The return of live gigs has been long-awaited by most people around the nation. While we’ve been grateful to see the gradual allowance of live music, it is undeniable that many diehard fans, particularly those of the metal community, have been longing for a standing show- their two-step muscles warmed up for the occasion and their necks feeling oddly flexible due to the many nights without a show. Last Friday, I saw myself traveling down to Wollongong for one of the more intimate shows of Thornhill’s Australian tour- accompanied by good friends Bloom, and rising band Elision. Arriving with a heart deprived of live gigs, I soon saw myself leaving with a greater understanding of Thornhill’s theatrical live performance, the incredible talent of Australia’s rising metalcore stars, and of course, the more physical marks of what was an incredible return to live gigs.
As the bar floor of the University of Wollongong quickly filled up with diehard locals, and even more dedicated out-of-town fans, the atmosphere was already buzzing. Smaller venues unlock such an intimacy, not only with the vocalists and bands screaming and hurling instruments into your face, but with the crowd of people just like you- creating a warmth and connection like no other. With many plastic cups already stacked high on the tables, it was time for the first act to take the stage. Setting the tone for the night was Sydney band, Elision. With fierceness and power, the band walked out with confidence and claimed the stage as their own. Their vocalist immediately commanded the room, exerting a powerful charm that captured even the coolest people leaning against the wall, and dragged them into the mosh. Elision clearly understood their position as openers, and produced an uninterrupted set of drowning screams and powerful instrumentals that limbered fans up for what was to come. It was evident that the bend left all they had on the stage floor that night, with each song in their set laced with dedication and a sense of belief in their own selves. As a first-time listener, I was immediately grabbed by who could be the next up-and-comers! If their sense of performance and understanding of the crowd remains the same, we are certainly set to see them command some larger stages in the future.
With sweat already soaking, Bloom was next to take on the crowd. This show was also my first time seeing Bloom- an occasion that had been a long time coming. Their 2020 EP, ‘In Passing’, particularly marked them as a standout band for me. Their ability to control and process emotion through the powerful tool of music is something incredible, and makes them such a refreshing and vulnerable band. To say I was intrigued as to how such an inspiring feat was communicated on the stage is an understatement.
With more people clambering down to the mosh, Bloom promptly began what was set to be an unforgettable set. Much like their recorded tracks, Bloom’s live performance was submerged in emotion and remembrance, twisted into the sounds of metal as a way of capturing the moment. Everything the band communicates comes with a sense of conviction, whether it be the straining, pleading vocals at times, or the instrumentalists playing at their maximum capacity to communicate their message in their own way. The crowd's response to this band was amazing to see, and there were certainly some big fans to be spotted screaming the words in the crowd.
Bloom’s connection between artist and audience is a powerful one to see, and is often marked by individuals screaming the lyrics of incredibly emotional songs that unfortunately resonate with some. I think one of the best ways to describe Bloom’s set was a feeling of comfort. This not only stems from the connections with the audience, or the content of Bloom’s songs, but can be traced back to Jono Hawkey’s position as a frontman. Constantly meeting the same energy he is given, taking a down-to-earth approach, and delivering the right amount of vulnerability and charisma to the crowd, Jono’s position on behalf of the band fosters a comforting energy that makes a Bloom set so enjoyable.
The second set of the night continued to meet the expectations of what was my first standing show back, delivering a continuing sense of high energy, full impact, and an ideal environment for artists that had been waiting for this moment for quite some time.
Before I delve into the pinnacle of the night, it is worth noting that clapping for an artist is very much OUT this year. Instead, try the ‘Sheesh’ method; connecting with your 200 mosh buddies to scream “SHEEEEEeeeeeSSHH” in unison- the Wollongong metalheads have proven that it's what the cool kids now do.
With much anticipation building, and the crowd now fully packed in, it was time for the main act to take the stage. Celebrating many of their tracks from ‘The Dark Pool’, and sliding in a few older ones, Thornhill was destined to perform a set like no other. With style and conviction, the band strutted on stage before exploding into a theatrical and intense live performance. Opening with ‘Nurture’, the crowd was immediately thrown into a world of chaos. It was within the Thornhill set that it truly sunk in that standing shows were back. The circle pits never ceased (thanks to a few of you who know who you are!), hair was pulled, elbows made contact with heads, and the crowd was in a non-stop surge of energy that matched the movement of the songs - this is what I truly missed! It was hard to wipe the smile off my face, even when getting thrashed around to either side of the room… this is what we had been missing! Thornhill made the set extremely fan-orientated, evidenced by the reception to many of the songs, and Jacob Charlton’s many encounters with fans, standing over the barricade- with, I believe, one of these encounters leading to the barricade being unstable for the rest of the show.
It is almost impossible to note a fault in Thornhill’s set. In regards to their musical performance, the band gave it all they had, with passion leaking out of each note. It was hard to imagine how songs from ‘The Dark Pool’ would be received live due to its very intense and critically composed nature, but this made for an absolutely showstopping performance, filled with drama, spectacle, and awe, (that was of course for the moments you could stop and witness this). At the same time, it also becomes straining to pick a favourite moment of the night- whether that be due to the band’s excellence and dedication, or me just being swept up in the moment of the gig.
However, I do think it was Thornhill’s performance of ‘Lily and the Moon’ that truly encapsulated the meaning, energy, and joy of the night. As one of the more melodic songs, one would expect the crowd to settle down- but this was certainly not the case. Initializing one of the largest circle pits of the night, fans celebrated this gorgeous track in its entirety. When the chorus hit, the voices of the crowd all but drowned out that of the band. Personally, this track is truly one of beauty, so hearing so many voices join together to sing it was an ethereal experience.
Both Thornhill and the crowd continued to work hand in hand to produce a night of spectacle, wonder, and of course, the trademarks of a heavy show.
Thornhill’s Wollongong show was a clear demonstration of not only the power of music to unify the many, but was a showcase of some of the finest talents in Australia, all under one roof. The lineup for the night shone in their own special ways but complemented one another by understanding the task at hand and performing with conviction and passion. I truly could not think of a better show to mark the special occasion of the return of standing gigs- and I think a few others agree based on the sheer mass of energy I saw in every person. However, this night was primarily about Thornhill- and after witnessing their live performance, I can wholeheartedly vouch for their position as one of Australia’s finest and most dynamic bands. Juxtaposing melodic theatrics, powerful instrumental feats, and unique vocals all culminated into not only a show-stopping album, but lead to an awe-inspiring show! Make sure Thornhill is on your live show bucket list!