To celebrate the release of their debut EP SIOIS, newcomers Bad/Love invited Melbourne locals to Max Watt’s with a generous serve of music. The ambitious launch came with the help of four local bands as support, making for something of a mixed bill smorgasbord of sounds!

Public High were the first to take the stage and came at the audience like a rip-roaring freight train of rock. A wild pace was set by drums, and vocals were thrown out for the audience to catch with both hands. With turbulent waves of riffs to drown in, the Public High set was a sweet ride. My attention was spread across the band as a whole during the set, whether it was toward the roared vocals or delectable bass tones.

Public High’s vocalist expressed his gratitude to be there at Max Watt’s after deciding (as a punter, 13 years prior) that he would one day play the stage. He was clearly enjoying the moment and making the most of it! The set was an easy, good time kind of vibe, even if you didn’t know the band’s songs. Public High did a solid job in kicking off the Bad/Love party, including joining the crowd for a beer-soaked dance and singalong.

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Passerby took to the stage next, after an introduction with the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory song “Pure Imagination”.  They kicked the heaviness up a notch, immediately feeling more hardcore than the rockers before them. I dug the searching vibe of Passerby’s songs as well as the continued use of samples between songs that kept their set flowing.

As the set went on, I got more and more into picking up what Passerby were putting down. It proved to be a feast of erratic timings, pulse-quickening rhythms, and fat breakdowns. Their drummer is one stellar musician, and he stole my attention frequently through the set. He added to Passerby’s flavour of urgency and drive, as did the emphatic vocals from their energetic frontman.

Already interested in checking the band out more after the show, Passerby kept adding even more surprises as cherries on top of the intrigue; sweet progressive guitar melodies, stunningly expansive breakdowns, unexpected clean vocals at choruses, and bendy lurching riffs as the set came to an end. Impressed!

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The Valley Ends were far more atmospheric and thought-provoking in their sound, and it took a bit of time to adjust to the change. The band also had something to celebrate: Their set was the Melbourne launch for their debut album Hearth. I personally fell into my own little world of introspection as the sweet craftsmanship wafted out from the stage, including bass-tastic serenades. The stage was lit with fairy lights and the mic stand laden with native flowers. It was definitely something unique and there was an unspoken reverence to the experience.

With palpable determination from The Valley Ends to have the crowd on the journey with them, the set featured soulful tamborine shaking, mesmerising bass tones, and circular riffs. Songs like “Wildfire” came across as turbulent, yet still more vocally and atmospherically based than the heavier band before them. The set required focus from their audience to take in all the nuances of The Valley Ends’ magic, and I’m not sure that it suited the attention spans present or the vastness of the venue. Regardless, it was a special experience that was lapped up by The Valley Ends’ enthusiasts.

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Bad Juju lifted the energy of Max Watt’s again, feeling as slamming and punishing as it was bouncy. “Bloom” landed with an easy emo grunge vibe and sounded great. With rhythms and riffs that felt familiar even though they were new to me, Bad Juju’s set was going down easily. I got into the groove of vocal-centric verses leading to explosive choruses, hitting points firmly home.

Bad Juju shared songs from their Hidden Desire EP as well as new music. I found myself lost in the contemplative mist of “Healer”, which still retained teeth and claws of strength. With a combination of the fire of punk punch and ease in thoughtfulness, Bad Juju seemed like a good compliment to the two bands beforehand. Unreleased song “Disappointed” (or was it “Disappointing”? “Disappoint”?) was a stand out for me, and I loved its progressive building to a massive point of conclusion, which featured a heart-wrenching melody and urging vocals. Stay tuned for that one!

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Having their first ever show at the hefty Max Watt’s, Bad/Love were clearly going all out! Their arrival to the stage was heralded by an EDM track and a voiceover countdown. With sparks then literally flying at the front of the stage, the band members arrived, with stunning animated visuals going on behind them. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were a well-established band with all of this going on. And maybe that was the point; intentionally arriving in the scene in a BIG way. It was an undeniably huge and hype-inducing initiation to the band, and Bad/Love felt and sounded fierce and full, showing strength in their harmonies. With crowd voices joining in, the vibe was high, excited, and supportive.

Bad/Love’s first single “The World in Colour” was strong and feels-inspiring, and felt well supported by the efforts across the band’s three voices. Hearing the song live was a reminder of how great and hooking the pre-chorus is (“What if I wanted to go”), even if vocalist Landon Kirk seemed to shy away from some of the skyscrapingly high notes. Northlane‘s Marcus Bridge was super fine about high notes though, and was a very pleasant surprise in appearing on stage at Max Watt’s for his vocal feature!

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Including the EP’s ethereal title track, Bad/Love’s set came across as strong and well-rehearsed. With a total of 20 minutes of released music to their name, Bad/Love added a cover of “Afraid” by The Neighbourhood to the mix. Sounding earnest and pretty, featuring light guitar melodies, I craved to feel more connection behind the music, which the band did far more easily with their own sentiments. They were obviously doing what they could with what they had!

The beautiful “Nowhere Else Like Home” is where the set and the night as a whole ended, feeling great due to its familiarity as a single. Landon bonded with the crowd at the front who emphatically added their voices to his in the expansive and anthemic choruses.

Despite any newness or nerves, Bad/Love certainly proved their stuff on stage. Each member showed precision and skill with their craft, and it was a pleasure to take in their deliciously building songs that were topped with searching vocals. I can only see Bad/Love improving from here, gaining further opportunity for connection with an ever-growing audience.

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[Photos courtesy of Liam Davidson]
Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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