Hometown heroes WAAX were first up on my list at the very first Good Things Festival in Brisbane. Not a second past 12:45, they hit the Pavillion’s stage 3 and I mean HIT. “This Everything” flooded my ears and vocalist Marie DeVita was all over it. ‘What a kickass killer queen’, I thought to myself as she stomped and romped around the stage screaming to her Brisbane fans.
The animated stage presence didn’t stop there for our friends WAAX; guitars were flying, hands were clapping and feet were far from the ground. It was a wholesome experience to see the opening act of a festival draw such a healthy crowd. A crowd of fans nonetheless, chanting punters and devoted drinkers at what felt like first thing in the morning.
As the set was beginning to wrap up, we heard the words I’d hoped to hear all day (but didn’t quite) that we’d be in for a treat of an almost finished album. I didn’t catch a name but what I did catch was the empowering mantra throughout the chorus, “Nobody hurts me, fuck you for trying.”
WAAX finished up with their hits “Same, Same” and “Labrador”. They stayed true to their word, as sung in “Labrador”; and packed their shit up and went.
Void Of Vision
The Wonder Years
The minutes went by as we got ourselves some hot dogs and caught up with friends. Before I knew it, The Wonder Years were taking stage and about to touch the lives of some sad concert goers.
“Sister Cities” was the opener and a good way to bring the energy up straight away. My notes state ‘big boy jumps’ and to most people that would be quite a puzzling note, but these were capital b, BIG jumps, from everyone present.
Dan shared some personal stories with the audience about the passing of his grandfather and recent passing of his wife’s grandfather, citing that he was in Australia for both of the funerals. I concluded from this that sadly, Australia is a bad omen to the grandfathers of American touring artists. May their souls rest easy.
It was announced that this would be the last tour for The Wonder Years, as they would seek income from being a WAAX tribute band, and if you saw the power in that set I think you’d understand. All jokes aside, “Passing Through a Screen Door” was up, and the teenage kid in me began to cry. I didn’t take much note of the crowd as I was in a world of my own during that impeccable performance.
Brisbane seemed to bring out the happiness in an otherwise sad man. After some microphone stand gymnastics and juggling, we were awarded a “hydration break”. As The Wonder Years serenaded their fans, we all took a moment to sit and watch. The break wasn’t a long exercise but it certainly was unique.
The Philadelphia based group began to wrap the set up with fan favourites “Washington Square Park” and “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then”. After witnessing the signposted ‘no moshing, no crowd surfing’ rules broken a few times, I realised the last song was upon us. The crowd erupted as the opening riff to “Came Out Swinging” echoed through the undercover stage.
Amongst the swaying and jumping, I caught a calf tattoo in front of me with a baseball bat. The songs namesake was scrawled underneath the inky passion piece. I think that moment summed up the day for me; humans connecting through music, no matter the differences and for our Philadelphian friends, the distance.
I was lucky enough to high tail it over to the outdoor stages in time to catch the last half of La Dispute, another act from my formative years. Upon arriving, I nearly suffocated in a sea of black shirts but I managed to swim to the surface. The sun, at this point, was beating down on everyone present. There was only one thing to do and that was to bring out the hoses.
“For Mayor in Splitsville” gave the crowd something to move to as the local tap water rained down upon us. I was enjoying the refreshing soaking a little too much but that’s all part of the fun. Vocalist, Jordan Dreyer launched into a heartfelt speech about taking care of your fellow man. He endeared Australians for always making them feel welcomed and loved. It’s hard not to agree with such a good message.
“This one’s for Eddie, Rest In Peace.’’ A dedication was made as La Dispute lead us into “Woman (Reading)” and carried us into the end, and most intimate part, of the set. Dreyer joined the crowd for what he could, against the wishes of security, and tried his best to make the whole-day-flight worth the effort.
As their goodbyes were said, Good Things punters were treated to one last outpour in the form of “Such Small Hands”. I couldn’t help but blur into the music and leave behind the afternoon Brisbane heat for a more fantastical place.
We took to the grandstands for some much needed lunch and even more needed shade. From the seats we watched on as Babymetal took the stage and synchronised danced the holy hell out of it. I took all of three notes during the set and they all essentially say ‘what the fuck?’
Dropkick Murphys charged onto the main stage in the late afternoon as the warmer temperatures began to drop and the breeze picked up. Out of all the bands I loved and adored seeing on the lineup, Dropkick Murphys got, by far, the most amount of notes taken. I won’t lie, a good chunk of them were about the number of instruments they utilised and my amazement at this fact.
With the sight of things like Russian dances, Russel Coight style dances and square dances, I’m convinced that these punters don’t quite know what Ireland is. It’s good to see music bringing us all together nonetheless. Fans are dancing with casual punters and people of all ages are living in the same moment.
The pub jigs have shirts waving in the air, hands clapping and almost all of the entire show ground dancing. The angry Irish-Bostonites skulk across the stage, I feel like they’re looking for a fight and I’m scared to make eye contact.
It’s hard to believe these guys have been going since 1996 as they had the energy of their first world tour. It’s rare to see such gratitude and excitement so far into a life venture. Between the banjo and the accordion, it certainly was quite a spectacle.
Both the singers began to embrace the crowd as they worked to stay afloat against the black-shirt sea. Unlike La Dispute, security had no business to coax these guys down. To be fair, I wouldn’t try to either.
I realise I spoke too soon as bagpipes and a tin whistle found their way into the performances, very naturally as well. Had it not been for the big screens, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell. “The State of Massachusetts” was something to be seen, I watched the ocean of fans make waves and crash as the ensemble of weird instruments did what they do best. An accordion solo was on the top of my list ‘things I thought I’d never see’, but there’s a time and place for everything.
They closed the set with “Shipping Up To Boston” and left absolutely nothing to the imagination. As someone who was mildly interested in seeing the circus of Celtic-American men perform, I certainly left satisfied.
Make Them Suffer
As the day went on the crowds began to grow, and with the hilarious exception of Babymetal, The Used drew by far the biggest crowd I’d seen up until that point. Men and women screamed as the heroes of their youth took the stage and took Brisbane on a nostalgia trip.
Between our Japanese friends earlier and the upcoming Irish lads, I still think that The Used covering Playschool’s theme song had to be the most out of place sight on the day. They played fan favourites “The Taste of Ink” and “Pretty Handsome Awkward”. A reception so overwhelming that I had to yell my order at the frozen cocktail stand.
Between my frozen margarita and Bert McCracken’s fingerless skeleton gloves, I’m sure there are some things from Good Things Festival that won’t age too well. The band began to wrap up with a fun, but brief, cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and left. The Used hadn’t disappointed the fans, new and old.
Bullet For My Valentine
Sadly, I wasn’t mentally present for Bullet For My Valentine, I had food on my mind and notes to revise. Companions for the day disappeared into the crowd for every 2000s scene kid’s dream while I hung back. The herd of people swayed as Matthew Tuck lead them back and forth; it was as if the thousands of people in front of me were becoming something metaphysical.
Going along with one of the day’s themes, it seemed Bullet For My Valentine were playing a set for the longtime fans. Their 2018 album, Gravity, had only a couple of singles showcased which left plenty of room for the classics.
“Scream Ain’t Fire” made an appearance to the surprise of some fans, while it’s not unheard of, the old single had certainly taken a backseat to newer material. After a few more classics, spliced with 2018 singles, “Tears Don’t Fall” and “Waking The Demon” brought back memories of high school; the dyed red fringes and horrible spiked belts. It also meant the end of the set. The band packed up, thanked the Brisbane diehards and hit the road. I was reunited with a sweatier, more excited version of my friend who couldn’t believe who he’d just seen.
I only got to see the final few minutes of Emmure as we parked ourselves at the adjoining stage in preparation for the next act. “Shinjuku Masterlord” was the only song I recognised, but it almost tore the roof down.
The crowd at Emmure was easily the most physical group of people I had seen and would see all day. Fists were flying, kicks were swinging and fans were flying through the air. Obviously too fun to resist, my previously sweaty and excited friend took no chances and flew into the ongoing mosh.
The signposted rules had been broken well over a hundred times, but it was the un-signposted rules I was concerned about. The makeshift wall of death, the circle pits and the overall storm of physical exertion was a sight. Thankfully, he returned unscathed as Emmure wound down and bid farewell to their Brisbane fight club.
The Smith Street Band
As our night began to draw to a close, we waited at the undercover stage for our last set there, we waited to see Wil Wagner and his group of misfits. Once the roaring crowd began to settle, the opening riff to “The State of Massachusetts” cut through the air. I couldn’t see any overly strange instruments, but I prepared for the second Dropkick Murphys set of the night.
After a funny warm up to Good Things, The Smith Street Band were ready to play and flew straight into “Song For You”. Known for being an Australian anthem act, the Melbourne six-piece could hardly be heard over the rich chants of fans; not a single word went unsung.
With the theme of karaoke in mind, Wil continued with a tune familiar to even the casual fans. The crowd hushed to hear the soft melodies ring through the RNA Showgrounds. “Just a small town girl,” he sung, “livin’ in a lonely world”. The Brisbane fans took care of the rest, long after the band had ended the tease.
The greatest hits set continued, eventually finding its way to “Young Drunk” as it always was going to. Friends, like the ones I was joining at Smith Street, huddle together to sing along; “I finally found a home, in a handful of people I was lucky enough to bump into”. A day of comradery was coming to an end in the company of many colourful characters.
With the promise of new music soon, written and ready, along with the secret that they’d be back in March (which is now public news), The Smith Street Band began to accelerate for the final few minutes ahead. I was taking notes as “Death to the Lads”, their final song, began to play and heard the crowd cheer at an unusual time. It wasn’t until I looked up that I understood just why that was; some of our friends from earlier in the day made their comeback, as promised. WAAX had taken the stage with Wil and co. to farewell Brisbane with one last moment to remember. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again, I love how music brings us together.
After a very brief break, we found ourselves on the grass, a few thousand people deep into the crowd waiting for The Offspring. I’ll be honest, I was very wrapped up in the fact that The Offspring were right in front of me, and did lapse on notes. I think that however, sums up the experience in of itself.
Fans of all generations banded together for the ‘Smash in full’ set. I found myself in the arms of some drunk fans singing and hearing about life’s problems. “Come Out and Play” burst as one would expect but something was missing, “Self Esteem” had been skipped. That was all part of their clever plan. Just before the intermission, we were treated to the ‘smash’ hit if you will, and were excited for the band to return.
They promised and delivered, after five minutes, Offspring were back and it was time for a party. The first set was for the fans, but this set was for everyone. “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” began and it was clear to see now everyone present, knew who was in front of them.
Not much was said between songs, Offspring were there to do a job and they definitely got it done. We’d had enough stage presence for one day and were just happy to listen to some good songs and dance. The stage production however, took the trophy for the day, the lighting was something to behold. The effects themselves were a performance.
The lack of “Original Prankster” did have a young Jack hurting a bit, but both sets were massive with hits. After noticing five grown men on stage and only one set of sleeves, I decided I wasn’t too comfortable with that ratio. The band paid tribute to Aussie icons AC/DC with a cover of “Whole Lotta Rosie”, played the last of their hits and quickly hit the road.
It’s safe to say, after a day of friendship, drinks, food, dancing and singing. I was ecstatic but destroyed, I definitely snored through the night but it must’ve been in the tune of the hits I’d heard that day. I know they’ve stuck with me all week and I can’t wait to see what next year brings to Brisbane.[Photos courtesy of Rowan Donohue]
Cool article on the bands and the music played, it takes you right there 👍