PRE-UNIFY 2018 RANT
Whilst I’m generally really excited for my first time attending UNIFY this weekend, I do have a few issues about it to get off my chest. I don’t think it’s really fair to rush out all this important information to us within a week of the festival starting. For somebody like me, it’s overwhelming and a lot to absorb all at once. The process of entry through the gates and to the campsite/arena seems to be more complicated than it needs to be and I’m still kinda stressing out about it.
Also charging people for hot showers, the silent disco and chilled/sparkling water seems like a cash grab to me. It’s a bit rich considering we had to fork out $200 for tickets plus travelling costs and our own camping gear. I’m still a bit uncertain about the Unicoin system though I’m trying to be optimistic about it. Hopefully it’ll make paying for things at UNIFY easier but we’ll wait and see.
DAY 1 – FRIDAY JANUARY 12TH, 2018
Four years worth of stress, anxiety, fear and apprehension has lead up to this moment. In all honesty, I never thought I’d actually attend UNIFY back when it first started but several things changed my mind. I’ve been working hard on my personal development in the last year or so which means putting myself out there more, getting out of my comfort zone, improving my self confidence, making and building friendships and doing some YOLO type things. Attending the UNIFY heavy music gathering festival pretty much ticks all those boxes.
The last music festival I attended was the Big Day Out back in 2009 so it’s been almost 10 years since then. Plus that was only one day and didn’t involve camping out with 7500+ other people in the middle of Tarwin Lower. It’s been a daunting prospect for a while now, questioning whether I’d actually be able to cope in this environment. Everything is pretty much new territory for me except for the actual bands I’d be seeing on stage. But despite my doubts and fears, I’d tried hard to remain optimistic about this weekend and for the most part, I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from people who have been to UNIFY before.
Driving down the Bass Coast highway, the long queue of cars began banking up around 3km out of Tarwin Lower. In some ways, it was a relief as I was really exhausted from the drive down and yet it took over an hour of start-stopping just to reach the carpark entry. They had lots of staff directing traffic and stringline pathways set up to get us into the large field parking area.
I decided to buy myself a flat platform trolley to carry all of my gear on from the carpark to the entry gate. Perhaps I went overboard in the packing department but being my first UNIFY, I wanted to be safe and not sorry. Unfortunately, it was such a pain in the ass to maneuver especially when the weather turned and the ground became very wet, muddy and slushy. When I eventually made it to the main entrance, the security guy checking my bags and ID was really rude and cocky. He could tell that I was physically struggling with my load and simply didn’t care.
I made a beeline for the closest free campsite I could find and found quite of a few spaces available a bit further up and to the right of the main entrance. Setting up my own tent brought my back to my Scouting days but with the rain gradually getting more intense, it was a struggle erecting it up. Thankfully a couple of boys passing by offered to help me. Unfortunately, I was camping with strangers but in that moment, I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get myself unpacked and ready to go.
I was really not prepared at all for how soaked, dirty and muddy I got even though I had a puncho on. Thank god I listened to the advice from people who have been to UNIFY before and brought along some baby wipes, tissues and toilet paper. I did my best to clean out the tent and began settling in. I did some wandering around in the afternoon to get my bearings and it took a while for me to figure out where The Arena was located.
I was in for a rude awakening when I saw the massive line leading into The Arena entrance. And this is where my issues with the new Unicoin system begins. On paper, it sounded like a good idea getting people to top up their cash on a wristband and pay for things electronically. But sadly, in my opinion, Unicoin was a UniFAIL. Standing in a huge line just to get your wristband was an absolute joke. I heard that last year’s system was much better and really they should have stuck to it. Posting out the wristbands would have saved people a lot of grief on day one.
Because of the long wait to get your wristbands, I missed pretty much all of the bands playing on Friday. I really wanted to see Mirrors, Belle Haven and Polaris but unfortunately that didn’t happen for me. I honestly didn’t have the patience to wait in line so I just did some more wandering instead. I bumped into Matt Jones, Joshua Cato, Nat Renée and Mitch Gibson-Kingdom in my travels to and from my campsite.
I spent the next few hours just hibernating in my tent to protect myself from the howling winds and heavy rainfall. Plus I didn’t really know anyone in my campsite so I decided to keep to myself. The one good thing about being independent is the fact that I’m really resourceful and resilient when I need to be. The fact that I didn’t have a “crew” meant that I had to fend for myself a lot this weekend. But at the same time, it does make me feel socially isolated and lonely. It can be really tough to deal with.
Day 1 at UNIFY was generally a pretty shit experience for me with the physical struggles of getting all my gear from the car to the campsite and setting up my tent in the pouring rain. There were also mental struggles of getting my bearings and adjusting to my environment. I got myself a bit emotional after forgetting my wallet and nearly losing my Photo ID. Luckily I found it in the pocket of my shorts. It took me 6 hours to finally get my wristband. My energy levels were sapped by this point.
My mood definitely improved after bumping into several more friends and band mates including Byron Wandjina , Nick Davies, Michael McLaren, Lachlan Hodge, Chris Greber, Ula Kay, Luke Barrows, Adrian Szostek and Dylan Houston. Certainly one of the best parts about UNIFY is running into people you know and they know you. I only ended up seeing one band on Friday sadly and that was Tonight Alive.
TONIGHT ALIVE “I’m intoxicated by my depression and I’m consumed by the fear. That I might never find the answer and the end just gets more near…If my body is a temple, Why does it hurt like hell?”
This was my first time seeing this Sydney-based Alternative Melodic Rock band and I was really blown away by their performance. Vocalist Jenna did sound a little hoarse at times but she quickly recovered. Her message about being free-thinking individuals and believing in yourself was really touching and something I connected deeply with. Set List: Lonely Girl, The Edge, World Away, Disappear, Temple, Crack My Heart. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/u…
DAY 2 – SATURDAY JANUARY 13TH, 2018
I woke up to heavy raindrops and a harsh wind blowing into my tent. At least I made sure that it was securely pegged down well into the ground. The last thing I wanted was my tent blowing away. I managed to get a decent amount of sleep too despite all the loud conversations and music blasting nearby my tent. In terms of food, I was in survival mode feasting on my own scraps as I couldn’t really afford to buy any food from the Food Trucks. I did okay though. I brought some nuts, muesli bars, lollies, bananas, apples, cookies and rice crackers.
I was generally feeling a little more optimistic about today though – seeing more bands play, hanging out with more friends. I got up and went for a morning stroll, bumping into Geordie Mate who was queuing up for a free port-o-loo (Damn those portable toilets were so disgusting but when nature calls, you gotta do what you gotta do) and Mikey Moore along the way. And of course, it started to rain again. This is camping festival life and I’m still not used to it. It’s time to brave the weather.
I hung out with a few people in the Circus Bar tent waiting for DREGG’s set to start including Sabian Lynch, Scottie Simpson, Matt McKinnon, Ollie Midson, Nathaniel Smith and Tyson Taifer. It takes a lot of courage to put myself out there socially but I’m proud of myself for doing it.
DREGG “A middle class bastard, no car and castle. No help in this world for a mid twenties asshole. The cost of living is way too god damn high to survive. Get back to the grind.”
I haven’t seen these boys play since they dropped The Dregg EP last year. I was actually pretty nervous for them considering it was bucketing down prior to their set but thankfully it did clear up just in time (FUCK THE RAIN!). I was determined to stick their set out. The boys put on a really rowdy, “we don’t give a fuck” performance with a little mosh pit down the front of the stage. I really enjoyed it. Set List: Sorry Daddy, Weirdo, Exploring The Kardashians Through The Universe, Don’t Go Into The Mangroves, Curriculum Critters. https://dreggmusic.bandcamp.com/alb…
THE BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT “You’ll be okay, it’s not alright. What good is this world if there is no fucking light? The one thing I am trusted on, the vessel that is almost gone.”
It’s been a while since I last watched this all female Alternative/Pop-Punk band from Melbourne. I noticed that they had two other guitarists filling in for Shelby Ouston who still must be recovering in hospital. There was also a fill in drummer but I’m not sure what happened to Laura Maccormac. Still the girls put on a great show with a strong stage presence and lots of positive vibes. Set List: Disorder, Manifestation, Hostage. https://tbmofficial.bandcamp.com/al…
The weather has been extremely changeable this weekend from strong gusty winds to light and heavy showers as well as overcast and sunny periods. I really didn’t know what to wear at all but luckily I brought lots of clothes for all seasons just in case. I can never seem to adjust to Melbourne’s weather.
Sometime in the afternoon, my motivation levels were sinking like a stone. I knew that in my heart of hearts that music festival life was simply not for me. I was not cut out for it nor did I fit the mould for it. It was all too much for me I guess. I just couldn’t wait to go home, have a shower, see my parents and my cat Lotus, have a decent meal and fall asleep. But at least I can say that I made the effort to come to my first UNIFY.
Despite all of these feelings that I had inside of me, I was determined to stick out the rest of the festival and check out the bands I really wanted to see – Make Them Suffer and Hands Like Houses. I was NOT gonna go home early.
MAKE THEM SUFFER “Slow it down, just wait. Take some time to question life. While you’re young and learning. Take it slow, just stay. I know it’s hard but moving fast. You’re going to miss the journey.”
I haven’t seen this Perth-based Melodic Deathcore band play since their lineup change mid last year but they still managed to put on a solid performance. Guitarist Jaya Jeffery ended up doing a “shoey” on stage which was pretty funny to watch. Set List: Fireworks, Widower, Ether, Let Me In, Blood Moon. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/w…
Where I was camping, I just felt so ignored and excluded by my neighbours. It didn’t help that they were strangers to me and I could tell from their conversations that they weren’t the right people for me to mingle with anyway. I wasn’t interested in doing beer bongs or shoeys either. Just isn’t my thing at all. Nor was being loud, obnoxious and disrespectful. I’m different to a lot of people here at UNIFY.
My depressed mood was really dragging me down as I was struggling to connect and fit in with everyone at UNIFY. But thankfully, things improved when I noticed Ben Jones (ex-Scars Have Faded vocalist) in the crowd during the Being As An Ocean set. I was really keen to meet him leading up to this weekend and glad that I had the chance to. It legitimately lifted me up mentally and made me feel better going into the rest of my night.
HANDS LIKE HOUSES “And I feel like I am fighting a lost cause just to be heard I can’t hear from the howling. Drowning every single word. Let me count the ways you kill me, you kill me.”
Hands Like Houses are fast becoming one of my favourite Australian rock bands. Tonight they put on a really amazing performance with multi-coloured strobe lighting, smoke jets and explosions of streamers and confetti into the crowd. They did have a couple of minor feedback issues at the start of their set but mostly it was really tight. Vocalist Trenton Smith spoke about how powerful music is in connecting people together as one and how we can create peace and harmony between us. Set List: Colour Blind, Perspectives, Glasshouse, Introduced Species, A Tale of Outer Suburbia and Drift. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/d…
DAY 3 – SUNDAY JANUARY 14TH, 2018
As much as I can’t wait to go home today, I will miss the positive experiences I had here. Seeing some awesome bands play, hanging out with friends, getting out of my comfort zone. Overall, UNIFY 2018 was very much a mixed bag for me and the jury is still out on whether I’ll end up going again next year. It would have to depend on a number of different factors. The band lineup. The many issues that I’ve written about and how things will run for UNIFY 2019. Camping “alone” is not really a fun experience for me either.
I spent the morning packing up my tent and campsite which was what a lot of other people were doing as well. Thankfully, getting all of my gear out of the campsite was much easier than on Friday as I didn’t have to worry about getting my ID out and my bags checked by security. I could take my time in packing everything up and carrying it all back to my car. I saw all the wreckage walking through the campsite. Piles of garbage bags, tents and broken down marques from the huge storm we copped last night. Luckily my tent was able to endure it all and was still standing.
BELLE HAVEN “Remember when you said pay up, pay up? Pay up, pay up. Well look who’s paying now. How does it feel to be no longer so treasured?. After all, you’re the one who severed the ties.”
I wanted to leave UNIFY 2018 on a high note and so I decided to watch Belle Haven’s acoustic set. It was just David and Chris behind the microphone stands but it was wonderful to hear these stripped back versions of tracks from the “You, Me and Everything In Between” album. The boys also did a lovely cover (complete with technical issues of course!) of Paramore’s Decode featuring Bri Marsh (vocalist of Future Static). Set List: Selfmade, You, Little Polaroid Boy, The Carving Knife. https://bellehaven.bandcamp.com/rel…
- Seeing some of my favourite bands play at an outdoor music festival
- The experience of camping by myself in nature
- Bumping into lots of friends and meeting new people
- Getting out of my comfort zone and sticking out my first UNIFY despite all of the challenges I had to face
- The funny costumes people were wearing (animal heads, onesies, Hawaiian shirts)
- Random gang sing-a-longs walking from the campsite to The Arena
- The pretty carnival-esque lighting the lit up the camping grounds
- The weather (rain, wind, sun, repeat)
- The struggle of setting up my campsite in the rain and carrying gear
- Putting up with some loud, annoying, immature, vulgar neighbours
- The unicoin (uniFAIL) system
- The constant queues (toilets, unicoin top up, The Arena)
- How disgusting the port-o-loos were (That pungent smell of urine, manure and mud. Eww!)
- Dealing with the mud, cow manure, dirt and insects
- Feeling lonely, anxious, depressed and socially isolated at times
POST-UNIFY 2018 RANT
The Unicoin system was a major flop due to the hassle of queuing up to get your wristband and then queuing up again to top it up. Wristbands and tickets should have been posted out as per previous years. Please do not do this again!
There should be clearer signage especially for people like me who have never been to UNIFY before. I really struggled to get my bearings when I first got there and had to keep wandering to figure out where I was going. I also didn’t know where to get any spare ponchos, garbage bags, paper towels, toilet paper etc.
UNIFY should provide a more extensive list of what things we should bring. Whilst I did rely on a lot of friends about this matter, there was always something that I was going to forget. Things like gumboots, umbrellas, raincoats etc. Also I feel like they should have provided more sheltered areas in the Arena as it turned me off from seeing many bands this weekend.