words & photos: Rick Clifford @rcstills
“That being the case, gigs like this might be the last remaining testament to the visceral display of emotion between punter and band.”
31st of October, doesn’t hold much significance in Australia. Well, at least it never used to. But in the interests of escapism, drinking and ‘avin a laugh, almost any historical relevance can take a backseat to celebration. Tonight is definitely one of those cases. Entering the Croxton Bandroom any other night of the month you’d know what to expect, give or take a few extra lights on stage. Instead tonight its fully decked out as a “Haunted House” complete with cotton wool cobwebs draped around 80% of the venue, zombie clown displays, skeletons donned in top hats amongst a trove of other goodies. Tonight LA hardcore legends The Bronx are bringing their homeland holiday of Halloween to the Croxton with the aptly named Bronx-o-ween!
This being the last night of their Australian tour, there was already a buzz in the air. Coupled with the enticing prize of money, vinyl and the opportunity to shave the moustache of guitarist Joby J. Ford, for best costume of the night, there was a stellar array of costumes on display from those Bronx fans keen enough to get amongst it.
Costumes weren’t limited to just the punters coming through the doors tonight. Openers for the entire tour Private Function jumped out onto the stage to the tune of Limp Bizkit all clothed head to toe in their best Fred Durst, barring bassist who took on the - Wes Borland - full body paint approach. After about two seconds of reprieve, the Melbourne lads tore up their opening slot, sparing little to no time to take a breather. Their aggressive and enigmatic punk/ hardcore stylings taking a leaf from their headliner counterparts are well received as the crowd slowly edges closer and closer to the stage. Their task of amping up the Wednesday night crowd being brought on as a challenge to overcome come, successfully, it would seem. Taking on their persona characters for one song to “Break Stuff” in the form of a Limp Bizkit cover, which obviously was a guilty pleasure of the majority and went down a treat. Topping off their set with a punk anthem of sorts “I Wish Australia Had Its Guns Again” which I couldn’t tell if it was a pro-gun cry or a satirical jab at the current climate surrounding all that shtuff.
Main support on the tour and local Melbourne metal hero’s High Tension, spared no time or pleasantries in getting to the point. Dressed as the reverent metal lord King Diamond and walking out to the artist’ aptly named track Halloween, the stage and vibe is set, if it wasn’t already. The brooding and ominous introductions quickly dissipate when singer Karina Utomo belts out the first growl. As always, High Tension are unrelenting in their delivery and solidarity. As fluent and seamless as it gets when it comes to the execution of a solid metal act, being a - Solid. Metal. Act. Owning that which is theirs, High Tension have surpassed any nagging questions of their genuine place amongst the scene and absolutely shatter any “norms” within the “saturated” industry. Whilst they have been in this scene for awhile now, they’re slowly but surely taking their rightful place within the Australian metal scene, backing up their latest release Purge with a string of unrelenting headline tours and feature support slots. Which I’m sure is why even at a Bronx show there is a decent amount of HT fans, lining the front barrier getting amongst it.
Setting the pace in an almost sideways direction(as you would expect), The Bronx swagger out onto the stage in full Elvis jumpsuits to the tune of 2001: A Space Odyssey and classic Elvis intro ala “Prince From Another Planet”. Singer Matt separating himself from fellow bandmates, dressed in the jujitsu black jumpsuit Elvis, strolls out onto the stage kicks and classic Elvis stances, owning it. The moment is quickly broken into chaos as 2013’s Unholy Hand kicks off what is sure to be an exercise in extremes.
Whilst taking photos in the chaotic security pit, Shitty Future’s classic bass line intro ignites a fuse in my adolescent self and I’m forced to manoeuvre myself and my camera amongst fist pumps in the air and yelling out verse and chorus.. yes, I’m a fan.
The theme of the night deep rooted in the bands psyche - halloween - represents not only good times, but a chance to let loose. This coupled with the fact this is the final show before leaving our Oz shores, the high amongst the band and the crowd is palatable. Two thirds of the way through their set, stopping the anarchy of bodies flying everywhere and hardcore pit bros smashing the shit out of each other, singer Matt Caughthran calls the finalist of the costume competition to come up on stage to display the best outfits of the night. Through a lengthy process of elimination what was 15+ people gets narrowed down to a dude in full “Banana Man” outfit, our winner, our hero. After a live shave of moustache it seems like the last time we heard some music was years ago. So naturally to kick things back on the chaotic side, the guitar intro to Knifeman commences and the dials get turned from zero to eleven, real quick!
Spending a large majority of this time in the pit amping up the crowd, Matt C is no stranger to this approach and somehow is at home amongst the mess of bodies, smashing into him, hugging and kissing his bald head(read Elvis wig). His presents in the pit doing the job, as the mass crowd is back on point, sweaty, wide eyed and somewhat resembling the human equivalent of a river rapid. The manifestation of accumulative frustration and release, unique to the hardcore/ punk scene is something that is necessary this day in age of bands and punters “going through the motions”. Pay your money, watch a band play some songs, go home, upload a video to instagram, sleep. Whilst this, in part, is the case for most gigs, hardcore shows just wouldn’t exist with either of the sides not contributing. That being the case, gigs like this might be the last remaining testament to the visceral display of emotion between punter and band.