LIVE: Gunnersville Festival

By Yasmin Brown

While Gunnersville is presented as a festival, it feels more like a slightly oversized gig with a few too many bands on the lineup. This is by no means a bad thing, as it means that we get to experience all the positives of a festival – the food trucks, plenty of space to sit and rest before bands, the huge crowds – without the excess alcohol consumption-turn-idiocy that so often accompanies larger events.

Gunnersville has, until recently, been somewhat under the radar as far as the alternative scene is concerned, but after a day curated by one of Punktastic’s favourite bands, You Me At Six, we won’t make the mistake of overlooking it again. 

The Maine

Ever-wholesome, The Maine are never ones to take themselves too seriously, and as the screens switched to a stark red with the message, “Sorry for the inconvenience. You Me At Six will be on soon,” we know that this performance will be as joyful as any other they’ve put on in the past. From multiple successful attempts at getting the crowd moving, to pulling up the once-fan, now-famous Chris Barnes up on stage for ‘Am I Pretty?’, the entire set was a delightful experience provided by five exceptionally kind and talented men. The Maine will never let us down. All too soon, we’re politely told, again by the bright red screen, that “This is the last song a band called The Maine will play today”, and once again, the crowd is encouraged to lose their minds (“If you’re not gonna do it for us, do it for Chris Barnes”, we’re told). While there’s a bittersweetness that comes with the knowledge that it’s almost over, fan favourite ‘Black Butterflies and Deja Vu’ is appreciated all the more. With the knowledge that it’s our last chance to witness this band in all their live glory until February next year, and it draws the set to a near perfect close. 

Deaf Havana

From the moment Deaf Havana take to the stage following an introductory voice-over, we know this is going to be a good set. Larger stages have, in the past, been unkind to Deaf Havana in regards to sound, but today everything we hear (and feel) is faultless. Frontman James Veck-Gilodi’s vocals are powerful yet sweet, and the energy that radiates off each band member is quickly reflected in the sea of fans before them. The band jumps around the stage like a 2002 pop-punk band, which is fitting considering James’ brother and lead guitarist, Matt, is today dressed in an outfit reminiscent of a school boy, and the ecstasy that is spread across each of their faces is contagious. We’re often met with humble thanks, aimed both at the crowd for being there and at You Me At Six for inviting them to be a part of this line up, stating that “it means everything, you don’t understand”. But as we scream the lyrics back over the course of the set (which is far shorter than any of us would like), it seems as though we’re just as grateful for Deaf Havana as they are for us.

Jimmy Eat World

There’s general confusion at Jimmy Eat World ever being second on any lineup however the Arizonan four-piece take every opportunity, however large or small, and make it entirely their own. At this point, the crowd is all but impenetrable, and for good reason – this band has likely been performing for longer than many members of this young audience have been alive. They know how to put on a show, and they know exactly which songs in their extensive discography is going to have fans hanging off their every word. From the raucous ‘Bleed American’ to the perfect opportunity for a singalong that comes in the form of ‘Sweetness’, to the timeless and ever-heartbreaking ‘Hear You Me’ (during which the band is joined by You Me At Six’s lead guitarist Chris Miller), there is something for everyone in attendance. We’re even treated to the live debut of the band’s currently unreleased track, ‘Criminal Energy’, the announcement of which causes a nervous excitement over what we can expect when it comes to future Jimmy Eat World records (the answer, as it turns out, you can find here). The finale and highlight, though, comes in the form of ‘The Middle’, and before the last notes are struck and the band walks off stage, you simply can’t help but find something (or in our case, everything) to love about this band. 

You Me At Six

Following what can only be described as a stunning performance by Jimmy Eat World, it’s time for the main event. This You Me At Six performance has been highly anticipated by all fans, as we’ve been promised every single from the past twelve years, played in chronological order. This means the rare appearance of tracks such as 2010’s ‘The Consequence’ (with a surprise appearance from The Blackout’s Sean Smith) and ‘Liquid Confidence’ – both of which are met with indescribable screams – as well as old-school gems such as ‘Jealous Minds Think Alike’ and ‘Finders Keepers’.

As the set progresses, you can see frontman Josh Franceschi steadily starting to take the performance more seriously. The first few singles are rushed through with a certain level of disdain, or perhaps it’s boredom, but either way it’s clear that You Me At Six are not the band they were 12 years ago. Whether this fact is a good thing or not is entirely up to the fans. 

Aside from the music itself, there are plenty of moments that take you back in time, most notably the performance of ‘Reckless’ that brings back the 2012 tradition of removing an item of clothing and swinging it around our heads. These are elements of a You Me At Six show that have always been embraced by the fans, but it soon becomes clear during ‘Fresh Start Fever’, that the YMAS demographic aren’t necessarily here for a mosh pit, as Franceschi’s attempt at opening up the crowd is met with lacklustre. That doesn’t, however, mean that the audience lacks enthusiasm, as each song is met with sheer excitement and we scream until our voices crackle away to nothing, refusing to let the two hour long set break us.

As we reach the ‘Night People’ part of the set, the energy is maintained with more pyrotechnics and an early release of confetti during the album’s title track. At this point, Franceschi takes the opportunity to attempt to scream – a habit he seems to have gotten into this festival season, giving us more reason to believe that what’s to come with the new music the band keeps alluding to will implement this new vocal feature. We can’t wonder for long, however, as our thoughts are pulled back to the present when the usual ‘Take On the World’ speech that has a general ‘fuck the world’ message, is replaced by a more positive monologue that, when rounded up, amounts to life being really fucking good. Friends and loved ones festival-wide put their arms around one another and breathe this all in as the song progresses, and it’s at this point you realise how important You Me At Six can be in creating a safe space filled with love and positivity in world that sometimes doesn’t feel all that positive at all.

The monumental two-hour set closes with the singles from ‘VI’ and latest single ‘What’s It Like’, which come accompanied by expressions of gratitude to the bands that have played before You Me At Six on this very same stage. Jimmy Eat World, Franceschi states, made You Me At Six what they are today, and the boys in Deaf Havana are their ‘brothers’. This is a festival built on respect and admiration, something that every band on the lineup has acknowledged, and as ‘What’s It Like’ plays out, you can’t help but allow that warm feeling in your chest to entirely fill you up while simultaneously throwing yourself around as the track drops one last time.