Valentines Day is weird. It’s a great day for many people, kinda sad for a lot of us lonely souls. In 2014 I went to see A Day To Remember in my hometown (I hate this town), and this year I spent the entire day thinking about Monday night. Monday was a night I had been looking forward to since the announcement of the Parkway Drive tour, where I think I may have deafened my girlfriend at the time when I screamed in her car on the way home from work one day. Finally, I had a chance to see them live, as I’d been too scared to attend gigs alone the last time they’d played in the UK. Thus, working till midnight on Sunday serving happy couples was entirely worth it, as Parkway would make up for anything. Despite ParcelForce not actually delivering my ticket, fortunately an amazing customer service rep at Impericon managed to leave me a ticket on the door so I could still get in. Thanks to the wonderful Midlands trains system and their delays (I have a feeling somebody really didn’t want me to attend this gig…) I had to miss the opening act Thy Art Is Murder, though from what I’ve been told by a friend of mine I was meeting in the venue who got to watch them that not only were they brutally heavy, but also put on a stunning performance.
One quick run from the train station over to the venue put me at the front door just as the opening bars of ‘Earthbound’ began as the main support, Bury Tomorrow, took to the stage. Bury Tomorrow are a band that I’ve been lucky enough to see 3 times already and the last time I saw them at Reading I genuinely believed they had the greatest stage presence of the whole weekend. I’ve seen them open the main stage at Reading, play the Pit stage at Reading, and seen them on their headline tour at the Institute in Birmingham. Each time they’ve looked completely at home, and despite warming a crowd up before a mighty legendary band such as Parkway Drive, they looked completely at home in front of the 3000 strong crowd that lay before them. Following the opening track ‘Earthbound’, the title track of their new album, they launched into another new track, ‘301’. This normally features Jamey Jasta, the Hatebreed vocalist, but without him being around frontman Dani Winter-Bates filled in for him by roaring through what is usually shouted by Jasta.
The stage presence I had spoken of really shines through particularly within Dani. Arguably the most passionate frontman I’ve ever seen grace a stage, he demands crowd participation simply with a look. Combine an especially enigmatic frontman with brutal riffs and a cleverly lit stage that kept the crowd in darkness all set whilst casting shadows of the band all the way up the walls of the venue and you get an amazingly engineered atmosphere. With a three song drift back to 2014, crowd participation really came true as ‘Of Glory’ began to play. A huge circle pit opened in the middle of the room, and soon enough the entire room was belting out ‘WE WILL NOT DIE’ before leaping into the heaving throng of a mighty mosh. Keeping it old school, they followed up with ‘Lionheart’, a classic known to any Bury Tomorrow fan, and one of the flagship Bury Tomorrow songs. Completing the trilogy of the past was Sceptres, a beautifully heavy track that invites more moshing than an entire weekend of a festival. After 30 seconds to calm down and Dani to reiterate his ‘Fuck paid meet and greets’ message that he passionately preaches about at almost every live show, the band launched into ‘Last Light’, the second music video from the new album Earthbound. Currently it’s my favourite track from the new album and having seen the track performed live has only cemented that opinion. The track seems monstrous yet personal all at the same time and it’s stunning live as you really get a chance to appreciate not only Dani’s brilliant screamed vocals as well as Jason’s brilliantly strong cleans, which mould together beautifully, particularly on the new tracks. Next up was ‘Memories’, another brilliant new track that really got the crowd moving and bouncing, and even some of the Parkway fans who had never heard of Bury Tomorrow were singing along by the second chorus. Finally, unfortunately, it was time for their set to end. Choosing a storming song to go out on, the band closed on ‘Man On Fire’, another of the bands flagship songs that again entices
people to spend the entire three and a half minutes bouncing across the floor slamming into moshpits from left to right, especially after the request to not stand still until the band finished playing was reiterated. After a huge round of applause, it was time for Bury Tomorrow to remove some of their kit and head backstage for a breather after the stunning set they had just performed; a set, in my opinion, that could help define their career considering the size of the venue they played to.
Half an hour slowly crawled by – with the time taken up by huge crowd singalongs to Bon Jovi, Queen and Journey – until the lights dimmed again and the crowds’ screams of ‘PARKWAY, PARKWAY, PARKWAY’ began. Strolling onto stage came the band, and finally Winston made his entrance, as the band began to play the opening bars of Destroyer. As the entire crowd surrounding me began chanting ‘DE-STROY. DE-STROY. DE-STROY’ while Winston simply punched the air and waved encouragement, it truly hit me exactly what I was about to watch unfold. After ample chanting, Winston raised his mic, released a mighty ‘DESTROYER’ and the band behind him trulykicked in. As the first thunderous smash on the drum resounded throughout the room, streamers began to fly, as did people as the first pits of the performance opened up and the entire room began bouncing like a bunch of crazed metalhead kangaroos.
Despite attending countless festivals, I was still yet to see the more mature fans bouncing around with teen fans; a point that Monday changed. Young fans, looking only 16 moshed and screamed alongside balding, tattooed fans wearing Parkway Drive merchandise that was almost as old as the band. As the streamers landed all over the crowd, beginning to stick to sweat that had formed within 30 seconds of the performance beginning, Parkway were beginning something special. With no respite for the crowd to realise what had just hit them, they launched into ‘Dying To Believe’, which similarly to the opener, had moshpits starting throughout the crowd during the opening vocals. With chugging bass riffs powerful enough to shake the room and screams from Winston and the adoring crowd of ‘DIE, DIE, DYING TO BELIEVE’, I’m amazed the roof stayed attached to the venue. As the wonderful inquisition of ‘Forked tongued motherfucker how the hell do you sleep at night’ left you questioning why Winston was personally angry at you, the greatest pit of the entire evening opened leading to a mosh that only ended with the closure of the song. It was then that they decided it was time for a drift back to the past, and with no introduction the tell-tale haunting guitar notes of ‘Carrion’ rang out across the stage. Horizons is a monstrous album, and one of the first albums of Parkway’s that I got to experience. With ‘Carrion’ being such a flagship song for the band it surprised me that it was thrown in so early but the timing seemed perfect, with fans everywhere clearly psyched up enough to roar each and every syllable back at the 5 crazy Aussie’s upon stage. Now it is at this point I must say my memory of the show drifts a little.
The next song in the setlist was ‘Karma’, which I remember, and opened a mighty pit up, which I remember, and had a great first verse which again, I remember. However, at some point after the first sixty seconds of the song I apparently took a cracking smash to the face as I ran into a pit that caused me to crash to the deck and have to be carried outside by a random friendly Parkway fan (shout out to you if you’re reading this, you da real MVP). He left me outside probably with the intention of me taking a large break and potentially going home, but after some fresh air and a pint of water, I heard the tolling bell that signified ‘Dark Days’, and decided there was no way I was staying outside. Charging back in, I caught the first brutal growl but had to miss the pits. ‘Dark Days’ is by far and away my favourite Parkway song outside of the new album and the live performance of the song only increased my love for the anthem. ‘Deliver Me was belted out next, with a brutal headbang routine that my neck is still telling me should never be repeated ever again. With a switch back to modern day Parkway, we got a chance to experience the first song released from IRE, the mighty ‘Vice Grip’. Funnily enough I can understand why people are petitioning to make it the Australian national anthem; it’s already become an anthem with the crowd participation it encourages, and the soaring pre-choral lyrics really create a hyped mentality throughout the venue. ‘Idols and Anchors’ followed, a song that never really struck me as being good personally, I feel it’s weak compared to the rest of the songs on it’s album and it’s only highlight for me live was the monstrous pits it opened.
‘Dedicated’ made up for the lapse in my song preferences, with a brief intro from Winston reiterating that ‘this is the heaviest song we’ve ever written’, followed by some amazingly synchronised instrument pounding and pyrotechnics. With riffs and breakdowns galore, I cannot think of a better song from the new album to not only smash the crowd to pieces whilst also whipping the already crazed crowd into a frenzy. All of a sudden, my favourite Parkway song started being belted out over the huge stage side amps – ‘Wild Eyes’. After enough repetitions of the iconic “wooahh-ohh-ohh” chant, lights screamed into life as the riff began, and vocals began to wrench themselves free from Winston’s throat. Ironically, with the blazing lights, catatonic noise and furious movement from every angle, as Winston screamed ‘a generation born to witness the end of the world’ it truly felt like the world could well be crashing down inside the venue. Moving relentlessly onto ‘Bottomfeeder’, a song I previously cited as my favourite from the new album back when I reviewed it in October, and a song that still remains my favourite. In all reality, it is a huge song and I cannot wait to see it at Reading Festival this year on an enormous outdoor stage, because it truly has the gravitas to move crowds much larger than the venues it has been unleased in thus far. The brutal closing breakdown opened by ‘YOU CAN’T ESCAPE – NOW SNAP YOUR NECKS TO THIS’ in which even Winston joined in the frenzied headbanging makes the song a huge crowd-pleaser.
. Flashing back as far as possible was the inclusion of ‘Romance is Dead’ from the bands first album ‘Killing With A Smile’, swiftly followed by ‘Swing’. Another great song in terms of crowd inclusion, the stage shook as the band bounced along in unison with the crowd.After a brief break off stage, the band returned with Winston lighting a singular red flare as the haunting choral overtones of ‘Crushed’ began to sound in the background. With the lighting switching to a dimmed blood red colour, the room opened like a chasm to allow both sides to crash together in an unholy marriage of elbows, fists and pure, unadulterated levels of sweat. Finally, it was sadly time for the show to come to an end. Taking a stand on the platform before him, Winston thanked the crowd greatly for our amazing participation on every single song, and reminded us all that this is why he loved to play Birmingham. With a final roar of appreciation for our involvement, he launched into the obvious absentee frim the setlist so far – ‘Home Is For The Heartless’. For one final time pits opened, weary, failing legs began to bounce, and torn throats screamed along whilst guitar strings continued to shred, drumsticks wore down and the microphone somehow continued to pick up the monstrous roars of Winston’s vocal chords. With a perfect cacophony of noise and violence, you realise the beauty of your surroundings; the fact that everyone around you is here for the same reason and you all feel at home within the crowd, really summarises what it feels like to be part of the metal fanbase, particularly for a band such as Parkway who are so involved with their fans. A wonderful way to cap off an amazing evening, the final notes signified the start of the search for friends, shoes and voices.
Written by Laurie Cromwell
Photography by Eva van Kuik
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