As It Is
Crowbar, Sydney NSW
February 13th, 2019
Supports: Stuck Out and Down For Tomorrow
Banter in just the right place, at the right time. At the right venue. Seeing local bands Down For Tomorrow and Stuck Out shine, while performing to an equally responsive crowd. As It Is‘ Patty Walters swinging his mic with finesse in swagger.
Crowbar was slowly but steadily filling up as a few rows of enthusiastic punters gathered near the barricade for Northern Beaches band Down For Tomorrow to step up to the plate – and step up they did. Having seen the group perform last year on a different stage, it was exciting to see how much tighter their set was.
Just like last time – and likely many other encounters – drummer Henry Beard was a standout performer, knowing when to use his energy. At exactly the right time. Lead guitarist Sam Richardson and bassist Tom Bleasedale provided a great contrast and overall depth to the set, with Tom spinning himself around the stage (and his guitar along with him). Meanwhile, Sam was mostly a stoic yet calm presence.
Combined with Cody Stebbings being tight on vocals while strumming, the four-piece were enough to incite huge cheers from the sizeable crowd by the time they were done. [Nicely done, lads].
Waiting for Melbourne group Stuck Out to take the stage, that was when a plaque to the right of the stage was noticed. In a truly touching way, (with the words In loving memory of… inscribed), it was a tribute to an Australian death metal legend – guitarist Mortal Sin‘s Mick Burke – who passed away at 50 in August 2017. RIP Mick.
With this weighing a little on the mind, attention was turned to Josh Walker (vocals), Ian Browney (guitar), Sheldon Schuyler (bass) and Lachy Lydiard (drums) – boy, what a set it was.
Even though they blew the Kemper amp during their first song, they held firm, not letting any sound issues get in the way of riling up the crowd.
Now there was a distinct vibe about singer Josh, displaying shades of John Floreani from Trophy Eyes yet more importantly, something entirely his own.
With a cathartic song like ‘Fade Away’, one that talks about the alcohol and nicotine that took you from my mind, Josh’s sense of being numb was palpable, spreading through the crowd. From this perspective, it seemed as though he was struggling with himself to get the words out in parts. Yet while he wavered at times, he never fell. When there was a sense of him truly letting go, bopping around the stage while swinging his arms around, we all felt it.
Overall, the band were magnetic, setting the scene for the main event – with the other acts being no less important). Suspense was near deafening as many punters left from near the stage to track down the members of Stuck Out (to say hello of course). It was amplified by the curtains being drawn halfway during final soundcheck. Tension was building.
The curtains suddenly burst open, with bassist Ali Testo from As It Is walking gingerly onto the stage with them, waving to a roaring crowd. Then the rest of the band came on, and it was all guns blazing with ‘The Reaper’, a studio collaboration with Underoath‘s Aaron Gillespie (original drummer and vocalist) from The Great Depression. While Aaron wasn’t with us, the passion radiating from Patty Walters was infectious.
Throughout the entire night (from before Down For Tomorrow to now), there was a running theme – being brokenhearted, sick and twisted in dark times, but being okay to admit it. Being able to embrace it and loved ones with it. The band’s ethos carried through the set, from the fast-paced, rhythmic track ‘The Handwritten Letter’ to the melodic, vocally-charged favourite ‘The Fire, The Dark’.
Now for an interesting reflection from Patty. Around halfway through the set, he verbalised the fact that the first time the band had come to Australia back in 2017, it was Ali’s birthday, only they’d been in Adelaide that time. In 2017. Fast forward to February 13th, 2020 in Sydney, and it was also the bassist’s birthday. Crazy, huh? (Just a little). With plenty of banter, Patty and axeman Ronnie Ish invited us to sing him whatever version of the birthday song sprang to mind (most people sung the common one). Ronnie was particularly soaking up the action, and the love between band members? Tangible.
The second half of the set was full of black gems from Okay. The album that was released in 2017. A song that carried particular weight was ‘Hey Rachel‘, an apology to Patty’s sister for not being able to cope when she “developed depression and anxiety” – it’s about Patty holding nothing back and disregarding any personal pride at that point in his life.
‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’ was both a crowd and personal favourite, partly because of its (arguably) more obvious message. In Patty’s own words, it was about “toxic masculinity” and “toxic femininity” – two very different sides of the same coin to reflect on as we danced. ‘Dial Tones’ dialled on, and then it was time to close with ‘The Wounded World’ (but the show’s never really over, is it?). Punters, fans and music-lovers alike got up together with a fresh spring for the final track – a bloody banger – and in that moment, it was clear.
We’re all to blame for the wounded world, but also none of us are.
Review by Genevieve Gao.
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