FESTIVAL REVIEW: SCHEMA Festival, The Brightside, The Valley Drive In + The Zoo, 16 + 17/11/2019

Words by Ash Wallace

Day 1

Brought to you by SCHEMA Collective, SCHEMA Festival is back for round 2! A two-day festival with a bill of acts ranging from punk, metal, rock and hip hop, all in support of mental health and environmental action. The SCHEMA Collective is an alliance of QLD musicians and artists, creating a difference within the scene by supporting the likes of Kids Help Line, ADF (alcohol and drug foundation), Sea Shepard, Stop Adani and many more, hosting inclusive and accessible events in their support. A group of like minded people banding together to create positive change in the world, whilst supporting one another.

The first day of SCHEMA Fest was held at dual venues The Brightside and the Valley Drive In. Walking into the Brightside, you could almost immediately already feel the radiating body heat and sweat forming on your upper lip and forehead. It was nearing sun down and punters were beginning to trickle in.  

The first band I saw was Regular Gonzales at the Brightside stage. Are you hungry for a riff sandwich? Look no further, Regular Gonzales, Brisbane breakdown legends and fellow SCHEMA Festival co-founders will provide you the goods.  Early into the set saw Grant, vocalist of Strange Fiction get up and join in to cover Every Time I Die. Their aim of community unity and spreading a positive message shone through during the set. As they banged out riff after riff I couldn’t help but chuckle at the lone balloon wander amidst the crowd, a subtle game of don’t let the balloon touch the ground. The mosh pit was riling up and during the finishing off with their track Chains. Then I had to dash out to the Valley Drive In stage to catch Fang!

Fang is quickly becoming a household name in the Australian deathcore scene. Vocalist, Andrew Vaughan stood out in a yellow shirt, in front of the contrasting darkness of the stage, sky and omission of coloured light flares. Vaughan dug straight into the brutality that is his voice and upheld a captivating stage presence throughout the set, his distinct guttural harsh vocals being nothing less than filthy. Tying together components of each respected member’s musical background, the blend of sludgy, down tempo and aggressive tracks will make you want to turn up the volume full blast until your ears bleed. Among the sea of punters, the atmosphere was intense and buzzing, everyone shouting along to the lyrics. Being quite early into the night, Fang still managed to rope in a solid crowd-I couldn’t help but notice the intense gravitational pull. All this being said, my expectations were well over fulfilled. Fang are on the rise, so don’t be a dud and let them slip your musical rotation. Get your ‘stank face’ on and get ready to mosh your little hearts out.  

Metalcore band Virtues were the next band I caught, back at the Brightside stage. Now, this is where the moshing and circle pits really started to get intense and rightfully so! The set was dedicated to a friend, ‘Jamesy’ who unfortunately is battling cancer, which made it even more worth the while to go wild and let loose.  Vocalist Wade, was very much in control of the crowd, passing out the mic, getting amongst us in the crowd and dishing out some very theatrical facial expressions and ruthless “BLEEAUGGHH’S.” Kicking off with When in Rome, the mosh pit began immediately and didn’t stop.

Oldtown were just beginning their set, and unbeknownst to me at that time, would serve to be my favourite act and highlight of the night. A ball of energy, vocalist Matthew Muscari ran and jumped around the stage even sprawling out of the floor performing 2018 track The Swindler. Joining the stage after that, donned in a beautiful all rainbow outfit was Grant McMillan of Strange Fiction, covering the classic Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones. At this point the shirts were off, the sweat was flying and hands were a-swing. Just before I thought it couldn’t get any better, the beast, Andrew Vaughan of Fang graced the stage with them. To round off the set, Matt Scott (guitar and vocals) climbed his way up into the rafters to play and the audience chanting for even more Oldtown. Come and join the riff club!

After a little break to grab some grub, it was time for Windwaker to take the Valley Drive In Stage. By this point I was finding myself super sweaty having to dash from stage to stage but it was worth all excess heat expelling from my body. I was a little sad as the crowds weren’t as receptive until the latter half of the set, but they got there in the end. Following the success of their ‘Empire’ ep earlier in the year, the set list included singles The Stitch, My Empire and a cover of Silverchair’s Freak, which I was absolutely ecstatic about. Will’s vocal versatility and range is unprecedented and highly regarded. It was a particularly bittersweet set, as this being one of Liam’s (guitars and backing vocals) last performances with the rest of the Windwaker boys to focus on other band, Reside. As the circle pits and were brewing, a stand out highlight for me, stood a fellow fan being ‘knighted’ with a chip-bag hat.

To close the night, back at the valley drive in stage, was none other than Aussie metalcore favourites, Void Of Vison. There’s without a doubt something in the water here in Australia, constantly pumping out strong metal acts, one after the other, and Void Of Vision is one of them. Just before setting off to Europe they were here in the motherland to give us a standout performance. I could tell that everyone had been on their tip toes all day waiting for Void’s set tonight. Kicking off with high energy and impact, playing tracks from the recent record ‘Hyperdaze’; Babylon, Hole In Me and some older fan favourites including Ghost In The Machine. You know there was going to be circle pits and a wall of death even before you attend a Void Of Vision show, but did u think you would see crab-core moshing? It was kind of a ‘you had to be there’ moment… anyway, I digress. Soul crushing riffs and violent breakdowns really pull in the fans and vocalist, Jack Bergin’s vigorous performance every single time make them such powerhouses in Australian metalcore right now.

Day 2

Day 2 of SCHEMA Festival had arrived and following the all ages event throughout that afternoon, the second half of the second day was ready to begin. Today was held at The Zoo, still standing as one of Brisbane’s staple music venues here in the heart of fortitude valley. The stage setup today consisted of the main zoo stage and the ‘bar stage’, a smaller, more intimate stage next to the bar-obviously, hence the name.

The first act I caught was Greshka. Basically, all you need to know about Greshka is that they are like Japanese gacha machines (dispensable toy vending machines.) In the sense that you don’t know exactly what you’re gonna get but whatever the outcome your stoked just because of the experience.  The five piece neo gypsy collective provided a jazzy, funky, soulful and electric and non-drug induced trip. One song was very reminiscent of Arabian Nights, but more intense and somehow also very fever dream-like, but in a good way. Another was a tune about poverty and some sort of nut, sung in Greek. Tomfoolery and interpretive dance tied into the intricate skill of all instrumentalists was what made the set attractive and interesting, maybe even relieving

You may not have heard the name, but its definitely one to jump on. Embracing the culture of hip hop and weathered life experience, Unda Dwella renders a real and raw sound with relatable lyrics and catchy beats. The Brisbane based rapper, dad, “life enthusiast and fighter of the good fight” is sure to get your vibes in check. Still early on in the day and a small 20-minute set, Dwella managed to pull a good crowd.

Is it wrong of me to assume every rock n roller with grey hair and cut off muscles tees are into Jimmy Barnes…? No but in all seriousness, Valvetrain are Brisbane hard rockers, with a classic Aussie metal sound, ever so pleasant on the ole ear holes. Valvetrain really hit the nail on the head in the riff department, talk about riffs for days!  Set list included tracks After The Fall and One Day. And don’t think we didn’t catch the cheeky Enter Sandman intro that was snuck in, very nice touch.

Ozi Jarel, my absolute highlight of the day. A hip-hop artist, spoken word poet and youth leader-talk about triple threat- and man of the hour for me personally. Oozing with style and swagger, Jarel and co. pumped up the damn energy at The Zoo, getting all of us up jumping and grooving with them, especially with the track Ca$h. Every Tom, Dick and Harry were chanting along“Wu Tang, Wu Tang said cash rules everything around me, O.J, O.J said cash rules everything around me.” Sophisticated and fun word play, toying with experiences based on his upbringing and background and an appetite to bring communities and people together with music spirit and soul. To wrap up the short and sweet set, Just Brookes hopped upon the stage to join in. The mellow ambience was enhanced by the chandeliers and fairy lights, as the night started to roll in.   

Over at the bar stage, B-Syde was pumping out tasty electronic pieces. The beat maker, loop creator, producer and performer creates a beautiful brew of electronic synths, bluesy guitar licks and funky dance style beats. Through his lyrics, pays homage to mother earth and human connection. Again, still not a big crowd but by all means a nice break between the heavier acts on the bill.

Griefcase was up next, back at The Zoo main stage. Melodic hardcore newcomers Griefcase propelled into their set which included tracks Liar, Vipers and Heaven.  Midway through the set, In between tracks, a special birthday shout out, a carolling of “happy birthday” and cake to the face.  Everyone was getting amongst the pit and having a hell of a time, probably wishing, like me, the set went on a little longer.  

Even though I knew SCHEMA was not just a metal and punk festival, I was still glad I had the opportunity to check out some acts not in my usual realm of genres I gravitate to. Jazzy funk, rap and hip-hop, even some DJ sets, but of course, also the metal and rock outfits. The people behind SCHEMA Festival and SCHEMA Collective are bunch of great people, doing great things in and for the community, and just to mention again the amazing work and support they do for many charities and non for profits. SCHEMA Festival round two was a huge success and plans for SCHEMA Festival 2020 are already underway!

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