5 August, Oxford Art Factory

It’s kind of weird to realise that the golden ages of music are behind us. Let’s be honest here – the music industry’s cup does not ‘run-eth over’ like it did in the ’90s, it’s more of a glass half empty situation, especially for metal. Bands are struggling between juggling jobs and playing shows, metal venues are closing down in droves. What happened to packed youth centre gigs? What happened to Soundwave? Those days are gone my friends, and uncertainty looms.

But the forge of adversity leaves only pure metal. Any band still in the scene isn’t doing it for any other gain than that found in a pedal and because of this, Ocean Grove’s headliner show was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in years.

The Beverly Chills warmed the small yet eager crowd into a modest frenzy, the duet thrashing out the surf punk they dominate so well. The room slowly swelled as their fans punked out to Big Dog, an interesting mix of rockers rubbing denim jackets with the leather and heel-clad patrons to the intense tunes.

More and more fans of each opening band arrived, and a very respectable pit had opened up for Melbourne-based band Broken when they took to the stage. It felt like an old school gig again – hardcore bands calling for circle pits, mic grabs, and the classic shepherding people out from the back and to the front of the stage. Their fans responded, and though the pit had only a couple of hard-hitters, they did indeed hit hard – not violently with intent, but instead an expression of the music’s hold of them.

There were mic grabs, half successful stage dives, confused but grinning non-metal heads torn between the roaring vocalists in front of them and the young men doing spinning kicks behind them. It was dead set beautiful.

Justice For The Damned kept pulling more and more people in from the outside and the pit swelled and expanded as the local Sydney legends had the crowd yelling along and throwing down for the breakdowns. As I stood on the edge of the pit, the huge mosher in front of me abruptly peeled off to the side of the stage and was welcomed to come up do guest vocals mid song, before returning to the pit again to windmill with his girlfriend.

The room was full when Ocean Grove took to the stage. The ’90s may be gone my friends, but you wouldn’t know it from the ringing phased guitars and high-passed whisper vocals. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. While the previous bands had remained raw instruments for most of the show, the OG boys pushed through with a fusion of atmospheric backing tracks woven smoothly into live playing.

They ripped through the bangers from their highly acclaimed album The Rhapsody Tapes in a manner incredibly true to the original tracks. Certain parts were filled by backing track, and true to their musicianship, bandmates left and returned to the stage when needed. Halfway through the show, only the vocalist Luke Holmes and drummer Sam Bassal remained on stage for Thunderdome, while later on Holmes was gone, with bassist and singer (and all ’round eccentric Odd World mascot) Dale Tanner holding it down for the anthemic Mr Centipede along with guitarists Jimmy Hall and Matt Henley.

By this time the room was completely packed, the pit was alive and full, the barriers were battered by leaning bodies, young and old, different generations and scenes united by this spearhead of modern music. The whole room was headbanging to the irresistible riff of Stratosphere Love and before we knew it the band was finishing up all too soon with my personal favourite Lights On Kind Of Lover before cheerfully and humbly ending to hand out after the gig with their loyal fans and mates.

Any band still going isn’t doing it for money; they’re doing it because they love it. You can hear it in their music and see it in their fans. The golden age is dead; embrace the uncertain and the odd. Go see Ocean Grove and support local hardcore.