I had been eagerly anticipating last Wednesday rolling around, like a kid waiting for Santa to come. The No Sleep Til festival, a whole day of punk, hardcore and metal. Santa wasn’t in the house, but maybe Satan was, riding his black horse alongside the tour bus of Australia and New Zealand’s own dedicated punk and heavy metal festival.
I was a little apprehensive about the venue, with the festival being held at the Adelaide Entertainment Center. I assumed that given there was about eleven-odd hours of constant shows, that the recently built smaller theater (which adjoins the larger centre) would house a stage. I arrived to discover that the main theater was set up with two stages instead. As I walked onto the vast and still-empty floor, lucky #1 on the days line-up were already taking to the stage.
Break Even, a four-piece hardcore outfit hailing from Perth drew the attention of the those eager punters who had rocked up early. A circle pit was already forming, like the beginnings of a storm brewing with warnings of a possible hurricanes to come later in the day.
The mid-afternoon acts played short, twenty-minute sets and followed immediately on from one another without breaks. The up shot of this is that you get to catch every band on the line-up. I only missed one act the whole day, and that was Suicide Silence. The second act on the bill was another Aussie act, pop-punk Heroes For Hire. Decked out in ultra bright tie-dye, and inciting the crowd to “get down on the dance floor,” the Sydney-siders delivered an energetic set, but I am sure I was not alone in not being willing to get down on the dance floor, at least not at midday and with no alcohol yet in the bloodstream.
Looking around at my fellow festival-goers, I was immediately struck by how many teenagers were filling up the place, most looked under drinking age. This would turn into a blessing later in the evening, when things got crazier. People moshing with furious abandon while sober are much more considerate than the drunken variant. Heroes For Hire were definitely aiming for the younger demographic, but it was hardcore acts, such as the next on the bill, Melbourne’s Confession, that really got people moving. “Mosh!” lead singer shouted, and the answer is the sight of a few hundred bodies launching into the air. The energy levels were up, which served well the next act, House Vs Hurricane, who were one highlight of the day. Also out of Melbourne, the electo-ambient/hardcore outfit have a unique sound and played a hard, fast somehow kind of dancey set. They seem destined for greatness. Popular American hardcore band We Came As Romans were up next. These guys put on an excellent show, with a noticeably large fan base in the crowd, eating it all up.
3 Inches of Blood, out of Canada, were stepping out in front of a stadium of well-prepped kids full of adrenaline at 2pm in the afternoon and brought something completely different to the party. Obviously heavily influenced by eighties metal, the band had drama and showmanship. However, they drew the smallest crowd so far, and I suspect this may have been due to the fact that many might not have been sure whether to take them seriously or not. In contrast was American metalcore outfit August Burns Red , who delivered a solid set. The place was packed for the Americans, but the sea of bodies quickly dissipated for Swedens’ Katatonia. It seemed it was lunch time all of a sudden, as the floor emptied out pretty quickly. This was a shame, as their symphonic and atmospheric music was a welcome refrain from the turbulence of the preceding acts.
After the melancholy musings of Catatonia and after a few hours inside, with the lights down low, I had begun to feel like the sun had gone out on the world. The next act up, however, would definitely lighten the mood. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes appeared on stage, decked out in matching Hawiian shirts, and with lead singer Spike Slawson in a white suit. They looked like a bad retirement village Christmas show, but Adelaide was all geared up for the American punk covers band, in which NOFX’s Fat Mike plays bass, who greeted the crowd with: “finally a band that doesn’t suck.” It was a little bit West Side Story, as he called out the metal-heads. This band had my attention, but when they began to belt out a frenzied version of “Who Took the Bomp” I really did furrow my brow and say: “I don’t get it.” With other golden oldie radio classics on speed, Me First were entertaining, albeit slightly out of left field.
Punk rockers Alkaline Trio followed next, with their catchy brand of pop punk, yet much of the crowd stayed put at the other stage laying in wait for Frenzal Rhomb. The chant went up, before the band had even stepped onto the stage. Jason Whalley looked visibly perplexed by the reception the band received, wondering what the hell they were doing there, saying: “Who thought we deserved to play in a fucking arena?” The self-deprecating humor just made me love them more. They dedicated their rendition of “World’s Fuckedest Cunt” to Oprah Winfrey, and treated everyone to “Punch In The Face” to close their set.
It had gone six thirty, and the place was starting to fill up a little more as older fans finished arrived after work in time to catch the big names. Atreyu played a fast, loud and powerful set, including songs the like of “Becoming the Bull” and “Bleeding is a Luxury.” The next band, however really got people moving. Americas A Day To Remember showed that they have a large a fan base in Adelaide.
Perhaps even more prevalent than the punk/metal divide that Fat Mike has been carrying on about was the age divide amongst the fans. Bands such as the next on the line up, the absurd and obscene costumed metal antics of Gwar, drew the attention of the older crowd. Before they started, I noticed that the veteran metal band had a sign up advising the audience that the front few rows may be sprayed with fake blood. Awesome! I took a few steps back from the stage, and geared myself up for the show I had heard so much about. Gwar didn’t disappoint, appearing dressed as medieval space monsters, slaying massive T-rex puppets on stage, butchering each other with fake swords and soaking the crowd with red and green liquids. You haven’t been to a real metal show until you have had crimson ejaculent sprayed in your face from a thirty-inch rubber strap-on (at least I assumed it was a strap-on).
We were heading into the tail end of the No Sleep Til festival, and it was time for the big acts. Australian hardcore band Parkway Drive are phenomenally popular, and as they stepped out onto the stage there was an almost audible drawing in of breath, as those on the outer of the floor moved back to make room and the storm that had been brewing all day finally broke. When the boys took to the stage, the biggest circle pit that I personally have ever seen opened up like the hellmouth. Tragedy stuck for the band, however, when someones instrument broke, and the band awkwardly milled around on stage for five minutes while they tried to find a replacement, admitting this was their “biggest fuck up in history.” However they were soon back in action and gifted the crowd with “Sleepwalk.” I watched on as hundreds of people went completely mental.
Next up was another highlight for me, the Irish-American punk outfit Dropkick Murphys. With banjos and bagpipes, they rocked their special flavor of sometimes political and always rowdy punk rock, playing songs such as “Barroom Hero” and “Citizen C.I.A.”
Rounding things up were the two biggest names for the No Sleep Til Festival. NOFX came onto the stage, telling us that Adelaide is a pretty boring place. Not really the best pick-up line I’ve heard. For the second-to-last billing of the festival, the floor seems a little empty. I look over and find that the metal fans are at the other stage, finding a good spot before Megadeth’s set. A lot of the teenage fans seemed to have cleared off after Parkway Drives set finished. This is perhaps understandable, considering most of them would have been toddlers when NOFX where in their heyday. Still many would know songs such as “Franco Un-American” and “Bottles to the Ground.”
Last, but not least anticipated is thrash metal progenitors, Megadeth. Big hair, big guitar solos; this has to be 80’s metal. The band were in great form, playing their classic album Rust In Peace from start to finish. Singer, Dave Mustaine didn’t engage too much with the crowd, but regardless of this, his performance was as fine-tuned and flawless as you would expect. Megadeth rounded up the night, and it would be hard for any true fan not to be happy with their performance.
All-in-all, No Sleep Til might have lacked some of that festival vibe you get from an outdoor show, but we could be thankful for climate control and working toilets. Plus, there was also no risk of an accidental tan. What was not lacking, however, was great bands. The festival definitely came through with the goods. For fans of metal it was a chance to sample some of punks most popular and admired acts (and a chance for the punks to pay out the metal acts). Yet it was the binding factor in many of the bands that cross-over between the two genres that brought the whole festival together and made No Sleep Til a place for everyone to come together and just go completely crazy.