Review: 2024 New Bloom Fest @ Melbourne Pavilion

The Melbourne leg of New Bloom Fest was staged on 17 March, 2024 - image © Harrison Innes
Jane (he/him) is a Melbourne-based (Naarm) writer, musician, and nu-metal apologist. He's a walking encyclopaedia of guitar pedals, creates Spotify playlists like it's a competitive sport, and hates crowds but attends weekly gigs (still trying to figure that one out).

After hosting a boxing event the day prior, Melbourne Pavilion had been transformed into the site for the local leg of the inaugural New Bloom Fest.

With impressive chandeliers and VIP boxes, it was immediately clear this venue had been designed with weddings and corporate events in mind. Tonight, though, it would be filled to the brim with a sold-out audience of emos and hardcore enthusiasts (17 March).

Local alt-metal outfit Post Heaven were given the mammoth task of opening the event, and despite taking the stage a little after 3pm, they had a decent crowd to work with and garnered an impressive reaction from the early attendees.

This is the latest in an inspiring run for the Melbourne newcomers, lead by guitarist Pat Kearney, following huge opening slots for Thornhill and Greg Puciatio in recent months. Those reps have been paying off, as the five-piece had the early crowd dancing and moving for their full set.

Vocalist Yasmin de Laine (also of post-metal titans Lily Of The Valley) was in top form, making use of the entire stage as she sprinted from side to side without missing a beat. I'd heard the comparison of "Deftones with a femme vocalist," which while fitting, betrays some of the deeper influences on display in both Kearney's songwriting and de Laine's vocals. Post Heaven are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Armlock - image © Harrison Innes

Jumping on the line-up at the last minute to fill in for the originally scheduled Fleshwater, the lo-fi bedroom rock of Armlock was a surprising addition, but one which began the pattern of each band on this bill being the complete opposite of the act before, while somehow still fitting with the festival.

Simon Lam's vocals evoked Elliott Smith, while guitarist Hamish Mitchell brought a barrage of effect pedal insanity atop the otherwise low key, slowcore compositions. In the occasional moments where the four-piece deemed it appropriate to get loud, they were melting faces.

The vibes at Melbourne Pavilion throughout the day were social and carefree, with heaps of spaces set up for those looking to take a break, buy a local hardcore record, or strike a pose at the photo booth.

It's not a common venue choice for live music in Melbourne, but for a full day, single-stage festival, it really fit the brief well. Pulse Mag, a zine focused on women and non-binary folk in the hardcore and wider heavy music scene, had a stall set up with a steady stream of customers all day. Outside in the beer garden, food trucks kept everyone well fed.

Better Half
Better Half - image © Harrison Innes

Back inside, Better Half were the first band of the day to have a portion of the crowd already very familiar with their output, with pockets of the audience singing along through set standouts like 'North' and 'Rest Your Head'.

Vocalist Christopher Vernon demonstrated a well-honed command of the crowd, and regularly sought out moments to interact and share his mic with those singing along. Not to be outdone, AWOL's fanbase had also turned up to support their scene.

Without question the heaviest band on this bill, fans of the hardcore five-piece were stretching and practising their roundhouse kicks between the sets – perhaps as much as a warning to the rest of the crowd as it was for their own limbering up.

The moment the band took to the stage, with guitar feedback soaring, the biggest circle pit of the night formed. With fists swinging and legs flying from the very start, AWOL provided the soundtrack for their contingent of the crowd to battle to.

Throughout this early half of the bill set times were kept extremely brief, with most of the bands only having 25 minutes to work with; even with the limited time many of them visibly having a song crossed off their set lists to make up for time.

AWOL - image © Harrison Innes

AWOL were the first to feel like they weren't rushing to get through their set, so used to only having 20 minutes in an overloaded hardcore bill to work with that they were stopping to banter between songs like they had all the time in the world.

'Mientras Rezas' introduced a Sepultura-like rhythmic thrash groove to the fray, while ahead of the track 'Kingdom', the band warned: "This one's about the police. If you're not dancing, you're down with the cops." Predictably, the pit energy intensified in response.

As the first of the touring contingent of the New Bloom line-up (the aforementioned bands were exclusive to this Melbourne date), Canadian shoegazers Softcult marked the beginning of more intricate lighting cues and ambience.

Kicking off with the reverb soaked dream-pop number 'Haunt You Still', the blue and purple lighting completed the Distegration-era Cure allusion. Gradually escalating across their set, the occasional fuzz-drenched guitar solo eventually took hold and became their core tone, culminating with the colossal 'Uzumaki'. With this song as the dramatic closer of their performance, it's
easy to see why the band dub themselves 'riotgaze'.

Softcult - image © Harrison Innes

While vocalist Mercedes Arn-Horn delivered a harrowing, goosebump-inducing spoken (well, screamed) word poem, her twin sister Phoenix stood above the drum kit, demanding the audience to listen up: "I am beauty, I am grace. I'm a rape whistle. I am mace. And you should have killed me when you had the chance, because it will never come again."

No Pressure, Parker Cannon's side project away from The Story So Far, may as well be called a Blink-182 tribute act. While they could no doubt stretch their influences list into the double digits (and I don't just mean with names like Box Car Racer or Angels & Airwaves), the songwriting and delivery is pure Blink.

Easily bringing the purest form of brain-off pop-punk to the bill, No Pressure stood in stark contrast to both AWOL's violence and Softcult's emotionally crushing performance that had come before, offering a spot of levity in the line-up. Parker was in great form, and like Better Half had his fans in the sold-out crowd who knew the words enough to sing them with him throughout.

Michelle Branch's 'Everywhere' marked the beginning of Touché Amoré's set. The buzz following their amazing set at Stay Gold last week ensured many who'd missed out had made the effort to come and see them on this very last opportunity before they left the country.

Touche Amore
Touche Amore - image © Harrison Innes

During the second song 'Honest Sleep', vocalist Jeremy Bolm was in the pit, the crowd swarming around him and singing every word. A friend pointed out how emotionally rocking it was to hear Bolm update the year stated in the final verse of 'New Halloween', a song reflecting on his mother's death, now performed as "somehow it's already been ten years," keeping the true tally of the time since her passing.

The closing run of 'Just Exist', 'Flowers And You', and '~' were packed with so much energy from the crowd, with Bolm counting these final songs down on his fingers between each. Holding up his solitary index finger before '~', it was a clear message: this is your last chance, make it count.

With such a high level of response from the audience throughout that set, you'd have thought the room might have emptied out a little by the time the co-headliners, Movements and Citizen, came to play. This wasn't the case at all though.

Unfortunately, the Movements set had to be performed without Patrick Miranda. The singer had fallen victim to strep throat, apparently unable to even speak, let alone sing.

Working out a compromise, their touring guitarist and backing vocalist Crust Young slid over to vocal duties, while the band's photographer Anthony Purcella stepped in to fill his guitar role. The rest of the core band, with Ira George on lead guitar, remained in place.

Movements - image © Harrison Innes

With that in mind, it's absolutely astounding this set was as polished as it was. Apparently Purcella had been taught his parts for the set in just a number of hours, but there wasn't any point in the performance where it fell off the rails. Young had the benefit of being able to hold the mic to the crowd wherever he didn't know all the words, dubbing it a "crowd karaoke" gig.

Opening with 'Full Circle', it was clear the audience were well suited for the task at hand, giving it their all in tribute to the absent Miranda. With a set list built around crowd pleasers from their debut album such as 'Colorblind' and 'Third Degree' alongside early EP offering 'Kept', this was a feel-good performance for the fans, making the absolute most of a situation that could have easily been cancelled.

Closing with 'Daylily', the band's sing-along anthem, Young held the mic stand out into the crowd as every word was chanted back: "You are the sunlight! Shine on to me! Shine on to me!"

Closing the festival, Citizen built upon the joyous energy of the audience and followed suit, with vocalist Mat Kerekes barking "Move your feet! Move your feet!" repeatedly throughout the set.

Opening with 'Hyper Trophy' and 'Jet', the band's initial songs had a distinct indie-rock tinge that was especially apparent in Nick Hamm's guitar licks. Kerekes made a special shout-out to Movements for doing everything they could to not disappoint the fans.

Citizen - image © Harrison Innes

'The Summer' got a huge reaction, one of the few songs in their set which felt more in line with the hardcore influence present throughout the rest of the festival's bill, while newer material from their two most recent albums (2023's 'Calling The Dogs' and 2021's 'Life In Your Glass World') felt more akin to the indie dance rock of the early 2000s New York scene.

Of these latter songs, 'Dogs' was a standout – its rollicking drum beat and fuzzy bass leading a frenzied dance party. 'The Night I Drove Alone' and 'Sleep' were the final emotional offerings, both leading sombre sing-alongs. 'Sleep' feels like a modern emo update of The Smiths' 'Asleep', as if it wasn't emo enough to begin with.

Following those, the closing selections were firmly from the 'send 'em home happy' playbook, returning to the indie dance rock for 'Death Dance Approximately' (aptly titled) and 'I Want To Kill You'. For all of Kerekes' commands to "move your feet," there was little need.

The crowd were eagerly bopping and jumping along throughout these high-energy closers. As the house lights returned and the band hurried to clear the stage, chants for one more song steadily built, but were denied.

After watching all nine bands throughout the festival, I was quite content to leave it there, but hopeful that I'll catch many more years from this young, promising festival.

More photos from the festival.

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