Reviewed onSaturday January 21 (photo by Ashley Mar)
“Music has to be a place of hope,” announced Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén, proud and articulate in one of the night’s many abstracted political speeches. Being the night of Trump’s inauguration, the room seethed with anger, but so many more emotions beneath the tattooed skin – solidarity, kinship, passion and that one crucial thing Lyxzén implored us to keep high: hope.
The night cracked open as Melbourne metalheads High Tension took to the stage, and the moment frontwoman Karina Utomo turns her furious glare on you, you shut up and listen. Leaping into the fray and starting her own personal circle pit, Utomo was quickly ringed by fans eagerly accepting the mic from her and screaming along. The pit felt symbolic, given Utomo’s boxing ring attire and her readiness to ﬁght against the kind of thuggish mosh pit behaviour that was fortunately not on display this night.
Veterans Sick Of It All were hugely anticipated, and delivered on their 30 years of hardcore with bruising consistency. As Pete Koller wheeled and roundhouse-kicked his way through the set, brother Lou screamed his face off across a huge, hour-long set. There’s something fresh and distinctive about their New York punk, even this deep into their career, and the gathering maelstrom of the pit consumed their energy greedily, especially when they dropped the ﬁrst song they ever wrote, ‘The Blood & The Sweat’.
Then came Refused. Though a younger band than Sick Of It All – even referencing the latter’s inﬂuence on them as teenagers – their musicality is on a whole other plane. Every track has the precision of jazz, the fury of hardcore, the danceability of punk and the power of a rally.
In between slamming out classics (‘Rather Be Dead’), party-starters (‘The Refused Party Program’) and newcomers (‘Dawkins Christ’), the band gave Lyxzén time to speak to a crowd longing for his insight. Calmly, rationally and succinctly, Lyxzén lifted us up; he spoke of his pride in the “subculture we partake in”, the importance of our passion and our respect for each other, and the necessity for action against economic inequality leading to the rise of populism.
Then David Sandström, Kristofer Steen and Magnus Flagge crashed into ‘Elektra’, setting off the best mosh pit this reviewer has seen in years. Arms flailed, bodies ﬂew left and right, and there was no fear, no hate. The number of women in the pit stood testament to everything Utomo had called for; everything that Lyxzén had held aloft in his rallying cry for men to be feminists. As Lyxzén paraded his sharp, unbridled dance moves, we too felt liberated.
This was the frequency they spoke of 20 years ago. We’ve found the motion, we’re enjoying the right moves. Now it’s time to lead. Refused Are Fucking Alive.