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Live Review + Gallery: Funeral For A Friend, Sydney 2016

Funeral For A Friend / Harbours / Little Brother
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney 13/02/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Pauly Vella

The end of times is nigh, my fellow guyliner enthusiasts. After 15 years sweating it out in the scene with tumultuous tunes and lighting-fierce live shows, revered MySpace-era emo pioneers Funeral For A Friend are hanging up the towel. All grown up and no longer sporting obnoxious dyed bangs, 500 Vans-set veterans stand nostalgic, beer’d up and bittersweet for the first of two farewell jaunts in Sydney’s intimate – and as always, sticky – Oxford Arts Factory. On offer? The quintet’s high school angst-stricken Hours (2005), smashed out from start to summit with a healthy shot of Welsh (see: drunken) banter to keep us sated.

Shuffling down two sets of stairs and a curiously neon-lit hallway brings us to Little Brother, the acoustic side-project of Trophy Eyes screamer John Floreani. Right off the bat, it’s uncanny not to see the 24-year-old bellowing skate punk bangers to a sea of thrashing limbs. Instead, he’s propped up on his lonesome in the centre of the stage, strumming heart-wrenching acoustic jams and alternating between a broken whisper and a passionate, albeit oft-jarring yell. Most of the crowd are too swept up in their Oxford Iced Teas (recommended) to even acknowledge Floreani’s presence, but those that do are swept off their feet by his arcadian slam poetry one-liners and battered down hooks sung along to with a sugary rasp.

Flaring riffs and piercing drums dot the hallmarks of Melbourne alt-shredders Harbours. Sam Bassal and Tommy Elliott are monstrous with their axes in tow, tearing through riffs and soaring through solos as Tory Robertson belts anthem-worthy choruses like an industry icon in his second decade. But as potent as he sounds, the frontman steps foot on stage not once during the fivesome’s 30-minute assemblage. Perhaps he’s sprawled out on a sofa backstage when he nails the bridge on “Pulling Teeth”, or hiding by the bar when he swerves into “Nothing Stays The Same”. The band’s atmosphere is accordingly threadbare, but in the end, sound trumps looks, and Harbours sound spot on.

It’s always a glorious moment when the night’s headliner make their victory sprint onto the stage, but when Funeral For A Friend saunter out, that common rush of adrenaline is supplanted with unease. After all, this is it: the end. A quick commemorative speech and a sip of whiskey later, and “All The Rage” has the venue, well, raging. If this is the last time we’re seeing Funeral For A Friend in concert, you’d best believe we’re going to lose our minds. And when the outfit burst into “Streetcar”, you’d best believe we do. From slower jams like “Hospitality” to the crushing “End Of Nothing”, the sold out crowd embrace every passing moment of Funeral’s hour-long exertion, flinging fists and swaying hair as Matt Davies-Kreye roars into his mic.

Davies-Kreye and Kris Coombs-Roberts (guitar) are the last members standing from the Hours era, but fresh-faced shredder Gavin Burrough, bassist Richard Boucher and drummer Casey McHale are in no way out of place. Every mind-numbing hook and spellbinding drum solo washes by in a haze of earnest commotion, “Recovery” a standout for McHale especially. Between cuts from the decade-old sophomore LP, Davies-Kreye opens up about the memories – or lack thereof – that he has from piecing the opus together: “I sung most of this song upside down, bent over a seat in a pick-up truck,” the baseball-capped chorister enthuses before powering into “Drive”.

With most of the room now dying for a breath that isn’t fogged up with sweat, “Sonny” leads the feature presentation not so much out with a bang, but rather a stunningly poignant and tortuously heartfelt fizzle. But of course, Funeral For A Friend weren’t just going to send us packing after a pithy 45 minutes. Leaving just enough time for us to army crawl our way through the crowd and up to the bar (live and die by the Oxford Iced Tea), the quintet storm the stage once more and smash straight into a trio of their heaviest and most vindictive cuts – “Sixteen”, “Conduit” and “1%”. Bodies fly. It’s beautiful.

At this point, Davies-Kreye has well and truly warmed up to his crowd, sneakily teasing tomorrow night’s set and jocularly telling fans to “shut the fuck up” when they clamour for a particular song. “I’m fuckin’ Welsh as fuck! I’ll shag a sheep on top o’ ya and ya mother,” he boasts at one point before dropping his mic, strutting off, and then racing back to burst into “The Great Wide Open”. “Juneau” and “Escape Artists Never Die” tie the set’s laces and send our Saturday into the dust, and with that, a piece of our youth is laid to rest. Funeral For A Friend may be over and done with, but having spent it with our fists in the air and our voices screaming along to every word, we’d say their own funeral was one more celebratory than sad.

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