30 March, Bad Friday
Easter is based around the concept of resurrection in Christian belief. This Easter long weekend however, I experienced a different kind; though not without its own kind of religious or mythological undertones. One involving a Newtown band who, following suffering (the media’s favourite catchphrase) “internal issues” and widely publicised controversy, ended their 15-month hiatus by making their return to the stage at Bad Friday.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the day came in the form of Bad Friday’s secret headliner. I use the word secret loosely, as in the lead up to the festival it became more and more apparent on social media that this was the worst kept secret in Sydney’s Inner-West. It was made even more obvious however due to the fact that the band’s T-shirts were on sale at the merchandise stalls… very subtle.
As a lifelong fan of rock’n’roll I have always been fascinated by the idea that every now and then there comes a certain band that has such a profound impact that they become the pride and joy of their hometown. As a 24-year-old music lover from Sydney, the closest thing I have ever experienced to this is Sticky Fingers. The Inner-West is the scene and Sticky Fingers are, to many, the band they rallied behind.
I want to start this review by making it clear that I have never been a fan of the band – quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve always thought that their music, although not terrible, felt somewhat uninspiring to me. This, paired with their past actions and controversy, had always left a terrible taste in my mouth. Although this has no bearing on their artistic output, I still found myself unable to separate the artist from the art. What needs to be made clear as a preface to my review is this: what their return heralds from a purely political standpoint would require a separate discussion altogether, concerning media reporting, separation of politics and art, and a band’s right to a second chance.
However, upholding journalistic integrity and objectivity as a music critic first and foremost, I will review them based on this performance and this performance alone. So how was it?
It was fucking spectacular.
From the second they opened their set with my personal favourite from their back catalogue, Sad Songs, the reaction from the crowd was unlike any I had ever experienced. The love and admiration that so many fans had for the band was truly breathtaking, and the realness radiating from frontman Dylan Frost’s performance paired with the context of the band’s hiatus and the song’s lyrics was truly moving:
“‘Cause I’m done with singing sad songs / I’ve been drinking ’til I fell on the floor.”
It’s always been so easy for me to simply dismiss the singer based on his off-stage actions (again, another important discussion to be had outside of this live review), but I was given a new perspective in that moment. Although alcohol addiction and mental health issues are in no way an excuse for various extremely anti-social behaviours, it became clear to me that he is very much a man in pain. Mental health is a serious and multifaceted issue that needs to be spoken about more frequently. We as a society need to come together and realise that, particularly in the arts, mental health issues are an increasingly serious matter. Perhaps empathy is not the word for what I felt during this song, however, I did find myself extremely blown away by the performance.
As the night went on and more crowd favourites were played such as How To Fly and Rum Rage I couldn’t help but seriously consider what an important night it was for Australian music. Despite the fact that, as I expressed earlier, I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, Bad Friday was filled with people who greatly contrasted my point of view. Whether it be through the passionate singing of every song or the many teary-eyed patrons that I was able to see in my immediate vicinity, I was able to fully understand just how important this band is to so many people. To witness it was something truly special. To say it was one of the more memorable performances of the day would be an understatement. To me, it was one of the more memorable performances of a lifetime.