Trembling inside the darkened walls are the rumbling amplifiers that ricochet Melbourne’s High Tension once they’ve taken to the stage. Front woman Karina Utomo growls into the heavily beaten drum patterns, sometimes bellowing high pitched screams into the mic. The guitar riffs raise tensions of their own, fiercely backed by the heavy bass lines. At times singing, but mostly screaming, the crowds conversation turns to muffled pauses of awe as Utomo owns their set, ensuring that the evenings line up is going to be memorable.
Sick Of It All bring the NYCH ruckus onto the stage with them as they power straight into their set with such high energy and intensity that the crowd takes a moment to ease into their anthems. With a bit of warning, they play “The first song we ever wrote”, ‘My Life’, and unplugged ears cop an absolute beating. Front man Lou Koller gives more of a considerate warning: “Don’t get scared, cause it ain’t pretty.” Each of them are obviously in their elements as they run an engaging muck on stage, engrossing punters into the brewing pit with ‘Black Venom’, Koller eagerly tells us to “Get down to this shit!”
One guy takes off his New York baseball cap and passes it up to Koller, who sniggers with distaste. He throws it over to their bassist, Craig Setari, who laughs and jokingly stomps on the hat. “Fuck the Yankees! We’re Mets supporters!” Eventually the poor fucker who gifted them gets his hat back and seemingly shamefully puts it back on, backwards.
Lou’s brother and guitarist, Pete Koller, runs around the stage in his loose shorts, jumping about to their booming hardcore. Drummer Armand Majidi pounds down on the kit like Animal, never missing a beat as he keeps the fast rhythms laid out for the rest of the band to layer upon. There’s a guest (or stage bombarder) vocalist at one point, who looks thrilled by having screamed Koller’s vocal parts, and Koller seemed pretty impressed too. They hug it out, then the guy disappears again.
‘World Full of Hate’ seems appropriate to the current political state and punters make the most of their fury in the crowd. Bringing it to a close with ‘Built To Last’, the four piece have pleased their booze-drenched audience as they farewell the stage.
The band room is momentarily blackened, then dimmed, soon to be filled with static and ignited by the headlining act, Refused. One by one the elegantly dressed Swedes eventually arrive on stage. Each adorning a tailored suit, their stage presence makes you begin to question whether the lengthy intro was purposeful so that they could adjust themselves one last time. Their opening song unleashes the beginning of chaos and you can now be sure that these debonair men really are the hardcore punks of Refused.
Not long into their set and frontman, Dennis Lyxzen, is in the pit, approaching the bar for a higher stage. He brings it back through the crowd to join the rest of the band, where Refused immediately capture the attention of those present and hold it for the rest of the night. There’s an added political introduction for ‘Rather Be Dead’, which surely suits the international state we’re in. Lyxzen has got a lot to say and throughout the set expresses his educated knowledge to the crowd.
As a whole, the band are fucking crisp and pristine and have the night down pat… But Lyxzen really steals the show with his sweet moves, awaking the 15 year old’s in all the ladies (and some men) who probably still want to jump his bones. As Lyxzen loosely swings the mic, it’s impressive that he manages to not knock himself out as he parades around the stage in his charismatic manner.
Lyxzen goes on again, this time speaking to the men in the room, rivalling against misogyny and telling them to get their shit together. It’s a heavily male-dominated audience, but there’s a lot of cheer and understanding. As a woman, thank you, Dennis, someone needed to say it.
‘Pump The Brakes’ really gets the pit going and crowd surfers are barely getting any individual air time as they all get into a flurry of hyper excitement, continuously throwing one another around. Even though Refused are all soaked in sweat, they still manage to remain mostly intact and it’s really rad to see this hardcore punk band losing their minds in their music while wearing such sharp attire. The lights do that dim and static thing and it’s like the intro all over again (time to adjust, fellas?!) that rolls into a heavy drumming pattern. Their set is a good mix of old and new and it is certainly one that incorporates the best of their political agenda.
Despite the good times still going, they close their set with a big thank you, and inevitably there’s a fair amount of disappointment growing. ‘These tickets were $90. Where the fuck do you guys think you’re going?!’ seems to be the thought on everyone’s mind, and thankfully the tired men are back on stage to go out with a bang. Having played a few more songs, they eventually bring it in to a final close which is greeted with an outstanding applause and a lot of cheering.