This is our experience from the second day of Unify Gathering 2019. If you missed the first day, it’s over here.
I woke up on Saturday very grateful for earplugs. There’s so many ways to spend your time at Unify and for some that includes talking and playing music at camp all night. All about the music, I had to have a good solid sleep. Warmed up in my tent, I was ready for more music to begin!
Pridelands had the pleasure of opening up day 2 and it was great to see that they had a decent crowd present, despite the early-ness. “Any Colour You Desire” felt like a really great way to start Unify day 2 and the guys of Pridelands were off to a strong and massive start. Continuing with “Boys”, Pridelands seemed really at home on stage. Moshing at 10 in the morning. Love it.
At this point I ducked away with my Brisbane based photographer Rowan Donohue to top up my Pitcoin, hang out and have breakfast with him and Alpha Wolf’s Sabian Lynch. People are still talking about the Sharky’s egg and bacon sandwiches. They also made the best hash browns I’ve ever tasted in my life. Unify food was very GOOD.
Yours Truly took to the stage next. Eagle eyed punters would have noticed the posters around the Unify grounds that casually announced the pop punk band’s signing with UNFD! As their set kicked off, we were instantly plunged into somewhat complex and demanding songs. Watching from a distance, the band seemed engaging enough on stage, but I found the vocals a little sharp on the ears. Vocalist Mikaila Delgado announced the UNFD signing and shared new song “Selfless” with the crowd. Though I’m not a big fan of pop punk in general, “High Hopes” was a stand out song for me; great instrumentally and easy to enjoy.
If you’ve been following Depth for awhile, you’ll know that we’ve been thoroughly enjoying After Touch and their You Wish This Was About You EP. Maybe you know them by their former name/identity Easy Life? Regardless, this was a set I was definitely keen to see! Starting with “You Wish This Was About You”, it was more of an atmospheric set than an in-our-faces hecticness.
Vocalist Max Pasalic offered up a really inclusive stage presence, a well as a more experimental take on the songs compared to the recorded versions, including some impressively long notes. It was great to see the crowd emphatically singing along with the singles “Six Feet Closer” and “I’m Fading Away”, with a few die-hard fans having a good time throughout. As the set came to a close, I was stunned to hear Max say that the last song “Use Me” ‘goes out to my friend Kel’ and point to me. It was a memorable moment that made my weekend!
Still on a high, it was time for Gravemind. With bristling electric growls and a full stage of band members holding guitars like weaponry, Gravemind assumed an intimidating stage presence. Frontman Dylan Gillies-Parsons knows how to craft mystique and it makes for a really unique live experience. Sonically it was a hectic assault at times, with blistering intensity on all fronts. Dylan saying “This one is bigger than all of us” is 100% correct!
The animation on the screen behind the band, combined with sound effects and an at-times still and pensive stage presence created something immersive, showing the thought that Gravemind seem to put into creating an atmosphere at their shows. As shade was hard to come by, I had to hide along the arena walls. Dylan shared that they’re in the process of recording new music, before playing “Lifelike” to close the set. It was great to see their guitarists active and moving through the track.
Have you seen Pagan live before? It’s an experience! The blackened metal band kicked off with “Death Before Disco” from Black Wash and welcomed us to the ‘Italian disco’. Vocalist Nikki Brumen pulled a lot of the focus, stalking the stage proudly, lending her raw screams, and washing down red wine between songs, with the evidence left on her white shirt. Showing us what it’s like to be part of the Pagan cult, we were hit with a wall of pummeling beats, savage screams, as well as Nikki’s high kicks. Not afraid to play with controversy, Nikki landed a topical punch by saying “Let’s all share a red wine later, unless I’m too busy getting fingered in a tent.” Cheeky barbs and all, the set was a good time and a unique experience to witness!
We love Thornhill here in Depth land, so it was exciting for us that they were part of the Unify line-up. From the get go, playing “Sunflower” from Butterfly (our EP Of The Year 2018!), Thornhill were musically tight and the crowd seemed instantly won over. In front of a Tony Hawk styled video backing, it was aesthetically pleasing watching guitarists Matt Van Duppen and Ethan McCann going ham in relative synchronisation. Crowd surfing a-plenty, there was even a priest in full robes up on shoulders, brandishing a cross and holding a ‘Horny For Thorny’ sign.
Thornhill shared new song “Covet”, which we are SO keen to hear a recorded version of. Jacob Charlton’s stunning vocals soar atmospherically over the new track, along with a whispered backing vocal and strings. Shifting a gear from this into their heaviest track “Lavender” was a perfect cue for a dusty circle pit. I loved the focus upon Nick Sjogren’s bass during this (bass needs more love, people!), as well as the crowd adding to the “Take a look at my broken fucking hands” part. Finishing with the angst and massiveness of “Limbo” and a whole lot of moshing, it was incredibly satisfying to see so much crowd love for Thornhill after witnessing some decidedly low vibing crowds for the band in the past. More. of. this.
I made the mistake of talking about Stand Atlantic as though they were an international band before their set. For some reason, the Sydney based Hopeless Records signees have that feel to them for me, seeming well known beyond our shores. I’ve not seen the band before, and have only just recently come across them with the release/singles of Skinny Dipping. Sharing tracks from the album such as “Lavender Bones”, Stand Atlantic sounded great and were upbeat and energetic, with Bonnie Fraser nailing the vocals. At this point, a breeze was carrying water from the misting tent down the hill, so I happily stood there and took in the casual set and its big fat rock sound, easily sinking into the enjoyment of it. A dusty mosh pit seemed to agree, and “Coffee At Midnight” was where they finished up.
In the lead-up to Harms Way, it became obvious to me that everyone present was getting warmed up and ready to pit. From “Hey what’s up, we’re Harms Way”, there was dust flying. I’ve not yet taken quality time with the band’s 2018 album Posthuman, so I watched the set feeling like a foreigner. Regardless the set went from track to punishing track where tandem vocals plus drum craziness made it into something breathlessly BIG. The set seemed purpose built for people to lose their fucking shit to. Already hectic and huge, Harms Way dove even deeper and darker after a pause. The really darkly atmospheric track “Temptation” was a stand-out to me.
Sydney band Endless Heights are another who have won our affections, and many others’ affections, it seems, given that they won our Album Of The Year 2018 vote with Vicious Pleasure. Their set began with “You Coward” and felt amazing already with this wild and melodic piece of music. Vocalist Joel Martorana brings a lot of energy to the stage, as does guitarist Jem Siow, and Unify was no different. Continuing with the gorgeous “Come A Little Closer” and its majestic guitar tones, I managed to find a shady spot in the heat to take this set in. I’ve seen Endless Heights play many times over the last few years and never get tired of the perfection of “Come A Little Closer”‘s outro.
From up on the hill I could see an enthusiastic crowd joining in with the set as Endless Heights continued with the strong and emotive “Toxic”, and then “Pray I Fade”. Joel’s vocals were great throughout the set, as was his ability to draw the crowd into playing along with him. Of the entire (amazing) set, it was “Paralyse” that got me though. “Here’s one from the heart”, said Joel. It was a combination of being in the shade, of the breeze blowing over me, and this song wafting up the hill that was pure goosebump material and a special moment of gorgeous peace over a hectic weekend.
“Here’s one from the heart..” – Endless Heights
After Endless Heights I went and had a breather and a break, realising just how sunburnt I was, and only saw minimal parts of Clowns and WAAX. From what I did see, both sets were hectic good times and wildly appreciated by enthusiastic fans. Liam was there to shoot the Clowns set, however, snapping frontman Stevie Williams dangling from scaffolding and being held by the crowd!
The Citizen set was one I’d been hanging out for with bated breath. The band’s As You Please album was our Album Of The Year 2017, and I’d not had the opportunity to see them live yet. When I spoke with guitarist Nick Hamm recently, he shared that the band were last in Australia in 2016 and that they were keen to be here for some “really fun shows”, and needing to keep up with tour buddies Turnstile.
From Citizen’s first song (“Sleep”), I was already tearing up in response to Mat Kerekes’ vocals and the entirety of the experience that was unfolding in front of me. Performing their music with such precision and a zen-like sense of control was incredible to witness, and I’m struggling to think of any band I’ve seen that I could use as comparison. Hearing “Jet” and “In The Middle Of It All” live – and each song sounding so amazing – was bliss and I cried some more.
Though the set included emotionally more tense moments (such as “The Night I Drove Alone”), the stage presence remained exceptionally calm. A stand out for me was the bridge of “Fever Days”; just beautiful. I pretty much couldn’t believe it was happening, and with “The Summer” seeing them out, it was over far too soon. It will be well worth catching the band’s Australian tour if you can! This perfection of a set was my personal favourite of Unify.
Turnstile followed; a highly anticipated set for the crowd surfers/moshers, even with a stage barrier. Opener “Real Thing” was a punchy and vibrant intro to prep for the erratic wildness to come in the second song, “Big Smile”. I didn’t see the entirety of this set, needing to hibernate a little to regroup, but from afar it was a good time punctuated by impossibly high jumps in an energetic stage presence. I also spotted a wild John Floreani getting into the action of the pit and crowd surfing.
I was out of action during State Champs, but Liam caught the band’s set and took these incredible photos.
Returning for Trophy Eyes, the band took to the stage with Queen‘s “We Will Rock You”, kicking off a vibe of celebration and singalongs that felt like it lasted for the entire set. Fresh album The American Dream has seemed like a game-changer for Trophy Eyes and they’ve found themselves in a territory that they’re happy in, that suits them, and has gained them increasing amounts of attention. This year’s Unify is the third time around for Trophy Eyes!
Soaking in “You Can Count On Me”, “Lavender Bay”, and “More Like You” felt fucking great to put it bluntly, and we were all part of the celebration with the band. Infectiously, it felt amazing to see frontman John Floreani happy and dancing freely on stage. After “Something Bigger Than This” and all of us lending our voices to the band, John reinforced how much we were all part of this with them, and encouraged us to say “WE ARE TROPHY EYES!”. When they finished up with the well-loved “Chlorine”, with thousands of voices joining in, CO2 cannons, and confetti, Mitch Strangman beside me shared a memory of seeing Trophy Eyes play to two people. They’ve clearly grown so much and are onto a very good thing right now!
I was just about out of energy and focus but managed to stick it out for Every Time I Die. This was a hectic set featuring songs like “Glitches”, “It Remembers”, and “Map Change”, with crushingly heavy moments that were fully embraced by their fans in the crowd. From where I was standing, I witnessed a light sabre being wielded in the wild pit, as well as guitar antics on stage. Unfortunately vocalist Keith Buckley succumbed to the ritual that is the shoey, such gross additional punishment to the fact that they flew here for one set. No signs of jetlag with this band though, who rocked hard and relentlessly.
I retired to my tent at this point having hit my quota of people and noise and awakeness. Liam captured Taking Back Sunday before doing the same.
The baa of sheep woke me up on the last day of Unify. I thought it was people in a nearby campsite playing a sheep sound at first until I woke up a bit more and remembered that we were literally in a paddock and that there were other paddocks around us! It was going home day, and time to head back to reality. Some had already left, and the campsite was looking sparse. A competition by organisers for the cleanest campsite to win tickets to the next Unify seemed to have a direct impact, with the camp areas looking far cleaner than the year before. I loved this idea!
I ran into Unified’s Luke Logemann who was taking it all in. He shared he was not only really happy that the festival had kept its attendees alive and well, but that he was also ‘a little emo’ about the fact an idea had grown and turned into something so full and thriving.
I also spoke with a member of security who had worked other music festivals. He admitted he was intimidated by ‘all the tattoos’ at first, but shared that he found the people of heavy music to be far more friendly and supportive than other genres. I can definitely vouch for the inclusiveness of the event and its people.
The Sunday Sessions have been one of my favourite features of Unify. It’s basically a relaxed hangout with bands who share stripped-down versions of their music, or maybe even a cheeky cover. This year it was held under the smaller tent, which was perfect by way of shade. Unfortunately there was no clear access to the photo pit, so you just get my words for this part of Unify!
I arrived in time for the second set, Far Away Stables, which was beautifully emotive. Vocalist Brendan Sheargold shared that he had hoped that we had felt something emotional this weekend before playing the familiar “Phantasm”. It was a chilled vibe and beautiful high vocals floated over us gently, with sweet guitar, and subtle percussion. An acoustic ‘breakdown’ still worked well in “Caldera”.
Stand Atlantic‘s Bonnie asked if we were still dusty and still hungover, crunching away on a carrot in between singing (“for the vitamins”). Playing acoustic versions of “Coffee At Midnight”, “Skinny Dipping”, and more, it was a casual hang out that felt relaxed and comfortable.
What a treat to see Endless Heights do an acoustic set! And it was just as stunning as I’d hoped. I love this band and I appreciated that the stripped down versions had some differing elements that sounded great. I’m living for even more acoustic breakdowns and the brilliance of Endless Heights’ guitarists. “Paralyse” was already beautiful and made even more beautiful acoustically. Joel is a dreamy singer, no question about it.
Little Brother was the last act of the Sunday Sessions. I hung around after having had a really great time at the Little Brother show at Cherry Bar. As expected, this set was more ‘John Floreani Story Hour’ than songs, sharing tales of Unify and being ‘smashed’ before doing this last time. He shared the difference in himself; how he’d had a drink or two after a decent sleep, decent food, and felt good in himself and in his life. It wasn’t a lecture or a cautionary tale, just a guy sharing his experiences and we could do with it what we wanted.
Aware of the fact that he only had 30 minutes, John said he’d better play music “or they won’t pay me”, before sharing songs such as “A Distance” and “Chloe”. In this casual setting, we could be spellbound by the songs and join in, or we could zone out and relax. Before sending us back into the world with the impressive “Cleveland, OH”, John dropped the quote of the festival in response to the predictable “SHOEY” prompt:
“I’m going to drink my drink out of a can like a civilised human being, you fucking uncultured swines!”
And with that, it was time to head to our respective homes.
Until next time, Unify Gathering. Thanks for having us. x[Photos by the inimitable Liam Davidson]