Dead Of Winter (DOW) is by far Brisbane’s best and biggest live music festival, and it keeps getting bigger and better.
This year just under 3,000 people were on-site (7 July) to enjoy nearly 12 hours of live music and good times.
How does one even begin to explain how completely amazing DOW 2018 was? Getting there early to make sure I knew my way around the six stages spaced out over two of Brisbane’s best live music venues (The Tivoli Theatre and Jubilee Hotel) I could feel the vibe straight away.
The music festival organisers, bands, stage crew, reviewers, photographers and punters had been waiting for this for months and the energy was buzzing from the moment I walked in the door. It wasn’t long before the crowds started pouring in; some dressed up for the occasion with face paint and costumes.
The first band I was really excited to see was Level H who opened the Riffs and Licks stage upstairs at The Jubilee. Level H are one of the best Gold Coast metal bands around right now and being added to the line-up at the last minute when Harlott sadly had to pull out was a really great sign of how big these guys are becoming.
Starting their 30-minute set with the title track ‘Blackhearts’ from their latest EP, the band were all dripping with sweat from the heat on the small stage as they played hard and with the same passion they always do. Level H was the perfect band to kick off the day.
Venturing downstairs to the Drum Cartel stage I caught another amazing Gold Coast band, The Black Swamp. These guys have been around a while and have a steady following of fans, which was evident by how packed the stage was.
Black Swamp play like a well-oiled machine with hard, heavy riffs and vocals on-point; it is clear to see why they are so popular. Having just released their new clip and single ‘Headless’ from their latest EP ‘Witches’, the fans went wild when they played this track towards the end of their set.
Back upstairs to the Riffs and Licks stage again to catch Decryptus. These guys are heavy as hell and had all the local metal fans loving every minute of their set. The lead vocalist asked the crowd for more head banging and they were more than happy to oblige. He then asked: “Are you having a good time or what? And it’s only 4:30. Nothing better than getting day drunk!”
Next move was to the outdoor 4ZZZ stage to catch the fun-loving party punks Flangipanis. They graced the stage in their bridesmaids dresses symbolic of their latest album ‘Always The Bridesmaid’ and shooting rolls of toilet paper into the crowd – Flangipanis are always a good time.
They have a huge fan base in Brisbane because not only are they talented musicians, but they also know how to have fun onstage and this is reflected by the crowds at every gig they play.
Jodie is my favourite frontwoman from the local Brisbane music scene. She announced: “This next song, as always, is dedicated to Frenzal” before breaking into ‘Nice Haircut D***head’ and ending the set with a fan favourite ‘I’m Drunk So What F*** You’ Flangipanis were a definite standout for me.
I absolutely have to make mention of this band because they are truly amazing. At the same time that Flangipanis played, The Cutaways played the Riffs and Licks stage. I was sad to miss their set, but I had a close friend watch them and let me know how brilliant they were.
The Cutaways are such a talented punk-rock band. Fronted by the beautiful Emmy, every gig they play is faultless. The Cutaways packed out the small stage, with fans even standing in the corridor who couldn’t fit in the room.
Punk rockers DickLord were my next pick, so back upstairs to the Riffs And Licks stage again. Hailing from Byron Bay, DickLord packed out the small stage with fans. With their amazing and beautiful frontwoman who exudes confidence, this band blows me away. So much passion and so much fun, they are like nothing else around.
This was by far the most intense crowd I was in all day, being hit in the head twice with flying empty cups and squashed like a sardine into the side of the stage. But it was worth every minute seeing them perform.
Pagan - image © Vincent Shaw
Then it was time for a mad dash to The Tivoli to catch Pagan. Unfortunately I missed the first few songs, but I am so glad I caught the rest of the set. Nikki is yet another amazing frontwoman that blows my mind with her stage presence and passion for her music. Such an amazing band to see live.
Their latest single ‘Silver’ and film clip for the track was released just a couple of days prior to the festival, so when they played it towards the end of the set it was well received by the fans.
Now it was time to head back to the Jubilee, this time to the Beserk Sideshow stage to watch The Gutter Birds. Beautiful harmonies but with some fun and naughty songs, think The Andrews Sisters but with a kinky twist. So beautiful and so much fun, they are always a standout for me.
Beginning the set with a Frenzal Rhomb cover ‘Bucket Bong’ and ending with a Flangipanis cover ‘I Wanna F*** You In The Mouth’, The Gutter Birds are always well received.
The band I was waiting for was up next on the 4ZZZ Stage. Pangaea are well and truly one of the most underrated bands of the '90s. Ben Ely of Regurgitator fame started this band back in the '90s and I have forever wished I could see them play live again.
I wasn’t the only one, the stage packed out fast and it was clear that not only were the crowd loving every minute, but so were the band. Ben commenting to the crowd: “How great is Dead Of Winter? You couldn’t do it in Melbourne your balls would go inside your stomach!”
Pangaea - image © Vincent Shaw
It was so great to see Ben smiling hard as he slapped the bass like only he can. Standout song for me was ‘Colossus’, a favourite from their ‘Freibentos’ album.
Ahoy! The last band of the night for me was the pirate-party crew, Lagerstein. Lagerstein are by far one of my most favourite bands in Brisbane. They are always so much fun and there is always lots of interacting with the crowd and fans.
The seven-piece band spread across both the Hysteria stage and Beserk Sideshow stage in their usual flamboyant style. Playing all the fan favourites, they never fail to have everyone singing-along and feeling like part of the crew. These guys were the definite standout.
Dead Of Winter 2018 was highly successful and was extremely well organised. I am quite sure I am not the only one already hanging for next year’s festival.
Words: Shannon-Lee Sloane
It’s a near perfect Brisbane winter's day and ideal conditions for this year's Dead Of Winter (DOW) festival.
After attending last year's DOW edition and leaving with a stupid grin on my face and nothing but fond memories, expectations were high and this year did not disappoint.
Heading in early to a festival to check out bands you’ve never heard before is always a great idea; as I headed upstairs the timbre for the day was already set with Evil Eye getting the room going, heads banging early on with their crunching, Pantera-style riffs going through NOLA sound into some industrial and thrashy-sounding breakdowns.
But on a beautiful day you really want to be outside and not shortly after I found myself at the car park stage (Jubilee Hotel) enjoying Topnovil out of Wollongong.
Probably one the hardest working punk bands in Australia, and what must be at least their tenth trip to Brisbane in the space of a year, the crowd was lapping up their loud and in your face, East Bay/ Cali style punk mixed with a healthy dose of 'oi!' and unmistakable Aussie attitude. Fans of Lars Frederiksen and The Bastards, this band should be a must-listen for you.
This year DOW Festival had commandeered The Tivoli Theatre, as a second venue, and it was a great change of scenery from the Jube.
Sensaii were the first band up and a small, but dedicated fan base was thoroughly enjoying their post-hardcore and metalcore sound. Not my cup of tea, but the kids loved it and that’s what really matters.
Back to the Jube and Dad Religion were up next in the car park. On paper this band should review themselves. A group consisting of Gordy and The Dr from Frenzal Rhomb, Cam and Grant from Bodyjar and Stevie from Clowns playing Bad Religion and other punk classics. But they are so much more than that.
Each member brings their own, unique presence and style to the songs and to be fair their take on some of the classics were far rawer and better than the originals.
As the sun sets I find myself at the Drum Cartel stage up front at Earth Rot. Not knowing too much about them and only going on the recommendation that “they’re f#$%ing incredible man”, they whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy with their grindy, death, black metal sound.
Their love and appreciation for the '90s Swedish/ Scandinavian sound shone through in their music and although they only played for half an hour, it was very much a case of quality over quantity.
As one satisfied punter remarked after “as far as I’m concerned there is only two types of metal, bad metal and good metal and those guys are f#$%ing insane!” Perth metal has never sounded better. Their set also featured the first, but not last, synchronised metal hair twirling of the day.
Next on upstairs are The Cutaways. Again it was a case of not knowing much about them and their sound, but they had a packed-like-sardines room loving everything they played. Their powerful frontwoman and the band had their appreciative crowd hanging on every riff and word.
Alas a shortish set again, but 40 minutes was enough to see why these cats have been picking up some great support slots and justifying the hype.
Come 6pm-ish and it was back to a now packed car park to see the first of the headliners of this festival, Clowns. They’ve come a long way since I first saw them playing at The Tote (in Melbourne) oh so many years ago and their relentless touring schedule and dedication to their music has transformed them into a force to be reckoned with.
As soon as they started signs proclaiming “no moshing or crowd surfing will be tolerated” were of course ignored with the crowd simply going off to a blistering set of Clowns' brand of uncompromising and in-your-face punk. Their sheer stage presence alone is something to behold and they back up their music with an incredible stage presence.
Barely stopping for a breather between songs, apart from one well-made call for more security up front to ensure crowd safety, the set was a festival favourite for many.
After becoming lost in a sea of bodies exiting the car park I found myself in front of Desecrator. Thinking it’d be hard to top the set I just witnessed, Melbourne’s Descecrator did just that combining some of the best elements of power metal, thrash and a touch of the late, great Dio’s vocals into a truly awesome set.
Black Rheno - image © Vincent Shaw
A change was necessary, so it was back to The Tivoli to see Black Rheno. They are truly a band to watch-out for and deserve the praise they have been getting. They create a huge wall of sound with just vocals, guitar and drums, and seem equally comfortable laying down damaging riffs and just thrashing out.
During an incredible moment towards the end of their set, we find ourselves captivated by the singer as he literally climbs the walls to the balcony, continues singing before finishing off the set with a stage dive into the crowd.
Nancy Vandal are a band that don’t play nearly as often as their fans would like them to and for many it was a blast from the past. The cult Aussie band with their 1995/ '96 line-up looked to be having more fun onstage than the crowd and played a great, little set that left many an old-school punk grinning from ear to ear.
After hearing great things about a young New Zealand band that sings in English and Maori, I had to check out Alien Weaponry. The young guys from Whangarei deliver an excellent set, but didn’t get a chance to properly show what they’ve got as technical difficulties plague the early half of their set. But the flashes of brilliance that standout during their set show a band mature beyond their years.
The car park at the Jubilee is packed as Frenzal Rhomb take to the stage and waste no time ripping straight into their set. They deliver a brilliant set of some classics such as 'Bucket Bong' and 'Racist' mixed with some newer favourites such as 'I'm Shelving Stacks (As I'm Stacking Shelves)' to an appreciative crowd of young and old who sing-along to every tune.
They finish with 'You Can't Move Into My House' and what a fitting song to cap off a great day. DOW Festival again did not disappoint. A little festival with a big heart, the friendliest crowd and a great vibe.
Big shout-outs to the promoters, security and the venues for having us all. I can't wait to see what's in store next year. BRING IT ON!
Words: Davey P