Gig Review: Dead of Winter Festival

Event: Dead of Winter 2017

Venue: Jubilee Hotel, Fortitude Valley QLD

Date: 29 July 2017

Australia’s current lack of touring alternative/punk/metal festivals has left a huge hole in the calendars of a lot of music fans, however this has left room for some newer, smaller local festivals to develop and existing local fests to flourish. Dead of Winter is one of these existing festivals and has been a gathering of Brisbane’s alternative music cultures on and off since 2009, and this year sees it boast one of the biggest line ups to date. Especially on the heavier side of things.

Dead of Winter, along with a few other local Brisbane music festivals that focus more on the metal and alternative music scenes, really are huge exceptions to the current attitudes subscribing to the “No one wants live music anymore” school of thought. It is only just after noon on a sunny winter Saturday in south east Queensland, the doors have just opened and already a steady stream of people are beginning to form lines in front of every open bar. Coloured wristbands are rapidly applied to waiting arms at the Jubilee Hotel front door and space is filling up inside the venue fast. It is clear early on that tonight is going to be a packed house, which is no small feat when you take into consideration the Jubilee is a 2 story hotel, with a very large beer garden, plus the addition of a huge carpark stage area.

Local thrasher heavyweights Deraign found themselves kicking off proceedings with not just the uphill battle that is playing an opening slot, but also playing the upstairs Drum Cartel stage before the bar had opened. This left thirsty punters having to make the trek downstairs in order to hydrate and the band having to really dig in and deliver a powerful set to take the crowds minds off their lack of beverage. But true to form, the boys delivered a killer set of thundering drums, shred-tastic guitar solos and a frontman/bassist in Daniel Vine that had more than earned his beer by the sets end.

The sunny coast crew from Holistic brought their heavy style of new wave american metal meets metal core down on the Jubilee with a commanding and convincing presence. Frontman Steven Polwarth made the stage seem tiny and the riffs really had the crowd moving. The sun was still up, and the day still very young by any revellers standards, but the party had most definitely started.

For a change of scenery and a bit of fresh air, the Green Beacon beer garden stage was the place to be next. When the show starts with a tin whistle, people around you are drinking from horns and the stage is full of vikings, you are probably at a Valhalore show. Over the past few years their mixture of folk music, power metal, stage presence and high energy live show has earned them quite a following both in the local Brisbane scene and around Australia and their performance at Dead of Winter whips the crowd filling the beer garden into a frenzy of mosh pits, beer drinking and general good times. A genuinely fun and entertaining show

One of the coolest things about festivals like Dead of Winter is the fact you are likely to expose yourself to music or a band you may not have experienced otherwise. For me Tesla Cøils ticked this box perfectly. I had heard their name before and had seen enough hype around them to perk my interest, however due to the music they play and the type of gigs I usually attend, the chance was always slim I would cross paths with a live show from the band. But they did not disappoint! With their gothy, electronic stylings mixed with intensity and confidence, the duo took over the beer garden very convincingly for the entirety of their half hour set.

By this time in the early evening, in the upstairs stage area it was really beginning to become a struggle for vantage points of the stage and room to stand in general, with local band In Death fresh off the back of a US tour cranking up the volume and fun with their own brand of sludgey, groovy death metal. Wearing Hawaiian shirts and grins from ear to ear, they were probably the most non conforming to the Dead of Winter fashion of any band flying the metal flag on the day.

Melbourne’s Hollow World have built up a solid following in Brisbane over the past year or 2, and there were 2 major details that pointed to just how large their fanbase has become up here. Firstly, their set was running at the same time as the farewell show for local hero’s Hollow (Yes, you read that correctly. A metal band named Hollow and a metal band named Hollow World had sets starting at the exact same time on the same festival), yet Hollow World have still managed to pack out the upstairs stage room. Secondly, the disappointed faces of those walking back down the stairs from the Drum Cartel stage due to the room being so packed, and the layout of the room resulting in half the crowd upstairs being unable to actually see the stage. By all reports of those that made it inside the main room, the show was awesome. My own personal review is the music sounded great and I think I saw one of the band members legs and shoe. The jeans were black, as was the shoe.

For anyone that has been around the Brisbane metal scene for more than a few years, you would be familiar with the band Hollow or at least some of its members. Dead of Winter marked the final show ever for the band (Second time this year they have had a final show ever?), and it was a huge occasion. From the first note you could see the nostalgia on the faces of the audience. For some it was the memories of a time when Brisbane metal was on display weekly at places like Rosie’s, The Step Inn or The Basement, for others it was the experience of seeing a bunch of old mates back up on stage for one last hoorah. Whatever their reasons, the crowd participation was huge, with massive energy and interaction from the mosh and even closing the set with a few people jumping up on stage to be a part of the last show Hollow will ever play.

The next hour and a half upstairs is some of south east Queensland’s finest with The Black Swamp followed by Chronolyth making sure the space continues to be standing room only. During these 2 bands, reports start circulating around the festival about how people in the crowds were beginning to fear the floor dropping out from under them. Apparently things began getting that crazy and the concert goers jumping around that much up the front, people thought they could feel the floor beginning to move up and down with the weight and movement. The Black Swamp always bring out more than their fair share of headbangers and if any local band’s frontman will get a crowd moving in a wall of death it’s Chronolyth’s Hamish McSorley, but saying they genuinely rocked the foundations of the venue is a badge of honour for both bands.

I touched on the idea of these multi-genre/musical culture/scene festivals exposing you to bands you wouldn’t normally see under other circumstances. And another band I want to touch on is The Porkers. The crowd freaking loved them! They were that band playing out in the back car park while people in the smoking area were asking each other “who are these guys?” as they overheard the tunes in the background and saw into the huge crowd that was having a complete blast. Now The Porkers are a Ska band really, and it’s not something I’m going to try to pretend to be into, but the fun and good vibes was infectious. There was even reported sightings of certain members from death metal bands in the crowd bopping away with a huge smile on their face.

To show just how polarising the line up was at times, Whoretopsy had just launched into their set over on the deck stage as The Porkers time came to an end. The, at times controversial group, burst into their own version of fun, which consists of slamming death metal, break downs, ridiculously good drumming, techy guitar solos and a full repertoire of tongue-in-cheek lyrics delivered by the force that is Zac Bergholtz. Whoretopsy always seem to win over a crowd, with Dead of Winter being no exception. People packed in front of the stage with the more reserved audience members filling the staircases and upper deck area for vantage points. It was about the 4th time I have seen Whoretopsy this year already and i still don’t grow weary of their performances. Another awesome show in the bag for these guys.

Back upstairs was the place to be in order to catch metal acts for the remainder of the evening. As Paradise Falls are a band that have been through some truly difficult times and endured extremely heartbreaking circumstances between the initial writing process through to the release of their latest album “Digital Ritual”. The loss of a band member and further lineup changes are enough to make a lot of bands walk away from the industry or look for other opportunities. But As Paradise Falls have proven themselves to be committed and very dedicated to what they do, and with the addition of new vocalist Shaun Coar they have a live show and sound that definitely shows the band is not backing down. Instead they show a maturity in their song writing and passionate live show that sets them apart from a great deal of bands they could have been lumped in with. Heavy and focused riffs, mixed with Coar’s diverse range of vocal abilities and no fear of using quieter, more delicate passages kept the attention and interaction with a crowd that doesn’t seem to tire right until the end of the set. Another band I would recommend seeing if you get the chance on their upcoming tour in support of “Digital Ritual”

Up next is a band that many were waiting out to see; Truth Corroded. With the extensive touring and crazy work ethic of these guys, it almost feels like I can refer to them as veterans of the Aussie thrash and death metal scene. Fresh off a recent tour of Asia the boys were in fine form and not pulling any punches. These guys know how to hit hard, and fast, and feel like they are getting right up in your face while doing it, with the appearance at Dead of Winter staying true to this philosophy. Some of the crowd have been here for over 10 hours now and it’s been a long day with plenty of beers and moshpits along the way but Truth Corroded seem to push for that last bit of energy available to those in the room and the crowd are happy to give it.

The evening is rounded out with impeccable taste as Hadal Maw from Melbourne hit the stage as the final act for Dead of Winter 2017. Their heavily textured grooves accompanying the abrasive vocals gives festival goers one last chance to get amongst it or sit back and appreciate the complexity of the compositions performed on stage before them. With eight string guitars droning and chugging away as the night draws to a close, I feel the metal contingency for this years Dead of Winter definitely catered to all tastes of the heavy spectrum, with plenty of solid bands representing their respective sub genres and the combined culture of the alternative scenes, which is really, what the festival is all about.

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