The inaugural No Sleep Til festival rolled into Brisbane on what was a fucking horrendous day for a music festival. The pouring rain didn’t stop punters, if anything it only made them more eager to get in the pit to enjoy what the bands had to offer.
Descendents karaoke, NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, Alkaline Trio, Parkway Drive, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Frenzal Rhomb all braved monsoonal weather to make their mark on the day. You can read all about the Brisbane leg of the festival here.
On an overcast day in the capital of what is meant to be known as ‘The Sunshine State’ many punters made their way into pubs around the city to get fueled up before entering what was to be a day completely awash with the best punk and metal that Australia’s biggest promoters could provide. Saying that it was awash is a complete understatement.
Sydney act, Heroes For Hire have been kicking goals both here and abroad and were awarded with an early slot at the festival. The early time and the small number of punters who had made their way to the grounds didn’t stop the four piece from powering through their swag of pop-punk material. It had the kids jumping and that’s the main thing.
Canadian metal outfit, 3 Inches of Blood saw the stage early in the day but they in no way played like there were only a few punters watching. You could have been forgiven thinking that the four gents were playing a headlining set. Wailing on down the microphone was front man, Cam Pipes with the injection of stealth guitar work by both Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark. “Silent Killer” received an enthusiastic response from the crowd and the biggest one of the set.
It wasn’t until Australian punk staples, Frenzal Rhomb, took to the stage that the skies fully opened and it began bucketing down rain. It wouldn’t stop until Monday morning. That didn’t deter people but it’s not like Frenzal fans give a shit anyway. Jason ‘Jay’ Whally looks and sounds the same as he did in the 90’s carrying the careless attitude that comes with much of their music. His screaming on the other hand has, like a fine wine, improved with age or at least coming off with more balls behind it. “Genius” is sure thing for these guys with the mosh pit surging forward whether it be an effort from punters to sing-a-long or get warm is a fine line. “4 Litres” along with “Never Had So Much Fun” saw steam begin to rise from the mass of wet bodies jumping in unison. While it’s a pretty safe bet to expect Frenzal on most Australian festival line-ups, they never disappoint.
It wasn’t a long wait for Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, even if it felt like 100 years in the pouring rain. The punk rock supergroup, dressed in their trademarked Hawaiian shirts and white pants, were instantly popular pulling one of the biggest crowds that the festival had seen so far. Double it if you include the people who had taken to watching the show from the safety of the covered grandstands. Spike, like all good frontmen, moved from side to side of the stage in a full white suit leading the charge of typical covers that the band have made famous for the second time, amongst a different demographic of people than the first. From the “Down Under” EP was a cover of INXS’ “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which in true Gimmes style, had more guts that the original. Many punters were extremely familiar with this track thanks to limited CD collections of most Australians commercial radio stations.
Fat Mike disappeared from the stage only to be replaced by none other than Eric Melvin for a few numbers. It’s impossible to chose who did the best job on the bass, with both gents making their mark on the 50 minute set. Joey Cape, complete with fire red hair cracked a few jokes and with Spike and Fat Mike back at the helm the band finished with the Boyz II Men classic, “End Of The Road”. Just as quickly as they had arrived, they had finished and the crowd dispersed faster than the marijuana smell that had been hanging around.
Alkaline Trio were fresh from a break and they looked fresh on stage. The crowd by this point in the day had swelled with ponchos and umbrellas. “Mercy Me” and “Warbrain” proved the crowd favourites with many people singing with open arms. Matt Skiba owned, strutting around the stage in between vocal duties. Derek Grant proved why he is one of the best drummers in modern punk rock, twirling sticks without ever losing a beat. The set was littered with all the favourites much to the delight of the mosh pit. Towards the end of the set it was realised that there wasn’t actually a smoke machine on the stage, rather the mass of bodies moving in the cold air was producing steam that hovered around the stage.
Florida’s A Day To Remember brought their version of ‘popmosh’ to what was nothing more than a muddy arena. From the grandstands at the back of the festival, the gigantic crowd bounced in time to the bands choreographed jumps. The younger demographic of the crowd was evident but they partied harder than some of the oldies ever could. For those 40 minutes at least.
While the mix of punks and metal kids would be a conservatives nightmare, the weather had placed everyone in the same boat or at least made people wish that they were actually in a boat. Friends or strangers, there were a handful of people who weren’t soaked to the core and this was about to reach new heights as GWAR took the stage. While musically, it isn’t particularly interesting, it is the theatrics of the set that made it impossible to look away. The decapitation of the first alien saw blood spurt thirty rows back. Those people whom sat at the barricade for the set came out red, it was a concoction of fake blood that even the rain couldn’t wash away. The theatrics ended with a Oderus’ giant cuttlefish penis being cut and liquid squirting all over the crowd.
While being no strangers to Australian soil, it had been a while between drinks with the Dropkick Murphys. The set was littered with songs from their studio albums however it was “Barroom Hero” that had the crowd up in arms, all wishing they could be flashing the underside of imaginary kilts. In true Dropkicks fashion there was dancing, bagpipes and mandolin. Hell, even Al Barr whipped out the trusty acoustic guitar for a song in there. New songs saw the punters go momentarily silent but all was forgiven when the set finished with the bands hit, “Shipping Up To Boston”.
As the time for Parkway Drive drew closer, it was almost watching the crowd split into two age groups. Those of fewer years were pulled to the Parkway stage like moths to a flame while the older cats either stayed put for the remainder of Dropkicks or attempted to find shelter from the relentless rain in the stands at the back of the festival. The boys from Byron Bay would have gathered one of, if not the biggest crowds of the festival.
MegaFX, wait that’s wrong. Never trust a bands banner. NOFX came on just as the rain had stopped. It hadn’t actually stopped but by this point in the evening everyone was too numb to feel it, along with their feet or knees or head etc. While they opened with “Bob”, the wear and tear on the band was no more evident than in Fat Mikes voice. While not polished on a good way, it was huskier than usual but this didn’t stop him. El Hefe wasn’t doing cartwheels this time around but he was cracking jokes and paying Fat Mike out, usually about his asshole. Fat Mike wasn’t kind to the metal kids either and Megadeth didn’t escape the fury with the comment along the lines of “shit, they can’t even spell their name right”.
Eric Melvin did his thing the whole time after encountering some technical guitar issues that saw his contributions removed from the set for an extended period time. While this was going on El Hefe and Mike move the set forward by playing “Straight Edge”. “Franco Un-American, Pharmacists Daughter, Blasphemy (The Victimless Crime), The Quitter, I Wanna Be An Alcholic, Eat The Meek, Sold Out” and “The Malachi Crunch” were other inclusions in the set that was about 15 punk songs played in the space of 20 minutes with the other 40 being filled with shit talking that only NOFX can make mildly hilarious.
Fat Mike: What did the Mexican get for Christmas?
El Helfe: I don’t know. What?
Fat Mike: MY BIKE!
Let me set the scene here. Months upon months ago, when Descendents posted on their website that the band would be playing a short run of dates in Australia shit was lost all over the place. The band that many had stood in the pouring rain all day to see had finally arrived. From the get go it was evident that while Milo Aukerman is a runner and physically fit, his voice on the other hand hadn’t withstood the previous two days performances. From the first lyrics he spat into the microphone, his voice was fleeting at best. Everyone in the crowd felt for the guy. Then in a sight that not many will get to see Descendents karaoke began.
Bill, Stephen and Karl held their ground all delivering energetic performances made more respectable by their ages. When the fellow bands took grasp on the situation they took it upon themselves to lend a helping hand or mouth as it were. Fat Mike and Eric Melvin of NOFX, Tom and Jay from Frenzal, Al Barr from Dropkicks, Derek and Matt from Alkaline were all there to sing a Descendents songs. Matt Skiba being the most enthusiastic of all these almost having to be dragged off the stage. All the while Milo was never far away, injecting what was left of his voice sporadically into the set. It had been a long twenty year wait for Australia and while not the performance that one had arrived expecting, watching the party that was happening on the stage was worth every penny and every minute waited.
The band left the stage and much to the surprise of many returned for an encore. Completely unheard of at an Australian festival. This time however, Stephen took to the drums, Milo had the bass, Bill was on guitar and Karl took over on vocal duties. A sight to behold indeed. After two songs it was over but there promise to return will be etched in the minds of fans until their return.
No Sleep Til Brisbane was, hands down, the wettest festival that I’ve been to in my entire life but also the best festival line-up that this country has seen in a long time. Had the sun been shining like every other day would have gone down as one of my top festival experiences but despite the shithouse weather, it was still declared a complete success. Here’s hoping the festival returns in 2011 as it will take something huge to top the quality acts that were provided in 2010.