It was Friday the 13th, and under a canopy of artificial stars, fans of Melbourne mega rockers KINGSWOOD hollered loud and proud.
Two support bands warmed up the eager crowd with piercing psychedelic rock sets, but nothing could distract the crowd from what they were there for. The Belligerents lead singer Lewis Stephenson was strangely hypnotic, yelping and dancing awkwardly mid-verse, but his vocals strained throughout the set.
Melbourne’s Lurch & Chief quickly followed, with dual singers Hayden Somerville and Lili Hall getting the KINGSWOOD faithful ready with their heavy harmonies and stage stalking. The mosh pit thickened but they weren’t paying much attention – merely waiting.
The lights of The Forum dimmed and the smoke machine kicked in, resulting in an eerie midnight moors aesthetic. The crowd grew restless as roadies ducked in and out of frame, checking and double-checking equipment as the band prepared for a dramatic entrance backstage. Even a crane-sized camera – like a giant Go-Pro – loomed over the stage in anticipation.
Lead guitarist Alex Laska emerged first, oozing rockstar vibes in a loose cut-out singlet with his trademark long hair and beard combo. Frontman Fergus Linacre bounded out next, channeling Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill in black jeans, a checked shirt and slick hair.
“You guys look fucking amazing!” he exclaimed and the fans roared – a roar fit for a lion – and aptly so as the band’s debut album Microscopic Wars featured the king of the jungle on the cover.
‘She’s My Baby’ and lead hit ‘Sucker Punch’ opened the energetic set, giving drummer Justin Debrincat a chance to really flex his muscles early. The marching beat paired with Linacre and Laska’s dual screaming vocals made for an explosion live – the harmonies are the band’s most powerful instrument! Linacre hit the high notes in the chorus, with Laska keeping the swagger in check with a deeper backing growl.
Within minutes the mosh pit was a heaving, breathing mass of sweaty bodies. Many saw the squishy conditions as a good opportunity to crowd surf or rub up their neighbours. Bodies floated across fingertips in the front row, rising and falling to the beat of KINGSWOOD’s pulsating drum-kit.
Hot white and gold lights strobed dangerously fast throughout every song – I’d go so far as to say at a seizure-inducing speed – which made vision of the stage and the band very tricky indeed. There was temporary relief through the verses before the light show would kick in again on the chorus and blind us all with intense rays.
‘ICFTYDLM’ (aka ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’) was another standout from the setlist, with Linacre’s voice sexy and syrupy over the funky footsteps of Mango Hunter’s bass line. The combination of come-hither coos and boozy epiphanies saw the claustrophobic crowd sway to a slow groove throughout, and when prompted, sing aloud and a cappella.
‘Ohio Man’ came late, and it was a crowd chorus of high-pitched proportions and strident strumming. We weren’t pitch-perfect but we had fun. Titular hit ‘Micro Wars’ was a raucous rock n’ roll affair, and went down a treat in the mosh pit.
The finale was an unusual choice of song – a cover of ‘Wolf’ by First Aid Kit. Although the band because recorded it a few years back for Triple J‘s Like A Version, the song still came as a shock amongst their current rock-heavy set. Surprisingly though, the version was pretty neat, with Debrincat’s tribal rhythms complimenting Linacre’s vocals and the crowd’s accompanying primal howls.
Overall, KINGSWOOD were a knock-out hit at The Forum. Fanatic fans in the mosh pit reveled in the chance to get up close and personal to the band, with outstretched arms, legs and limbs dancing by the lip of the stage. And when Linacre sung “take my hand and take my heart”, it honestly looked like the crowd were trying to do just that.