Gig Review: Dead Of Winter Festival 2018

Show: Dead Of Winter Festival

Venue: The Tivoli & Jubilee Hotel, Brisbane

Date: Saturday, July 7th 2018

Review by: Tomina Vincent

Photos by: TamCam Images

Fortitude Valley is blackened by metal band shirts and painted faces today. Dead Of Winter is back for another epic year, sporting its biggest lineup to date, and the excitement is electrifying. Let’s dive in.

We walk in right as Hammers begin their set on the Hysteria stage. These guys are super energetic and serve a straight to the point, dirty and abrasive rich and roll, and the crowd loves every minute. There is crowd surfing (even though the venue is covered in signs that strictly prohibit it), loud applause and beer-stained t-shirts everywhere. We really are in for a party today.

Next we catch Nerdlinger from Sydney on the car park stage. They’re a pop punk fan’s dream and they clearly have fun on stage. Although they feel a little out of place here, by the end of their set the crowd is loving them and they leave the stage to loud applause.

Heading back inside, the Jubilee is becoming incredibly crowded and making my way over to The Black Swamp’s set is a little difficult. The place is abuzz as they take the stage and the next 30 minutes we are slammed with a bass heavy, whiskey-tinted bluesy rock, infused with the gravely vocals of frontman Luke Hosking. It feels like a change of pace from the previous acts, but a welcome one, and punters certainly agree.

Next, Hightime launch into their set with a ferocious energy, somewhat strangely coupled with wide smiles and high fives. There’s something truly compelling about this female-fronted punk act (disclaimer: we don’t think female-fronted is a genre, but we are describing the band for those unfamiliar with them). It’s a blend of Blink 182 and Refused - it’s exciting and fresh, and the two or so minute songs receive a massive response.

At this point of the day, the Tivoli has opened its doors and its time to catch Sensaii. They seem a little bit unsure on a stage as massive as this one, but a couple of songs in they really bring on the show. It’s an enjoyable set and the start to an epic day at the Tivoli. We head back to the Jubilee though, to catch the mighty Decryptus. As soon as they walk on stage, the crowd starts their own mosh pit, and here’s the curious thing - despite being filled with thousands of metal heads, boozing up and moshing, the entire event feels safe and no one is bothering anyone. It feels like a true brotherhood here today, a community that’s come together to celebrate music. Dead of Winter, you got it right.

Unfortunately the upstairs stage proves to be unbearably hot so we head down to catch Earth Rot. These veterans of death metal are in fine form today, and they play to a packed out Drum Cartel Stage. That’s another great thing we saw at the festival - there was plenty of punters for every act.

Heading over to the car park, we witness the legend that is Flangipanis tear up the 4zzz stage. Although they had some technical and sound issues, the band delivered high octane punk rock like only they can, playing lots of classics and almost ensuing a riot in the crowd. Another incredible front woman honoured today, which is also great to see.

Back to the Tivoli, we catch the start of Deadlights’ set. These guys have been making waves in the heavy music community and I discover that it’s well deserved. They’re energetic, passionate and very polished, sporting the largest crowd on the Tivoli stage so far. Singer Dylan Davidson is a real showman and certainly knows how to pull heart strings - a large portion of the audience is singing along. This is a really exciting band and I can’t wait to hear what’s next for them. My prediction is world domination within 5 years.

The place fills up quite significantly as Pagan get ready to burn the house down. This holy church of blackened rock-and-roll is fronted by the fiercest woman in heavy music today, Nikki Brumen and she’s become an almost cult figure of late. To say I was excited to watch Pagan is an understatement, and luckily they exceeded every expectation I had. It’s not just the fact that they’re tight, incredibly entertaining to watch and sound great, but they seem genuinely stoked to be on stage, and their energy is infectious. There is a sincerity in this band that isn’t very common and Pagan prove to be a major highlight of the day.

Back to the Jubilee, I rush in to catch Desecrator. This is a brutal set, and perhaps the most violent the crowd gets all day. It’s common for live sound to suffer a little during festivals, and that’s understandable - the tight schedule is a huge challenge - but Desecrator sound just as overwhelming and punchy as I wanted them to, and my neck hurts after this set. I am undoubtedly not the only one.

And now for one of the most fun acts of the day - Blowhard. If you’re not familiar with Blowhard, that needs to change. This is basically a punk-meets-ska brass band. This is where the real dancing begins and by this point everyone is at their wildest, but also well behaved, and this is a good-natured wild party that had the whole venue bouncing.

After a quick drink and a breather, we head over to one of the most highly anticipated sets of Dead Of Winter - New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry. Seemingly within a day, these guys became hot property in Australia and overseas, touring the European festival circuit as their very first major tour. My first thought as they walked on stage was that these kids needed to have a guardian with them. But as soon as they started playing, it was a whole different story. Their sound doesn’t match their age at all - they are drum-skin tight, their live sound is enormous and they perform beautifully. The hype is well deserved, and I suggest you snap up your tickets straight away when they roll into town next.

Back at the (freezing) Tivoli, I catch half of Ocean Grove’s set. The crowd response to this set was massive and while I don’t get it, I could appreciate how much of themselves Ocean Grove put into their live show, and ultimately I witness an emotionally charged and honest exchange between this band and their fans, and although not a fan, I still feel like I was a part of a very special moment. And that’s really what Dead of Winter got so right this year. It’s impossible to please everyone, and it’s impossible to see every band on the lineup; but the bands here today have almost cult followings and at the end of the day, everyone leaves happy, because the magic of music is captured and shared, one way or another.

It’s getting late and the excitement reaches boiling point as the headline sets begin. I decide to split my time between Polaris and Osaka Punch. I catch Polaris at the Tivoli, and to say I had enormous expectations of this band is a severe understatement. It’s a great show - the crowd is swooning and singing along deafeningly loud. The sound is great and Polaris really take us on a journey. Singer Jamie Hails Is engaging and gives fans plenty of love, with the entire band sporting huge smiles and open arms. Many hearts are open tonight, and once again, it really is the fans who made this set feel special.

Finally, I join the Osaka Punch party. And what a phenomenal way to end the day. This band is pretty much legendary in Brisbane, but if you don’t know who Osaka Punch are, I would probably fail at describing them. The only thing I can assure you of is that they will make you dance in ways you didn’t thinks you’d ever dance, and they will entertain you until you drop. This is perhaps the most fun set today. The band is incredibly fun to watch and they are captivating on stage. With their funk-infused tracks that break into prog rock and metal at the drop of a hat, it’s hard to take your eyes off them, and of course it’s impossible not to move. With endless antics, an epic stage dive and loud applause, this hour of music is the perfect night cap to one of the most fun and well organised festivals I’ve ever attended.

All in all, Dead of Winter is a huge success, and rightly so. A quick round up!

The good things: the atmosphere of this event is truly epic. It feels like a home for the misfits - a place where rock and metal fans can be themselves and make new friends. It is very well organised, everything is on time, as promised and of the highest quality. There’s a decent amount of versatility in the lineup, the crowd is well behaved and respectful, the amenities are kept clean and the bar lines are never too long. The commute between venues is smooth and quick, the checkpoints well staffed and there’s information about set times and stages at every corner. There are great food options as well, and plenty of small pop up bars. And of course, the bands are absolutely incredible.

The not so good things: The craft, market stall/sideshow side of the festival feels a little unnecessary and often rushed, but props to the organisers for trying something different.

After an epic day at Dead Of Winter, it’s obvious that the festival performed exceptionally well this year. One can only imagine the scale of organisation such an event requires and the organisers have truly done a great job with the 2018 show. As someone who has been a regular attendee of Dead of Winter since it’s inception, I’m stoked to see its continued improvement and I hope for an even bigger event next year.

10 out of 10.

improvement and I hope for an even bigger event next year. 10/10

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