UNIFY Forever 2022
Tarwin Lower, VIC
March 10-13, 2022
Featuring: The Amity Affliction, Violent Soho, Trophy Eyes, Slowly Slowly, Alt., Banks Arcade, Bugs, Bloom, Dream On Dreamer, Dregg, Drown This City, Gravemind, Grenade Jumper, The Last Martyr, Mirrors, Ocean Grave, Plini, Pridelands, Rumours, Short Stack, Starve, Stepson, Stories, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, Teenage Joans, Thornhill, To Octavia, WAAX, Wildheart and Yours Truly.
One clear, undeniable sign that life has returned to normalcy is the resurgence of Australia’s favourite heavy music festival, UNIFY. If you have attended this event before, you would know it’s an event that every alternative music fan must experience at least once, but in most cases, multiple times. The energy surrounding this festival is unmatched by any other, every campsite is full of friendly faces who offer you a drink and a chat as you walk by and there’s always someone offering up their shoulders for a seat so you can catch a better view of the talent on stage. Running into old friends and making new ones each year with the common love for alternative music is what makes this festival so special, despite having a year off, UNIFY’s 2022 edition was no different
This year, it wasn’t just the social interactions that attracted thousands to Tarwin Lower, or even the incredible all-Australian lineup. For what seems like a rare occurrence, this year’s edition was blessed with perfect weather; bright blue skies and no rain, creating the perfect moshing environment and making 2022’s outing exceptionally special.
Let’s take you through it…
Just like throughout previous years, early access passes proved to be popular which brought that special UNIFY warmth to Tarwin Lower one night early. The abundance of music fans found their camp spot and scoped out the layout, which was nearly identical to the previous event, before finding themselves under the circus tent to witness the first handful of bands play to a hungry crowd.
This is a band that has been on my radar for a hot minute but I have never had the chance to witness them perform, so you better believe that I was front and centre. The punk-rockers did a stellar job at kicking off the festivities. Bianca Davino is a powerful vocalist who manages to engage with the crowd while her singing and guitar duties keep her busy. The band finished off with a fun rendition of No Doubt’s hit single ‘Just A Girl’ which brought out some wacky dance moves throughout the crowd.
This energetic bunch brought the heat the second they stood on stage, which saw the first mosh pit of the festival. Simultaneous clapping and pogoing quickly made us all forget about the chaos of the outside world and to have fun in the moment. A guest appearance from To Octavia’s vocalist Merry Kirk-Holmes made this set just that extra memorable.
Drown This City
Now this is a band that I could watch over and over. The recent addiction of guitarist/vocalist Toby Thomas seems to be the missing piece that nobody knew this band needed. His blistering vocals complimented by Alex Reade’s singing really is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable arrangement. This group also brought out this year’s first of many circle pits for the festival. If this doesn’t signal to everybody that UNIFY is back on in its usual capacity, I don’t know what does.
By the time the colourful characters of Dregg hit the stage, the circus tent was packed with music fans, ready to sing along to one of Melbourne’s most impressive hardcore acts. Covered in masks, makeup and their usual funky outfits, the group played all and new hits, including fan favourite ‘Feeling Fine’, drawing a huge response from the crowd. So damn good!
If there’s one thing I had noticed during the last few years, it would be the amount of hype that this band has gathered, I had to catch a glimpse of what everyone was talking about. This alternative rock group knows how to put on a show! Sing-alongs and energetic moshing was in absolutely no shortage during this set, what a way to cap off the festivities of the first night!
Unlike during previous UNIFYs, we got through a night without any tents being flooded – now that’s something to celebrate! I was up early to beat those dreaded queues for coffee and food and to prepare myself for the day. The night before was cold but this didn’t dampen anyone’s mood. We were all buzzing to do exactly what we have all been waiting far too long to do, which was to watch bands perform on the UNIFY main stage. The time had come and none of us could actually believe it!
Welcome to Country
In past years, an Aboriginal Elder would perform a ceremony on stage to recognise and pay tribute to the owners of the land on which the event is held. This year, the ceremony took place in a video format, on the screen at the back of the stage. An Aboriginal gentleman named Steve Parker performed a smoking ceremony and also gave a short history lesson about the Land and surrounding areas. The inclusion of Welcome to Country at shows and festivals has become a significant starter for any event in the heavy music calendar – giving us all a history of the past, the land we stand on and how far the local communities have come.
Kicking off Friday’s performances on the main stage were the Brisbane locals who only recently released their debut album Global Crisis late last year. One of the first things I noticed as the band took to the stage was vocalist Axel Best was wearing an Aborginal themed t-shirt that said “Alway Was” on the front and “Always Will Be” on the rear. This left a lasting impression on me, having just watched the Welcome to Country ceremony. The group also had absolutely no issues getting a mosh pit going so early in the day.
The first thing I noticed about this band is just how cool vocalist Merry Kirk-Holmes looks aesthetically, they really put a lot of effort in with makeup and outfits. It’s that small thing that really made a difference. The group held themselves well together on the stage and performed without any sort of doubt in themselves, as if they belonged on the big stage.
This is a band that was towards the top of my ‘must not miss’ list going into this event. I have fallen in love with Bloom over recent years and I mustn’t have been the only one because by the time this group walked on stage, the crowd at the stage was packed with punters. As the group began performing it was apparent to me that something wasn’t right. Vocalist Jono Hawkey could barely be heard, but as the set went on, this issue was fixed. Starve vocalist Jordan Dunbar jumped on stage to join in on the fun throughout the song ‘Daylight’ and boy did he make his presence known immediately, his vocal projection is on another level. The band played their latest track ‘Sink Into The Soil’ and when the breakdown throughout the outro was played, the mosh turned vicious. The boys also threw perhaps 15-20 t-shirts off stage at the end of their set that said “I saw Bloom at bloomify 2022 and they were way better than Thornhill” on the back. If you were lucky enough to get a hold of one, I’m very jealous!
Dream on Dreamer
After having not played a show in three years, the group walked onto a festival stage for the very last time, which was bittersweet to watch. The sizable crowd made the most of their chance to sing along to Dreamer tunes for one of the very last times, performing a collection of old songs and new tracks from their last album What If I Told You It Doesn’t Get Better in seemingly perfect fashion. This band really proved that they are veterans of the game; acting cohesively, like a well oiled machine. If you missed the chance to say goodbye to this band, or you want to do it again, make sure you get down to their upcoming farewell shows.
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers
UNIFY’s first ever all female performance was here and what a band to do it! These women blew my mind. Three of the band members share vocal duties and it worked without fault. Despite being a different genre than the usual appeal of the UNIFY attendees, they still pulled a massive crowd and even managed to get a large portion singing along. To spice things up, the girls covered Avril Lavigne’s hit single ‘Girlfriend’ which definitely resonated well with the crowd. I applaud these women for what they managed to achieve on the Tarwin Lower stage!
A group that has found themselves in the spotlight over recent months was finally able to present their new lineup to the world in a live setting. Unfortunately, the festival’s sound system had other plans. The band had to play their first song three times as the sound system kept cutting it short. It was enough to frustrate the entire crowd and the band, who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring forward the group’s new era. Once the issues subsided, the band’s set time was cut short, however, this didn’t stop them from making the most of their time on stage. New vocalist Bailey Schembri sounded incredible in front of the biggest crowd he has ever performed to and managed to get the crowd to pull off the biggest circle pit of the entire weekend.
As the sun set over the main stage, this energetic bunch took to the stage and my attention was instantly drawn to vocalist Marie ‘Maz’ DeVita; her energetic stage presence is mesmerising. The band announced that they have recently finished recording their second full length album before executing their rendition of My Chemical Romance’s ‘Teenagers’ which, for obvious reasons, resonated extremely well with the crowd.
As the crowd waited with anticipation for this lively group to kick off their set, the crowd began to chant DJ Ötzi’s infamous hit single ‘Hey Baby’ and boy did it increase the hype. To be completely honest, this wasn’t a set that I was overly excited about, which set me up for my mind to be blown to smithereens by this show. The quality of production that was put into this set, which included an almost blinding lights display, pyrotechnics, and smoke machines made for a world class performance. To top it off, the band’s original vocalist Luke Holmes (who fittingly played his final show with Ocean Grove at the 2019 edition of UNIFY) performed alongside the new lineup during the songs ‘Lights on Kind of Lover’ and ‘Stratosphere Love’. These boys caught me off guard this year and as a result I left the festival with this being one of my favourite performances. Bravo!
It was finally time for the set that the majority of people had been looking forward to most. The album Chemical Miracle has become an iconic release within the Australian alternative music community and to watch it being performed in full was a must see moment for everyone in sight. The moment John Floreani walked on stage waving a chemical miracle flag, we all knew that an unforgettable performance was imminent. From the second that the first song, ‘Counting Sheep’ was played, the sing-alongs were deafening which made it hard to focus on Floreani’s voice, this remained an issue for the entirety of the set. John took moments between songs to tell the audience that it is okay to not be okay and that if you are a fan of Chemical Miracle, you changed his life. Blue and white confetti shot throughout the festival grounds during the final song ‘Daydreamer’ made for a picture perfect ending.
The Amity Affliction
A large curtain covering the stage was hung and the crowd became restless, everybody knows that a curtain hiding the stage means only one thing, and that is an almighty impressive show! As the clock struck 11:00pm, the curtain dropped and the 2019 hit ‘Pittsburgh’ began playing. It wasn’t long until I realised just how animated frontman Joel Birch was acting on stage, watching him dance from one side of the stage to the other made a massive difference in the quality of their performance. Assisting with the aesthetics of their time on stage was smoke machines and sparks shooting from the ground, it’s nice to see this band invest in themselves by doing so. The group received a lot of praise for playing both new and old songs, from every era of the band. This was honestly the best I have seen Amity perform in years, they have become a well-organised, smooth running team. Kudos to Ocean Grove drummer Sam Bassal for doing double duties with both OG and Amity. What a weapon.
Waking up on Saturday morning hungover, sunburnt and covered in dust seems to be the UNIFY way, it was happening all around me but these obstacles stopped nobody from bringing their A-game to the moshpit. All we needed first was an egg and bacon sandwich and a few hash browns from the Tarwin Sharks and we were set for the day.
This year’s Triple J unearthed competition winners were first to take to the stage, hot off the back of their Knight and Day performance. Despite the early set time of 10:30am, the crowd showed no holding back, with clapping, chanting and kicking up some dust in the mosh during those huge breakdowns that this band is quickly becoming known for!
The Last Martyr
The mosh didn’t stop with the previous band, it only intensified when this group showed their faces. Their music translates so well live, mostly due to vocalist Monica Strut. She manages to hold the audience’s attention as she stalks the stage from left to right with an attitude that says “are you fucking listening?!” which of course the answer was yes.
If I had to choose just one band to watch on the big UNIFY stage over the weekend, it would have been these guys. They have consistently left me gob-smacked after watching them play in small venues countless times over the past few years. I knew they would do well, but to do this well?! I didn’t see it coming. From the very second vocalist Jordan Dunbar stepped foot on stage, he demanded a very large moshpit, which is what he instantly received. From that moment onwards, that mosh was a violent arena. One unfortunate fan broke his nose by copping a foot to the head. It’s hard to escape the fact that Dunbar is an extremely well rounded vocalist whose vocal projection can only be compared to the likes of Bobak Rafiee of Justice For The Damned or CJ McMahon of Thy Art Is Murder. The visibly mosh hungry crowd did their part and produced the band’s first ever wall of death, as well as crouching down, before all jumping up as the breakdown hits. To top it all off, we saw guest vocalists Jono Hawkey of Bloom and Tom Drizner of Ovtsider make an appearance, leaving us wanting more once it ended.
The time had come for this five-piece to show off their debut album, Light Bends. I have always admired this band’s ability to work cohesively with two vocalists that don’t play instruments, very few acts can pull this off with Pridelands being one of them. Unclean vocalist Mason Bunt has no issues when it comes to crowd engagement, as I looked around I had visibly noticed that everyone in the crowd was hanging onto his every word. Clean vocalist Joshua Cory manages to easily hit those high notes as he does on the band’s recent release without strain in a live setting. These guys make it easy to watch them.
An album that I have been dying to see performed is Stepson’s Help Men Help You which was released early last year. Vocalist Brock Alan Conry makes it hard to take your eyes off him, his clear-cut, well defined vocals, as well as the way he holds himself on stage makes him a pleasure to watch. Despite not being the heaviest band on the lineup, that didn’t stop them calling for a wall of death!
Helping the sun bring the heat was some of our favourite Gippsland locals. Before the band had even started playing the crowd produced a large circle pit. What seems to be becoming a UNIFY tradition is a group of people sit down in a circle, in the middle of the mosh pit and play a game of uno. This year, the card game was enjoyed alongside the Mirrors performance. You wouldn’t find this anywhere else! Playing the older djent styled hits seemed to resonate just as well as the groups newer style of sound, it was refreshing to see a band change their sound so dramatically over one release and for it to be so widely accepted by a massive crowd.
These emo heavy hitters came back for their first show in seven years and by watching them, you would think they had never stopped. Their confidence in front of a large crowd was second to none and they had some great banter amongst themselves which earned them extra points in my book. Oversized beach balls were being bounced around and the all important #swayswaycirclepit concept first conceived during Browny and frontman Shaun Diviney‘s announcement day interview came to fruition. Could we ask for anything more?
Shout out to WoS reader and aspiring writer Allan Comans for capturing the historical moment!
This super talented female duo drew a crowd that were hungry to sing along to the band’s recent hits, despite very few being already released. Performing under a redesigned logo to appear in a metal font, talented drummer Tahlia Borg caught my eye as she drums and sings simultaneously without the slightest strain, what a well rounded musician! These women also managed to tease us with a few unreleased songs which I can’t wait to hear again!
UNIFY’s staple reunion band was in fine form this year. With this being Stories‘ first show in six years, I was surprised to witness that the band played flawlessly. The crowd hadn’t forgotten about these guys either, the sing-a-longs were plentiful. I personally hadn’t given this band a chance until now. Looks like I missed the boat!
An energetic pop punk show never goes unwarranted in these festival grounds and that’s exactly what we got. As the sun began to set, Yours Truly set the standard high for the other headliners. We got Saturday’s first confetti moment and saw an abundance of fans getting up on their friends shoulder to catch a better view of Mikaila Delgado’s dance moves. Once the four-piece left the stage, a song titled ‘Lights Out’, which was unreleased at the time, along with its powerful music video was played upon the stage’s screen; a real treat for the fans that were present.
If any band has levelled up in recent years, it’s these guys. Only three years ago, Thorny played the early afternoon slot at UNIFY ‘19, and now, being one of the last bands to play the entire festival, truly speaks for itself. You better believe that the crowd’s sing-a-longs were ear-splittingly loud, particularly throughout hits such as ‘Reptile’, ‘Lily & The Moon’ as well as ‘Where We Go When We Die’. The bands first ever experience with pyrotechnics and guest vocals from Bloom’s Jono Hawkey really made this a special experience and one that many Thornhill fans won’t forget in a hurry.
Slowly Slowly’s highly anticipated debut UNIFY set was one for the history books. It converted myself (and many others who wouldn’t be considered as fans) into individuals who can’t get enough. As the group began performing, the crowd started throwing rolls of toilet paper from one side of the arena, to the other. Huge props to guitarist Albert Doan, his enthusiasm was infectious. I loved watching him dance around the stage while playing guitar and singing back up. The band played songs throughout their entire back catalogue which in turn, caused all those around me to smile and sing the lyrics back.
It was finally time for the festival’s second day headliner and Brisbane natives, Violent Soho to take to the stage. I was a little disappointed by their entrance. Rather than walking on stage, cracking jokes and throwing beers into the crowd, just as they did at UNIFY ‘17, the group silently took their positions and began to play songs. However, this didn’t throw out anyone’s good mood, fans were high up on shoulders and sing-a-longs were abundant, so much so that the entire crowd sang the intro to the bands track ‘Viceroy’ without the help of vocalist Luke Boerdam. The group played old tracks and new without the assistance of any effects such as smoke machines or any kind of pyrotechnics. If you ask me, this wasn’t a headline performance, but I wasn’t upset about it. I was happy enough indulging myself in what we have missed for too long now and that is being in the crowd of a music festival, singing along to some great track while surrounded by good friends!
With all the chaos that has been occurring in our sometimes dark and unsettling world, the chance to come to UNIFY and celebrate heavy music with like minded people, an opportunity which has been out of reach for so long, is incredibly heartwarming.
Personally, going from attending UNIFY as a music fan with no prior experience of standing face to face with any musician and mumbling words to artists during my first few interviews at the festival in 2019, to coming back to Tarwin three years later heading the complete review process is a concept that I am still trying to grasp. Thank you sincerely to our many readers for helping keep this dream alive.
Festival Review by Adam Rice
Thursday – AM//PM Emo Nite Pre-Party
Dream On, Dreamer
Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers
The Amity Affliction
The Last Martyr
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