Although it was an incredibly hot day in Melbourne and a pretty early start for a Thursday night, Hands Like Houses opened up the Melbourne leg of the Big Ass Tour to a pretty large and expectant crowd. At 6pm Rod Laver Arena was already teaming with hardcore and metal fans that (just minutes before) had learned of the cancellation of Soundwave 2016 – a festival that has hosted both of the headliners from the Tour. Hailing from Canberra, Hands Like Houses did a great job of pumping up the early arrivals regardless of being a late replacement in the wake of The Ghost Inside’s awful bus crash. Up next, Pennsylvania band Motionless In White graced the stage in front of the cover of their 2014 album Reincarnate. While the banter from front man Christ ‘Motionless’ Cerulli – that involved him promising to kiss a fan and then deciding he might catch herpes – was awkward at best, hits like Immaculate Misconception and Generation Lost made up for it. Part of the theme from American Horror Story, along with red, white and blue lights added dimensions to the already great A.M.E.R.I.C.A. and although a cover of Linkin Park’s One Step Closer was unexpected, it was executed well and the nostalgia excited the energetic crowd.
The strangest element to the show was the choice of tunes played between the heavy bands. Rather than songs even remotely pertaining to the genres on tour, punters experienced an interesting line up that ranged from Dj Snake and Major Lazer to Ke$ha, Lady Gaga and the Lion King. Although rather odd, fans were still incredibly hyped when the dimming of the house lights signalled the beginning of the first headline act. On the opening day of one of the most anticipated instalments in movie history, the arena was aptly treated to a little of the theme song from Star Wars as Florida post-hardcore veterans A Day To Remember burst onto the stage. A perfect way to get everyone even more excited, the band launched into their set with incredible energy and a very tight and fine-tuned sound that can only come from playing regular shows for the last 12 years. All Signs Point To Lauderdale was clearly the crowd favourite but A Day To Remember managed to fit both old and new tracks in their set, as well as an acoustic cover of Oasis’ Champagne Supernova and a very endearing surprise acoustic rendition of Happy Birthday for front man Jeremy McKinnon. In light of mentioning how disappointing it was for them to hear about the end of Soundwave, A Day To Remember absolutely gave their all to fans both new and old, and appeared confident and relaxed. The entire set was strong and was definitely the most enjoyable of the night.
Finally it was time for The Amity Affliction to show everyone exactly why they have been solid members of the Australian music scene since 2003. After a brilliantly loud introduction including a burst of confetti that lead into Open Letter, The Amity Affliction kept up the pace and exhibited a light show fantastically coordinated with each song. Chasing Ghosts received a huge reception from the crowd and if the circle pit was big before, it suddenly doubled in size and was astoundingly intense by the time hits such as Anchors and Youngbloods were played. Finishing with personalized balloons descending from the arena roof, smoke and fire jets and more confetti than you’d ever imagine seeing at a hardcore gig, the Amity Affliction made it pretty impossible to leave the venue unsatisfied.
While it appears that in the last few years many Australian music festivals thought to be indispensible and covering all kinds of genres have folded, the Big Ass Tour was both well organised and planned, allowing the all ages show to run smoothly even in light of late changes. Hopefully it’s not too long until we see another epic combination of artists grace our shores.