Why We'll Lose a lot More Than Good Times Without Good Things Festival
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
Photos by Genevieve Gao
Good vibes. Good people. Good Things.
The inaugural Good Things Festival – a long time coming for Aussie heavy music fans – very nearly didn’t go ahead here in Sydney. With the heavy-hearted ban on under 18s attending just a week out from the Parramatta Park event, everyone from festival organisers to promoters, fans and the wider music industry felt stress building.
Yet on Sunday morning, with sunburns, post-gig depression, new friends and all, here we are. Brissie fans get ready.
We walked through the gates at midday to blistering heat, a cloudless sky and the sounds of local newcomers and festival openers RedHook on Stage Two. Having only recently stormed on the scene, these guys were high on the list to catch.
Lead singer Emmy Mack was a firecracker, establishing her presence early in the 30-minute set. From high jumps off the drum platform, to beautifully delivered vocals in the middle of said jumping, the show was a real eye-opener. However, Mack’s passionate speech on the NSW government’s “war on festivals” – while completely understandable – only added to the wider lack of nuance surrounding the issue of music fest regulation.
Meanwhile, a sizeable crowd had been gathering a short walk away on Stage Four for the Melbourne-based Ecca Vandal, whose unique talent we were keen on seeing live for the first time.
Even though the musician prefaced that she’d been away for seven months, it certainly didn’t show. Vandal cemented herself as a truly seasoned performer, prowling and dancing across the stage with confidence. She aptly dedicated the frenetic energy of ‘Broke Days, Party Nights’ (from 2017’s self-titled album) to those who were penniless but “still knew how to have a good time”.
Brissie punk rockers WAAX have been gaining notable live momentum this year, supporting US icons Fall Out Boy and the likes of hometown greats Violent Soho, as well as embarking on their own national tour. The appreciation for the band was reflected in the huge crowd right next to Vandal on Stage Three at 12:45, despite unforgiving sun rays.
Vocalist Marie DeVita always elevates the band in being one of the most expressive performers in the business, and their fest set was no exception – favourites ‘Wild & Weak’ and ‘Nothing Is Always’ particularly got the crowd jumping, all while DeVita generously rained hose sprinkles over the mosh.
As we wandered eagerly towards the first stage (after scarfing down a cheeseburger and fries) in prep for local metal staples Northlane, the tiny crowd in front of Houston trio Waterparks spoke to the noteworthy effect of the under 18 ban, with much of their fanbase in that demographic.
Dust-stirring circle pits. Massive singalongs to seminal songs. Purple confetti during classic closer ‘Quantum Flux’.
Northlane’s set had it all, down to the significance of playing their second hometown festival after announcing a break from headline shows early this year. The show also highlighted the tightness of our heavy music community, with a security guard overseeing the circle pit and making sure participants ran in at safe times – the cheers extended to the end of the fest site.
We took a bit of a breather, watching local up-and-comers Make Them Suffer from a comfy distance, then sitting down in the shade to enjoy the old-school vibes of post-hardcore greats The Used. Come 5pm at Stage Three though, it was time for Tonight Alive.
This gig was inherently iconic because the band are as local as they come, with Parramatta being home to the rockers. Vocalist and inspirational human Jenna McDougall affirmed – having toured across the UK and Europe this year – “We don’t get to say we’re playing in Sydney very often” to collective nods.
‘Disappear’ from latest album Underworld was a significant song for many, being the gateway to a world where shit times don’t exist. Yet ‘The Edge’ was an absolute standout, with McDougall crossing to the right of the stage and inviting crowdsurfers to “gracefully” make their way over to her for a high five. Laughter echoed in the air.
Then came the pin-drop moment of the fest. After three minutes of the purest kind of human connection between the singer and fans, there were concerned stares as festival staff rushed towards a longstanding security guard. He had collapsed and since passed away at Westmead Hospital due to a suspected heart attack [Op-ed: lots of love and condolences to his friends, family and event organisers].
McDougall immediately called for a stop to the set, rushing to see if he was okay, before letting medical staff do what they do best. Any doubts about the seriousness of the issue were cleared when police started streaming over from the other end of the site.
Looking back, the incident actually strengthened the festival and the already close community of heavy music fans. People cleared swiftly away from the stage and moshpit area to let the police and ambulance crew do their jobs, also asking if there was anything they could do to help.
It was a testament to the importance of holding a festival like Good Things, and the need to have it running for years to come.
While Floridian punk rockers Mayday Parade ended up coming on the same stage late, that didn't stop the good vibes from rolling. While some of the (slightly) older fest-goers were rolling their eyes, a lot of them were at least mumbling the lyrics, to much laughter across the site. 'Black Cat' from seminal album A Lesson In Romantics (2007) loosened up some of us though, who ended up dancing unapologetically to Alex Garcia's intricate riff work.
It was back-to-back throwbacks for fans in the early 2000s era with Baltimore's All Time Low, who we rushed to Stage One to see. Banter was flowing (and yes while there was still much eye-rolling amongst older punters it was all in good fun), and all hell broke loose during definitive finisher 'Dear Maria, Count Me In'.
It was just after 7:30pm, the sun was (finally) well and truly gone, and Iowa's Stone Sour pulled in as big of a crowd on the second stage as punk icons The Offspring an hour later. Corey Taylor announced that it was his birthday to huge roars, yet he rendered all those roars silent with his one-of-a-kind voice during his acoustic moment.
Taylor's connection with Australia is profound, having come down many times with Slipknot, and displaying a vested interest in improving the heavy music fest scene here by trying to bring over the band's own event, Knotfest. That connection ran right through the set, and it's one that will keep giving us goosebumps.
Walking with tired but satisfied feet out of Parramatta Park, the euphoria we still felt will remain for days - and hopefully years - to come. This festival has already established itself as a key part of our cultural fabric, and we'll have lost more than good things without it.
Keep updated with all the latest Good Things news via the fest's social pages below, and keep looking out for each other out there as well, Brissie fans.
-Gen and Aless x