Words / Shots – Ben Gunzburg

It’s a balmy Wednesday Summer night in Melbourne as we all shuffle into Max Watt’s to get cozy with Atreyu and relive some glory days.

First up are locals Chasing Lana, who are ready to rock and warm this crowd right up.  Vocalist/guitarist Dave Cutting periodically checks in with the ever-growing audience to make sure we’re still with them, receiving some hoots and hollers in return, and even an “uhhhh-YEAH!” much to everyone’s amusement.

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The new song ‘Breaking Free‘ does a great job of upping the energy in the room and gives both lead guitarist Robbie Cutting and bassist, Nathan Mesiti, a great opportunity to show off their vocal skills with some impassioned back up roars.”  The new banger is crowd-certified.

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By the time the set closer, Pain, rolls around, the crowd is 100% on board, clapping and cheering along, as Dave makes his way into the middle of the pit to rock out mid-song. A highly energetic and fun set all round!

Bad/Love hit the stage to round out the all-Melbourne support lineup and mean business from the get-go. The heavy riffs and pounding drums of Follow The Leader take us from the calm intro music into chaos in the blink of an eye, as vocalist Landon Kirk lurks around the stage and hypes the crowd up.

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Never one to stand still for too long, Landon is a constant ball of energy, giving so much out to the crowd and demanding we send it right back. Guitarist Lachlan Monty wields his proverbial axe around like a madman, while also providing backing vocals that oscillate between hauntingly beautiful melodies and harrowing screams. Bassist Martin Wood is the quiet achiever on the other side of the stage, solidly bringing the low end with precision and finesse, while drummer Luke Weber is an unstoppable force behind the kit, like a truck coming our way that won’t slow down.

Bad/Love performs like it’s their show, and gets the appropriate response at every turn, as they power through a well-crafted set covering their already vast discography.  Both Mono No Aware EPs from last year are well represented, with Dead Weight and Saints sating our more melodic sensibilities, while Activist is an absolute onslaught of aggression and intensity.  The faster pace and the hypnotically jagged yet thoroughly catchy beat of Nothing To Lose mix things up nicely and showcase the band’s ability to switch gears with ease, which they do throughout the entire set.  DMU, from 2022’s Life Imitates Art, is another clear crowd favourite and allows Landon to flex his full range of abilities.

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Making sure we all know why we came here tonight, the crowd gives a huge roar as Landon yells “Let’s give it up for Atreyu!”  As their brand spanking new single, Ungod, brings the set to a close, Bad/Love go out the way they came in – swinging hard. Walls of death, a bouquet of flowers emerging from the crowd, and even a bra thrown on stage, this set had it all. a hard act to follow, but we’re confident Atreyu can rise to the occasion.

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As the lights dim to announce tonight’s headliners, the international song for an imminent good time, Darude’s Sandstorm, begins to play and the crowd goes wild, then turns that shit up to 11 as Atreyu emerges on stage from the ether and slams into gear with Drowning, from last year’s The Beautiful Dark Of Life.

Lead vocalist Brandon Saller commands the energetic crowd with ease and proclaims 3 songs in that we’re already the best and loudest crowd of the tour so far. We dare not drop the energy, lest we be shown up by the likes of Perth or Adelaide.  Can you imagine?

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It’s a constant back and forth between band and crowd, with Brandon gesturing and conducting us throughout the set, yelling at one point: “I want some more, Melbourne, give it to me!”  And you bet your sweet bippy that we do.

Brandon announces ‘We’re gonna take it back twenty years’, as the band performs a quick round of musical chairs, with Brandon jumping back behind his old throne, aka the drum kit, while drummer Kyle Rosa grabs bassist/screaming vocalist Marc McKnight’s bass from him, allowing him to solely focus on microphone duties for Bleeding Mascara

As if that wasn’t already wild enough, Brandon later ups the ante by taking a lap around the whole venue during The Time Is Now, with a good dose of hugs, mic grabs, mutual bald head pats, and even a stop at the bar thrown in for good measure. What a fucking riot!

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We get a lot of interaction throughout the set, which brings everyone together.  A reminiscing story about the band’s first Australian tour 2 decades ago cements their appreciation of still getting to tour here after all these years and provides some amusing context for their song (i), which samples our infamous pedestrian crossing sounds.  “We’ve been trying to work out how to put it in a song for twenty years.  I’m proud to say that we finally made our dreams come true.”

We get some serious sentiment about the ups and downs of being in a band for so long, parallelled by the ups and downs of life in general.  While Brandon’s message to “get back up and keep on moving, motherfucker” seems very simplistic for many of life’s perils at face value, having bands, who we put up on a giant pedestal to perform for us while we worship them, take the time to get real with us and let us know we’re not alone with our struggles is far from lost on tonight’s crowd.  I think we all needed it.

We also get plenty of lightheartedness throughout the set, including some push-ups, a condensed cover of Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff, which surprised even the band that they knew that much of it, and of course, a shoey.  It’s always an expectation and hope that the bands we see are as excited to be there as we are, but to see such high levels of glee and whimsy throughout the set is a real treat and very heartwarming.

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While a band can never fit everyone’s favourite tracks into one set, the band manage to fit in something for everyone and each member gets to shine in their role while showing just how seamlessly they all work together.  From the beautiful vocal acrobatics between Brandon and Marc in Gone and Battle Drums, to guitarists Dan & Travis trading solos with excited ease, to the booty-shaking banger of a set closer in Blow, all backed up by Kyle’s superb drumming and Marc’s bass acrobatics.

In the case of sheer chutzpah, the band leaves the stage and tries to fool us that that’s it, but we’re not having a bar of it, and our chants for “one more song” are soon answered by guitarist Dan returning to the stage.  I don’t think any of us expected him to bring a saxophone, though.  We’re treated to some short renditions of Careless Whisper, Never Gonna Give You Up, the Bluey theme song, and Tequila, which summons the rest of the band.  After some joking around, they finally decide on a final song for the night a cover of Whitney Houston’s classic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and Brandon gets us to all repeat the chorus to him, one line at a time.  Wait, they’re gonna play it?  What the actual fuck is happening here?  Side note:  none of us are made about it, and it’s the most ridiculously wholesome way to end our time together.

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Every time they come out here, Atreyu shows us they mean business and wholeheartedly love what they do. Years of grinding, adapting, and evolving haven’t slowed them down and it’s still all love, which is what keeps us coming back. A super fun night of singalongs, laughs and a good dose of shenanigans is just what we all needed.  “We’re Atreyu, we love you, and we’ll see you next time.”  You sure will!

Huge thanks to the crew at Max Watts for having us and John Howarth for arranging media access.

Don’t forget to check out our pre-tour interview with Atreyu guitarist Travis Miguel: