The LONG line to get into Max Watt’s led down the street. Anyone with an appreciation for good music was in the heart of Melbourne CBD, making their way to the venue, reserving their place for a stacked musical line-up ahead.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a Yours Truly show, based on how many attentive and enthusiastic fans were present and taking in this impressive set, as well as adding their singing voices to the mix. Though I didn’t see the whole set, from what I saw, the UNFD signees ripped out a polished and professional performance. They owned the stage with ease and nailed their songs in the live settling, including “High Hopes”, which insisted on getting stuck in my head afterward.
It was soon DREGG‘s turn, and the Melbourne locals sure know how to put on a show. Wild and full of life, DREGG’s set was a good time. Each member was on stage fully expressing themselves with no holds barred courtesy of face paint, masks, and clothing choices. This set was feisty and energetic, with nudges to remember that we are individuals who are ALIVE. Hearing “Hyperbole” live was an absolute treat!
Between You And Me then added their pop punk flavour to the show. This might have felt out of place ordinarily, but the unspoken ‘be yourself and have a good time doing it’ theme of the night revealed the quintet to be another enjoyable angle of that. They brought a blend of upbeat and sedate moments, including the personal and moving song (“Floral Gloss”). The action packed set revealed a band on stage that were thoroughly enjoying themselves and lapping up the crowd participation. It was vocalist Jake Wilson that pulled my focus the most who was making the most of the set with high energy antics. Not content with just jumping down to the barrier to connect with the crowd, Jake did a flip into the waiting arms of the audience! Finishing off with “Dakota”, the crowd reaction was enthusiastic and supportive, leaving the energy of Max Watt’s bandroom high for what was to come.
Before Hellions took to the stage, members of the crowd were taking any chance to sing; adding their voices passionately to My Chemical Romance‘s “Welcome to the Black Parade” over the PA, for one example. Clearly ready for the show to start, this itch of excitement extended to letting out ‘woo!’s and whistles at any quietening of the PA or any sign that something was happening on stage.
Hellions soon arrived and started their set with the beautiful “Rue”; namesake of their most recently released album. As the show was part of the last Hellions tour that will feature guitarist and vocalist Matt Gravolin (due to his departure from the band), the song choice made for an emotional start. It was a perfect song choice to showcase Matt as a musician, featuring mostly him and his guitar until the song leads into the chorus. Matt wasn’t alone though, with our warm voices joining in and completing lyrical lines. The experience and the song together were a powerful reminder that we are all the same and all a part of this together with Hellions.
Lifting into something more playful, we waved arms and bounced along with the members of Hellions for “Blueberry Odyssey”. It was a pleasure to take in the four voices of the band; sharing the adventures of Mr Blue in this theatrical take on anxiety. Smiles abounded and beamed out at us, and the energy was high and warm, both on stage and in the crowd. My cheeks started to hurt from smiling so hard. Having had the Rue CD playing in my car for so long, it was so magical to have a full three dimensional experience of these songs (again), where the crowd voices drowned out the band at times!
But it wasn’t solely a Rue party. Opera Oblivia was part of the fun too, with the high energy running into “Lotus Eater”. Delivered beautifully, the instrumental spaciousness and layered vocals combined to create something that I put down in my notes as ‘moving, fulfilling, peaceful, and special’. I may have teared up a little. Okay, I definitely did.
At what seemed like the first pause of the show, frontman Dre Faivre checked in with us, asking how we were doing, and giving a nod to DREGG. But it was full speed ahead into Opera Oblivia‘s “25”. “You’re still here” Matt screamed into the mic, planting all of us into the reality we are/were part of, which is grooving and moving along with this band. The song itself is magical and moving even when listening to the recorded version, but with the sold out crowd adding voice and the surrounding immersion of sound, it was simply magical. Tears came again.
Going back further through their discography, Hellions hit pause on the theatrical anthems and rocked us with the raw strength and emotion of “Nottingham”. They also later shared the hardcore hecticness of “Penultimate Year” and the wildness of “Hellions” (which included a feature from DREGG’s Chris Mackertich!). All night, there was something special coming at us from the stage. “Nightliner Rhapsody” even included a surprise feature courtesy of Northlane‘s vocalist Marcus Bridge! Marcus added high melodic peaks to the circle pit-tastic rawness of the Opera Oblivia song.
At this point of the set, drummer Anthony Caruso expressed the importance of support for mental health and acceptance in the music industry. He shouted out the Girls Rock organisation as well as reminded us that no one is immune to struggle, and we are all one. This reminder of humility and compassion is clearly far more than just trendy lip-service, coming from a band who have used their music to share about struggle, connection, fear, and the birthright of joy.
I had this in mind when we had the pleasure of taking in “The Lotus”. This treat of a song that had us all dancing and singing is creatively inspired by anxiety! As the set continued, it hit home to me how the magicians of Hellions had inspired us to be yelling together as a room “AM I ENOUGH AS I AM?”. Revealing collective fears and finding our way with the help of these songs. These are very real solemn and moving takes (that also somehow inspire bouncing and dancing). A sincere exploration of being human.
Are you still with me? I hope so, because Hellions kept coming at us with gloriousness, such as “He Without Sin I) Halation”. The song was a full picture created by these four musicians: Guitarist Josh Campiao with eyes closed lost in the music, Matt feeling every word uttered, Dre adding fire and movement, Anthony drawing the boundary lines. Magical, powerful, important, sobering – “Does he celebrate his faith or does he mourn it?”
My favourite “24” got a turn during the set, and I couldn’t have been happier to belt out that chorus with a room full of hellions. During “Quality Of Life”, people took to shoulders and tried to keep up with the song’s syllabic fire before the sweet reprieve of the chorus. Swaying our arms and pouring our energy into this moment and this night, everything just felt right.
Despite the bliss, the inevitable elephant in the room showed up; that the Hellions we were thoroughly enjoying are going to look and sound a little different next time. An emotional Matt expressed his gratitude for Melbourne as a city and as his home, and shared his intentions to continue this path in Melbourne that was serving him well. Though I adore the quartet as they are, I’m also excited to see what the future holds!
But the teary moment didn’t crash the vibe of the show, and we were back into it with “Harsh Light”. The singing along with this song was loud, just as loud as songs like “25”, or “Hellions”, making me think of it as a positive sign of how invested Hellions fans are; following their band along with their progression – wherever they may head in the future. Hellions Forever!
Finishing with the bouncy and fun ‘Thresher” (who doesn’t love screaming that chorus?!) and then “Smile”, it was a party vibe to see the set out, and a pleasure to see the smiles and hugs on stage. I floated out of the venue in a blissed out haze. Sheer perfection!