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Refused are NOT f**king dead! The headline rang loud and clear when Refused were announced on the Coachella Festival bill, alongside fellow reformers At the Drive-In, and the post punk and hardcore world went into meltdown. After years of denying a reunion was on the cards, Sweden’s most revered musical export were back on board, and after months of speculation surrounding an Australian tour, the magic moment came in August when Refused announced that they would be touring our shores in November. And how that has snuck up!
Whilst the rest of Australia were hitting their local stadiums to see mega acts such as Coldplay and Radiohead, not to mention the impressive lineup that Harvest Festival had put together, the Refused tour had slipped under the radar. Announcing that they would be officially calling it stumps in December, this tour is guaranteed to be the last time you will see Refused on our turf.
Laying claim to being influences to almost the entire punk and hardcore scene that has come since their genre-defining album The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused are to the genre what Slayer are to metal. All too often the punk genre has forgotten about the reason behind its existence, and the ‘f**k authority’ mentality that comes along with it, but with the return of its prodigal sons, even for this briefest of reformations, could give rise to a scene where the origins of its message aren’t lost amongst the dick and fart jokes.
Melbourne’s own Outright got the ball rolling. With their roots firmly established in the Melbourne punk scene, they were truly honoured to be performing tonight. Perhaps best embodying the feeling amongst the crowd, vocalist Jelena Goluza acknowledged those who were due on stage next, noting that in the last ten years or so singing Refused songs at this very venue (as Goo Nightclub) never did she think Refused would ever be here, let alone would they be sharing the same stage as them. Closing their combustive set with their self-proclaimed anti-nationalism anthem Barbarian, Outright laid a solid foundation for the rest of the night.
After a good 45 minutes of the drone of a single organ note, and the dropping of a giant black Refused banner across the front of the stage, the organ note grew loud and palpable, and as the introductory drums to The Shape of Punk to Come burst out from behind the curtain, the moment had arrived that so many had thought was a distant pipe dream. From the outset, vocalist Dennis Lyxzen’s energy on stage is incredible, and it’s immediately obvious how many vocalists Lyxzen has influenced over the years. From the charismatic stage presence of fellow countryman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of The Hives, to the dance moves of Cedric Bixler Zavala of At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta fame, Refused aren’t simply going through the motions. The message is still loud and clear and delivered in their no-nonsense approach, and the appreciation the audience are showing doesn’t go unnoticed, with Lyxzen constantly praising those in attendance as being the loudest of not only the Australian tour, but of the entire year.
Stopping to pay homage to fellow anarchists Pussy Riot, Lyxzen himself admitted that the music scene had become somewhat petty from when they started their band, and that Pussy Riot had re-ignited the punk movement. Stating that if he got 2 years in prison every time he spoke out against the state and the church, Refused would be an instrumental band. “Free Pussy Riot” was proclaimed, much to the delight of those still maintaining the rage.
Pertinent cuts from their back catalogue were showcased throughout the night, with Coup d’etat, Summerholidays vs Punkroutine, and Refused are F**king Dead all given noteworthy performances, but singling out songs would detract from the quality of the rest of the show. Audience sing-alongs and brutal mosh-pit action are omnipresent throughout, and incorporated with their carefully constructed, yet often minimalistic light show, gave the audience every bit the sonic experience they were hoping for.
Worms of the Senses/Facilities of the Skull closed the main set, which to this point was perhaps the highlight of the night, with fervent action in the mosh that saw fists, legs and sundry flying all over the place, until encore opener New Noise saw the audience reaction resemble something like a street riot, with the crowd shouting almost every word as it was sung. The slower paced Tannhauser brought about a slight change of pace, before Lyxzen once again thanked the audience for their part in making it one of the nights the band will look back on fondly once everything is said and done.
Urging the audience to “Stay curious. Stay wild”, Derive’s short burst closed out in fine fashion.
Refused are NOT f**king dead. At least not yet. But if you missed out on these shows, to you, they might as well be.
(Photo by: Anwar Rizk)