Photos & Words – Ben GunzburgEVERYDAY METAL

The year was 2003.  Nu Metal’s throne was crumbling, Sweden’s melodic influence was taking American hardcore and metal scenes by storm, pop punk was cruising along, minding its own business, and emo’s rise was just around the corner.  In the midst of all of this, Thrice was preparing to unleash their 3rd album, The Artist In The Ambulance, an album which sonically punched you in the face, while simultaneously getting your toes tapping and your heart feeling all of the feels.  

20 years later, the band has re-recorded the album and to celebrate, has traveled across the globe to perform it in full.  As a sold-out crowd descends upon Northcote’s eponymous and beautiful theatre, it’s fair to say hopes are high that the live show will live up to both recordings.

First up is the sole support act tonight Wifecult, down from Queensland and fresh off a national tour with La Dispute.  As the already quite full room attempts to warm up from the cold Melbourne weather outside, the band helps with some warm tones, catchy tunes, and good vibes.  While the whole band, consisting of guitarist & lead singer Jarith Hughes, bassist and backup singer Joseph Keating, and drummer Brad Vander Lugt, all work great together as a unit, extra credit goes to Joseph for being simply mesmerizing throughout the set.  Bobbing and weaving all over his side of the stage, yelling and gesturing out to the crowd, and generally oozing emotion, he’s hard to take our eyes off.  A solid and tight set through and through, with great lighting to match, the band shows that they have the whole package and proves why we’re seeing their name pop up more and more.


Thrice make their way on stage right on time and explode into Cold Cash And Colder Hearts.  Ebbing and flowing from track to track off The Artist In The Ambulance, the crowd’s electric energy continues to build, lapping it up at every turn.  An album that is absolutely all killer and no filler, it seamlessly translates live, with the tracklist providing a perfect rollercoaster of different energies and intensities throughout.  


For me, the things that have stood out throughout both the re-recording of The Artist In The Ambulance and its live performance are the little but impactful nuances, while keeping the meat and bones of the songs intact.  Arguably the goal of this whole exercise.  Some parts have been given a slightly gentler touch, while others have been turned up a notch.  20 years is a long time and a lot can change over that period.  Skills grow and voices change. 

Whether changes were made due to necessity or desire, or perhaps a combination of the two, the result is a precise execution with a lot of heart and mood shining through.  Lead singer (& rhythm guitarist) Dustin Kensrue’s prolonged melodies certainly add an extra layer that is really captivating, while still being able to yell and scream sharply and aggressively at all the right moments.  I always really enjoy watching songs with a lot of overlapping vocals being performed live, as it highlights an extra element of just how well and tight a band can work together in a way we can often miss on the recording.


While Dustin’s vocals certainly shine, bassist Eddie Breckenridge and lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi do a phenomenal job of backing him up throughout the set, adding a thick layer of atmosphere to these well-crafted songs.  Riley Breckenridge’s drumming is diverse and impressive throughout the whole set, as he effortlessly bounces from punk saunter to hardcore breakdown to metal gallop with the flick of the wrist and heels.

The band really gets to run the gamut of styles and emotions throughout the set, with Stare At The Sun, Silhouette, Paper Tigers, and The Melting Point Of Wax each shining and helping to showcase this diversity.  And how can we look past the title track, The Artist In The Ambulance, to crank things up to 11.  An already emotionally gripping song, the live performance coupled with the energy brought by the crowd is simply overwhelming, in the best way.  Dustin cued the crowd to sing “Look around and you’ll see that at times” and then joined in to sing “it feels like no one really cares” in unison, it’s a surreal and spine-tingling moment.


Once the album set draws to a close, we’re then treated to a pretty comprehensive best-of set, with Dustin noting that it was also the 20th anniversary of their previous album, The Illusion Of Safety, just last year, before they played a couple of tracks from that to celebrate.  Firebreather is another standout, with its somewhat doomy intro riff engulfing us all.  As yet another clear favorite in The Long Defeat, and subsequently, the set, draws to a close, the crowd repeatedly chants “Together we’ll fight the long defeat” while Dustin strums the last eerie chords.  Oof.  Chilling and beautiful.


With the stage lights still on and the house lights still off, the crowd, still hungry, chants for more.  As the ancient proverb says: “It would be rude not to.”  And so, the band returned and gladly told us they’d play a couple more for us.  Treating us to Black Honey and finishing with the ever-epic crowd favorite The Earth Will Shake, the cake has well and truly been topped with cherries.  

An amazing hour and a half filled with a classic album, a very comprehensive best of, singalongs, and not to mention a boatload of nostalgia, our collective hearts are full and our old feet are tired.  Thank goodness it’s Saturday tomorrow.  But if only they did a third show in Melbourne, we could have all seen them…  Thrice…  *mic drop*


Thanks to the crew at The Northcote Theatre for having us and a special thanks to SBM Presents and Beehive for arranging media access.