a few people in line at a time.

The notably delicious variety of food trucks sat lined up along the outside perimeter of each section, ranging from Indonesian cuisine, loaded hot dogs, nachos and the much-loved chip on a stick.

As impressive as the set up and organisation of the festival had been so far, it was nothing compared to the remarkable caliber of Australian talent we were about to witness over the next two days.

The importance of showcasing Australian talent cannot be understated, and Yours And Owls did an impressive job of exhibiting the expansive and diverse musical talent this country has produced.

One of the highlights from earlier on in the first day was Indigenous Australian rapper and musician, JK-47. Having only emerged in 2020, his stage presence is that of a seasoned professional. At two separate times of his 40-minute set, he shared the stage with Nerve, a Brisbane rapper and the soulful Adrian Eagle, a singer-songwriter from Adelaide.

JK 47 Image: Ian Laidlaw

Clean, crisp vocals, allowing the substance of his lyrics to pour out through the delivery of his performance, making for a truly noteworthy performance.

Another Saturday highlight was the high-energy performance from punk rock band hailing from the bayside suburbs of Melbourne, CLOWNS. As the day grew later and the colour of the sky started to change, the crowds grew bigger and the grungy, underground sound of the band brought the vitality of the crowd way up. And in true punk rock fashion, lead singer Stevie Williams stopped through the performance to highlight his t-shirt, available for purchase, showing an illustration of Gladys Berejiklian with ‘a Pinger on her tongue’. Williams insisting that by denying pill testing at music festivals, our government is needlessly putting thousands of young people in danger.

As the second day turned into night, Melbourne’s Running Touch created a fantastic sonic environment with smoke machines and his unique electronic sounds, commanding the huge space he was given on stage by moving around effortlessly from keyboard to guitar and back again.

Haiku Hands, another stellar stand out from the 2-day event, are an all-girl 3 piece alt dance indie-pop band from Sydney and Melbourne who were more than happy to remind the audience what crowd surfing was. It would be a disservice to not mention the powerful energy that flooded from these artists.

Tones & I Image: Jess Gleeson

While Smith Street Band and The Vanns came through with such amazing performances, they were an unfortunate example of the downside to a COVID safe festival. Hosts Lucy Smith and Declan Byrne were given the unfortunate duty of stopping the show on more than one occasion throughout multiple acts and talking to the crowds in each four sections about moving back from the front where people were naturally gravitating towards. It was a huge disruption to the otherwise smooth flow of the lineup. Most notably, Winston Surfshirt was stopped so often that he lost 20 minutes of his 40 minute set to the cause.

 However, as NSW’s first major live music event of 2021 drew to a close with PNAU taking the stage, as the crowd danced along with them in the cold, pre-winter air, you couldn’t help but feel that despite the issues posed by putting on a festival post-COVID, Yours and Owls was just the beginning.

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