Lower Bellford, Hunter Valley
Saturday January 20, 2017 :
There’s nary a better way to spend a summer’s day in Australia than on a bush property watching heavy bands play to a rowdy crowd of friends and music lovers. Debuting last year, Thrashville expanded the sonic palette of the Dashville festival site to glorious effect, bringing in a large number of punters who would be too wary of the softer edge of the venue’s signature Gumball festival, myself included. Such a success is the Thrashville gathering that it makes me think it’s time I planned a Gumball attendance, if only to enjoy the vibes of the place itself.
Today I strolled in to the festival grounds, slathered in sunscreen and sheltered under a huge sombrero from the punishing January sun. From discussions with those who got an early enough start, it seems I need to kick myself in the arse for missing Rort Menace and Post Truth, two universally mentioned highlights of the day.
For me, Thrashville kicked off with Voiid, delivering fairly standard punk rock tunes, competently executed, nothing more and none too compelling.
On a day of top local acts and internationally toured bands, it’s almost poor form to anoint the house band playing covers as the set of the day. That said, Dashville Progress Society, an all-star band of Hunter Valley musos with up to five guitarists on stage and a set list of covers hand-picked by band member Dan Corbett of local legends Mischling and Zombonimo, goes damn close to being my pick of the lot. Highlights of the set include both songs where Steve ‘Simmo’ Simmons took the lead mic and gave a masterclass on front-man intensity, a raucous run through the Dead Kennedys classic ‘Holiday In Cambodia’, and the jolting, blistering energy of set opener ‘Helter Skelter’.
Troldhaugen presented a beguiling mix of pink lyrca, brutally heavy breakdowns and weird electronica/metal/circus tunes. I spent most of the set with my nose screwed up thinking “what the hell is this?” and the rest with my jaw dropped thinking “what the hell is this?!” Reception from the punters was fairly split, half the people I spoke to said they just didn’t get it, the other half said they were pretty much the band of the day. One punter who had over-induldged in “cardboard squares” said he just couldn’t handle it.
The Australian Beefweek Show are an Australian institution at this point, a heady blend of punk and pub rock with bucket loads of Aussie humour. What other nation would birth a band singing a song called “What’s The Go With Fuckwits” or “You’re Heaps Fuckeder Than Me”? Despite following a band full of men in pink lycra there’s no sight like Newcastle rock icon Geoff Mullard dipped in sunscreen on a summers day pounding out riffs. The band is fast and tight, the sun finally relented, the times were good.
Melbourne’s Frankenbok have deep family roots locally and have been visiting the Hunter for years with their death-come-thrash metal attack. Guitarist and brains behind the band, Aaron Butler is the last man standing from their original line up. He leads his younger charges through the paces on riff after riff, song after song of unrelenting metal grooves. New drummer Tom Rossell is an absolute highlight of the set with his powerhouse playing. The only thing more brutal was the ugly, mosh pit coward punch that marred the set. Thugs thusly ejected, young kids and heavily tattooed mosh veterans all have a head-bang and, at the bands invitation, everyone gets to throw shapes on stage with cardboard guitars for the final song of the set. No matter the intensity, Frankenbok’s always been a fun time and the environment here only enhances that.
Gay Paris were nothing like I expected them to be, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. A good number of people who were fans already said I really need to give their recorded stuff a go and not write them off from this set, but they were severely hampered by a lack of heavy guitar in the mix. There was still a big crowd up front so with the correct introduction to their tunes, it seems a good time can be had, it just didn’t feel like anything really took off for me today.
Batpiss were my surprise of the day, I’d never heard them and the name doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but they were a revelation live. There was a cool heavy jam vibe to the later part of the set that hit the spot oh-so-perfectly for a setting sun.
After a fiery performance by Stevo Extremo with flaming pois and twirling fire sticks, King Parrot took to the stage for surely the heaviest set ever played at this location. I remember seeing them absolutely destroy at the Broadmeadow Tennis Club on their first NSW date, in the days before there was even a hint of playing overseas festivals. There is definitely something lost in the translation from the small stage to the outdoor festival stage. My favourite part of King Parrot initially was that they walked the line between being a physical threat to your well-being, and being the night’s entertainment. There’s something very Australian, very suburban about King Parrot like a smiling bogan psychopath, the loveable bloke who one minute is telling you the funniest stuff you’ve ever heard and the next minute yelling about how he’ll bash your head in. Without singer Youngy prowling the crowd and yelling his invective into people’s faces, some of that element is lost. That said, the performance is still insanely aggressive, and it grinds and grooves in all the right spots.
And now we come to Frenzal. Look, what Frenzal do, they do bloody well, it’s just that I don’t like it. It makes no sense to me why they play so much sugary, melodic pop punk when they have a snarling grind band in them waiting to erupt. It was one of my bugbears with the old Dogbite festival that Frenzal headlined every year, hopefully they don’t set up residency at Thrashville. In all fairness they play tight and the crowd is grooving on it, it’s just not my thing and if you aren’t a Frenzal fan by now, anything I say here won’t change that.
In between all the musical mayhem was an insanely chill day, despite the oppressive heat. The misters within eye shot of the stage are a brilliant idea, there were plenty of shady spots to escape the sun. Apart from two tossers who were way too high on whatever they were on and were hell bent on having a fight (which they did as mentioned during the Frankenbok fun, and were summarily ejected), everyone was having a great time.
A mate who attended said “I didn’t really have a favourite band or anything, but I’ve just had the best day“, which is pretty bloody good review, and a lot more succinct than mine. Here’s hoping that Thrashville becomes a staple of the summertime in the Hunter, it’s too good a time not to.
Reviewer : Roger Killjoy