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Live Reviews : Brewtality Festival @ The Tote and The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne, 03/08/2019

By on August 4, 2019

One of the issues with an excellent local mini festival like this is scheduling clashes. They are very unfortunate, but just as unavoidable, so the idea is to catch the bands you’ve never seen before, not the ones you’ve seen multiple times that you know you love. That’s this humble writer’s philosophy on the matter anyway, so that is the order of the night.

And it is an interesting initiation to the 2019 edition of what has become a fabulous Melbourne heavy music tradition, the Brewtality Festival. At The Bendigo, Wounded Pig are a bolt from the left of centre, a two-piece, a 6 feet 6 bloke on guitar and vocals, a tiny girl on bass and a drum sequencer. But don’t let the latter point put you off: it is certainly a curiosity still to see extreme music being played without a live drummer (although of course not that it has never been done before), but if you set aside your preconceptions as to what heavy music is or should be and go with the flow of it, you will find much to enjoy here. Their songs are short, grindy blasts of pure fury, and their 30 minute set whizzes by in a veritable frenzy. The packed room must be full of open-minded souls, as Wounded Pig receive a raucous reception from the throng despite the perceived oddity of their presentation.

Still at The Bendigo, things return to relative ‘normality’, whatever that means, with stomping Adelaide six-piece stoner crew Mammoth. This band is well-named, their sound is huge, the grooves are fatter than a tub of lard and frontman Matthew Johnson is on some serious angry pills this night as he prowls the stage and takes regular forays into the crowd to drag random people to the front. It’s all in good natured fun through, and the still-packed room laps up every wild moment. Mammoth put a big cheesy smile on every face in the place.

Time to face the elements of a cold, intermittently wet Melbourne winter’s evening for the quick jaunt up Johnston Street to the mighty Tote for the ACT’s I Exist. Smashing out their own brand of harsh but groove-laden hardcore and thrash, this band defines the word ‘crunchy’, and the intensity lifts a notch with each song. The band are tight as a clenched fist and frontman Jake Willoughby reminds one of Anselmo at times as he lays out his throat-rippingly abrasive lines. This band definitely exists to please fans of grooving brutal music.

The famous Tote band room is packed to the back as the evening draws to its epic climax. Sydney’s Lo! are absolutely raucous, but the cacophony they create is all their own. No one sounds quite like them, and no one puts on a show quite like theirs. The band are watertight and exuberant, and singer Sam Dillon commands attention like few other frontmen you will see. He is a deeply charismatic, aggressive bulldozer of a frontman, and his vocal snarl is quite terrifying. Lo! are a very, very dangerous band, and their place high up on this illustrious bill is more than justified.

It doesn’t seem possible, but the intensity levels rise yet another notch with the appearance of Melbourne’s High Tension. Once again we see a band that is difficult to put into a classification box, and once again we see a band in which the instrumentalists are in absolute lockstep with each other and play with power, passion and aggression while a completely over the top frontperson demands much of the crowd’s focus. Karina Utomo is a force of nature, a frontperson who sings and performs like a woman possessed. Their set is a blistering 50 minutes of pure musical savagery, and it leaves the capacity Tote crowd happily devastated and heading back out into the cold with a warm glowing feeling about the quality of Australian heavy music.

Congratulations must be given to the venues, the organisers and the bands for another ridiculously successful Aussie mini-festival. Cheers to the future of this celebration of brews and brutality, long may it reign in beer.


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.