LIVE REVIEW: Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, I Am Villain, Mary Jane Kelly, Totally Unicorn @ Harp Hotel
April 30, 2011 Leave a comment
For Totally Unicorn frontman Drew, it seemed not a matter of if he would be kicked out of his own gig, but when. Despite being the opening act of a huge five-band bill at the Harp Hotel, headlined by U.S. metalcore double-act The Chariot and Oh Sleeper, Austinmer’s bearded bruisers enjoyed a surprisingly large crowd. Drew gave out multi-coloured party hats to the audience, stripped to his underwear, cartwheeled off stage and belly-flopped onto a table… all before the first song ended. He commanded the audience’s entire focus; spasming on the floor, leaping on random audience members, jumping on the bar and climbing walls, as the rest of the band churned out a breakneck, blistering set of thrashy hardcore behind him. Totally Unicorn are one of the most unrelenting, technically proficient bands in the country right now, and combined with their outrageous frontman, they are a sight to behold. Utterly insane, and impossible to look away.
Another talented local was next up, Mary Jane Kelly. The foursome have been out of action for a while, and a lack of practise showed on early songs, with instrumentation seeming a little out of sync; however, once they found their natural rhythm, Mary Jane Kelly’s precision and skill are really something special. More melodic and accessible than Totally Unicorn, with a groovy yet technical hardcore underpinning their metal-influenced sound, they successfully tread the fine line between ‘catchy’ and ‘heavy.’ Showcasing a setlist drawn mostly from their 2010-released album ‘Like There’s No Tomorrow,’ the band also bolstered their performance with old favourite ‘Sinking Ships To Burning Cars’ and a fast, heavy, powerful new track ‘I Thought I Knew How It Felt’; a poor sound mix saw vocals buried deep under guitars and drums at times, but this was one of few flaws in tonight’s set. Incredibly well-rehearsed, these guys rarely play a bad show and tonight was no exception; an encouragingly solid ‘comeback’ for Mary Jane Kelly.
Next up were Brisbane’s I Am Villain. Part of a wave of groups mashing up pop-punk and hardcore – a genre cringingly titled ‘pop-core’ or ‘pop-mosh’ – they were a strange selection for this outrageously heavy bill. While I’m all for diversity on a lineup, this five-piece seemed wildly out of place, sandwiched between four far more intense bands. An occasional catchy guitar hook or pop-punk breakdown elicited a nodded heads from the audience, but this set was poorly received from the majority of the audience.
People moved up front early for Georgia, USA act The Chariot, the five-piece taking the stage to an near-capacity Harp crowd. Fans had heard stories and seen video of their unbelievable stage show from previous Perth and Brisbane gigs – crowd surfing guitarists, stage invasions, instruments thrown into the crowd – so, in their first visit to Australia, expectations were high for The Chariot.
They didn’t disappoint.
Bassist Jon Kindler threw down his instrument and dived head-first into the crowd before the first song had even started, with frontman Josh Scogin (formerly of Norma Jean) screaming “this stage is your stage! This microphone is your microphone!” as a never-ending stream of fans flooded the small Harp stage. The Chariot’s complex, math-influenced hardcore, intermittently peppered with breakdowns and time changes, provided the perfect soundtrack for the suicidal stage dives and throbbing circle pits that made up the most chaotic, insane crowd scenes that Wollongong has seen in a long time. Bassist Jon spent most of his time in the crowd or throwing his instrument around – at one point, tossing it into the front row for the audience to play – while Josh crowdsurfed, spewed out gut-wrenchingly brutal screams, and called fans forward to contribute vocals. Despite the violent nature of the music, the mood during The Chariot’s set was overwhelmingly positive; people were here for a good time, not to hurt others. It’s a sentiment that is often lost in mainstream commentary on heavy music gigs; but when you see someone get knocked to the floor in a moshpit, more often than not you’ll see ten people around them lean over to help them up. The Chariot produced one of the most amazing, intense, brutal shows ever seen inWollongong, but at the end of it, every single person in the venue was left with a smile on their face.
After the chaos of The Chariot, it was always going to be hard for Oh Sleeper to measure up. The Texans started their set to a considerable thinner crowd than had seen The Chariot (seemingly, most were nursing their wounds or taking a quick break outside), serving up a slow, crushing brand of metalcore. Less frenetic than The Chariot or Totally Unicorn, but heavier than Mary Jane Kelly, the night’s headliners were probably the most accessible band on the bill. Showing off loud/soft dynamic changes, akin to I Killed The Prom Queen or The Amity Affliction, vocalist Micah Kinard’s powerful, guttural shouts were occasionally supplanted with clean vocals. Kinard’s vocals shone through their set filled with heavy, thick breakdowns. An enjoyable and solid set, yet Oh Sleeper seemed unable to step up their performance to a headlining level following the carnage wrought by The Chariot.
Tonight’s gig will likely go down in local folklore as one of the most chaotic, outrageous and – yes – violent shows to ever hit Wollongong. Tonight, two ‘local’ bands stood up and showed that they can challenge world-renowned international acts in terms of skill and showmanship; that’s how I’ll remember this show.
Check out some footage of The Chariot’s opening song ‘Back To Back’ below; note a special cameo by Dan from Parades at 2.05!