As it hones in on its tenth year, the Poison City Weekender has become a homegrown institution for the city of Melbourne; one that has shifted in shape and size as the label itself has. Rather than focus on international visitors, this year’s line-up was more steadily focused on what’s being cultivated right here before our very eyes – a local contingent that traversed genre, style and sound while all still collectively falling under the category of proudly independent and unique in its approach.
This is, of course, not at all to disparage the two acts that came across the seas to partake in the festivities – as a matter of fact, both were responsible for major highlights of the entire run of shows. Worriers, the New York-based queer-punk collective, made a huge first impression on their maiden voyage. Theirs is an inherently-accessible take on forthright melodic punk; its sting in the tail arrives with the impact of their lyrical message, detailing identity politics and LGBTIQ+ issues through tracks like “They/Them/Theirs” and “Most Space.” Jeff Rosenstock, meanwhile, is no stranger to Australian shores. The prolific singer-songwriter has won over bigger and bigger audiences with each and every visit, so it came as no surprise whatsoever to hear so many of the DIY hero’s songs recited back into his face at full volume.
This, too, is in no way meant to disparage the bands who crossed statelines either. Hearing from all corners of the country serves as a timely reminder of what a remarkable job something like the Weekender does in bringing us all together. Consider Adelaide’s Bec Stevens – purveyor of sombre, sobering acoustic folk par excellence. Down the road and across the street, consider Mere Women – easily one of Sydney’s most consistently-engaging and sharpest live bands, genre regardless; always a must-see. Later that night, who should plug in but veteran Brisbane outfit Screamfeeder; pleasing more than a few Gen-Xers in the room with a mix of old and new tracks, as well as a timely Grant Hart tribute.
Sunday at the Reverence Hotel had Newcastle making its presence felt – Jen Buxton roused one of the most close-to-home sing-alongs of the entire weekend with “Get Drunk, Text Linc” (“Someone to drink with would be great/But all my mates live interstate”); while Safe Hands shook the walls of the front bar with their consistently clever brand of post-hardcore, showing fans of their earlier chaotic-metalcore days that they’ve lost none of the same intensity. On the subject of music that’s intense, one simply can’t go past Brisbane sextet Deafcult – and that’s quite literal, too, as their quadruple-fire approach set up a huge wall of guitar that was enough to obliterate anyone foolish enough to not wear earplugs. Throw in the endearing indie-punk of Sydney’s Oslow and Adelaide’s Horror My Friend and you’re starting to get a fuller idea of what’s going on in the respective backyards of each city.
Still, at the end of the day, this Weekender was about celebrating the pride and joy of Melbourne. No matter where you looked across the three days, there was a remarkably-diverse offering of bands to intrigue and entertain. Harmony, playing a rare one-off set, made their late-afternoon slot at the Evelyn feel like the witching hour; concocting sweetness and light to rush headfirst into bitter darkness. Later, Jenny McKechnie would take on impressive double duty – first at the helm of one of the year’s most hyped Australian bands, Cable Ties, with a set justifying every last bit of it; and later in the fold with garage-punks Wet Lips, who churned out their sardonic, sneering songs in-between a particularly-hilarious costume change and a cameo from McKechnie’s birthday-celebrating mum. FOLEY! ensured the positive energy reached a high, Hachiku put all early arrivals at the Corner under their spell, Clowns had a body pile-up bigger than your average zombie movie and ex-pat Tasmanian Lincoln Le Fevre made the final set of the final day one that reaffirmed the spirit of the whole shebang.
There’s only one more thing to say, and that’s to thank whatever higher power you believe in for Camp Cope. Lest we forget it was all but two Weekenders ago that the trio played what was only their second-ever show, performing in the car-park of the Reverence. To see a sold-out Corner Hotel converted into a makeshift choir for these songs that had come to define the last year or so for so many is something that no-one present will soon forget. With an encore of the rarely-performed “Song for Charlie,” many were moved to tears. How fortunate we are. Long may we sing. Long live the Weekender. ‘Til next time, friends. Same Melbourne time, same Melbourne channel. We all live in Poison City.