Photos by Darren Chan
It was an epic return from the beloved rockers.
It seems like aeons ago when Children Collide were an almost ubiquitous presence in the Australian music scene. Thanks to ARIA charting albums and songs in the Hottest 100, the Melbourne-based band were beloved by those enthralled by their punk-infused indie rock and renowned live proficiency.
For that reason, it came as a shock when drummer Ryan Caesar quit the band in 2012, just weeks before the release of their third album, Momentum, citing a deteriorating relationship with singer/guitarist Johnny Mackay.
It took seven years for the band’s comeback to begin in earnest, with Mackay and Caesar mending their relationship and the recruitment of supremely talented Chelsea Wheatley to replace Heath Crawley on bass. A new single, ‘Aurora’, was released and two sold-out shows took place in Melbourne and Sydney.
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The pandemic, of course, put a halt on the band’s return as they had to cancel a tour of Queensland scheduled for March and April last year. But isolation meant more time to release two more singles, ‘Funeral For A Ghost’ and ‘Trampoline’, as well as work on a soon-to-be-released album.
Born from the Melbourne pub music scene, it was perhaps fitting that the band’s return to the stage on Saturday was at Collingwood institution The Tote, which represents a physical embodiment of the ferociousness with which they play. With early and late shows both sold out, there was no messing around, and when the band opened with the track ‘Chosen Armies’ from their debut album The Long Now, Mackay’s sprawling guitar grabbed everyone’s attention and never let it go.
The trio proceeded to play hard and tight and the crowd agreed with their own communal head bob. Punters were kept on their toes from the first song to the last, wondering when the next shredding solo would propel Mackay and his long blonde locks into a pin-balling frenzy back and forth across the stage.
Other gems from The Long Now followed, including ‘Across The Earth’ and ‘Skeleton Dance’, but it took anthemic classic ‘Farewell Rocketship’ to release whatever pent-up anxiety existed within the crowd. The opening lines, “This world it is not safe/We must make plans to leave this place“, saw fans rush like a wave towards the sunken pit below the stage.
To this point, Mackay’s vocal chords were being ripped to shreds, so nobody could blame him when he asked the crowd, after failing with a subtle suggestion earlier, to get him a tequila soda or champagne. Wheatley duly offered him some water, which was vital ahead of what he produced on their latest single release ‘Trampoline’ – an ode to people who leave a lasting impact before bouncing out of our lives.
Luring us in with his calm melodic voice, Mackay unleashed a snarling screech and bounced around with Wheatley as the pair displayed an undeniable musical chemistry.
The new tune received a wild reception, and upon its conclusion, the previously requested bottle of champagne suddenly appeared. Mackay poured glasses for the band, and Wheatley even handed one down to an audience member who had been swaying solo in the mosh since the first song.
The moment felt significant, as if the toast was not only to celebrate a night of indulgent nostalgia, but also revel in what was to come, an exciting future filled with new music and new performances from a band who people had once consigned to the past. Like an old friend returning from years living overseas, it felt like Children Collide were back, and more importantly, here to stay.
The set was rounded out by two of their most well-known songs – ‘Social Currency’ and ‘Jellylegs’ – tracks which sent the already-raucous crowd into fever pitch as bodies and drinks were thrown simultaneously in the air. Visibly out of breath, the band said their thanks and headed off stage, champagne in tow, to rest before doing it all again for the late show.
Highlight: The unbridled joy exhibited by both band and audience
Lowlight: COVID restrictions prohibiting a packed and sweaty bandroom
Crowd favourite: ‘Farewell Rocketship’
Keep up to date with Children Collide via their Facebook page.