Calling a brand new festival ‘Good Things’ is a pretty bold move. After all, it leaves the door open for a lot of potentially tough questions. Will it be good for example and, more importantly, will it be a thing? Fortunately, the festival’s inaugural visit to Sydney lived up to its name, and Australia’s loud, riff-laden, hard-rockin’ festival scene felt whole again for the first time in years.
Early on, the local cohort of RedHook, Ecca Vandal, Void of Vision and WAAX set the bar high for the international acts to come. Despite the sweltering heat, Sydneysiders jumped, sang and smashed their way through each set, ravaging their throats before the day had barely begun.
Soon after, Brit boys Boston Manor turned a cramped stage into an arena-sized performance. Although each member barely had two feet of room between them, they tossed and turned while narrowly avoiding each other’s instruments. Frontman Henry Cox, impressed by the wild mosh, declared everyone in Australia was going hard because our brains had been “cooked by the sun”. Makes sense, really.
With big old grins stretched across their faces, Northlane kicked things up yet another notch, dropping down-tuned riffs amid some serious pyrotechnics. There’s something to be said about watching a band in their element having an absolute ball on stage. At the other end of the spectrum, La Dispute pummelled punters with unrelenting rage. They made quick work of the crowd by drawing every last drop of energy that hadn’t yet been consumed by the sun, cramming a collection of classics into a half-hour set.
Making their Australian debut to much fanfare – and one of the biggest crowds of the day – Japan’s Babymetal proved that language ain’t no barrier when you’ve got amazing outfits, synchronised dancing and some extremely talented musicians backing you up. The reaction to the theatrical display was almost cult-like, with big Babymetal and Japanese flags strewn around the mosh. The constant stream of crowdsurfers and an intensely devoted mosh pit kicked up such a thick cloud of dust that it blocked the view for anyone unlucky enough to be standing at the back. It was a tough contest but Babymetal were by far the most entertaining act on the day.
Meanwhile The Used delivered a fist-pumping, high-jumping extravaganza of emo-punk feels centred around their biggest hits. Frontman Bert McCracken filled the gaps between songs by rallying cries of support for progressive social change, sharing stories of overcoming addiction and… quoting Shakespeare. Even if referencing the Bard comes off as a little self-indulgent, McCracken is nothing if not genuine, a point which was solidified when he brought both of his daughters on stage at various points in the show. His older girl had a blast despite being bemused by the whole thing. His youngest seemed indifferent, what with being a baby and all.
Metal stalwarts Bullet For My Valentine weren’t the most active band on stage, save for guitarist Michael Paget who had all the classic rock moves in his repertoire. But the sheer prowess of their tight live performance more than made up for the lack of motion. Roaring drums and guitars ripped across the dusty landscape, as fans tore each other apart and belted out the lyrics to one of the heaviest soundtracks of the festival.
Tonight Alive were a bit disappointing, however. The performance hit all the right marks, and singer Jenna McDougall spent every second between songs dishing out uplifting sentiment for the army of awkward, alt-rock loving youth. But from the crowd it seemed like the band just didn’t as much heart in it as they usually do.
All hell broke loose when the Dropkick Murphys hit the stage. The ragtag bunch of renegades from Massachusetts walked out, kicked down the bar doors and invited everyone in for a grand old time. And when they launched into the riotous bro-anthem “The Boys Are Back”, many a beer was raised across the festival, paired with an Irish jig or eight. Their unstoppable energy, infectious sing-alongs and good old-fashioned grunt had the crowd cheering for more as the sun set behind them. Frankly, there’s nothing quite like grabbing a friend, raising your tinnie and screaming, “I’m shipping up to Boston!”
The sun had finally gone to bed by the time Stone Sour hit the stage, but that didn’t stop the heat. Their straight-up, no-nonsense, romping, stomping, riff-roaring rock and metal set was invigorating, as they relished every opportunity to keep fans on their feet after a long day in the dust. If Slipknot is the serious band, then Stone Sour is frontman Corey Taylor’s party release, complete with pyro and a handheld confetti canon. Plus it was his birthday, and it only took two songs before thousands of metalheads started to celebrate and sing, much to his amusement. “The big mouth got a little bit older today,” he quipped. Though their set certainly showed that age is just a number.
And after a whole day dancing and ripping each other to pieces in a 30-degree dustbowl, Sydney pulled it together one last time to celebrate 25 years of Smash with The Offspring. A welcome nostalgia trip for the band and fans alike, everyone gave it their all during timeless hits like “Bad Habit”, “Come Out and Play”, and of course “Self Esteem”, which saw mosh pits extending as far as the eye could see. 25 years on, these guys are proud to pull off these songs live – Noodles even excitedly screamed about how Smash is still the highest-selling independent record of all time.
The hits flowed into the encore with everyone dancing like they were in their teens again to “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” and “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, while “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” got that last little bit of energy out of everyone’s legs. A stripped-back piano version of “Gone Away” showed that frontman Dexter Holland still has the chops to bust out a ballad, while a surprise cover of “Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC gave Noodles a chance to rip into some hard rock solos. Then, just as everyone thought things were calming down, the opening chords to “The Kids Aren’t Alright” rung out, pulling thousands of punks of all ages together for one more solid tune before the day came to a close.
Being a new festival Good Things wasn’t without its teething problems. At times you could forget about hearing anything but bass if you weren’t stood directly in line with the speakers. The secondary stages were far too small, barely able to hold half the bands, and some extra shade and seating areas on an uncomfortably hot day wouldn’t have gone astray.
But these are small things that can easily be fixed when Good Things (hopefully) returns in 2019. The crowd was lovely, everything ran on time, and most importantly, the bands were top notch. So please don’t go anywhere, Good Things, because we can confidently say on behalf of everyone that loves heavy music, Australia needs you. You’re a good thing.