The Brilliant, The Bad, And The Babymetal: How Good Things Festival Lived Up To The Hype

You haven't lived until you've seen Babymetal in action.

Good Things Festival Review

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Music festivals in Australia have a tumultuous history at the best of times, even more so when the dial is turned to the heavier, harder reaches of the musical spectrum.

A brief reunion with the Warped Tour was fleeting, Soundwave ate its own tail, Hits & Pits was a punk-rock pyramid scheme…and what the hell happened to No Sleep Til, anyway?

Earlier in 2018, a new heir to the proverbial throne was announced as Good Things charged out of the gates with an intriguing line-up and a promising attitude. Braving the intense Saturday sun in Sydney, punters came to investigate whether the inaugural festival lived up to its own promises — and, for the most part, were satiated in their quest.

Oh, Nostalgia — From Generation To Generation

If you were over 35 and at Good Things, there was one pretty clear reason why you came. So-Cal skate-punks The Offspring have done their fair share of Aussie festivals in the past, but here they offered up a sweetened deal: their 1994 breakthrough, Smash, played in its entirety.

No matter where you stood in the field at Parramatta Park, the sing-alongs rang out just as loud-and-clear — from the expletive-laden ‘Bad Habit’ to the rousing yea-hea-heahs of ‘Self Esteem,’ not to mention the ska burst of ‘What Happened to You?’ and the rarely-played ‘Something to Believe In.’

Don’t forget, kids: If you hear a shoey chant, you boo a shoey chant.

Throw in an extra-half hour of the band’s hits and a surprise AC/DC cover for good measure, you’ve got yourself quite the formidable headliner. Not bad for a couple of 50-somethings re-living their glory days — many similar acts have fared much worse in the same context.

Meanwhile, if you were under 35, seeing The Used was more than likely a major flashback to high school days of yore. Although only vocalist Bert McCracken and bassist Jeph Howard remain from the band’s classic line-up, remember the wise words of Led Zeppelin: the song remains the same.

McCracken can still stick his mic out at the audience during any line of ‘Take It Away,’ ‘The Taste of Ink,’ ‘I Caught Fire’ or ‘A Box of Sharp Objects’ and have it roared back to him at a level that rivals the PA.

Being an Australian citizen now, he knows his way around your average festival fuckwit. When a portion of the crowd chants for a shoey (really? In 2018?) after he gives a speech about being sober, he cleverly mocks them by pretending the chants were for chili and for Chile.

Don’t forget, kids: If you hear a shoey chant, you boo a shoey chant. Also, bonus points to McCracken for bringing out his two adorable kids — Cleo Rose, we hope you headline this festival someday.

Living In The Now — And The Future

Elsewhere, La Dispute brought some turn-of-the-decade feels as they reignited their long-term love affair with Australia and shocked a few of the main-stage normies with their intense post-hardcore, particularly ‘King Park’ and ‘Said the King to the River.’

Later on in the day, ragtag Boston crew the Dropkick Murphys partied into the sunset with an endearing and fun set that set off more than their fair share of jigs among the crowd.

In the middle of all of that, however, came perhaps the festivals biggest curiosity drawcard — the one and only Babymetal. One of the biggest crowds of the day welcomed the Japanese outfit on their maiden voyage to Australia, all perfect choreography and crunchy downtuned riffs in a delicate balance.

If anyone came in unfamiliar, they left a fan — that’s how entertaining they were. Fuck metal purists — we need more bands like Babymetal on festivals.

Babymetal Good Things

Photo by Russell Privett/Good Things Festival

The Local Contingent

One of the major issues with Soundwave and its ilk was the general disregard for Australian bands. Instead of focusing on some of the phenomenal talent on offer in our own backyard, they were ignored in favour of identical scene bands of four to five skinny straight white boys with identical haircuts.

This is definitely something Good Things could have improved on, but what they did offer up was quite strong in its own right. Ecca Vandal and WAAX were the perfect start to the day, no question.

The former is a genre-defiant and effortlessly-cool figure, traversing a myriad of styles and oozing confidence the entire time. The latter, meanwhile, are making good on their threat to become the best live band in the country right now. No-one throws themselves into a performance quite like Maz DeVita, who thrashes and thrives against the urgent guitars and smashing drums.

Later on in the day, Tonight Alive make good on their glorious comeback year with a career-spanning setlist that shows just how far they’ve come from their PCYC days; while The Smith Street Band formidably go up against some of the big internationals with their heartfelt, homegrown take on pub-rock. Definitely more of this if Good Things happens again in 2019, please.

Photo by Russell Privett/Good Things Festival

Phenomenal Fill-Ins

A handful of acts on the bill today are not at 100 percent — at least, not within the context of having all of their members available to play. WAAX’s regular drummer, for instance, is off having his first child — and in his stead is Violent Soho’s drummer Mikey Richards. No strangers to festivals himself, old mate kills it — and the band throw in a ripping cover of Soho’s ‘In the Aisle’ as a token of gratitude.

Tonight Alive make good on their glorious comeback year with a career-spanning setlist that shows just how far they’ve come from their PCYC days.

Up next on that very same stage, Philly pop-punk realists The Wonder Years are down a man as guitarist/vocalist Matt Brasch prepares to get married (mazel, Matt!). Powering on regardless, the band deliver one of the standout sets of the entire day — there’s a lot of emotional investment that comes with this band, and seeing them live has a true sense of catharsis as the words are screamed en masse and every last word hits home.

Of course, the big one was reserved for tonight’s headliner. For whatever reason, mainstay Offspring bassist Greg K is not with the band on this run. His stand-in, however, is more than formidable — No Doubt’s Tony Kanal, who knows a thing or two about the ol’ four-string.

He slides into the fold of the band with ease, laying down the low-end with aplomb. Add in H2O’s Todd Morse on additional guitar and Saves The Day’s Pete Parada on drums and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid supergroup backing up Dexter and Noodles on their biggest hits.

Bad Things

Issues with the festival were few and far between, but a key one was entrance and exit. Parramatta Park is difficult to access at the best of times — there’s no parking, the nearest train stations are over a kilometre away — and the fact that no services were provided to and from made things difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the area.

Furthermore, the fact that we’re still dealing with crowd bottlenecks in the year of our Lord, 2018, is utterly baffling. You can’t present such a tiny entry/exit point and not expect there to be issues.

On top of all of that, putting on a festival in a park in unforgiving summer heat and offering next to no shade or places to escape from it is borderline cruelty.

Photo by Russell Privett/Good Things Festival

Are There Good Things Still To Come?

One would hope so. There’s kinks to work out on the planning front and diversity issues to address on the line-up front, but it’s clear from the outset that Good Things genuinely cares about trying to put on something that caters to an alternative audience without screwing them over.

It feels like a fans-first festival, which is a huge thing to be saying in a post-Maddah festival landscape. There is promise and there is potential here — so, breaking even permitted, let’s make this bigger and better next year.

David James Young is a writer and podcaster who nearly got trampled in the mosh when The Offspring played at Soundwave in 2008. He was helped up by a guy called Lachlan who he went to high school with, and even though they weren’t really friends at school he never forgot the one time Lachlan did something nice for him. Oh, and he tweets at @DJYwrites.

Music Junkee would like to offer our condolences to the family and friends of the security guard who tragically passed away during Saturday’s festival. 

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns/Good Things Festival