Words by Natalie Blacklock
On the back of the release of massive first single All My Friends Are Dead from their upcoming seventh studio album, ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them’ (set for release on 21 February 2020), Queensland 4-piece The Amity Affliction have embarked on a huge regional tour of Australia as presented by UNIFIED Music Group and Select Music. The tour has seen the band and touring buddies Melbourne nu-metal outfit, Ocean Grove, and New Zealand metalcore band, Antagonist A.D., take in locations around the country that have missed a local show from The Amity Affliction in recent years. This weekend sees the final leg of the tour hit Queensland with two massive shows on the Gold Coast followed by one last stand for this run of dates on the Sunshine Coast.
The venue for the evening is hands down one of the Gold Coast’s premier music venues. The Coolangatta Hotel, located close to the border New South Wales and Queensland is situated right on the beachfront of one of the most beautiful breaks in the world. Often seen as a laid back, surfer’s paradise, Coolangatta and the Coolangatta Hotel have certainly earnt a reputation of the years as a must-play venue for local and international acts alike. Having played host to the likes of A Day To Remember, Less Than Jake, Karnivool, Millencolin, Reel Big Fish, The Bronx, Unwritten Law and Violent Soho – the upstairs bandroom is no stranger to quality punk and hardcore shows.
Leading the way on the evening’s bill were local hardcore outfit, Nerve Damage. With a mix of sludge metal and hardcore, these boys wasted no time in getting the crowd into high spirits, bringing so much energy to the stage. The set started with a sincere Acknowledgement of Country to the land’s traditional owners – which in the week following the Australia Day / Invasion Day debate is more important than ever. Frontman Shaun Allen’s engaging stage presence and commanding vocal range was on-point, so much so that it was difficult to look away. United with their tight instrumentation and politically driven lyricism, Nerve Damage were not shy to tackle the big issues. Close The Gap, referring to the Federal Government’s ‘Close The Gap Initiative’, devised to bridge the divide between indigenous and non-indigenous health, oozed passion and strong guitar work. Everyone; Nails was an absolute thumper on the drums before the hard-hitting Poisoned the River kicked in, discussing to past mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. At the mid-point of the set, the band unleashed their cover of Australian band X’s 1979 track Police. When the song was written, Police forces of the day were said to use excessive force to intimidate and to spread fear and now many Indigenous Australians fear history is repeating itself in light of recent Indigenous deaths in custody.
For their final track of the set, Nerve Damage touched on issues of mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder in returned servicemen and women. The track, War, written about frontman Shaun Allen’s father’s post-war experience when the Government of the day ‘turned their back on veterans’. Allen ventured down onto the barrier and into the middle of the moshpit, screaming, “It’s a war” with his shirt pulled over his head. Nerve Damage made a great impression – they played a high-energy set, executing everything they did with strength and an infectious passion for social issues close to their heart. If you haven’t heard of Nerve Damage before, I definitely recommend you check them out.
Up next were Antagonist A.D. all the way from New Zealand. The lads aren’t new to Australian shores by any means – having toured down under with bands including Carpathian, The Red Shore, 50 Lions and Parkway Drive since the mid-2000’s. Bounding out onto the stage, Frontman Sam Crocker got right to it, “What the fuck is up? How the fuck are ya? It’s time to wake the fuck up Gold Coast”, before welcoming the masses to the Gates of Hell, which saw guitarist Matthew Livingstone’s backing vocals come through strongly although it took the crowd a while to get into it. Pure Fear was a total headbanger featuring heavy guitars from Livingstone and bassist Luke Manson. Frontman Sam Crocker spoke about the recent fires facing Australia “Your country is on fire and it’s burning to the fucking ground. What the fuck is your government doing about it? You should be fucking angry. Fuck the Government. Fuck Scott Morrison” before unleashing their track War Crimes, which features a strong early-years Enter Shikari vibe that I couldn’t get enough of.
Well known for their views as a band who stands up for what they believe in, Antagonist A.D. took a moment to put their heart on their sleeve; “We’re an anti-fascist band so if you don’t like someone because of the colour of the skin or their beliefs, this isn’t the place for you. Plus, if you’re here to make someone feel uncomfortable, then you should get the fuck out”. As the crowd cheered, more circle pits ensued for Mother, Father taken from the band’s 2015 record ‘Haunt Me As I Roam’. Newer track A.M.P.D., which addresses the notion that humans are destroying the earth each and every day hit hard with Drummer Jai Morrow really stepping up and taking control on the skins. Antagonist A.D. closed out their set with No Justice, with Crocker laying out the challenge for the crowd to “Turn this place upside down. Come get this mic from me. We haven’t see you up here all night” as he got up close and personal with the crowd on the barrier for final bridge. Since the first time I saw Antagonist A.D. right back in 2007, these guys have continued to grow as a Trans-Tasman powerhouse of punk and hardcore and it’s so great to see them continue to thrive.
The room filled up even more as Ocean Grove began their set. Hailing from Melbourne, the 4-piece have quickly ascended to the top of Australia’s heavy music scene in recent years with their unique blend of nu-metal, grunge and hardcore punk. Opening with Junkie$ followed up with Intimate Alien, the lads had the Coolangatta Hotel crowd jumping around and screaming the lyrics right from the outset. The excitement from Frontman Dale Tanner was palpable as he exclaimed that “It’s so great to see so many beautiful faces in the audience” before he quite literally launching into Stratosphere Love, ending up on the front barrier with mic grabs galore for those lucky enough to be in the front row.
Tanner slowed things down as he introduced their next track, The Wrong Way, as a song about “Taking that one thing that makes you feel weird or different and making it your best asset”, with the crowd clapping along in-sync almost instantly. Ocean Grove picked up the speed and had everyone jumping out of their skin for SUNNY, taken from their upcoming album ‘Flip Phone Fantasies’; a feel-good summer banger about getting outside, having fun with your mates and staying healthy, bassist Twiggy Hunter’s backing vocals really set it off, making it a clear highlight of the set. In speaking of the recent fires that ravaged Australia, Thousand Dollar People was the band’s response to our leaders who aren’t leading from the front.
The “not-for-moshing” Slow Soap Soak went over well with the crowd as drummer Sam Bassal, launched an all-out assault on our eardrums. A song for the OG Ocean Grove fans, Thunderdome, saw Tanner back on the barrier, full of hi-5’s for the crowd as the guitarist Matthew Henley riffed along, echoing the sounds of Oasis hit (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. The whole room jumped and danced along as Ocean Grove wrapped up their set with clear fan-favourite, Ask For The Anthem, as Tanner (who spent most of the song on the barrier) encouraged the crowd surfers to come and say hello one last time. Ocean Grove definitely brought the goods here and served up an interesting, engaging and most importantly good vibes laden set. I think it is safe to say there’s big things to come from this Melbourne outfit.
Since forming in 2003, while still in High School in Gympie, The Amity Affliction have undergone various changes in line-up, but one thing that has remained constant in the band is their power to bring punk and hardcore music to the forefront in the scene both in Australia and overseas.Over the years, The Amity Affliction have had four consecutive #1 ARIA debuts for ‘Chasing Ghosts’ (2012), ‘Let The Ocean Take Me’ (2014), ‘This Could Be Heartbreak’ (2016) and latest album‘Misery’(2018) – a testament to the sincerity and emotional outpouring that fans of The Amity Affliction keep coming back for. With AC/DC’s Jailbreak acting as somewhat of a ‘walk-on’ track, The Amity Affliction finally took the stage with frontman Joel Birch the last to emerge. Kicking off with a bang, with two tracks from upcoming record, the unreleased Coffin and first single All My Friends Are Dead, complete with little ‘finger gun’ actions from Birch certainly got the crowd in the mood to mosh. Bassist / vocalist Ahren Stringer got stuck into the audience asking, “What the fuck is up Gold Coast?” before Amity ripped straight into the emotionally charged and heavy-hitting Open Letter taken from their 2012 album ‘Chasing Ghosts’.
Taking it down a notch, Birch commanded the audience to “Let me see this fucking room spin” as the 4-piece unleashed the almost-anthemic love song Shine On, which really highlighted the ‘clean’ vocal harmony of Stringer. The stage lights darkened as the crowd gave all they had singing (cc: screaming) every word back of the gritty and groovy Ivy (Doomsday), as the band matched their energy, bounding around the stage. The Amity Affliction took a step back in time with Chasing Ghosts as Birch, Stringer and guitarist Dan Brown all offered the strength of their vocal power on the choruses.
Newest single, Soak Me In Bleach, dedicated to bassist / vocalist Ahren Stringer’s Mum and Dad (who were in the audience),was stunning to experience live. Stringer’s whispered lines of “Soak me in bleach” were equal parts chilling and beautiful and really gave the song a new quality that you don’t quite appreciate in studio recordings. Frontman Joel Birch, who’s been very open with his own struggles with mental health, made an impassioned plea to the crowd; “Before you go home tonight make sure you check on your friends”, before tearing through Death’s Hands, which just wouldn’t have been complete without the crowd screaming back “Hey death, get fucked!” at the top of their lungs.
Newest Amity member and drummer Jon Longobardi made his presence felt on this track particularly, making every single person in the crowd feel something ignite deep inside with every smash of the skins. I Bring The Weather With Me from 2016 record ‘This Could Be Heartbreak’ was all about the vocals – the Birch x Stringer x Brown harmonies paired with the crowd singalongs made for a euphoric atmosphere. Topped with a stunning guitar solo from Dan Brown, this was definitely one of the standout tracks of the evening.
An emotional Frontman Birch opened up to the audience, saying, “One of my friends died two years ago today. I needed this tonight. Thank you”. Birch, was of course referring to the painful loss of close friend, colleague and all-round legend to many (including this reviewer) in the Brisbane music scene, the one and only Shane Collins – the loss of a character like that of the charismatic Collins hit the community really hard.
Feels Like I’m Dying picked up the mood a little with its slight electro feel while the powerful and dark Drag The Lake compounded the sheer emotion of loss echoed by Birch moments earlier. Closing the main set with a 1-2 punch of bangers from 2014’s ‘Let The Ocean Take Me’ saw the crowd really come into their own. Don’t Lean On Me was a powerful reminder how hard it can be to take on other’s burdens when you aren’t strong enough yourself and saw the moshers in the crowd take overbut bassist / vocalist Ahren Stringer still wanted more. Before the band launched into Pittsburgh, he asked the crowd, “Do you guys know the words?” As the crowd screamed in agreeance, he retorted “Fucking prove it. We wanna hear you sing the whole first verse” and sing they did – the crowd simply could not get enough. As the band exited the stage, the calls for an encore echoed ever louder. Soon enough, they emerged for one final song – a slightly stripped-back version of All Fucked Up. With Brown armed with an acoustic guitar, it seemed like there wasn’t a single word that the crowd didn’t yell back, making for the perfect end to a hyper-emotional set from The Amity Affliction.
This wasn’t my first rodeo with The Amity Affliction crew, nor will it be the last, but I can say there are definite benefits for bands (even of their status) to strip it back and play regional tours like this. The energy at smaller capacity shows feels far more enthusiastic and more involved than what you’d experience in larger and less intimate venues – you could really feel the whole room mosh, jump and scream along to every single song. The Coolangatta Hotel crowd sure knew how to party, even on a Wednesday night – proving that the cure for the mid-week blues is live music and lots of it.
The Amity Affliction’s new album ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them’ is out 21 February 2020. However, if you can’t wait, be sure to catch The Amity Affliction on the remaining dates of their ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ Tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Thursday 30 January – Coolangatta Hotel | Coolangatta, Gold Coast (18+ / SOLD OUT)
Friday 31 January – Venue 114 | Bokarina, Sunshine Coast (18+)