Ocean Grove: With Thornhill, Mirrors & Shepherd @ The Manhattan

Last night, afficionados of Odd World and those feeling ‘horny for Thorny’ converged in Ringwood for an incredible time. It was clear this was a hyped show for many when a long line of people was snaked around the car park of The Manhattan. When the rain started, no one gave up their places. We survived Unify 2018, we could make it through this.

The show had a homecoming celebration feel to it, where Ocean Grove were returning to their suburban roots and giving a nod to those that have backed them from their local gig beginnings. In talking with bassist/vocalist Dale Tanner on the night, the guys of Ocean Grove were also keen to pay it forward in a sense; giving newer and up-and-coming bands a chance to play to a sizeable crowd. The whole night had a mystique of ‘rare’ all over it.

I was still waiting in line to get in when Shepherd had started their set. From outside, I could hear the Melbourne band playing an impressive live rendition “Prisoners”; the debut single that they were launching on the night (which we had the privilege to premiere for the band).

I entered the venue while Shepherd were still playing and was happy to see the band’s vibrant stage presence in action as they played their take on metalcore with high energy. Thick riffs and sweet soundscapes were equally a part of this, and the new band were as engaging in their spaces as in their breakdowns. Despite their newness to the scene, the turnout and crowd engagement was strong: I witness a stray shoe in the mosh and beer rained down courtesy of air punches with full glasses. The dual vocals worked great together, as did the whole band; seeming well rehearsed and connected in sharing their powerful messages in anthemic songs. Great set for Shepherd!

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There were really sizeable gaps between the bands’ sets. This forced break in proceedings gave opportunity to get a drink, check out merch, kindly complain to Thornhill and UNFD team members about there not being physical copies of Butterfly yet, and say hello to great people of the scene like Ash Hull and Void Of Vision’s Jack Bergin. Depth Mag’s Josh Hockey and I also got to meet photographer Albert Lamontagne for the first time, who was capturing the night’s action for us.

Mirrors were up on stage second and with a solid crowd now and a relatively low stage, it was tough to find spots where I could actually see them. The guys of Mirrors passionately ripped out a set of tracks from their 2017 EP Fools Paradise and their most recently released song “Circus”. Relentless energy and slick guitar work got everyone into this, with great crowd engagement for the Gippsland/Melbourne based four piece. I can’t remember the last time in this scene that I’ve seen a crowd start their own overhead hand clapping – that happened. Everyone there was making the songs their own, as well as decently helping up moshers that had fallen.

With a microphone issue swiftly tended to by Lance Prenc, Patty Goodman beamed out a strong and powerful presence with his vocals, and from where I was standing on the right side of the stage, bassist Jake seemed centred the entire time. “Tie The Lace” closed the set, making it official that the very large energy from both band and crowd never stopped.

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There’s not much that compares to the majesty of Thornhill in the wake of their Butterfly EP. Those six tracks have been on heavy rotation for me (and the rest of the Depth Magazine crew) since it released. They’re just as good live, if not better, given that we get to see the guys of Thornhill get into the music as well as move and sing along with them.

In the now hot and sweaty Manhattan, the live renditions of “Reptile”, “Parasite”, and “Sunflower” came at us with high energy and movement, slick beats and intricate guitar. Thornhill make it all look so easy and the rowdy crowd had the set turn into a sweaty singalong.

Crowd surfing was a given and because of the stage/room layout making it tough to get from stage to crowd, security guards were taking to the stage and trying to push crowd surfers back into the audience. Unfortunately this approach of three guys standing at the front of the stage beside each other got in the way of the Thornhill guys doing their thing. At one point Thornhill’s vocalist Jacob Charlton was waving to the crowd trying to be seen from behind security, and they also were between guitarist Matt Van Duppen and his pedal board preventing him from getting to it in the timing he needed. It was a tricky space but I couldn’t help think it could have been handled more fluidly and unobtrusively instead of dominating the stage.

Security awkwardness aside, Thornhill’s set was amazing, with hype and high vibes the entire time and a wild crowd having fun and screaming their songs back at them. Though Thornhill had one timing hiccup, they picked it up again like the pros they are. Jack Bergin’s feature on “Lavender” (“Take a look at my broken fucking hands”) was a very cool treat. The guys shared later that the feature was organised only an hour or so before the set. Thornhill absolutely rule as a band as well as as individual musicians honing their craft as they go. Their set was another incredible reinforcement of that fact.

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My set notes about Ocean Grove are relatively non-existent. I was up in the sweaty squishiness of the pit the entire time, being fully immersed in the stream of The Rhapsody Tapes goodness that was unfolding. These powerhouses of the scene were in celebration mode, and asking us all to be present with them and have a good time doing so.

It’s kind of a given that the guys of Ocean Grove rocked their set. Static collisions of “What I Love About a Natural Woman”,  retro rock-out vibes of “Lights on Kind of Lover”, wild dancing grooves to “Slow Soap Soak” and “Intimate Alien”. It was a party and a half, with the temperature rapidly rising as everyone had joined in; moving to Sam Bassal’s impeccable beats and soaking up the ‘get your freak on’ stage presence of the Ocean Grove collective.

Even slower moments like “The Wrong Way” went off, allowing us to oblige with Luke Holmes’ encouragement to let go of negativity and shrug off all the stress we might have brought with us to the show. Sweating, jumping, and singing out our woes, the show was a release and an escape into Odd World for awhile. We also sang together to celebrate guitarist Matt Henley’s birthday.

“Stratosphere Love” ended the set and it was an excuse to go for it with whatever we had left. The relative intimacy of the setting was clearly a rare opportunity and everyone there seemed to have this in mind based on how they were getting into the show. As you can see from Albert’s photos, it was pure chaos, and we loved every minute of it.

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All photos courtesy of Albert Lamontagne.

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.

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