Richmond is the heartland of sport in Melbourne. If Richmond were to secede from the Australian Federation, its primary export would be every variant of football, tennis and in small and loud pockets of resistance, rock and roll. Sport and rock share a common border and inevitably the twain meets over a beer or three. At the Central Club two erstwhile wanderers, fresh from an AFL match drowning their team’s misfortune in alcohol began their own private Concussion Convention, moshing and supplicating unto the devil in front of an empty stage as hundreds of metalheads watched on in amusement.
The Central Club is one of the “intimate” venues that bigger bands usually get their start in. A giant oblong of a room features a bar directly adjacent to a sizeable stage. In front, there’s a pit that can barely hold fifty punters, though it boasted more beer drinking space with stadium-style “dinner theatre” seating in the back. Add a pool table and there’s even more standing room if you didn’t mind getting blasted by fluorescent light. Capacity was stretched to the max for Catacombs, the Convention’s crowd-pleasing first act. Impassioned drumming – furious fills and raucous rolls resonated through the room – was the allure for many. “Who is this guy,” one incredulous punter exclaimed to me. “He’s insane! How does he do it?” he said, with jaw agape. Fluid guitar-leads could be heard abundant, especially in the genre-bending Pride, guttural snarls on point as hair and beards flailed wildly as shards of light pierced through dense showman’s fog. Catacombs also featured the show’s impresario Ian Mather, whom also put his successful first show entitled Full Leaded Metal on back in May of this year. As a budding promoter in a small town he has many obstacles to surmount; despite this, his small following gained traction in as little as a month and a half.
“Planning was easier than expected for this one.” Ian says with a relaxed grin. “Full Loaded Metal was hard as it was the first show and so I didn't know what to expect. Saying that though, it is always a challenge to put together a good group of bands that will pull a crowd!”
Ian and his crew worked diligently to ensure a smooth performance for their first show and it showed – in his opinion the first show “[W]as great. The Prague was packed, and the feeling in the air was fantastic! The crowd came in slowly, but towards the 10pm mark, there were a lot of people there rocking out.”
Concussion Convention on the other hand was quite different; there was a crowd gathered around the stage almost immediately after doors opened. Even so, he always sees room for improvement. "The night ran a bit over time towards the end, so people had to leave earlier than they wanted to which was unfortunate, but lesson learned; start things off earlier!”
Full Leaded Metal featured young power metal act Damnation’s Day, melodic death stalwarts Berserkerfox, old thrashers Dark Earth and veteran draw card Desecrator – surely for a first timer it was difficult to pull together the older, wiser bands?
“It came together very well, and I was a bit worried about Desecrator as they were touring with In Malice's Wake at the time, but luckily I picked a good night and they were able to play! I know the other bands on a more personal level, so they were more than happy to play the first gig for us.”
Interestingly, the numbers dipped slightly when Euro power metal (Euro in spirit, not in nationality, natch) outfit Winterstorm took to the stage bedecked in shirts and tight leather pants, the trademark of any band that belts out semi-demi operatic vocals awash in faux-symphonic backdrops.
That’s exactly what was on offer with Winterstorm – despite some rehearsalesque moments, the band made good use of their vanity fans, though their vocalist missed out on the effect due wearing much shorter crop on top. Despite that, they did have some admirable guitar talents and the level of vocal mastery was consistent throughout.
Plunging headlong into the style pioneered by our northern bretheren, the Epica inspired Divine Ascension took the stage brandishing keyboards, guitars and sultry female vocals. Some of the songs were lost on the punters at this point, congregating at the bar all too often though they surged back as they announced their cover of “The Final Countdown,” beers and voices raised in appreciation. The fist pumping energy wasn’t quite there at this point for the band, but they seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to revel in some live metal.
Orpheus looked rather on the young side – only averaging an age of about 22 by all accounts but their “Melburn Melodic Death Metal” as emblazoned on the reverse of their merchandise went relatively unappreciated in terms of audience. I felt it was a shame – their tenacious riffs and freewheeling solos sounded of a veteran quality and one can only hope that their craft is mastered and they yield even more pleasing results.
The night drew to a solemn close – unfortunately the stamina of punters only held out for so long. The Concussion Convention had only one item on the agenda – rock n’ roll – and it resolved to deliver it in spades.
Photo Credit: Sam Hope