There’s something particularly evocative about walking up to Festival Hall tonight. Daylight savings means the sun is still out but in typical Melbourne fashion it has started to rain. There’s a rainbow framing the city and Violent Soho’s set is the pot of gold at the end.
Before the time comes for them to hit the stage, we’ve got a pretty mammoth bill by way of supports to get through. Luca Brasi soundtrack the walk from the doors to the stairs to the stalls, proving their worth as one of the most exciting acts out of Tasmania’s, nay, all of Australia’s pub-punk scene in a good while. Anything Near Conviction, Aeroplane and Cascade Blues fill the venue with the bright, urgent energy they’ve built their name on. Anthemic and all encompassing, they’re clearly as comfortable on the large stage as the sticky carpets where they’ve cut their teeth.
The presence of long-time mates of the headline act, LA’s The Bronx means tonight has not been an all Australian line-up, but they fit right in with their shattering brand of in your face hardcore punk. There’s no pause between them strutting onto the stage and diving headfirst into Heart Attack American. They’ve also brought the Halloween spirit with them – decked out in Devil and fairy costumes, they call on Satan himself when they set off a circle pit that is nothing short of glorious to behold from the seats above. Frontman Matt Caughthran might not be able to see through his costume, but that doesn’t stop him from jumping off the stage and running right into the heart of the pit. Microphone in tow, he belts out Knifeman from the centre before surfing all the way back to the stage as the song wraps up. They might be the main support but right now, it feels like tonight belongs to The Bronx and The Bronx alone.
That is until it hits 9.45 and the massive Violent Soho banner appears, the band follow quickly thereafter, walking onto the stage to Waltzing Matilda. The sound that erupts from all sides reminds us exactly why we’re here. Dope Calypso has long since reached legendary status, as has the Hungry Ghost LP it opens. Only fitting then that it kicks of this set, quickly followed by Evergreen and a rare workout of a Soho classic in Jesus Stole My Girlfriend – some might say a holy (or unholy as is the theme of the night) trinity gathered from across the VS catalogue.
Like Soda and So Sentimental create a blur of camaraderie, the pair a stellar reminder of how seamlessly the newer material fits with the old without there being any danger of sounding tired or trite. The set finds this kind of wonderfully momentous stride during the epic and anthemic WACO–opener How To Taste. It’s a only a few bars into this song that the massive backdrop shakes free from its fastenings, falling to the ground seemingly soundlessly under the guitars and crashing drums. The rest of the set is to be played against the bare scaffolding.
The band quickly move on to In The Aisle, seemingly unaware of the crew scrambling to get the banner off the stage. They’re totally unaffected and the song is one of the big standouts of the entire set. Saramona Said is haunting perfection; all glittering guitars and singalongs. Ok Cathedral is full of trance-inducing solos; long but never gratuitous. Viceroy sends a jolt as energetic as its instantly recognisable riff right through the room. The reception it is met with is rivaled only by that which greets Love Is A Heavy Word. It’s almost at the end of the set, a good three hours since the first band of the night took to the stage, that the audience reaches deep into their reserves and hits peak energy. Rewarded with confetti cannons and beams of smoke under purple lights, the entire venue is shaking.
Even as the last piece of confetti flutters to the floor and the band slips from the stage, the place is vibrating. The briefest of breaks is ended by Tinderbox before everything comes to natural conclusion with what many in attendance would happily change the Australian anthem to in Covered In Chrome. The final song is complete perfection with familiar excited cries of “hell fuck yeah!” reverberating around the venue, band and audience alike impassioned and exhausted all at once under the fading purple lights as the final note rings out.
As the house lights go up and the crowd filters out onto the streets, smack bang in the middle of this capital-city tour, on the eve of a public holiday and with killer sets all round, one thing is certain: Melbourne was spoiled as shit tonight.