With both bands on the line-up pulling off incredible sets at Unify Gathering 2019, the whole of Melbourne dove at tickets to be at Corner Hotel on Thursday night. Describing Citizen as ‘perfection’ and Turnstile as ‘erratic wildness’ in our Unify review, we made sure to be present at the sold out show.
Outsiders Code were the openers, returning to the stage after three years of inactivity. To be honest, my experience of this set was soured significantly by an absolute tool in the crowd who mowed down everyone at the barrier as well as occasionally deliberately punching people at random. Maybe over the space of three years we’ve learned some respect for each other, but there was no way this was acceptable gig etiquette. Even when surrounded by at least three security guards, this guy didn’t quit. Unfortunately it led to a female spectator needing to be escorted to the bathrooms by a friend with blood running down her face. I’m all for passionately appreciating music, but get some class and respect, dickhead.
Idiocy aside, the set came across as slow, steady, thick, and heavy, with hardcore punchiness and two step pockets which a few in the sparse crowd appreciated. Outsiders Code were musically solid and I was most impressed by their guitarists, but there was limited stage presence and it was tough to get into. It was the last song that impressed me most, coming across instrumentally hefty and giving me the impression that this band would be a great post hardcore band, but the flat and uninteresting vocals made it tough to enjoy.
Citizen were next and a jam packed Corner Hotel band room (and its pole) were ready and pumped for their faves. Without a word, Citizen took to the stage and dove right into playing “Sleep”, with a crowd singing so passionately along that they almost drowned out frontman Mat Kerekes’ voice. Already it was clear to me that this was a very different vibe to what I’d seen at Unify, and a seemingly more relaxed Mat was smiling out at the crowd.
We were then taken into some As You Please love, with “Jet” (guitars a stand out, with some great bouncy singalong dance moments) and “In The Middle Of It All” (noticing more movement and dancing by the band on stage), and I put in my phone notes “I love this. So happy to be here!”.
In comparison to the previous band’s set where their stage presence didn’t give much away emotionally, it was a pleasure watching Mat feel every enunciated word of “Sick and Impatient” and to watch Nick Hamm dancing with his guitar from where I stood. Their own appreciation and immersion was practically inviting us to be as present as they were in this steadily progressing track.
“Keep that energy going” Mat said, after “Roam The Room” had us take in some delicious intensity and frustration and bounce it back with some aggressive finger pointing and singing. All smiles on stage, the drum and instrumental focus was impressive. Feeling fully warmed up and relaxed on stage, Citizen shone for me most in the beautiful bridge sections of “Fever Days” and “I Forgive No One” before building drums and guitars took the songs satisfyingly home with their respective final choruses.
“It’s great to be back. This is my favourite place to be.” Mat shared, before ruining us all with “Cement”‘s shivery goosebump intensity and the band’s penchant for being all-in. Their smooth and easy set was then ‘ruined’ by drummer Jake Duhaime‘s kick pedal falling off before final song “The Summer”. As one last singalong until who knows when (hopefully sooner than three years from now), the crowd were fully into it and loud. The easy and free vibe of this song and a gorgeous guitar tone was a sweet farewell for Citizen.
As far as set openings go, the combo of “Disco” and “Real Thing” is a great one for Turnstile. It’s a perfect combination of moshing and dancing that feels good and upbeat. I’m less familiar with Turnstile’s music than Citizen’s but was nonetheless keen to see the band in action in a more intimate space than the paddocks of Tarwin Lower. “Big Smile” kicked things up a gear into a punishing pace, with bouncing in the crowd and on stage. Energy was already high and vocalist Brendan Yates smiled out at us all through a mop of hair.
Ripping out the short and sweet “Canned Heat”, it was then time for bouncing in unison to “Gravity” and taking in the vocal rhythms. Seeing Brendan join the crowd and giving high fives to crowd surfers, this whole experience felt like a collectively good time, including for Trophy Eyes‘/Little Brother‘s John Floreani who I spotted crowd surfing during “Generator”. The track’s stomping steady beats, pace shifts, and interlude combined were incredible to witness live. It became pretty clear to me: This is an exceptionally talented band, having a good time creating many different flavours of sound together, and excelling at them all.
During the set, the lights of the Corner Hotel band room often lit up the crowd as much as the stage, reinforcing the collective feel of this whole experience. In front of me was a hectic mess of bouncing and happy people loudly singing great songs (like “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind”) and shifting easily from waving arms and swaying hips in melodic choruses to aggressive pointing and shouting.
Turnstile’s energy didn’t drop throughout their set, hitting “Blue By You” and “Out Of Rage”. At this point I noticed bassist Franz Lyons’ Citizen shirt was soaked in sweat, as well as a feisty effort for a turn on the mic by crowd surfers when Brendan took up position at the barrier again. The crowd definitely weren’t done either, kicking up even more of a hectic mosh for “7” and “Keep It Moving”.
To say it was an action packed set would be an understatement, and the experience made me want to listen to more Turnstile! The sonically feelgood “Moon” was where they left us after sharing their gratitude:
“Thanks for being special. Thank you for your time and space.”