FeaturesWritten by Brenton Harris on April 24, 2020
It’s day ‘whatever’ of the self-isolation era and if you’re anything like us here at Music Feeds you’re no doubt burning through peak TV, one binge at a time, trying to find a way to fill the gaping void left in your life by the absence of live heavy music. Well press pause on that binge session, ‘cos we bring you good news from our metal demigods in Byron Bay, Parkway Drive.
Viva the Underdogs, the epic documentary film that chronicles their journey from a basement in Byron, to the headline slot of Wacken Open Air, is available for rent and purchase from Amazon, iTunes, Google or Vimeo today! Not only does the film provide an intimate look at the rise and rise of these Australian icons, giving you the ultimate insight into the inner workings of Parkway Drive on the brink of their ultimate triumph, it also includes most of the band’s Wacken Open Air headlining set; a chaotic explosion of heavy music, pyrotechnics and suspense. Meaning that your lounge room is in serious danger of becoming a one-man mosh pit.
We were fortunate enough to get an early look at Viva The Underdogs, in all of its cinematic glory, and we’ve thrown together a list of our top 10 takeaways from the film, to get you primed for viewing. So have a read, then move your couch out from the wall and get ready to make a circle pit in your lounge room as you let out a deafening pit-call “VIVA THE UNDERDOGS!”
Parkway Drive are fucking HUGE
Unless you’ve been hibernating since before Parkway Drive dropped 2005’s Killing With a Smile and have only just woken up, this probably isn’t news to you. The Byron boys have been crushing it both at home and abroad for well over a decade. As a heavy music community, we’ve been rather vocal about it too, proudly boasting of each new milestone as if it is our own. Even still there are several moments in Viva the Underdogs where the scale of what Parkway Drive have become will blow you away. From the scope of their arena production, to the size of the live crew and examples of the fanaticism they inspire, Viva the Underdogs shows Parkway Drive as what they are in 2020: one of the biggest bands in modern heavy music. It’s bloody heartwarming and inspiring to see.
Their ambitions are unapologetically wild and seemingly endless
As anyone who has seen either Parkway Drive: The DVD or Home is For the Heartless, been to a recent show, or even simply read an interview with the band, could attest, Parkway Drive are a band with unashamedly bold ambitions. They want to be one of the biggest metal bands in the world and Viva the Underdogs gives you an intimate view of the nature of those ambitions, and just how far they are willing to go to realize them. There’s a moment towards the start of the film where the band are shown discussing the potential risk of making the step-up to arenas, it’s an intense scene, one that many bands wouldn’t be willing to share publicly. The fact that it’s followed by them going all in anyway (complete with Winston breaking down the astronomical cost of the production that will see them make little to no profit from the shows) and justifying the gamble by saying it’s necessary to get to where they want to be and to put on the show their fans deserve, is inspiring. Seeing it all pay-off, in breathtaking fashion, later in the film, will have you jumping out of your seat in reverence (pun intended).
Despite the success they’re still very much five mates from Byron Bay having a total blastbeat of a time
One of the coolest things about Parkway Drive’s success has always been the organic nature of their ascendancy and the unique connection between the band members that made it possible. Viva the Underdogs provides a fly-on-the-wall perspective of both, juxtaposing past and present-day footage that displays a familial type bond between members that has only strengthened as the years have gone on. To see them having so much fun, and displaying that same Byron surf trip vibe and ‘why not?’ attitude that made the band’s formative years so memorable, really demonstrates that these five are ride or die (or should that be DIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!?). This is highlighted superbly by members of their equally familial production and label teams who break down each individual member’s quirks, idiosyncrasies and roles within the band. There’s comedic gold to be found in those bonds as well, whether it’s learning that beast of a drummer Ben is a naturalist who would rather be chilling in a hammock next to a river, or that Winston is a tour manager’s dream because all he needs is a bed and a video-game system to sustain him. These little tidbits really show just how comfortable Parkway Drive are in the presence of each other.
They’ve brought their crew along with them for the ride
One of my personal favourite learnings from Viva the Underdogs, is that not only have the band members themselves grown into their success, so too have their crew. Whereas most bands tend to outgrow their initial support crew, Parkway Drive have trusted and challenged their crew to grow with them. Seeing members of the crew get their own moments in the spotlight is a cool touch, and it adds further weight to the notion that Parkway Drive are still the little Byron Bay metal band that really could, making each triumph depicted feel more personal because you know everyone involved is so invested. It also adds significant emotional depth to an apparent firing that takes place in clear view of the camera.
Rhythm guitarist Luke Kilpatrick is still their manager
As unfathomable as it seems for a band of Parkway Drive’s level, they are a self-managed band and that management is done by none other than rhythm guitarist Luke Kilpatrick, who alongside Winston, is the most heavily-featured member throughout Viva the Underdogs. It is through Luke’s scenes that we see the pressure that being in a band at this level can place you under. The scope of what he’s responsible for, outside of playing the guitar on stage, is overwhelming. We are truly given a warts-and-all portrait here, from his wonderment when the production all comes off, to the stress of the nights when it doesn’t and his perseverance through pure exhaustion. Much of the success of Parkway Drive, on a business level, can be owed to his capacity to make wild visions q reality, via practical means. Infamously not a big talker, Viva the Underdogs is as close to a leading man performance as we might ever get from him but he is, for all intents and purposes, Parkway Drive’s leader. It is riveting stuff. Viva the Luke Kilpatrick.
Even at this level stuff goes wrong
Arena productions, by their nature, have a lot of moving parts. Touring arena productions have even more. Every moving part makes for a better show, but it also adds to the likelihood that at some stage, something will go wrong. During Viva the Underdogs a hell of a lot goes right, but a lot goes very wrong also. As viewers, we get to see both sides of the story, in high-def glory. From a blown sound desk in the USA, to an absolute disaster of a production in storm-affected Spain, the repeated failure of a molotov cocktail, broken limbs and the omnipresent danger provided by literal explosions, Viva the Underdogs captures it all, giving unprecedented access to the technical and personal sides of show’s success and failure at a stadium level. These scenes give insight into the band’s mindset and resilience, but also make a cult hero out of loyal guitar tech and production manager Fishy, who the band speak glowingly about as if they are proud older brothers. A lot of acts would’ve left the obstacles on the cutting room floor, however, their inclusion makes the shows where it all goes right (including the EPIC climax at Wacken) feel truly special.
Winston McCall is an awesome narrator
As a frontman, Winston McCall has always been a commanding presence and an absolute rock-solid media performer. The secret to both of those powers is his authenticity. As the band’s primary storyteller, he’s long been the public author of their narrative, speaking confidently and assuredly of their ambitions, and then backing it up with growth, both on stage and on record. Viva the Underdogs makes him the literal narrator of the band’s experiences, and it’s a role he was born for. He manages to lead the way, without ever getting in the way, and his connection with fans, with his bandmate and with the camera exudes authenticity. All documentaries need a strong premise and a reliable narrator, Viva the Underdogs has both.
Home IS where the heart is
There’s a part in Viva the Underdogs, just before the film’s climax, where Parkway Drive are shown on a three-week break from tour in Byron Bay. After spending the rest of the film in the band’s metaphorical ‘home’, the touring circuit, it feels particularly special to be given a glimpse of their bond with their actual home. It’s during this portion that we learn that lead guitarist Jeff Ling is freaking hilarious, that the band still love the Byron lifestyle and that despite spending nearly every waking hour for fifteen years together, they still hang out and surf together on off days! It’s a lovely inclusion, and the positioning of these scenes, right before their crowning moment, creates a beautiful cinematic marriage between their two homes, with Jia’s mum of all people providing the segue.
Bassist Jia O’Connors mum goes hard
In keeping with the overall feel-good family vibe of Parkway Drive and Viva the Underdogs one of the highlight scenes of the entire film stars none other than bassist Jia O’Connor’s mum who goes for her first-ever stage dive, at WACKEN of all places! Yep. You read that right, Mrs O’Connor makes an epic maiden stage dive that sees her surf from the stage all the way to the back of the open-air arena and back again, while her son slaps the bass from a wheelchair with pyrotechnics going off from every angle. It’s one of the best things you’ll ever see.
Their Wacken Open Air set was the triumph both the band and the film deserves
From the opening seconds of Viva the Underdogs we are taken on a monumental journey, with one clear destination, the mainstage of Wacken Open Air 2019. By the time we, as an audience, finally get there, it feels like a genuine triumph, not just for Parkway Drive, but for us as well. To have seen the daily grind of tour life, the highs and lows, depicted in such detail, to have witnessed the struggles, the celebrations, the minutiae, the reality of touring life, to have been there for the moments leading up to the moment, makes the molotov cocktail hitting the Parkway Drive sign to signal their arrival on stage at Wacken feel like a victory. To have the victory, captured from all angles, in 4k and given the full cinematic editing experience, is a gift from the filmmakers to Parkway Drive fans worldwide.
As a fan since 2004, who has been privy to every step of the way, I found myself cheering them on to the stage with a sense of loyalty and pride one usually reserves for a football team. I wanted them so badly to achieve, and they did, they won the heavy musical equivalent of a world cup, and they did it on their own damn terms. If you were at the Australian arena run for Reverence, or at Good Things Festival, you have some idea of what to expect here, but you still really have no idea just how epic 85 000 people losing their minds to Parkway Drive in a field is. Thanks to Viva the Underdogs now you can. In the words of Winston himself, “this is the greatest show I’ve ever played in my life, thank you”.
‘Viva the Underdogs’ is available to rent and purchase via Amazon, iTunes, Google or Vimeo right now.
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