It’s always fun to watch a band ascend to the next level of success. Whether it be a baby band getting asked to open larger local shows or a band making its way to the national stage, to witness someone’s first steps in a new chapter can offer both hope and satisfaction. Viva The Underdogs documents Australian metalcore band Parkway Drive transforming into a top-tier live attraction.
Recorded during their world tour promoting their album Reverence, Viva The Underdogs captures the band at a new career high. No longer a club band, their success finds them graduating to the ranks of sheds and pavilions. This particular round of touring will cumulate in headlining the Wacken Open Air metal festival in Germany. It’s a dream come true for the band, as it will be their biggest gig to date. Naturally, they have to up their game, they’ve decided to go all-out, and have designed an extravagant, impressive pyrotechnic-heavy stage. In a telling scene, the band gathers at their rehearsal space to witness the brand new stage show. Although they smile and look on in wonder, watch closer; on more than one occasion, the unspoken worry shines through: have we lost our way?
They needn’t have worried. The band quickly acclimates to the newness of it all, and lead singer Winston McCall aptly transforms into the ringmaster of this amazing show. If serious issues occurred, Viva The Underdogs doesn’t show them. We do see inescapable problems, such as food poisoning the night of the first show, the rainstorm that alters their performance at a Spanish festival, or the broken leg of bassist Jai O’Connor right before their Wacken appearance.
That’s a shame, too. How they react to these problems offers up a glimpse of the band as humans. When we do see man-made issues, Viva The Underdogs feels much more real. At their abbreviated Spanish festival set, we witness a closeup on McCall throwing a Molotov cocktail to ignite the pyrotechnics for the set. We watch his excited face deflate quickly into both disappointment and seething rage when nothing happens. Someone forgot to prep the prop, and the band are rightly upset. (Cooler heads should have pointed out that because of the rainstorm and their abbreviated set, it would be easy to forget.) At one point after an unspecified incident, a band member wistfully remarks that they just played one of the tour’s best shows. Yet because of technical issues, the band came off defeated, feeling it the worst show of the tour.
More of that naked honesty would have been nice. It isn’t until the climactic conclusion that we witness more examples of wanton humanity. It’s hard to deny the band’s excitement; they’ve reached a pinnacle, and they’ve conquered it with aplomb. One can’t help buy root for these underdogs, such as they are. While not perfect, Viva The Underdogs is an enjoyable little snapshot of a band becoming heavy metal superstars.
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