The rise of Parkway Drive, as told through their most important gigs

From run-down youth halls to sketchy deathtraps to the biggest, flame-filled stages on the planet, Parkway have done it all and then some. Frontman Winston McCall takes a look back at some of their most memorable moments and some he’d maybe rather forget…

The rise of Parkway Drive, as told through their most important gigs
Luke Morton
Header photo:
Lucas Englund

We’ve seen Parkway Drive more times than we can remember. They even did their smallest-ever show just for us in The K! Pit. Here, Winston McCall recalls the Byron Bay heroes’ finest live moments…

2003First-ever gig at Byron Bay Youth Activity Centre

“We started jamming at the end of 2002, and seven weeks later we played our first show because we’d written five songs. We played a gig that we put on ourselves in at the Byron Bay Youth Activity Centre, which was the only venue in town at the time. The show was essentially in a parking garage-sized space with zero air conditioning in the height of Australian summer. It had a hot tin roof, zero insulation and a dodgy PA that this awesome local guy used to bring and set up. There was no stage, and it used to get so hot that you’d slip over on the floor because it was too sweaty. We played and all our friends moshed really hard – which was the entire purpose of Parkway in the first place! Start a band for your mates to mosh non-stop, throw some metal in there and just go absolutely nuts. Goal achieved.”

2006Jia O'Connor's first show at Batofar Paris

“This was our first time playing overseas. We bought a round-the-world ticket because we couldn’t afford anything else and stayed away for five months. Our bass player, Shaun Cash, was having a kid but said he still wanted to come, then after three weeks he said, ‘Actually, I’m out.’ Now we’re on the other side of the world with no bass player and no gigs. It was really rough because we went from a 1,200-capacity venue in Sydney to the UK where they were like, ‘Who are you?!’ It was back to square one, or even worse than square one because we’re from Australia so no-one gives a fuck about you. We ended up getting Jia in, who we were good friends with, but couldn’t play bass whatsoever. He turned up and practiced his arse off for two weeks, then we had this show booked in Paris on a red tug boat where you play below deck. It was his first show and he was fucking shit – he dropped his pick three times in a song. But I knew he was our guy; the guy who was willing to fly across the world to learn an entirely new instrument. And we’ve been doing it ever since. He’s come through harder than anyone. He’s a damn good musician and I’m really proud of him. That’s when we became Parkway.”

2007The Horizons launch show at The Arena Brisbane

“This is infamous in Australia. [Debut album] Killing With A Smile had been the biggest thing in Australian metal history, it went from us playing to a couple of hundred people to pulling more than international headliners. We booked this venue that’s about 1,000-capacity, where a couple of years earlier we watched Hatebreed and Soulfly, which was the best show I’ve ever been to. We put it on and it sold out straight away, so we had to put on another night. The first night was absolute chaos, to the point where they shut the gig down and called the riot squad. The riot police kicked everyone out the venue, started arresting people, sent dogs and the entire riot squad through the streets to break up this gig because it was so mental. It made national news, like the front cover of newspapers: ‘Heavy metal riot’, ‘Carnage in Brisbane’. it was absolutely nuts. We had to meet with the Queensland head of police and they said they’d never seen anything like it and that it was a danger to national security. It was full tabloid insanity.”

2007The worst small show at Jerry's Pizza & Pub

“Not all shows stand out for epic reasons. It’s in Bakersfield [in California] and it’s literally what it sounds like – you play in a pizza place. But not in the restaurant itself, in the basement. It’s not an actual venue, it’s a concrete basement with dust and rats and a bunch of plumbing pipes. It’s six-feet wide with a beam down the middle so you can’t set your drum kit up anywhere other than the corner and you all have to shimmy around this pole. We thought it would make for an awesome gig that could be absolutely nuts if people turned up – and they didn’t! We played to six people who could not give a fuck that we were playing. I’ve never played to a more apathetic crowd. When they did choose to mosh, I couldn’t tell if it was sarcasm. At the end of the show, our payment was one cheese pizza between our entire band. They were like four bucks each and we still had to pay for the second one! Whenever we’re down about something, we’re just like, ‘Well, we could be at Jerry’s Pizza.’”

2008Headlining Sweat Fest at Riverstage Brisbane

“We decided to do a tour and book the wildest bands we could, so the line-up ended up as Confession, Acacia Strain, A Day To Remember, Suicide Silence and Parkway Drive all on our second albums. It was right when A Day To Remember exploded and [Suicide Silence’s] No Time To Bleed was just coming out. It was a mind-blowing line-up now that I look back at it. We played the Riverstage for the first time in Brisbane and that’s 10,000-cap outdoors on a hill. We rolled up and the bands just stood there and were like, ‘What the fuck? This is doing to suck. You can fit 1,000 people on the concrete at the front and that’s what we’ll be playing to while looking at a giant hillside.’ Then it got dark and the whole city was just full of band shirts coming through all the streets and down the hill. They kept coming. How the fuck had it got this big? That was one of those moments that really blew away my expectations.”

2011Main stage at Sonisphere

“This was on Deep Blue and our first shot at going on a main stage at a major UK festival. At that point in time we’d played Download maybe once and it was the second stage at 11am or something, but this time it was 3pm, main stage, right after House Of Pain, so we’re the first heavy-sounding thing to hit the stage. And there’s people as far as I can see. We had these giant inflatable waves that half-deflated halfway through the set and Stu [Paice] from Your Demise had to hold one up. We’re skateboarding through these waves and stuff when we’re onstage, Luke [Kilpatrick, guitar] was in a wheelchair playing because he busted his leg just before tour. I just remember playing Deliver Me, and that song starts with this huge bounce, and watched everyone jump like ‘Ohhh shit. This is something completely new.’ It was jumping with my back to the crowd looking at everyone else like, ‘What the fuck!?’ I kind of got addicted to that.”

2011Playing in Kolkata India

“We said, ‘Let’s play as many places as we can in a year.’ So it was China, the Philippines, Japan, Europe, America… We were halfway through South-East Asia and someone got an email saying, ‘Come play Kolkata’ and that was that. Kolkata was insane. We were the only incredibly light-skinned humans in the entire city covered in tattoos, every person in these incredibly crowded streets was just staring at us. They were all super nice, but I’ve never been stared at like that in my life – it was such a trip. We rock up at this venue and the roof is held up by bamboo scaffolding, tied together with rope, and it’s the sketchiest fucking thing. In front of the stage there’s a three-metre gap with plywood on top, we look underneath and it’s a 10-metre drop into a pit. If anyone steps there, it’s an Indiana Jones trap and they’re gonna die. We start playing and there’s no barrier, just 10 people standing with arms linked to stop the crowd from falling down the pit. We got everyone up on the stage at the end and it was the most incredible energy of people just losing their shit. We talked to fans afterwards and one said, ‘I sat on top of a train for two days to come to this gig.’ We literally gave whatever merch we had to them. We never got paid for the gig, but it didn’t matter.”

2018The best small show in The K! Pit at Blondies London

“This was exactly how good I imagined Jerry’s Pizza could have been. It was carnage in a shoebox. It was so weird rocking up on a tour bus and parking out front like, ‘That tiny window there, that’s what you’ve got to get all the gear through and you can’t all set up on the stage because it’s not wide enough.’ It was one of those rare things where when you contain something it makes it all the more special, and that’s the smallest legit gig we’ve played where it was good. It just felt like playing with mates the entire time, but mates that were really fucking rowdy in a place that really shouldn’t have let you be that rowdy. There were people on the bar, people in your face, breathing sweat… it just makes you smile. It doesn’t have to be tens of thousands of people, it can just be friends and some fans and a rad little venue, and it’s still got the exact same vibe.”

2019Headlining Wacken

“When COVID hit and we all thought this was fully done, we sat down like, ‘Well, we got to headline Wacken.’ It’s kind of like we made it. There are other things it’d be cool to do but in terms of actually making it, that’s an Everest right there. When we got booked it was our third time playing Wacken; the first time we thought we’d stick out like a sore thumb but it was one of the most welcoming, awesome in-roads into the metal community for us. Playing a set and having nothing but Germans enjoying it was so, so rad. Every year I watched those headliners like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rammstein… the biggest bands in this genre, and when the booking came through [I didn’t believe it]. That was one of the only times I’ve shat myself in terms of the concept of playing the gig. ‘Fuck, okay, shit, alright, there’s a bit of pressure with this one.’ But it was literally the best gig we’ve ever played, so it all panned out really well.”

2019Headlining Good Things Festival Brisbane

“This was the last show we played before COVID. I can’t remember another Australian headliner of an Australian festival – especially in metal. Good Things said, ‘Just fucking do it.’ It was their first year and we said, ‘If you give us this slot, we’ll give you everything we have.’ And it was in the middle of the bushfires, so we’re playing these shows and every night the whole of Australia was smoke – it was like you were playing on Mars or in Mad Max. We had our full Euro massive set-up that we’re bringing to an Australian festival: everything was going to burn, everyone was going to jump. We were in the middle of a bushfire – fuck everything, this is just going to get levelled. And that’s basically what happened. It was a massive statement of intent – not only of us proving a point that Australian bands can do this, but it took a long time for us to be able to bring the show that European crowds had gotten used to back to Australia, just because there are no venues you can do it indoors. It was the snap moment for a lot of people of where this band had got to and the fact that we’re their band – it was a really awesome moment.”

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