Words & Pics by Britt Andrews
All the talking points from Unify Festival!
First up – a consistent theme throughout camping festivals. With cars, utes and trailers from all states of Australia arriving, it proved difficult to get settled and unpacked inside the festival. All while the damp, thick top soil bogged the wheels of the shopping trolley I ‘borrowed’ from a supermarket on the drive down, my fantastic idea was foiled. Those with hand trolleys and flatbed trolleys fared better, and the entry way was littered with deserted tents and eskys that proved too much of a burden. The winner of the Unify entrance however, is the bloke who set up his tent outside, filled it with his things and then dragged it – in its entirety – from the carpark to the campground.
As the rain muddied the entrance, it became a harder slog to get in, except for those who tied ropes to a tarp and dragged their things in like a sleigh #genius.
The Fucking Weather
Because you can’t talk about Unify festival without talking about the fucked up weather. The only festival I have ever been to where it changes from rainy to sunny and back to rainy before one band has even finished their set, not to mention the gale force winds. Some preferred it to last year’s 40 degree, full sun weather, but I think it was best summed up by the bloke camping near me – “I’m just as miserable as I was last year, but its a different kind of miserable.”
Some made the most of the weather though, with an a cappella version of Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘Horses’ ringing out through the rainy campgrounds.
This dude made the most of it in a different way, and just slept through it. Incidentally, he also slept through half of the festival, as he didn’t wake up until Saturday morning.
The cyclonic winds caused the demise of many a gazebo, and founded Unify’s very first tourist attraction – the Gazebo Graveyard. As it grew over the weekend, with the skeletons of fallen gazebos, I heard the words “Lets go check out how big the Gazebo Graveyard is” uttered more than once.
Coachella fashion had nothing on the plastic poncho/garbage bag/tarp aesthetic of the Unify punters.
If there was any way to put booze in it, it was drank from at Unify. Aside from the multitude of shoeys, and the odd thong-y, there were traffic cone beer bongs, pool noodle beer bongs, pirate hat shoeys (hattys?), and boozey rubber chickens. There were even the people who went as far as to bring their own hills hoist for a campground game of Goon of Fortune. I lost, and was made to do my first ever shoey. There are photos, and my Mum is very disappointed in me.
Jason Butler’s Truth Bomb
During letlive.’s set, vocalist Jason Butler took a minute to speak directly to the women in the crowd, opening a song with the following…
“This world is going to act like as a woman, you owe them something. Women you dont owe this world shit. To anyone here who thinks they can take something from a woman – her mind, her body, her spirit or anything else – come and find me in these festival grounds and I’ll punch you in your fucking face”
The Most Bizarre Circle Pit of Them All
As if there weren’t enough opportunities to start circle pits during Unify, one opened up during Luca Brasi’s last song ‘Count Me Out’. While it cannot be denied that ‘Count Me Out’ is a fucking banger of a song, it was the slowest song of their set, and arguably the saddest.
“I’m just so worried about everything, if this is all we’re gunna be, I have developed a taste for defeat.”
This one definitely took out the title for most bizarrely timed circle pit of the festival, but whatever floats your boat mate.
The SS Crowdsurf
Similar to the idea of drinking from anything that will hold booze came the idea of crowdsurfing in anything that will hold a person. Inflatable boats, boogie boards and bins being the main ones. Even Jason Butler of letlive. had a go, jumping in one of the stray recycling bins that had made its way into the mosh pit.
A Light in the Darkness
Standing out above them all (literally) – we have this guy. There is something special about a dude who grabs a tinny, stands on a platform, and doesn’t move for three hours. From 1am til 4am, this guy was the statue of Unify, inspiring onlookers and selfie takers from all over the land (or campsite, whatever you want to call it).
Considering I am someone who can’t even hold my bladder for three hours, I am fucking impressed.
While the price of food has increased from last year – one of my favourite things about Unify 2016 was $5 bacon and egg rolls – they still had food stalls run by the local mens shed and footy club. Tarwin Lower has a population of just over 100 (thanks Wikipedia!), and to see a festival of 7500 people supporting the local community is amazing. Plus, little old ladies watching hardcore bands is cute as fuck.
With that in mind, some more food and coffee stalls next year is a necessity, with some of the lines getting pretty enormous at some points.
Moose Blood’s Fluke
Hitting the stage to a large crowd, UK emo band Moose Blood had the most interesting weather related fluke of the weekend. Singing the chorus of their second song, Honey – “and this will pass like the weather”, the rain clouds momentarily cleared, and the sun shone down for the rest of their set.
The Triumphant Return of Alexisonfire, and the Not So Triumphant Return of CJ McMahon
Unify marked Alexisonfire’s first set of shows since 2015, and their first Australian set since 2012. Opening on ‘Young Cardinals’, and ripping straight into ‘Boiled Frogs’ and ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’, Alexisonfire did not miss a beat. With a perfectly honed sound, they tore down Tarwin Lower, easily taking out the spot for the best band of the festival.
On the other hand, Thy Art Is Murder was rejoined by original vocalist CJ McMahon. While the crowd loved it, with chants of “CJ” ringing out throughout the set, he probably should have done a little bit more vocal training before coming back, taking three tries to growl out the name of one of their songs without his voice cracking.
Their set ended with a rather bizarre speech about how CJ is into saving the Earth, and the Bible is killing the Amazon rainforest. Has no one ever told him about the carbon footprint of music festivals? They certainly aren’t the most environmentally friendly events. After blaming the Bible for all of the world’s problems, he told the crowd he would be “much obliged” if they could burn it for him during their last song, citing fire bans preventing him from doing it on stage. This led to Violent Soho guitarist James Tidswell taking to the stage next and mumbling into the mic “Hey I left a Bible up here, has anyone seen it?”
A Distinct Lack of Dickheads
While 2016’s Unify was my personal favourite festival of the year, it was marred in parts by what can only be described as ‘fucking dickheads’.
2017 topped this, with no dickheads in sight.
I heard the words “We’re all family here” spoken among strangers, I saw hugs, I saw people sharing booze, and strangers helping each other to set up tents or sharing shelter from the rain. And of course, the fact that when one person yelled “NICE GARRY” it became an echoed chorus of Garry’s within the immediate 50 metres. One “NICE GARRY” could last a full two minutes. While there was at least one fuckwit in the festival grounds, with police currently investigating a claim of sexual assault, for the most part Unify’s punters were great people. This culture of kindness makes up a huge part of the reason I consider Unify to be one of Australia’s best festivals.
The Best DJ in the Land
I cannot finish this piece without first mentioning the greatness of the DJ between bands. Between the first few bands, as a perfect soundtrack to watching the mud soaked dudes wrestling on each others shoulders, we had ‘Whats My Age Again’, straight into ‘She Fucking Hates Me’, into Green Day’s ‘Holiday’.
Sprinkled in over the weekend we had everything from metal to John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’. Inspiring some of the loudest singalongs of the weekend, that DJ deserves a pay rise.