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[Review] Of Mice & Men, Metro Theatre, Sydney 24/02/2024

Two nights ago I was in Sydney for another gig and it was hotter than Satan’s armpit. Last night by comparison, I was wearing a hoodie, beanie, scarf and was still shivering! I also decided to brave the public transport system, since the train would be (and was) filled with a slew of Swifties, and also a smattering of Blink 182, Slash and Of Mice & Men fans, I figured it was safe to travel late at night.

Upon arrival at the venue, there was a growing line of black band tee shirts. Security staff came out to gather up those who had booked in for the Meet & Greet while the rest of us waited patiently to be let in.  The clock struck 8pm and doors opened. The floor area filled up quickly and I headed upstairs to find a seat with a view.

Bang on 8.30pm post hardcore 5-piece Sydney-siders, Sienna Skies take to the stage.  The bass guitarist did the harsh vocals, the drummer sang the clean vocals and the lead singer switched between both. Considering the limited amount of space they had on the stage, they played a very high energy 30 minute set which included singles, Even Stronger, brand spankin’ new release, Mess, Divided and finished the set with Let It Burn. They informed us that they are about to drop a new EP later next month and will be back doing their own headline tour in May.

After a timely gear changeover, we welcome alt.rock / metalcore 4-piece Melbourne band, Dream On Dreamer. With over 50 million streams and ARIA nominations, it’s easy to see why these guys were chosen as support band. They performed another high energy set which got the crowd moving and moshing with songs such as, Stay, Don’t Lose Your Heart and the new release, G.O.D. in the set list.  After an invitation to meet them at the merch stand, they leave the stage for the crew to prepare for the main act.

Hailing from So-Cal USA, RIAA gold record certified metalcore band, Of Mice & Men entered the stage to loud cheers and applause and opened their set with two 2014 bangers from their album Restoring Force, Bones Exposed, followed by Would You Still Be There, and then new song,  Castaway by this time the audience were singing along loudly, heads nodding furiously in time with the music. Then they played my personal fave, from their 2021 release, Echo, the single, Obsolete. Vocalist Aaron Pauley stopped to thank the audience for choosing to come to the Of Mice & Men concert stating that he was aware of all the choices available in Sydney that night, so the band are beyond flattered that the audience had chosen them. He then announced that it was time to play something heavy and that the next song was from their latest album, the mosh pit opened up and a circle pit ensued as they played Warpaint. Next up was another new track from Tether, current single, Indigo, then Pauley introduced the next song as a favourite of his from their latest album as they played, Into The Sun and then 2019’s Earth and Sky. Pauley asked if there were people in the crowd who had seen Of Mice play before to loud cheers in response and then he announced that it was time for OG and the audience shuffled back and a space was cleared in the centre of the floor, several people did back flips to cheers and applause, and as the band started playing OG Loko the circle pit began growing into a juggernaut of bodies. They played Instincts from 2018’s Defy album and then Pauley addressed the audience once again dedicating “the next song for anyone who is feeling grief”.  He explains that grief is that pain that’s right between the heart and the lungs, it’s the pain you feel when love has nowhere to go and leads into 2021 single, Bloom.  The set was rounded out by 2012 classic, The Depths.  Pauley thanked the Sydney audience again and the band left the stage for a minute or two, then returned to loud cheers and applause from the crowd as they played fan fave from 2010, Second & Sebring. Setlists, picks and sticks were tossed into the crowd as we all shuffled our way out to George Street.

It’s probably a strange thing to say but I noticed that the Of Mice stage set is so neat and tidy. After the support bands, everything except the OM&M drum kit was cleared off the stage. The drummer is positioned centre at the back and there are three risers placed at the front of the stage. The guitarists tend to stay on their own sides while vocalist Pauley moves around but mostly remains front and centre. In-between songs there is an ambient synth hum track played while guitars are changed and adjustments are made before commencing the next song. It’s like watching a well-oiled machine working. Of Mice & Men put on a well practised, professional performance, no doubt about it.

I mention these things as I’m coming off the back of just seeing another band two nights before in the same music genre but their performance was so different by contrast. Still professional and practised but the approach was far more relaxed and interactive with the audience.

What I did miss from OM&M was the presence of a human bass guitarist rather than a track, but so many bands appear to be taking this approach now. Overall though, Of Mice & Men perform their songs with such intensity and passion, taking the listeners along for the journey with them. Their songs inspire some of the most intense and somewhat aggressive looking mosh pits I’ve seen in ages, yet lyrically their vibe is dare I say, emotional and heartfelt. This dichotomy is fascinating to experience in a live setting – from a safe vantage point. I loved this concert for almost totally opposite reasons that I loved the concert from the other band two nights earlier.  If you get the opportunity, go check out Of Mice & Men.

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[Review] Atreyu @ Manning Bar, Sydney 22/02/2024

Atreyu are a metalcore band from California, USA, taking their name from a character in the movie, The Never Ending Story. 

Back in 2007 I bought a copy of Metal Hammer magazine and it had a bonus cd on the cover with “new” music. One of those tracks was Becoming The Bull by Atreyu. I was instantly sold on their sound and have loved that track ever since.

Fast forward to February 2024 and I finally got to see this band play live.

It was a steamy Thursday evening in late February and I was among those gathered at the University of Sydney’s Manning Bar. I entered the venue, perused the merch stand, grabbed a bottle of water from the bar and staked out a spot near the sound desk and with a good view.

First up was Sydney female-fronted metalcore band, Bridge Left To Burn.

When they walked on stage there was about a dozen people waiting on the rail but by half-way through the first song the floor was half filled.

They played a cracking 20 minute set, lead vocalist Ava Sukkar switching between harsh and clean vocals one moment angelic, the next demonic. The Sydney-siders were stoked to be on the bill and put 110 percent into their performance by warming up the audience for the following bands.

Strangely, as soon as the band finished, the floor cleared, people choosing to gather near the bar or outside on this hot Summer night.

After a gear changeover next up were Melbourne metalcore band, Bad/Love. Before they even introduced themselves, I could hear the distinct Melbourne ‘core sound. A bit Void Of Vision, a touch Thornhill with a dash of Windwaker. There’s a certain polish to the sound that comes out of Melbs. The Melbournites gave a strong 30 minute performance which included Social Suicide and their latest single, Ungød. There was a screeching lead guitar solo in the last song as they ended their set.  Again, the audience vacated the floor during the gear changeover, which was quite disconcerting. The Manning Bar isn’t a large venue, yet it felt empty and I was left wondering “where were Sydney’s Metal fans tonight?”.

The intro music started playing as Atreyu finally entered the stage, people started moving onto the floor as they began to play Drowning, all of a sudden they were at the chorus, I looked around and the floor was filled, and there’s a crowd gathered on the 2 levels and outside on the balcony. I teared up, grateful and happy that Sydney had indeed turned out for this fantastic band. Everyone was singing along loudly, and I mean LOUDLY! The song ended to loud cheers and my beloved song, the previously mentioned, Becoming the Bull was played next and I joined the crowd, yelling out the lyrics loudly. Vocalist Brandon Saller announced it was time for a circle pit and the audience complied as Right Side Of The Bed played. Next we were told it was time to help sing a part, “it’s only two words” Saller says, we practised it and then Save Me played with the audience screaming out “Save Me” loudly during the chorus. Next was When Two Become One and mid-song Saller takes someone’s phone and video records part of the song from the stage, then at the end he shared with the audience that the couple in the front row had used that song as their ‘first dance’ song at their wedding. Saller then mentions how twenty years ago on their first Australian tour, they heard this unique sound that they had always wanted to use in a song. The beeping noise from our pedestrian crossings. Almost twenty years later they finally used it in the song (i).  *side note: Billie Eilish and her brother Phinaeas had said and done a similar thing with their song Bad Guy.  Suddenly there’s movement on stage and they change instruments, the drummer is now playing bass, the singer is now playing drums and the bass guitarist is now singing lead vocals, and they proceeded to play Bleeding Mascara.

Everyone then returned to their regular positions and played The Time is Now, during which, Saller walked throughout the entire room through the crowd and out onto the balcony, singing. Ex’s and Oh’s and Gone are next we were asked to sing along but the audience just can’t get the timing right, which is hilarious and results in some good-humoured “shit talk”. Someone in the audience yelled out “Where’s Travis?” To which Saller responded, “right there”, pointing, “he’s been there all night”. Saller then said to guitarist Travis Miguel “they don’t recognise you with your shirt on, take your shirt off” the crowd cheered but Miguel politely declined and Saller quipped back, “c’mon, your body, their choice”. Then it was time for Battle Drums and the crowd were singing loudly again. Time for the “lucky dip” song. An audience member was chosen and asked to pick a song from the selection that the band puts written down into a clear pencil case. Watch Me Burn was chosen which was then followed by Falling Down and everyone was moshing again.  Saller then talked about how we all go through ‘dark times’ but it’s how we pick ourselves up and move forward that is important which is the segway to Warrior, during the bridge it took a short detour to Wonderwall, before returning to Warrior, then the set is finished with two middle fingers in the air and a rowdy rendition of the song Blow.

The band thanked the crowd and exited the stage. After a brief break, guitarist Dan Jacobs returns to the stage with a saxophone and plays short bursts of a few songs, including the standard, Tequila, the rest of the band rejoined him and they played the Whitney Houston hit, I Wanna Dance With Somebody as their encore. The band tossed out drum sticks, setlists, and guitar picks and bid Sydney farewell. Next stop …. BrisVegas!!!

Atreyu played an energetic and entertaining 75 minute set filled to the brim with bangers. They put on an amazing show, which included loads of banter with the audience. You get the distinct impression that these guys love what they’re doing, and it’s infectious. I walked in with an appreciation for this band and walked away drenched in sweat and completely hyped for them. They’ve now played their last show of this tour in Brisbane to a sold out audience, so sadly, if you missed this tour you will have to wait until next time.

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[Review] Mudvayne @ Hordern Pavillion, Sydney 16/02/2024

After 18 long years between Australian tours, a 12 year hiatus and no new music since 2009 you cannot tell a single person in this venue that the masters of math metal, Mudvayne, are no longer relevant. With the loco ones, Coal Chamber in tow this is a neat little package of nu metal goodness we could only dream of.

After a sold out kick off in Brisbane two nights ago, tonight’s performance in Sydney takes place at the Hordern Pavilion. A line begins to build early, as bars nearby overflow with friends recounting memories of seeing these bands countless years ago. Many old school band shirts came out of the back of the drawer as I spot shirts from Mudvayne tours of the past. Most no longer black, fading to the lighter shade of grey, still adorned proudly.

Before we knew it the lights dimmed, Coal Chambers neon colourful lights shone menacingly around their amps as Mr Sandman plays over the PA, turning into the Halloween theme when the band enters the stage.

From the first note we are treated to a meticulously selected set list from their near 30 year catalogue.

Who ever decided on opening with Loco into Fiend into Big Truck obviously knows what fans want. Each track going harder, louder and more energetic.

We were last treated to fresh Coal Chamber in 2015, the stand out track being IOU Nothing which goes down very well with the crowd mostly here for the early 00s hits.

Dez Fafara proved yet again that he is a in a class of his own, he commands the stage while connecting with the crowd often.

The energy remains strong throughout their set, packed to the brim with hits such as Rowboat, Dark Days and Something Told Me. Drummer Mikey propped up moving like a wind up animal, is difficult to take your eyes off.

The energy reached its peak as Dez asks the crowd to sing along, ‘the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire’ with him. Beckoning in the staple Coal Chamber hit, Sway.

Luckily tonight we had an hour set from Coal Chamber, treated to 14 songs. This paring proved to be perfect, as the nostalgic moments have only begun.

The half an hour between sets, much shorter than anticipated as every turn had an old friend saying hello, still in disbelief that this tour is a reality.

We weren’t sure if Mudvayne would ever reunite, little alone tour Australia, and with Coal Chamber!

Mudvayne come running out of the gate right on 9.30 opening their time with Not Falling. As vocalist Chad Gray kicks things off with his iconic scream, bass player Ryan Martinie takes a tumble. We hope he wasn’t injured! It does not stop him from giving 100% for the rest of the show.

If you asked most Mudvayne fan their seminal album, you’ll more than likely get the answer of 2001’s LD50. It was an incredibly important album of its time and influentials and plethora of bands.

For the next few songs, fans of LD50 were beyond ecstatic with Internal Primates Forever, -1, Severed and Death Blooms were all met with monstrous screams.

Mudvayne have been this reviewers favourite band for more than half her life, hearing these songs tonight is truly special and hearing ones almost 25 years old is a treat!

Chad takes centre stage and asks the crowd to light up the venue for World so Cold. A beautiful song, despite his demonic stage make up! A few tears were shed by myself and those around me during this song.

The New Game was a favourite amongst fans as it was the first Mudvayne album released after the formation of HellYeah, in which both Chad and Greg were part of.

Title track, Fish out of Water and Dull Boy had many singing along although the energy in the room sky rocketed from the first note of Under My Skin from LD50, as we all jump to the sky like we are 18 again.

A glaringly obvious favourite for many came in the form of Nothing to Gein, an iconic track from Mudvaynes history detailing some horrific moments of serial killer Ed Gein.

Towards the end of the song, Chad crouches down at the front of the stage on his riser with minimal music as he shakes, rocks and screams ‘soiled dirty boy’ over and over before the band join back in louder again until Chad is screaming at the top of his lungs and drummer Matt McDonough couldn’t possibly hit those skins any harder. The emotion portrayed by Chad Gray on stage is unlike any other artist. He leaves every last ounce on stage, and gives his heavy metal family all he can.

Mudvayne are no longer the band to make their crowd wait for encores, there are only two more questions left for the evening.

The first, ‘are you happy?’ To summon in the chart topper Happy? from 2005’s Lost and Found. Many friends throw their arms around one another as they sing the chorus loud! Guitarist Greg Tribbett looms over with his red and black spiked hair and matching make up, remaining still, staring into the crowd although with black goggles you can’t quite make out where he is looking. This may make it even scarier!!

The final track can only be one, and this is where the second and final question remains. Chad waltzes over to the right side of the venue and asks the crowd if they can dig it, doing the same to the left before asking everyone ‘can you dig it’?

My smile reaches my ears (or so it feels) hearing the crowd sing Dig as loud as they possibly can until the final note.

Although it is abundantly clear the show is over, it doesn’t stop the ‘one more song’ or ‘10 more songs’ chants at different points of the venue, all joining into one.

As an avid music fan we all have a few stand out concerts in your life time, tonight will go down as a moment I’ll never forget. Coal Chamber were the perfect addition to this tour and made many happy tonight, with their powerful performance and astounding set list.

Though the headliners left their mark on each person in attendance tonight. Mudvayne have not toured here since 2006, tonight had been a long time coming. All in attendance made sure to embrace every moment and even selling out the merch table! Monitor and sound issues may have dampened a few moments but the band members never let that get in their way of delivering a spellbinding performances

This may very well be the last time we ever see Mudvayne in Australia, and as the only country outside of North America who has seen this reunited Mudvayne for that we are truly lucky.

Thank you to the team at Phoenix for making this tour a reality, I thought it would remain in my dreams.

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[Review] Taylor Swift @ Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne 16/02/2024

Review By Tess

Hello, my name is Taylor, and I will be your hostess for this evening’s Era concert.” What an understatement; there are concerts, and then there are Taylor Swift concerts.

When Taylor Swift’s Eras Australian tour was announced last June, it created a buzz on social media and among fan communities. Fans eagerly marked their calendars and set reminders for when tickets would go on sale. They then began planning their outfits, choosing themes that matched their favorite Taylor Swift era. This frenzy, reminiscent of Beatlemania, is fueled by a combination of excitement, nostalgia, and the thrill of witnessing Taylor’s storytelling in person.

Strolling through the Treasury Gardens on our way to the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, we found ourselves amidst a sea of cowboy hats, sequins, and friendship bracelets, with white boots in abundance. It appeared that when it came to glitter and sparkle, the more, the merrier.

Tonight, is the largest crowd she has ever played to, with attendance ticking over at 96,000 people. The atmosphere inside the MCG was electric as the clock face appeared with a timer, letting us know the arrival of Miss Swift was imminent. The Swifties’ excitement was intense, filling the air with a buzz that was almost overwhelming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The roar of the crowd created a wall of sound that, I am sure, shook the very foundation of the mighty G. It was inside this wall that the outside world fades away, leaving nothing but the shared experience of the music and the storytelling that was about to unfold. It was hard to hear yourself think, but I took the opportunity to look around and take in the faces around me, old and young. I noticed the one element that united them all: sheer joy. There is nowhere else they would rather be than here, in Taylor’s universe, ready to sing, scream, cry, dance, and rejoice to their favorite Taylor tune.

As Taylor takes the stage, the energy shifts to a level I didn’t think was possible. Opening with Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince and Cruel Summer from her Lover Era, the stage exploded into a burst of colors and movement. The crowd echoed her every word; this is what they had been eagerly awaiting. A wave of pure bliss enveloped the stadium. “Well, hi!” The 14-time Grammy Award winner, donning the first of many outfits of the night, a custom Versace bodysuit and Louboutin boots with striking red soles which you catch a glimpse of during The Man. This song also saw a matching blazer being donned. The Lover Era wrapped up with You Need to Calm Down, Lover, and an extended version of The Archer.

Gold fireworks cascade from the top of the backdrop while the screens are filled with what looks like falling embers. It is here we get a proper visual of The Agency (her band) and backing vocalists.  Guitarists Paul Sidoti and Michael Meadows, both who have been with Taylor since Fearless, took a stroll down the catwalk to showcase their skills as if summoning the portal for us all to be transported into the Fearless Era. Taylor appears, with gold-fringed Roberto Cavalli couture mini-dress, she teamed with a pair of shimmering cowboy boots and matching acoustic guitar. Joining her on stage was the rest of The Agency, bassist Amos Heller, guitarist/keyboard Max Bernstein and drummer Matt Billingslea, as we were treated with Fearless, You Belong to Me and crowd favorite Love Story.

With a visual intro of melting ice and forestry, we enter the evermore era. Taylor stands alone in an orange flowing dress with embroidered ruffled bodice – Enchanting. Opening with tis the damn season, as night descends in the forest and seems to bust into flames, she dons a green velvet hooded cloak, as her cloaked coven members join her in a ritual, as if trying to summon her true love during an extended version of willow. Sitting elegantly at a moss covered piano for the first time this evening, she explained the backstory of the conception of the Eras Tour. Taylors ability to connect and work the audience is nothing short of amazing. She weaves her songs into narratives sharing stories and moments that resonate deeply with her fans, making each person feel seen and understood. Her setlist is a clever blend of old hits from Lover to her 2022 album Midnights ensuring every fan, no matter which era they adore, finds a piece of their heart in her performance. Champagne problems rang out as her fingers danced across the keys; she really wanted to experience 96,000 people singing this song, and they did not disappoint. It was about this time my Apple Watch alerted me of being in a loud environment, ha! As almost a thank you to Taylor the crowd raised their voice, Taylor seemed overwhelmed with emotion as tears sprung to her eyes, showing her amazement, and absorbing the love that was being directed her way, loudly, very Loudly…. For nearly 3 mins. The obvious gratitude she has for her fanbase is honest and emotional; if one doesn’t “get” the Taylor-mania, (and a lot don’t), this is where it is. I get it now, and this long-time rock chick had her heart won over. And while I will never be a “Swifty” (are there applications being taken?), I will wear my Eras t-shirt with pride as an avid fan.

The production is nothing short of breathtaking, with dazzling visuals, elaborate modular staging, and quick costume changes that mirror each Era. Next up was one of my favourite parts of the evening as the blackened backscreen revealed a black snake slithering across the screen, fading in and out to the footsteps of determined heels seeming to walk our way. Are you ready for it…? HECK YEAH! I was ready for it. Taylor appeared in a Roberto Cavalli one-legged jumpsuit. The black material glittering with a three-dimensional embroidered ruby red snake, winding from the bottom of her leg to the top of her neck. Sidenote: I was excited to see, Paul Sidoti wielding a EVH Kramer, hats off to you sir!! Delicate, Don’t Blame Me and the ever-popular Look What You Made Me Do round out this rock pop era of Taylors expansive career.

Without a chance to catch my breath the MCG was bathed in purple. Light up bracelets we were all given glowed purple, alternating throughout the stands creating a sparkling effect. But it is not just the spectacle that captivated, it is the raw and genuine and unrelenting energy that Taylor brings to the solid 3 and half hour concert. Dipping into her passion for story telling through music transforms the concert into what feels like an intimate gathering, despite the grand scale. Each song, from the anthemic to the acoustic, is delivered with such sincerity that it’s impossible not to be moved. A short visit to the Speak Now Era, performing just 2 songs, Enchanted and Long Live in a beautiful lilac ballgown, which thanks to its crystal-embellished skirt captured the light beautifully.

As Taylor transitions into the Red Era, starting with the spirited anthem 22, the stage lights up primarily in red, reflecting the song’s lively energy. In what has become as no surprise to diehard fans but was certainly a surprise for young Swiftie, Milana Bruno. To the delight of die-hard fans and the surprise of young Swiftie, Milana Bruno, one fan at each show is chosen to receive the hat worn by Miss Taylor herself. Milana won everyone’s hearts as she beamed, holding back tears while Taylor approached her at the end of the catwalk to place the signed, coveted ’22’ hat on her young fan’s head, and gave her a big hug after Milano gave Miss Swift a friendship bracelet.  Core memory activated.

Shedding her white t-shirt, which incidentally read “a lot going on right now” — the opposite of her Instagram post during the pandemic, which said “not a lot going on right now” — she revealed a red sequined bodice and black sequined shorts. Miss Swift and her posse of very talented dancers broke into We Are Never Getting Back Together. In what seemed to be an affectionate nod to a popular Australian idiom, she turned the mic to one of her talented dancers during the bridge:

Ugh, so he calls me up and he’s like, ‘I still love you,’

And I’m like, ‘I just, I mean, this is exhausting, you know?

Like, we are never getting back together, ……… and Kameron Saunders pulled off ‘YEAAAH, NAAAAHHH’ perfectly.” On ya, Kman, I LOVE IT!

After a lively but shortened version of I Knew You Were Trouble, Miss Swift now back on guitar gave us a gorgeous 10 min rendition of All Too Well. I am completely astounded by her dedication to her craft, she has now been going solidly for just shy of 2 hours.

Just when you think you can sit for a minute, Taylors voice rings out across the darkness. A spoken poem, lyrics taken from Wildest Dreams and Seven, setting the tone for what’s to come. The Folklore cabin appeared on stage, creating an intimate and enchanting atmosphere that transported the audience into the heart of the Folklore album. The production’s ability to transport you into another world is truly astounding.

Taylor, perched on the cabin’s roof in a stunning green chiffon gown by Alberta Ferretti, with a deep neckline and flowing sleeves adorned with embroidered leaf detailing, sings a beautiful rendition of The 1. This gown, perfectly complementing the Folklore theme, enhances the magical setting. The mood shifts as Taylor, with her guitar, introduces betty and provides context, delving into the song’s narrative of youthful regret and redemption, bringing the story to life with a vividness unique to Taylor.  This was the longest era, rounding out at 8 songs including last great american dynasty (about the socialite Rebekah Harkness who previously owned Taylors Rhode Island mansion), august (summer love that was never meant to last), and illicit affairs (complexity and secrecy of forbidden love)

my tears ricochet was a hauntingly beautiful performance. Easily one of the saddest songs of the 17-song album. A song about betrayal, an end of a relationship and the aftermath of a deep personal conflict. The lyrics And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? echo through the air and hit home on a personal level. Is this what it feels like? Taylors voice coupled with the atmosphere and the staging is truly immersive and a testament to her ability to connect with her audience through her music and storytelling.

The Folklore Era concludes with cardigan, a popular song that feels like a warm embrace amidst the cold, forested world of Folklore. It’s a tender reminder of love’s enduring presence, closing this segment like a journey through a forgotten forest of stories and shadows.

However, the enchantment of Folklore is quickly replaced by a vibrant pop explosion as we transition to the 1989 era with Style. Taylor appears with her dancers from underneath the stage and treating delighted fans to the ultimate party look – an orange shimmering two-piece by Roberto Cavalli. Blank Space, and the super fun Shake It Off, made sure we were well and truly out of the whimsy of folklore and ready to party Taylor style. Taylors energy is infectious, inviting everyone present to be a little more self-accepting, learn to laugh at yourself and letting yourself just dance. One of my favorites rounded up this fun era. Bad Blood, with a beat that demands attention and lyrics about betrayal and conflict, its all brought to life on stage with a passion that matches it perfectly. Intense lighting, visuals and choreography adds to the intensity that is slowly building, and as Taylor belts out the final chorus, pyro canons erupt bringing a literal explosive ending to the 1989 era.

At the 2 and ¾ hour mark, I find myself wondering, how does Taylor Swift do this? And to think, she’s doing it again for two more nights in Melbourne! The excited whispers around me gain momentum, with hushed conversations about “surprise songs.” It seems Taylor Swift includes a couple of surprise songs in every performance, and they’re always different. What’s in store for us tonight? Earlier, there was talk of her new album dropping… No, surely not. But as Taylor makes her way down the catwalk in a yellow ruffled dress, looking as fresh as when she started, we’re about to find out. She picks up her guitar and welcomes us to the acoustic section. The crowd inhales deeply, collectively holding their breath in anticipation. “Loving him is like…” That’s all they needed to hear, and for a moment, that’s all I could hear, confirming the gift of Taylor’s version of Red.

Taylor takes her place at a flowery piano to make a surprise announcement “I think more than any of albums that I’ve ever made. I needed to make it. It was really a lifeline for me. Just the things I was going through and the things I was writing about. It kind of reminded me of why songwriting was something that actually gets me through my life.”, and it was with this that she unveiled the new alternate album cover of The Tortured Poets Department, due out April 19. It’s on this new album she announced that there is an exclusive song called The Bolter. Thinking she was about to show us this new song, I started wondering why the Swifties seems to know it already?! And swiftly (pun intended) realised it was in fact a debut live rendition of a fan favourite, You’re Losing Me. Although some were singing every word back at Taylor, many were quiet, hanging onto every word, as Taylor poured her heart into the keys, generating a sense of shared heartache and nostalgia.

Interacting with the crowd and posing for photos, the sounds of water wash over the venue, and the catwalk transforms into a pool. Taylor surveys her fans before “diving in” and swimming back to the stage, leading us into the to our final destination for the evening, The Midnights Era. Donning yet another sparkly purple dress with a matching faux fur crystal dripping jacket. Lavender Haze, and the ever-popular Anti-Hero kick off the section and I started to feel the tug of disappointment as the end was heading towards us like a freight train. Using the ever-evolving modular stage to her advantage, Midnight Rain showed the final costume change, a beautiful beaded fringed midnight-blue leotard designed by Oscar de la Renta, paired with matching glittery boots and garter to top the ensemble. Taylor delivered with unwavering emotion before seamlessly transitioning into the darker and more dramatic, Vigilante Shit. Edgy lyrics and bass heavy beats that showcases empowerment, revenge and taking control of one’s narrative. The production was very noir-esque, stark moody lighting and minimal yet effective visuals that match the songs’ theme perfectly. Taylor oozed confidence and ferocity, making each lyric a strike and a swipe at those who have ever wronged her. Bejeweled and Mastermind lead us by the hand to the finale, and we went although unwillingly, not wanting to end. Karma was simply put, a high-energy visual spectacle, infectious rhythms and an atmosphere of pure celebration. Taylor gave as much energy as she had 3 and ½ hours ago. She took a moment while extending the outro to ask everyone in the audience to thank everyone on stage performing with her. There were fireworks above the stage and stadium, confetti aplenty, there was not one person sitting there was happiness everywhere. Taylor, the last to leave the stage, took a final wave and a bow and disappeared into the stage.

The crowd, including myself is left feeling exhilarated. The collective feeling in the crowd exiting the MCG is one of connection and appreciation. For the uninitiated Swifties, like myself, the energy, the storytelling, the vision – it all boils down to a revitalised and enhanced respect for Taylor Swift – not just as a pop star, but as a songwriter, a storyteller and a performer. Taylor invites us to find a piece of our story within hers, creating a lasting bond that transcends even the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground.

For anyone who has even questioned, or doubted the magic of Taylor Swift, the Eras concert is a compelling and immersive argument that can transform scepticism into admiration. I personally have been to my fair share of concerts, and this, ladies and gentlemen, was no concert; it is a journey through the career of one of the most influential and successful artists of our time. I get it now; I do feel that deep down, I do get the phenomenon that is Taylor Swift.

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[Review] Klash of the Titans @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 14/02/2024

Picture a legion of heavy metal enthusiasts converging upon our Forum, each adorned in the battle armour of their favourite bands. The air spewing with anticipation as they assemble, a sea of black shirts emblazoned with all the metal bands you could think of and their logos. Some shirts are worn with the pride of a veteran, faded and worn from countless gigs, while others are brand new, freshly acquired for this sacred occasion. Me in my Killers Tee, charged and ready to go.

Opening with an electrifying surge of energy, In Flames and Kreator brought an unforgettable night of metal mastery to an eager Forum packed crowd, awaiting the eruption of metal madness to consume them in a frenzy of sonic ecstasy on a steamy Valentine’s day. With a blend of melodic finesse and raw aggression, these two iconic bands left the audience in awe with their relentless performance.

In Flames, known for their innovative fusion of melodic death metal and modern metalcore, took the stage with an explosive presence. From the moment the first riff resonated through the venue, it was evident that this was going to be a night. A night due to how cranked the bass mix was that my wobbly bits were going to wobble. Lead vocalist Anders Fridén commanded the stage with ferocious intensity, his vocals soaring over the intricate guitar melodies and thunderous drumming. Tracks like Deliver Us and The Quiet Place captivated the crowd with a frenzy of screaming guitars and a sea of fans screaming into the night.

As the stage was bathed in an eerie red glow, Kreator emerged with a sonic assault that was nothing short of relentless. With their blistering thrash metal sound, the German titans delivered a performance that commanded your attention. Frontman Mille Petrozza’s guttural vocals cut through the air like a razor, while the precision of Sami Yli-Sirniö’s guitar solos left jaws dropping in amazement. From tracks like Hate Uber Alles to tracks like Enemy of God, Kreator’s set was a masterclass in thrash metal excellence.

In Flames and Kreator proved once again why they are two of the most revered bands in the metal scene. With their unparalleled musicianship, commanding stage presence, and unwavering dedication to their craft, they delivered a performance that will be remembered for years to come. As the final notes faded into the night, it was awesome to be amidst the sea of raised devil horns, there’s a sense of camaraderie, a shared bond forged through a mutual love for the music. Strangers become friends in the pit, united by the primal energy coursing through the air.

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[Review] Charley Crockett @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 13/02/2024

Tuesday saw just another classic Summer day in Melbourne – 37 degrees, damaging storms, torrential rain, flooding, gale force winds, power outages, all the usual stuff – however none of this deterred a bunch of keen music lovers who ventured out to see the talented Charley Crockett. The Texan country singer has been touring Australia with his band for the past few weeks, with his final show set for Perth on 14th February. 

Knowing very little about him and only a couple of his songs, I was interested to see the demographic of his fan base. Based on my last hectic country music experience at the Forum, I was well prepared for what potentially may lay ahead for me. If you’ve been reading my previous reviews then you’ll know I love people watching, especially at gigs. The fans that rolled out to this gig were a lot more sedate than my previous experience, and proved a solid point that you can’t always stereotype the fans a musician or band may attract. Given the thick, traditional country sound to his music, I was surprised to find only a handful of Stetson hats wandering through the crowd and a limited amount of plaid shirts and cowboy boots adorning the punters. From the ages of early 20’s to late 80’s and everything in between, it really was the ultimate mixed bag of people. 

As I settled into position in the historically beautiful Forum theatre, I managed to catch the last few songs of the first support act, Sweet Talk. The local Melbourne 6 piece outfit have got a damn fine sound, and I was disappointed I didn’t get to catch their full set(Thanks public transport delays). Country, soul, blues, with slight funk undertones and hint of honky tonk, these guys have got a dash of everything in their music, and lead singer Tane Walker’s voice has got an awesome soul quality to it. This is a band I’ll definitely be looking out for in the future – I need more of them in my life! 

Next up were Sydney country band Caitlin Harnett & the Pony Boys. With their solid country sound and Caitlin’s distinct soaring vocals, they proved to be a big hit with the crowd despite Caitlin joking at times “You don’t even know who we are”. Their recently released album All Night Long is sure to be a hit with fans old and new, and the song Sidelines – which Caitlin wrote for her sister- is definitely a stand-out track. 

There was an excited buzz travelling throughout the audience now, and I could tell everyone was gearing up for the main event. Well our appetites were about to be fed, as Charley’s band entered stage left followed by the man himself, decked out in his crisp Ten Gallon hat and acoustic guitar strapped firmly to his front. They opened the show with $10 Cowboy, and the crowd were absolutely thrilled! 

Charley then greeted us with a “good evening Melbourne”, which was met with a rowdy applause. Bass player Colin Colby then switched out his electric bass for a classic upright double bass which gave the next track, Black Sedan, a really deep and rich sound. 

Just Like Honey and Lies and Regret followed which the crowd really got into, and the latter was a real toe tappin’ boot scootin’ affair. Charley was flying through the songs back to back with minimal audience interaction in between, and amongst those were some James ‘Slim’ Hand covers including In The Corner. Into the mix he also threw in Hard Luck & Circumstances, Odessa and Look What You Done To Me, which had slight hints of New Orleans Jazz vibes with it’s arrangement. 

It was then we went to Welcome Hard Times, before it sounded like we were headed into a Mexican stand-off when the moody intro to The Man From Waco rang out and had the crowd singing along to the chorus. After a few more songs, including a Jerry Reed cover of I Feel For You, Charley then thanked and praised his wonderfully talented band and said that “they make a $10 cowboy look pretty good”. He then said he had to ask us something, and asked if we were having a good time? This was met with deafening cheers and applause, in which Charley then summoned a big Hallelujah from everyone in the room. 

It was then into another cover, this time Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis, before we got down with the funky blues tune Travelin’ Blues. Charley then picked up his banjo for the first time that night and proceeded to play the bluegrass sounding track Darlin’ Six Months Ain’t Long, promptly followed up with Lily My Dear. Trinity River was a hit with the crowd, and once again this track with its upbeat jazz feel makes you feel like you’re marching down Bourbon Street in New Orleans in a Second Line Parade. 

It really amazes me how a song can make you feel an experience that you’ve never encountered before, and during Run Horse Run I truly felt like a cowboy in the Wild West riding in the saddle of my faithful steed. After finishing the ode to his home state Goin’ Back to Texas, he cheekily told us that because this was his second Melbourne show he was twice as good as he was the night before, money back guaranteed. His set then drew to a close with Midnight Run and a huge and thunderous applause from the crowd who were hungry for more. When I say the crowd were hungry, they were bloody starving for more once Charley had departed the stage. The cheering and stomping from the audience would’ve put the hyena stampede from The Lion King to shame, and the sound was deafening as the crowd were trying to summon him back to the stage for an encore. There was a long delay where it looked as if that was it and a few concert goers started to disperse, but their ravenous calls were met with Charley reappearing with his acoustic guitar and singing a solo version of Lonesome As a Shadow. It was then one last song with the full band before the night drew to a close and a lot of happy souls were left to venture out into the night for their journey home. 

Charley’s voice is a deep, smooth salve for the soul and at times reminds me a lot of the late great Johnny Cash. I am far from a country music aficionado by any means, however I feel his style of country music is a lot different to what you hear commercially released these days. His old school country sound pulls from influences like Hank Williams and George Jones, and made me feel like I was back in the 1950’s sitting in some little honky tonk bar in the depths of the Deep South. Charley is certainly a talented performer, not just vocally, but musically and with his cute little dance moves and dashing cowboy looks, he really is the whole country meal deal. I really enjoyed my night with Charley, and can now officially call myself a fan! 

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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 Darkness, Festival Hall Melbourne 03/02/2024

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album Permission to Land sees The Darkness back on Australian soil for an impressive string of dates. With singer Justin Hawkins going down with illness just before their arrival we have all been waiting with bated breath, but never fear The Darkness are here and ready to rock. They are no strangers to Australia being greedily lapped up with every visit, now it was my turn to see what all the fuss is about.

The iconic Melbourne stalwart Festival Hall is back up and running after a dubious period in no mans land, and I for one was glad to get back down to Dudley Street and rock out where so many music legends have graced the stage. The openers were plentiful giving punters great value for money, as Melbourne’s Cry Club and Brisbane’s DZ Deathrays got the party started. It was then up to Sydney lunatics You Am I to give the final warm up session. Treating us to a Spinal Tap set that opened up a world of nostalgic memories from the quintessential piece of fictional history. Tim Rogers was the perfect fit to pull off the The Majesty of Tap, he enveloped the role to perfection along with the perfect accompaniment in You Am I. Their musicianship and theatrics were the key to this set going next level, add to this Tim wearing silver flares and a black hooded cape it really set the tone. Stonehenge was delivered with faux stone appearing from the roof, keeping with the theme of the movie, it certainly enveloped the mocumentary with gusto. Hell Hole was another welcome additional and had the crowd up and about as Tim said “Open you cheeks to the sight and smell of the Tap!” as only he could. A wonderful addition to the show and a perfect fit for The Darkness.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least, green lights resembling a landing strip flashing down each side of the stage as The Darkness took full flight to an erupting Festival Hall. This show was their biggest in Australia to date and Melbourne music fans turned out in droves to witness this most prestigious celebration. Justin donning a red and black jumpsuit in his trademark fashion as they jumped into Black Shuck to get the party started. Working through the album in no particular order the fans were 100 per cent committed to making the show one for the memory banks with phones put away and everyone living in the moment. It felt like stepping back in time just people going nuts, hands in the air, clapping on command, dancing, singing and have a bloody awesome night.  Get Your Hands Of My Woman, Growing On Me, Givin’ Up were all slotted in as they worked through this cracker of an album. The punters singing the ‘oh, oh’s’ and ‘Givin Up, Givin Up Givin a Fuck’ with unabashed enthusiasm. Justin had now stripped the top half of his jumpsuit down saying “I didn’t think it would be this hot up here!”  But we all knew it wasn’t called ‘Festy Hall’ for nothing. Crowd engagement was second to none as Love Is Only A feeling and Stuck In A Rut played out, Rufus Tiger Taylor was smashing the skins to within an inch of their life and kept the set running like clockwork.

Dan Hawkins is really a jack of all trades when it comes to musical instruments, his guitar work is of the highest calibre as he strutted his stuff and worked the stage like a true professional.  Frankie Poullain kept pace with the bass, this four-string slayer did not miss a beat, so at home on the big stage as Friday Night saw the fans ready to sing. A sneaky little snippet of Led Zeps Immigrant Song was a worthy addition as super shredder Justin even noodled the intro of AC/Dc’s Thunderstruck before he launched into I Believe In A Thing Called Love. With Melbourne finally throwing up a summer day, good old Festy Hall started to really feel the heat, living up to its nickname in spades as the sweat drenched punters screamed for the one they had been waiting for. Arms aloft clapping in time it really was a sight to behold, Justin still hitting the high notes with faultless precision of a man many years his junior. With the roof well and truly raised the boys left the stage to cool their jets for five minutes but the Melbourne maniacs were having none of it as they stomped and clapped, and if you have been to Festival Hall before you would know those timber floor do love a good feet hammering. It was no surprise when The Darkness returned that Justin said he could hear the stomping from downstairs. With their outfits changed to bedroom attire, all four sporting silk robes or PJ’s of choice, even guitar tech extraordinaire Ian Norfolk sporting a robe. With Justin having more guitar changes than I have had hot dinners he was certainly kept on his toes, and he did not miss a beat. I can see why they call him the fifth member of the band.  Speaking of the band, Justin went on to do introductions to the tune of In The Air Tonight made famous by Phil Collins, with his brother Dan on the drums, mixing things up a bit. Once again I reiterate, super talented musicians!!

Justin launched into I Love You 5 Times, almost a cappella with the fans singing along until he strapped on his guitar and ramped it up a level or two.  Love On The Rocks With No Ice saw out the show and had the rabid crowd in a right frenzy as Justin took to the shoulders of one of his team and made his way in and around the floor of Festival Hall. All while shredding up a storm and not missing a single note, fans very respectful of him with the odd pat on the back as he made his way from one side to the other. After being delivered back on stage he showcased his skills again playing, jumping and even hopping on one leg as he played like his life depended on it.  Forever the showman and a moment forever etched in our hearts. The Darkness really are the complete package and if are yet to see them do not delay, with just a few shows left on this Australian tour it would be a cardinal sin to miss out.

Celebrating 20 years in the biz is no small feat but here’s hoping there will be many more years in the tank for The Darkness. Gauging on tonight’s performance Melbourne Airport will not just grant permission to land but dedicate a runway in their honour. Thanks for the thrills boys, here’s to seeing you back in Aus real soon!

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[Review] Australian Open Finals Festival, John Cain Arena, Melbourne 28/01/2024

While Sunday’s sweltering heat may have deterred some, it certainly didn’t put a damper on spirits at the final day of the Australian Open’s dynamic music event, Finals Festival. Three full days of local music, international stars, and DJ sets – guaranteed to leave your head moving and your feet tapping at this sporty-summer-ending-bash. This is going to be an electrifying finish to the Australian Open festivities.

As soon as I step through the gates of the Australian Open, I am met with an immediate wave of music. A trio of guys armed with a trumpet, saxophone and trombone are tearing through a rendition of Mambo No. 5. As tennis skirts, white visors and wedge heels move past me; I really start to drink it all in. Walking through this Mecca To Sport, I pass tall green muscled men on stilts, more free sunscreen samples than I can carry, and a really convincing Mike Posner cover act. Jamming out to Cooler Than Me, I find the entrance to John Cain Arena and the open-air spectacular that is Finals Festival.

Before I go inside and join the swarms of people inside a de-roofed John Cain, I lounge on the grass listening to the electro-pop tunes of Latifa Tee. A triple j radio host and DJ, she is a summer day with friends and strangers. An exclusive, new remix of Cupid is the perfect pairing with a cold drink, hot chips and prescription sunglasses to people watch. Latifa is so beautiful, completely smooth and in her element onstage. The heat seems to roll off her and she stays upbeat, hair curls perfect and unbothered as she works her magic on the decks.

Next up to the literal hot seat, is Melbourne’s own, Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir. They self-describe themselves as: A true ode to dancefloor salvation, Sunshine and Disco Faith Choir serve to share the gospel of disco faith with those whose enthusiasm lives in the hands of the music. These genre-benders feel almost too cerebral for so early in the day, but regardless I am completely enamoured by them. A disco lover to my very core; this is music for anyone who loves Nu-Disco, Fleetwood Mac, and an unbridled feminine ecstasy. This is a huge group. I’m talking, 12-piece choir big. From the opening minute of Welcome to the Dancefloor, one of the biggest earworms of the last 5 years, I knew these guys were going to be a grand slam. The sounds washing over the crowd are just incredible. There are moments that feel identical to a musical sermon. 10,000 people all holding their breath as Dreams floats over us, until an EDM beat rises inconspicuously into airspace. Then it’s a mess of swishing hair, rolling wrists and fan-flapping. Sunshine is dressed in these long flowing sleeves, with lace and feathers and a hat – of course. They are aesthetically and musically a marvel, and if they were taking on groupies – I’d have found my calling.

British drum and bass heavyweights Rudimental are the penultimate act at the Australian Open on this fine day. Festival staples, the three-piece are playing to a revved up crowd. 10,000 of us fight for the half of the arena that has shade. My years of training (going to emo and hardcore shows) have meant I have a great spot with view of the stage. While Rudimental are known for some Rhythm and Blues softness, today it’s time for daylight depravity. An extra heavy version of 2024 release Alibi is a highlight for me. The screens behind the stage are bright yellow, and red and pulsating. Smoke billows out onto the crowd and lights shine down onto us as we let loose into the sound. We are truly dancing the day away. As quick as they start, they’re off. They’ve even curated a great section of ‘hold music’ – including an EDM remix of 1965 The Temptations hit, My Girl. An entire crowd is screaming along to the words; My girl! / My giiirl for at least 3 minutes. And it’s beautiful. There is such a lively, upbeat and energetic vibe in John Cain this Grand Final.

Groove Armada come on and the arena is suddenly packed to the brim. So, I stand off to the side and watch Andy Cato and Tom Findlay run through a super high-energy DJ set. The two have such a great comradery with each other. They smile as though they’re making a joke none of us are in on. And to be honest? They could be laughing at us. We don’t care. As long as they keep the beats going. Personal favourite, reggae/ska infused electronica banger, Superstylin’ is one of the first cabs off the rank. Even though it’s still so sunny outside, it suddenly feels like night-time. Bright lights flash and I can feel the bass in my fingers. My bones are shaking with every rhythm change and beat drop. It’s awesome. There is something late-night about Groove Armada. They feel timeless, placeless – like if oblivion was a new club that we were all dying to be on the waitlist for. They’re effortlessly cool, low-stakes and perfect for grooving. You could not ask for a better closing act.

This was a day of sweat, icy drinks and teeth chattering levels of bass. An electric finish is putting it mildly. This was a trip through so many genres, people, drinks, laughs, songs, sets – I’m sad to have landed back on the tarmac. I still haven’t undone my seatbelt though, I’ll be here, hoping for one more lap around the court, just to get a fraction of those vibes again.

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