Photos / Words – Ben GunzburgEveryday Metal

La Dispute have always been a niche band, swinging rapidly between a variety of styles at any given moment and most certainly putting the ‘emo’ in ‘post-hardcore’, always wearing their hearts on their sleeves.  If there’s one thing Australians love, it’s a good niche.  Returning for another of many trips Down Under, not only is this tour special, as they play their entire Wildlife album in full, this Melbourne show is extra special for the fact that it’s their biggest headline show to date.  While we’re usually used to more intimate settings to spend the night with the post-hardcore legends, tonight we grace Forum Theatre for this sold out show.  Can they fill the large theatre with the same intensity we’re all accustomed to?  Let’s find out.

First up is Wifecult, from the Sunshine Coast.  Over the next 30 minutes, we’re treated to some heartfelt rock that is calming, while also being upbeat and getting the toes tapping.  The trio bring a great, fun vibe and have a big sound.  Vocalist Jarith Hughes is super friendly, encouraging fans to meet them after the show at the merch stand.  He also reveals his special bond with Melbourne and that some of their songs were conceived just a little way down the road, when he used to live in St Kilda.


Bassist Joseph Keating does a great job of bringing the backup vocal melodies and also leads the charge in hyping up the crowd, getting fists pumping and a resounding “hey hey hey” from the crowd by the set’s close.  Always great to see fans turn up early for the supports, it’s fair to say these folks now have even more fans than they did 30 minutes ago.  Consider us warm.


Up next, we have another Queensland band in Blind Girls.  Coming out swinging and swiftly changing pace and styles, we’re punched in the face with a barrage of erratic and intense riffage, dissonant leads, jackhammer drumming, foreboding bass, and vocals that can cut through concrete.  A super tight unit, they smash through their set with audible surgical precision, while visually coming across like a 5 limbed beast that’s flailing wildly.


An entertaining set from start to finish, and while everyone played their part to a t, clear standouts are vocalist Sharni Brouwer, with some of the hardest, piercing screams I’ve ever witnessed live, and drummer Ben Smith, whose intensity, energy and timing are all out of this world.  There to bridge the gap between opener and headliner, they may have blown the whole bridge up.  Either way, they definitely left a lasting impression.


After being teased by being able to see La Dispute’s band members’ ankles below the bottom of the curtain (it must have shrunk in the wash), it’s finally lifted and Wildlife is underway.  Never one to let a big stage get in the way of some close encounters, it only takes vocalist Jordan Dreyer a song before he gets right up in the crowd’s grills, with mic grabs and hugs galore.


Reminiscing between songs, Jordan looks back on their first shows here in 2009 as unforgettable, adding that being able to come back after all these years is “genuinely breathtaking.”  The fact that tonight is their largest headline show ever is most certainly not lost on them either, and as the crowd roars in response, it’s clear that the reciprocal love is ever growing.

While Jordan is often in his own little world, twirling his way around the stage, shuffling on the spot in the most erratically adorable way, and even throwing in a large dose of booty drops for good measure, when he stops to give the crowd a cue, they respond like clockwork.  Breathtaking is certainly a running theme of the night.


A Letter, Safer In The Forest/Love Song For Poor Michigan, and The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit all stand out as crowd favourites, with the middle choice really hammer home the bands diversity and ability to easily fill any room with their haunting melodies.  This happening in one of Melbourne’s most beautiful venues makes the moment all the more perfect to witness this poetry in motion.

It’s far from a one person show, with guitarists Chad Morgan-Sterenberg and Corey Stroffolino each bringing their own flavour and mannerisms to the party.  Hair flying and riffs and licks flowing, it’s a beautiful combo.  Bassist Adam Vass is the quiet achiever in the back, contently grooving along amidst the chaos, while drummer Brad Vander Lugt ties it all together with seemingly minimal effort, but maximum heart.  


Clearly the song most of us have been waiting for, King Park does not disappoint one iota.  Massive roars from the crowd and another perfect example of what has built the band such an enduring and passionate fan base over the years.  Fluctuating between erratic and calm, heavy and light, loud and soft, it’s equal parts aggressive and delicate, and we’re all here for every anguished second of it.  The whole room booming “can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?” sends chills up and down the spine.

As good as La Dispute are on recordings, nothing beats seeing them live.  Such raw energy and emotion exuded at every turn, it’s something else.  For all the shit that these styles of music cop, this is really what it’s all about; screaming our lungs out in a room full of our peers and letting it all out.

Taking a longer moment later in the set, Jordan stops to reflect on some things.  “Life is fucking hard.”  Oof, we all feel that.  Going on to pour his heart out about the general struggles of life, especially in the current state of the world, he’s preaching to the crowd.  Reflecting on writing this concept album some 20 plus years ago, Jordan notes that “it makes sense to come back and play these songs,” which dwell “pretty intentionally in despair and hopelessness.”  Jordan, however, goes on to highlight the many beautiful things in life and reasons to feel “hopefull in spite of a lot of things,” relating this to our scene, emphasising the need for us to rally together, because “all we have is each other,” and that “it’s a matter of life and fucking death” for so many people.  The energy in the room is electric, and with the little addition of “fuck transphobes,” our collective love for this person and band just continue to grow.


For all the seriousness of the band’s subject matter, the pure joy the group get from performing shines through throughout the set, and we even get some cheeky dry humour from Jordan as the band ready themselves for a group photo in front of the crowd before the encore, commenting that they don’t normally do it and find it to be corny, adding that there’s “no greater fear in the world than being corny.”  Clearly they got over their fear 😎

The push and pull between band and crowd continues throughout the 5 song encore, as the crowd proves that they haven’t lost any energy, especially during Said The King To The River and set closer Such Small Hands, which is such a climactic tease, tbh.  But how can we be mad at these adorable, beautiful humans?


In all honesty, I admittedly wouldn’t even classify myself as a big La Dispute fan, as far as knowing and listening to much of their discography that often.  However, I’ll keep coming back time and time again to experience such a raw, emotional and immersive live show, and that, in my opinion, is the hallmark of a truly great band.  Progressive and truly heartfelt slam poetry at its absolute best.  Viva Prog-slam! 

Thanks to the Forum crew for having us and a special thanks to Dallas Does PR for arranging access.