Polaris: Spring Tour 2018 @ 170 Russell, Melbourne

Australia’s very own Polaris have owned 2018, putting their stamp upon it with three completely sold out Australian headline tours. Their growth since releasing The Mortal Coil has been phenomenal, and has seen them touring internationally, playing alongside heavyweights like Parkway DriveAugust Burns RedWe Came As Romans, and now Gideon and The Devil Wears Prada. It seems insane that this little band from Sydney (whose EP I got off Bandcamp two and a half years ago) is now touring the world and absolutely killing it. Having missed out on attending any shows on the ‘Dusk To Day Tour’ in July, I was excited to see Polaris perform again, especially in a massive venue like 170 Russell in Melbourne.

Opening up the night was Thornhill. Blasts of distortion and darkness welcomed the Melbourne quintet to the stage, and filled the room with a dark red overtone of light as they launched into “Limbo”. They brought the heavy from the start, and their harsh technical guitars set a brutal tone which would continue throughout the set. Energy was high, both on and off the stage, and they launched into “Parasite” in perfect unison. Headbanging and moving in time, it could be seen that they were playing some of the songs a little differently to how they normally would, as if they were adding in extra parts to spice them up a little.

Complex riffs, extraordinary drum fills, and immensely tight clean and screamed vocals showed the all-round talent of the band, and inspired the crowd to move as they sang along with vocalist Jacob Charlton. The drum opening at the start of “Sunflower” will never fail to give me goosebumps; being drummer Ben Maida’s time to shine. “My Design” showed the impressive range of Jacob’s clean vocals, and had the rest of the band moving. Kicking and punching the air, the band was a synchronised unit of energy and passion.

All systems were go with “Lavender” which opened up the pit with its fast and hard aggression. Arms were flying as the breakdown hit, and brutal vocals hit peak roughness. Ethan McCann pulled focus with the opening riff of “Reptile”, and sent the adrenaline pumping through everyone in the room. One of my favourite songs of the year, “Reptile” will never not be sensational, and I had goosebumps throughout the whole song. Thornhill finished their set, and I was left thinking about how keen I am to see them headline this place one day.

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Next up was Gideon. Hailing from Alabama, I hadn’t heard a single second of Gideon’s music before this set, so had no clue what to expect. But as soon as they got started I knew exactly how to best describe them: HEAVY. The crowd was with them from the word go, and the pit was already a flailing mess of limbs and bodies as brutal guitars and guttural rough vocals called the crowd to battle. Chunky and grooving bass a standout, Gideon’s instrumentation was enough to shake the room to its foundations. “Champions” was introduced with the instruction, “when this kicks in, grab someone and move them”, and fans were more than happy to oblige.

In the crowd, people were incredibly immersed and lost in the music. If they weren’t moshing or banging their hands, they had both hands in the air and were singing along. It was clear to me that Gideon had a powerful hold over 170 Russell. Drummer Jake Smelley was incredibly talented, and had me in awe of the ridiculous fills and complex double-kick patterns he was playing with apparent ease. Jake was just one piece of the puzzle that was Gideon, and their ridiculous guitarists dropped bone snapping riffs, including one breakdown that had me audibly going “ooooh”.

Beams of red and white lights were the only illuminations of the pit, showing momentary glimpses of a mass of moving bodies. People threw themselves into the experience, pausing only for the halting of the instrumentals. Waiting patiently, the china cymbal echoed throughout the room and signalled that shit was about to get real. The breakdown kicked in, and shit got wild as the set came to a close with an orgy of doublekick, riffs, screams, and darkly technical instrumentation. Gideon had me immensely impressed, and I knew the second they finished playing that I wanted more.

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Then was the main supporting act: The Devil Wears Prada, an Ohio based act that I have heard good things about for a very long time. I understand that it has been a while since they had played any Australian shows before this tour, so expected them to get a decent reception. As they stepped onto stage I knew I was going to get that and more. Devilish screams and nightmarish riffs combined with low lighting to set a dark tone for their set. Hellish vibes rolled off the band and were lapped up by the audience, who loved every second of The Devil Wears Prada’s time on stage. Vocalist Mike Hranica didn’t stop moving for a single second, as he banged his head and was constantly active on stage.

The fans made their presence known with huge and intense singalongs, and ran wild with the breakdowns. Even during the massive choruses the pit was still moving, and the fans were clearly making great use of this time with their favourite band. Frantic guitar, bass, and drums, mixed well with the unhinged harsh vocals to draw the crowd in even more and keep them moving. It felt like the crowd and the band were one; all just there to enjoy the music together. Their melodic clean vocals prompted the love to pour out of the crowd, and as the flashing electric blue lights lit up the smiling faces of everyone in the room, The Devil Wears Prada’s set came to a close.

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Looking behind me in the cavernous 170 Russell before Polaris begin their set, it was insane how many people were here to witness the show. The lights went out and I was hit with a deafening cheer of excitement from the crowd. Polaris charged out onto stage, and instantly launched into “The Remedy”. Desperately passionate about the massive single, people threw themselves into the experience, vocally and physically, in any attempt they could make to show support for this song. The tortured screams of Jamie Hails and the angelic clean vocals of Jake Steinhauser were both as incredible live as they are recorded, and drew the crowd in and got us singing along with them in a ridiculously loud fashion.

The breakdown hit and I could see that there were too many people crammed into the floor area for an actual pit to even get going. Everyone was working with whatever space they had, and sent at least two people falling every time they moved. Confetti sprayed out over the crowd throughout the last chorus, and covered them in a sea of blue and white as “The Remedy” came to a close. “L’Appel Du Vide” kept the energy alive, as the siren-like guitars of Ryan Siew and Rick Schneider were like a combination of heaven and earth; the highs and the lows, the clean and the dirty, the harsh and the gentle. The complex ringing leads had everyone in awe, while the integral revving rhythms kept everything afloat. A scream of “Haven’t we suffered enough?” had people falling over everywhere as multiple people made a bold yet futile attempt at moshing. There just wasn’t enough room.

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“Casualty” had a push pit going in full force, and continued the trend of deafening singalongs. Smiles were already plastered all over the faces of every band member, and after a statement of “Holy fucking shit!” from Jamie, Polaris kept it going with “The Slow Decay”. A call for crowd surfers sent people flying towards the barrier, although a lot of them were stopped in their tracks by security, who were pushing people back into the pit instead of allowing them over the barrier. Jamie was also able to warm up his own clean vocals here, preparing himself for the beauty that was going to come next.

As “Dusk To Day” began, Jamie requested that everyone pull out their phones and turn their torches on. We did so with gusto, and held our phones in the air and waved our arms from side to side as the dreamlike guitars and melodic cleans rolled through the verses. The cleans were answered with overpowering singing from the crowd, and Jamie took a second to sit back and observe with a smile on his face, as the crowd were doing his job for him. The impact of Jamie’s “But when it rains, it fucking pours all over me” inspired a wild response, and it was evident as to how insanely talented Jamie is as a vocalist and frontman.

“Relapse” followed, and had everyone bouncing and dancing. As the song ran through it was clear that Polaris was like a high functioning machine. Moving around the stage, they exerted incredible energy and never got in each others way. They moved like it was choreographed, giving each other big grins as they passed by and giving a nod as if to say, “How crazy is this?!”.

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Next up was a much older song with “Voiceless”, which I don’t think I’ve seen them play in a good year. As the song came to a close Jamie was speechless about what he was seeing before him. He tried to speak but was lost for words, and all he could say was that this last year was the best year of their lives. They then got back into it with “Frailty”, with Jake’s sensational clean vocals a standout. “Insomnus Veritas” had Jamie jumping and spinning his way around stage, and the big focus on instrumentals had the crowd in awe, as we did everything we could to get our bodies moving. Another older song “No Rest” had the enthusiastic singalongs peaking, as an excited cry of “You miss this one Melbourne?” from Jamie was met with passionate cheers. Ending with a huge thumbs up from Jamie, this set was already massive.

The technically beautiful riffs and the blue and purple beams of light of “Consume” sent 170 Russell into a frenzy. Heads were banging and hands were in the air, leading into one of the biggest choruses of the night. Announced as their ‘last’ song, “Lucid” kicked in enthusiastic punters in the pit tried their darnedest to open it up. “I found my love and let it kill me” ripped through the room, and red confetti showered down upon us as the final chorus hit. Reflective of the music video, roses seemingly rained from the ceiling, taking the atmosphere to an all-time high as the passionate singalong seemingly ended a impressive and heartwarming night of music.

However it wasn’t done quite yet! Several minutes of screaming “One. More. Song.” brought Polaris back on stage. I’d had my fingers crossed all night for it, and I was overjoyed when Jamie said “This one’s called Crooked Path“.  As a favourite from The Mortal Coil, it was well worth the wait to finally hear it live. The verses were passionate, the choruses were massive, and the emotional attachment everyone in the room had for this song poured outwardly together. This ended the night on a massive high, and planted smiles on the faces of everyone in Polaris, and everyone in the crowd.

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Polaris have come so far in such a short time, and I can’t begin to imagine where they will be playing this time next year. It has been a wild ride with them already, and I can’t wait to stay strapped in and see what comes next.

[Photos courtesy of Liam Davidson]

Josh Hockey

Melbourne based music journalist who is ridiculously passionate about music, and spends every possible moment listening to it, seeing shows, and of course wearing the merch.

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