The band name Norma Jean, apparently inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s real name, doesn’t conjure up images of a ferociously energetic metalcore band that will smash out a set and hang from the lighting rigs, but that’s exactly what they did.
An ominous opener saw singer, Cory Brandan, with his back to the crowd, rocking slowly back and forth in time with the onerous music, a disturbing calm before the storm of energy to come. The three guitarists’ rhythmic, synchronised, Dragonforce-esque guitar dips were completely mesmerising and, at the same time, Brandan’s, friendly, bearded face, was calming, but it quickly became apparent that there were only a handful of calm, mesmerised folk in the near-capacity crowd at the Corner Hotel.
Brandan whipped the crowd into a circle pitting, crowd surfing frenzy early on by utilising the international sign language for “circle pit” and the audience was quick to obey. Not only did they obey, but some even used their own initiative to provide a stage diving spectacular by somersaulting off the stage. Norma Jean fans are a special breed of dedicated fan, screaming back every lyric, clambering over one another and hanging over the barricade just to reach out and touch Brandan. As is above and beyond a frontman’s duty, Brandan graciously obliged by spending the majority of the set with one foot on the barricade and reaching back out to the fans, holding their hands, pumping his fists above their heads and handing the microphone to the lucky few who got to scream in his place. In a show of rare humility and true crowd connection he even requested a hug from the audience, a request with which the crowd eagerly complied.
Norma Jean played a well measured mix of songs from their various albums with force and passion. Included were tracks Face:Face for the long-time fans as well crowd favourites Birth of the Anti-Mother, Bastardizer and The End of All Things Will Be Televised.
Pleasingly, there were three Australian supports – Belle Haven from Melbourne, Safe Hands from Newcastle and A Secret Death from the Gold Coast along with US band Vanna who have already achieved a fair amount of notoriety for themselves. Vanna, hailing from Boston, put on a riotously energetic show and also sported some lovely beards and neck tattoos for the ladies. Vanna delivered a moving, hungry and energetic performance, which saw not only the bass player, but singer respectively crowd surfing and singing from the epicentre of the circle pit. Unfortunately the sound quality during their set wasn’t of the same clarity as Norma Jean, resulting in the various instruments and vocals being a bit indistinguishable and muddy sounding. Despite the sound, it was still a hellacious performance.
Great bands, somersaults, swinging off lighting rigs. What’s not to enjoy?
Review by Amanda Mason and Nelli Scarlet
Photos by Nelli Scarlet