Totally Unicorn don't care for the people who are too cool for the opening acts, hanging up the back of the venue or headed straight towards the bar. They're here to party, and bollocks to anyone who isn't. Literally within seconds of the first chord ringing out, frontman Drew Gardner bowled himself over near the mixing desk. Then, he belly-flops onto a bystander and drapes himself over the security barrier, dangling precariously atop of it while screaming through the steel mesh. It's not long after that that he was passionately making out with Lindsay “The Doctor” McDougall, who'd ventured out front to see what all the hubbub was about. The soundtrack to all of this is loose, snarling, downtuned hardcore punk – the legit stuff, mind, not the kind of stuff your kid brother's into. Do you need any more convincing that Totally Unicorn are the Illawarra's must-see live band?
By contrast, melodic punk power-trio The Optionals seemed quite tame. The songs themselves are sturdy, straightforward rockers that pull no punches and draw even the stiffest of necks to succumb to a rhythmic nod. That said, they lacked the spark that draws people in to acts like Totally Unicorn, and their songs tend to fall into a formulaic lapse somewhere around the middle. It's clear that the band means business, however, and that amongst their weaker numbers are some absolute corkers, recalling early Against Me! or even the late, great Staying At Home. They're not going to end up as your new favourite band anytime soon, but – at the very least – The Optionals gained the audience's respect.
Not that that particular respect was maintained for one another, mind – from the very second Frenzal Rhomb took to the stage, it was every man (and, very occasionally, woman) for themselves. Crowdsurfing, bodyslamming, and the classic mosh tactic of simply slamming into another dude for no particular reason was happening left, right and centre. Just another day on the job for Frenzal Rhomb, of course. The band powered through a set of old favourites from “There's Your Dad” to “Mum Changed the Locks” and back at breakneck pace, as well as the hilarious new single “Bird Attack” - if you were confused as to why the band were selling ice-cream tub helmets for $5 at the merch desk, that's why.
The band clearly had a bit of fun ripping through some rarities within their discog, including one sung by bassist Tom Crease when Jay forgot the words. They were also enjoying their now-traditional interaction with loud, drunk, back-talking hecklers, which is ever-present at Frenzal gigs, but perhaps more so in smaller towns. With all of this in mind, it didn't quite live up to expectations. Sure, if you've seen the band once, you've seen them a thousand times. That said, it's a rare day when the band don't bring their A-Game to a headlining show, and this evening was one of those scarce rarities. You could blame it on the alcohol, draining tour life, or, indeed, the alcohol, but Frenzal were just a bit too sloppy this evening. A good, not great, performance.