There’s just something about an All Ages gig. They’ll never change. They can’t. An All Ages gig will always feel a certain way on account of the things necessary to make it an AA gig; the median age of the punters, the lack of alcohol, the type of bands that kids like, the kind of venues that will have kids, the slight stoop to the walk of anyone in attendance who’s pushing 30.
For instance, All Ages gigs always sound a certain way. If your venue allows for unsupervised children the roof apparently has to be 95 feet high, the stage will be a half foot below that and made of polished wood, the PA will be massive and the walls will bounce sound in just the right way to push a sound engineer to book a one-way Uber to the West Gate. There’s also a clarity to some people’s eyes, on account of the lack of booze, and so the mosh pit ends up being an awkward swirl of enthusiasm, inexperience and self-consciousness. All the bands, at least for the first two-thirds of the day, will be just a little too new, still learning how to pitch their choruses properly and talk to a crowd and headbang without looking like a petulant child losing his internet privileges.
And it’s a fucking beautiful thing.
I could bore you with a chronological blow by blow of every act, but that would be tiring and detrimental for two reasons – 1) That’s way too dry for a post-truth world, and 2) The festival was so well booked I couldn’t possibly just keep saying “The next band also played really well to a keen, full crowd and sounded as good as anyone could have hoped for.” Seriously, the day was just packed with great acts, so I’ll instead give you my highlights, to hopefully to give you a taste of what the day was like –
The front of house speaker on the small stage that almost toppled over at the start of every band’s set, tilting at a 45-degree, teenage crushing angle, and watching the look of the person underneath it turn from surprise, to horror, to annoyance as they realised they can’t just right it and walk away; they are now the designated Speaker Stack Stabilizer, and will be planted in that one exact spot for the entirety of the set.
Deathcore drumstick tricks with Graves, adding a much-needed panache and flair to breakdowns that I didn’t know I wanted but will now always insist on having.
Kublai Khan still just being the fucking best band of 2016, by a long way, in my opion.
Justice For The Damned’s smashing set blurring the line between guesties, stage diving, stage storming and crowd surfing, culminating in someone just flat out fucking tackling the PA, and losing, and sliding into the crowd.
Sea Shepherd Cupcakes.
Relentless proving that Metallica can be heavy. Or that children are stupid and will mosh to anything. Or both. Or neither. Good opener though.
Kids chucking a god damn mosh, an old school, jumping, “there’s only 30 of us at the front of the stage” mosh.
By the end of the day, in large part because of Ocean Grove’s tight, professional and dang feel good set, I came away from this gig beaming and hopeful. Seeing these kids with the same smile I had plastered on my big dumb face a decade ago made me hyper-away of how this thing called “heavy metal” works, and how universal the experience is. Kids will come in, loving what’s new. They’ll jump and punch and thrash. They’ll have an amazing time doing it. They’ll sweat and they’ll laugh and at least one “It” couple will break up and it will be a big deal for a few weeks.They’ll think the headliner is The Biggest Band In Australia, and that them and their mates’ bands are about to break into the big time too. They’ll talk about how they were there at that important gig, how awesome it was. They’ll talk about how they saw that opener five years ago who are now crushing it overseas. They’ll start to find more bands, their tastes will change. They’ll find more obscure shit and they’ll keep chasing that novelty dragon. The bands they saw will keep releasing the same sort of music, and they’ll slowly drift away from them. Their own bands will start doing better, or worse. They’ll get injuries and stop moshing so much. They’ll think a few new bands coming through are pretty shitful and the kids have no idea what’s good. And then suddenly they’ll find themselves at the back of an All Ages festival, seeing literal god damn children experience the joy of seeing heavy metal in their formative years, they’ll see the future of the music scene literally forming in front of their eyes, and they’ll realise that it doesn’t matter what decade it is; the cycle and the process will continue as long as there are musicians and fans. And that it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon.