Gig Review: You Dirty Rat 2!, The Eastern

I don’t think there’s anywhere I’d rather be on a hot day than in one of my old favourite watering holes with some of my favourite local punk bands, and that’s exactly what I did in Ballarat this weekend at In A Row Promotions second annual You Dirty Rat festival. If you’ve never heard of In A Row or have never been to any of their shows and festivals (Spot Fest, Via Melbourne, In-A-Palooza) then you’re missing out on being a part of Victoria’s amazing folk/punk community.

As I entered The Eastern I was straightaway seeing familiar faces and friendly smiles, and there was just enough time to say some hellos before heading to the band room with a crisp cold cider to take the edge off the heat. TIM HAMPSHIRE was first on, and like most people I’ve met from Portland he was a man who enjoys the simple things in life, like banter with his mates and a beer holder on the microphone stand. His folky acoustic punk is catchy and relatable as the genre always seems to be, I guess the genre is like horoscopes in that way, but lyrically he could turn a phrase like few other punks with an acoustic guitar I’ve seen before. It was a nice easy start to the festival that all those who got down early enjoyed, but I’m still not sure what was the most punk thing about Tim; his contempt for the current government, or his desire to trade albums for beer rather than money.

Up next was my favourite acoustic punk act in all of Victoria and self proclaimed sad-sack, JOE GUITON. Joe may not be the best musician on the line up, in fact I’ve seen him make so many mistakes on stage that he manages to just roll with the punches now and make the screw ups seem like parts of the songs. Regardless, his lyrics are personal and the emotion shines strong with every word, and this day’s performance of ‘Juchie’ was the best rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. At the emotional climax of the song he stopped playing his guitar, and just yelled his way through the lyrics, stammering and powering through some deeply personal lines. I was beyond impressed, I was awe-struck. He closed his set with the help of festival organizer and AGENT 37 frontman Dave Grimson for some duets by what I consider to be one of the Victorian punk scene’s greatest bromances.

The first full band of the night took the stage after, the young guns LETHAL SOUND DIVISION (points for the rad name). Although new on the scene, these three showed some mad potential with all three members sharing vocal duties with widely different styles, and the drummer playing more interesting rhythms than most drummers I’ve seen in the Melbourne metal scene. Despite the dynamic vocals, I’d still love to see them with a dedicated vocalist as none of them seemed comfortable with playing and singing at the same time. I could probably nitpick more but any downfalls they had were just things that come with experience on the stage, and they’re obviously on the right path to getting that experience. Now I can’t move on without mentioning one of the most memorable moments of the night, a cover of KORN’s ‘Shoots and Ladders’ complete with a live bagpipe player in full formal kilt attire, I think Jonathan Davis would be proud of that. Keep an eye on this band, the future looks bright for them.

TRUCKS rolled in next for some noisy yet upbeat emo punk, which sounded great even if the noisy element does drown out the vocals for the most part. If you’re going to have guitars over vocals though, you can at least have the tone right, and they definitely did. The infectious positive vibes from the band got the crowd moving a little bit with bobbing heads and tapping toes, but none were more mobile than bassist Rick Murphy and his pop punk jumps. While never being a big fan of the band, I must admit I really enjoyed their cover of VIOLENT SOHO’s ‘In The Aisle’, it was both a nice change and a good fit for the set. Having lost one of my favourite emo punk bands earlier this year (RIP FOXES) I think TRUCKS could really fill the hole in my heart right now, so I’m glad I discovered them.

Now most of GOOD FOR WEDNESDAY’s set I’ll admit I saw and heard from the beer garden in between talking to an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, but my trusty partner in crime (read: girlfriend) helped me fill in the blanks. These guys got the positive vibe of TRUCKS and amplified it tenfold, there was not a single time I looked at the guys on stage without seeing at least one big cheesy grin, they were loving it up there. They also gave the crowd no choice but to love it by dragging them in for some crowd participation. Whilst writing this review I was shocked to find out how new this band is, since their sound was so tight and their energetic stage presence and interaction with the crowd was at such a professional standard. I just kind of assumed these guys had been around and played many shows on much bigger stages than little old Eastern. I hope one day all the great accomplishments I assumed these guys had are one day a reality for them.

The final band before the break was Adelaide’s horror punks DEAD JOE, and I assume Joe was cremated because these guys looked cooked when they hit the stage. Despite their guitarist having both a MISFITS shirt and a Fiend Club patch on his vest, I am very sad to report there were no MISFITS covers in their set, which is a shame because I thought that was a requirement for all horror punk bands. Despite this their own material was pretty damn good, even if at times their apparent inebriation got in the way of their musical talents. It was pretty disappointing to see the bassist’s wireless pack go to waste, but when one of the highlights of your set is a band member ripping down the lighting above the stage with his bass, it’s probably a good time to rethink your live show. I’m sure I’ll give DEAD JOE a second chance next time I see them, but I doubt they made any new fans with this set.

After a quick Maccas run for dinner, it was back to the bands with THE SECOND SEX, and while I’ve seen many feminists rock this slogan on signs and tshirts at rallies, this band shows that in punk, the future is female. Over the duration of the set I was blown away by the dynamic styles of frontwoman Zarah who could do just about every vocal style in punk; screaming or singing, it didn’t matter, she nailed it despite being unwell at the time. Vast amounts of admiration and respect are due for giving 110% when your body’s not operating at 100%. THE SECOND SEX were probably the truest punk band on the lineup as they were passionately furious for social change, the way hardcore should be. The women in the crowd were loving what was happening on the stage, and the men were as silent as they were uncomfortable over the typical male behaviour Zarah was calling out. Regardless, everyone in the room cheered with vigour at the mind-blowing performance these women gave. This band is exactly what I want to see more of in the punk scene, girls to the front, but more importantly girls to the stage.

I felt sorry for NORTHWOOD having to follow what just went down, but these guys managed to bring it hard and fast in their own way. Now I have to admit that melodic punk vocals bore me, however the mixing did them no favours as all I could really hear was the riffs. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because the guitar work was definitely the pillar holding up NORTHWOOD, it was as fast as it gets and broke the mold of punk guitar work supposedly being simple. Looking back they were probably the best riffs I heard all night. Other than that there’s not much else I can say, they were great and I don’t think the crowd would disagree with that, but they’re just not my type of punk rock.

Next was easily the best set of the night, MESA COSA, with their chaotic garage punk attitude that really got the crowd moving. Now I’ve seen MESA COSA a few times and while always fun, their wild antics often affects their music, making them sound a bit sloppy, but it’s garage punk so who really cares? Well this time, they had the same energy as always but their sound was really tight, and the songs were a thousand times better for it. It was so good that I’d say all it’d take is a set like that and big support slot with someone like VIOLENT SOHO and these guys could blow up. Their set crossed over from wild to insanity in the last song though when the tambourine and guitar being used on stage were passed to the audience, luckily the guitar went to EBONIVORY guitarist Jake Ewings who ripped out some amazing improv that was so good I had to ask afterward if it was planned before the show. Just remembering it now as I write it down, it seems almost magical in my mind that it all happened so naturally and flawlessly. If you’re a fan of full on party bands like THE BENNIES, you’ve got to check out MESA COSA, you’ll never know how you lived without them once you do.

Finally the man behind the day, Dave Grimson, got to take the stage again as three quarters of AGENT 37 set up, plus JOE GUITON filling in for missing guitarist/vocalist Curt. The band was quick to remind everyone that if they didn’t sound good, blame Curt, but despite a replacement who didn’t know all the songs and Dave’s voice not being 100% they powered through song after song. The setlist was shorter than most of their shows as Dave took some time out to humbly thank everyone who made the day come together, but it still contained a healthy dose of both their Ramonescore punk rock originals and a few covers, including that MISFITS cover I’d been craving! Despite not always knowing the songs, it was great to see Joe always helping out whether it be watching Dave to learn the songs as they’re being played, doing backing vocals, or helping Jamie with percussion on the cymbals, he was always there to add his little part. With the stress of organizing a show like this I doubt Dave had much left to give, but as always he and AGENT 37 gave it all and I hope he’s enjoying a long hard-earned rest this week because of it.

The final band may or may not be larger than life, but they were certainly larger than the stage at The Eastern, as THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY spilled over the stage and onto the floor for a much more up close and intimate setting than I think they’d planned on. There’s something about celtic punk that always manages to get people moving, and I’m 99% sure it’s the fiddle which Kat plays so well, and this show was no exception as people in the crowd had a merry jig. The setlist was full of new songs from their upcoming EP ‘Whitewashed Graves’, and it sounded fantastic live so I can’t wait to hear it next month when it’s out on CD. Once again the community came together when guitarist Nath broke a string, he had a replacement in no time and his old faithful back and restrung shortly after, showing there was nothing that could stop them or even slow them down.  As they finished up I was barely able to drag my sweaty body to the bar for a glass of water before the audience starting begging for an encore, and so THE RAMSHACKLE army took the stage once more to give everyone a final dance for the festival, and dance they did!

There’s a special charm to these punk festivals, the communities around them are the best in all of Australia’s live music scenes, and You Dirty Rat 2 was certainly no different. There’s nothing better than mates, drinks, and bands who are all about their mates and their drinks. A massive congratulations to In A Row Promotions on another great show, and I can’t wait for your next one!

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Top 10 Gigs of 2015

A quick look at my diary says I went to roughly 52 gigs this year, that’s one every week on average. Honestly, it was probably even more than that, so narrowing it down to just 10 wasn’t an easy task. Before I start, I just want to give a shout out to Abbath, Iron Reagan, Red Fang and Motley Crue who all just narrowly missed the cut. Getting the top 14 down to just 10 was painful, but I got there eventually and here it is. I’ve also included selfies from some of the gig, because I’m damn gorgeous!

10. Megadeth + Children Of Bodom – Festival Hall
Despite Children Of Bodom being a bit lackluster, Megadeth made up for it 100% and more. The moshpit while Megadeth played was the best I was in all year, no dickheads fighting, just thrashers doing what they do best, drinking and moshing. I was never a big Megadeth fan growing up, but this night converted me. I was kind of hoping for a classic Mustaine political rant, but sadly he kept his mouth shut when not singing for most of the night.

9. KISS + The Dead Daisies – Rod Laver Arena
The Dead Daisies surprised me, I never appreciated John Corabi in Motley Crue, but in Dead Daisies I loved him. It was interesting hearing him cover “Helter Skelter” but not the way the Crue play it. KISS shaped modern rock, and still do it with more style than most rock bands can ever hope to imagine. Pretty much everything Motley Crue did in a tacky way, KISS did it and made it look awesome. I forgot to mention the best three parts though, it was my birthday, my parents were there with me, and afterwards I made it to The Bendigo Hotel in time to catch Toxic Holocaust. All-round amazing night!
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8. Behemoth + Watain + Bolzer – 170 Russel
Merry Antichristmas black metal fans, the devil heard your prayers and sent this amazing tour to Australian shores. Bolzer showed us good black metal can exist without flashy imagery, because the two members themselves were a visual spectacle. Watain are one of my absolute favourite black metal bands, they preserve the essence of 2nd wave black metal in its most unholy purity. And finally, Behemoth are extreme metal rock stars, their live rituals are unrivaled. This was a show for all the senses, and left you satisfied to the core.
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7. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Prince Bandroom
Sadly I missed the opening the band since I had to work late, but The Dillinger Escape Plan have more live energy than any one stage could ever hold. I’d heard rumors of how crazy these shows get but being there was above anything I could’ve ever expected. I even got to hold Greg’s hand while he say “One Of Us Is The Killer”, total man crush overload right there. I also swung by Old Bar on the way home to cool off with some Watchtower, the perfect come down from the high octane adrenaline rush.

6. Yob + Whitehorse + Inverloch – Max Watt’s House of Music
I’ve never forgiven myself for giving Inverloch a bad review when I knew next to nothing about doom in my early days. One day I will redo that review, I swear. They were an amazing opener and left a lot of people wondering why they played before Whitehorse, who were good but lack the reputation Inverloch has in the doom scene. Yob were probably the greatest band I saw all year going by musical prowess alone. They played a mammoth 8 song set list that included “Prepare The Ground”, an gem that they don’t often play live anymore. Such a talented band made of great people who love their fans.

5. Lamb of God + Killer Be Killed – 170 Russel
I got to see Killer Be Killed play their first two live shows ever, and it was a beautiful thing that no one can ever take away from me. Quite easily the best modern metal band around, the supergroup plowed through all but one song of their debut album, with Greg bringing the same fire he brought to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s show. Lamb of God were the second metal band I ever saw live, and the magic is still there every time I see them. Randy is one of the best frontmen in metal and his hardships in life have only made him better. I just wish I was a little younger and more fit so I could survive the intense mosh.

4. CJ Ramone + Area 7 – The Reverence Hotel
Funnily enough I’m not sure if I missed the opening bands at this show or was just too inebriated to remember them. It was Valentine’s Day, I had no date, and I had just shaved off all my long hair. It’s safe to assume I probably had more than a few beverages in my system. Either way I was still up for a skanking good time in the pit with Area 7. “Nobody Likes A Bogan” was one of my favourite songs as a kid, so finally hearing it live was amazing. CJ was in fine shape on the night, and played a great mix of Ramones classics and his own material, the latter of which I actually prefer (heresy, I know). The mosh was great too, so many happy faces just there for a good time, it’s what punk shows should be all about.

3. Midnight + Bulletbelt + Bastardizer + Black Jesus – The Bendigo Hotel
Before I even hit the Bendi this night I warmed myself up at The Tote with a sneaky Dead/Watchtower afternoon show to ease in to the night. The supports were all amazing choices, especially Bulletbelt, so glad they came over from New Zealand to play. Kromosom dropping off the line up at the last minute was a bummer but it certainly didn’t stop the crowd from embracing total anarchy. I’ve never seen a mosh pit get so wild before, and I don’t think I ever will outside of the Bendi. I even saw crowdsurfers punching holes in the roof, it was pure black n roll chaos in a small sweaty room.

2. Alestorm + Lagerstein + Troldhaugen
I’ve been a fan of Troldhaugen for a while but somehow never saw them live until this show. I was blown away at how much excitement they brought to the stage with their bizarre presence. The Nicki Minaj cover they played was a massive highlight of the night. Lagerstein are in my top Australian bands of all time, sure they’re a bit of a rip off of Alestorm but they don’t care, and Alestorm don’t care, so why should I? The new songs they played were amazing, can’t wait for that next album. Finally Alestorm hit the stage and showed everyone why they’re the most fun live band in the world. This was probably the rowdiest Sunday I’ll ever have, and no amount of being hungover at work on Monday could make me regret it.

1. Hybrid Nightmares + Catacombs + Adamus Exul + Amaros
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Shadey, we get it, you love Hybrid Nightmares, but surely they can’t be better than all the bands you’ve mentioned already”. Well here’s where you’re wrong; a good gig isn’t about the music, it’s about the energy, the excitement, the good times and the people you share them with. This show is where I met some very special people who would go on to make the rest of my year an amazing experience. Through the people I met on this night I became part of an amazing scene that supports each other and makes every show memorable. Before this night Melbourne metal was something I listened to, but now it’s something I’m a part of. And if you don’t think that amazing feeling that is the sense of community when you’re part of a strong scene is what live music is all about, then you don’t understand live music. Also, this was by far the best Adamus Exul set I’ve seen them play. All the other shows I saw in 2015 were amazing, but this one changed my life, and that’s why it’s my #1 gig of 2015.

Gig Review: Abbath + Ruins + Hybrid Nightmares, Max Watt’s

While I love IMMORTAL as every black metal fan does, I can’t be happier about ABBATH touring so soon after the split. I honestly never thought I’d get to see anything from I played live, but last night that all changed thanks to the folks at Destroy All Lines. I was also pretty stoked to see among the crowd some of the best battle jackets I’ve seen in a long time, kudos to you grim black metal sewing experts, and huge kudos to the guy that noticed my Dodsferd patch, that’s never happened to me before and I thought it never would.

Before I go on though, I would like to get on my soapbox again and address one thing. Black metal is definitely an acquired taste, people who listen to it generally know a thing or two about their metal, so where the hell are all these people who can fill out a venue like Max Watt’s when it comes to our amazing local shows? I expect that sort of flakiness from people whose metal knowledge barely goes past Metallica and think Lamb of God is the heaviest band around, but extreme metal fans should know better. Rant over. For now.

Melbourne’s HYBRID NIGHTMARES performed the opening rituals this night, and it was great to see people lining up down Swanston St before doors opened just to see them, whether they knew them or not. Unless you’re new to my blog, I probably don’t have to say how much I love these guys, so of course I was front and center as they came out, neon corpse paint glowing under the black light, and adorned in spatterings of blood and their iconic battle armour. With a short set they wasted no time opening with fan favourite ‘Emperor’, and after the sound was mostly fixed so you could hear more than just bass and drums, the band was obviously in their finest form for their biggest night.

The mixing cut both ways for the band on the night, sadly guitarist Ben Plant was way too quiet, especially during his solos, which took away from their performance, but on the other hand bassist Jonny Helwinter’s backing vocals thundered down upon the crowd louder and better than ever before, something I definitely want to hear more of in the future. Speaking of things I want to hear more of, we were treated to a track off the upcoming ‘Fourth Age’ EP, ‘The First Heretic’, and it is faster and more ferocious than anything they’ve released to date, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the EP! The band closed with ‘The Obelisk’ (did I not call that?) to a great reception from the crowd who were now also spattered in blood from Helwinter’s mouth. Overall the set was visually spectacular and musically excellent, what more can you ask for from a band? Well I guess a longer set couldn’t hurt…

It was only appropriate that a grim, frostbitten band from somewhere close to the North Pole should be supported by a grim, frostbitten band from somewhere close to the South Pole, so next on the line up was Tasmania’s RUINS. Now I also love RUINS, ‘Place of No Pity’ was one of the first albums I ever reviewed and they supported GOATWHORE at my first ever extreme metal show back in 2012, but boy did they have a big task ahead of them after HYBRID NIGHTMARES finished. As always, RUINS were musically excellent, and I’ll be dead if there’s ever a day ‘A Lesson in Ruthlessness’ doesn’t get my heart and fist pumping. Vocalist Alex Pope seemed to feel the same way on stage, air-guitaring along and pumping his fist in the air, it was such a shame that his onstage energy wasn’t infectious enough to get the rest of the band into it. It was obvious that the crowd could tell too, as reactions to Pope’s interactions and applause at the end of the songs dwindled towards the end of their set.

I was left with pretty mixed feelings, I could close my eyes, headbang along and get really into it but every time I looked up there was just nothing to see. That mixed with the lack of decent crowd interaction between songs to create a feeling that RUINS just didn’t want to be there, which is a damn shame because plenty of other bands would’ve. All that aside though, I still love RUINS, and in terms of the music they were on point as they always are, they were just lacking that stage presence HYBRID NIGHTMARES brought and ABBATH was soon to bring.

Moments before ABBATH took the stage, the venue was beginning to fill out, yet I still made it to the bar and back to the barrier without having to push through anyone so obviously attendance wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. It didn’t help that there were two other extreme metal gigs on in Melbourne that night, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln a scene divided against itself cannot stand. Regardless of this when frontman and namesake of the band Abbath came on stage via his signature crabwalk, an overcapacity venue for any other show wouldn’t have made as much noise. There’s just no simpler way of saying it, metal fans love Abbath, and he gives the fans what they love. It was only appropriate that a band featuring half of I’s line up opened with ‘Warriors’ as smoke poured down the stage and on to the headbanging masses below.

From where I stood I didn’t have a clear view of guitarist Per Valla, and drummer Creature was behind a wall of smoke with only his demonic mask visible for most of the night, however I was able to see King Ov Hell and Abbath in their full glory, and boy were they glorious. For someone who played in GORGOROTH and GOD SEED, I expected King to be much more grim and trve kvlt, instead he was bouncing around his side of the stage, pumping his fist and getting the crowd fired up. It was pretty damn clear that ABBATH loved playing for us as much as we loved being there. Naturally it was the IMMORTAL classics such as ‘Nebular Ravens Winter’ and ‘One By One’ that got the biggest reactions, but I was thoroughly impressed with the new track ‘Fenrir Hunts’. If that’s the teaser of the upcoming album, then there are bigger and better things on the horizon for ABBATH.

I don’t think anyone could understand most of what Abbath said between songs, but we cheered anyway, up until they left the stage at the end of ‘All Shall Fall’. Naturally screams and chants came from the audience as we hungered for more, and they returned to close with ‘Withstand the Fall of Time’ for an encore. As Abbath left the stage he shouted one thing I did understand, “See you next year!” Could ABBATH be Soundwave 2016’s black metal act? Who knows, but I am excited at the thought of seeing that live show again so soon.

Gig Review: Behemoth + Watain + Bölzer, 170 Russell

Black metal (anti)Christmas came early this year with a European triple threat tour of BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and BÖLZER hitting Australian shores in late September/early October. Like all the good worshippers of Satan, I jumped on this without hesitation or thought and then eagerly counted down the days to seeing this unholy ritual unfold in Melbourne.

BÖLZER opened up the night and I’ll admit I was hesitant at first. After being a bit disappointed with INQUISITION earlier in the year I had my doubts about extreme metal duos performing live, but they were fast put to rest when the Swiss two-piece took the stage. The first thing that caught my eye was frontman KzR’s 10-string guitar, I don’t know anything about guitar tech so I can’t say much about it other than “it looked and sounded really good”, but here’s a photo of it so you can all bask in its majesty. Speaking of things to look at, while there’s not much you can do with just a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist who can’t stray far from his pedals and microphone, it was great to see BÖLZER performing with such passion and gusto. Crowd interaction was short yet appreciative throughout their set as they jammed as much in to 30 minutes as they possibly could, and the crowd was loving all of it. Judging by the comments I overheard from the girls behind me, the music wasn’t all the crowd loved either, with KzR’s shirtless body showing off his impressive tattoos which covered most of his torso and well made up for the lack of any cliche black metal imagery. The lighting also added to the visual aspect a great deal with 170 Russel’s lighting rig being fully utilized in ways I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know who they had doing it but kudos to them for adding that little bit extra to the show, you’re far too under-appreciated. So to those types who come to shows late to skip supports, you missed out big time, I hope for your sake and mine BÖLZER return to Australia soon.

Up next was one of my all time favourite bands, a band who soon will claim the throne of black metal once legends like MAYHEM call it a day, a band from Sweden called WATAIN. This was my third time seeing the guardians of all that is considered “trve kvlt” and sadly it once again wasn’t a headline tour. However 45 minutes of WATAIN is better than none at all, and this 45 minutes was some of their absolute best. In the past when I’ve seen them play, they all look really pissed off and serious, and their onstage attitude matched that, I always that was just their thing so it never bothered me. This time around though, the band was loving it, they still stayed in character but there was interaction and the band fed the crowd their energy, and the crowd fed the band theirs back to them. I couldn’t care less that the setlist only had one my favourite songs (‘Storm of the Antichrist’ in case you were wondering), this is exactly the WATAIN set I’ve always wanted to see. There was pig’s blood (you could actually smell it), there was fire-breathing, the corpse paint and attire was perfect, the atmosphere was masterfully crafted, and best of all the music was amazing. After they finished I felt satisfied to the core, I even forgot for a moment there was even another band yet to play, and that’s evidence enough that their next appearance in Australia needs to be a headline tour.

Before I comment on BEHEMOTH’s set, I’d just like to give a PSA. 170 Russell is probably the best air-conditioned venue in Melbourne, so unless you have the beard, body and tattoos of KzR from BÖLZER, you can just keep your fucking shirt on in the mosh pit like everyone else does. No one cares about your BEHEMOTH tattoo on your back when you’re a 5-foot-nothing chubby ball of sweat and body hair. No one wants to be your friend when you’re a pasty ginger with a hipster beard/fringe combo and shitty tribal tattoos that you apparently haven’t realized you should be ashamed of yet. If you’re ever in a mosh pit and think for a second “gee I think I might take my shirt off” just don’t unless you’re planning on fashioning a noose from it. No one likes you, no one wants you around, just fuck off.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the fun stuff! Something I noticed very early on when BEHEMOTH took the stage with ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ that sums up their show quite well is that the band, especially Nergal, are rockstars. If you could take the showmanship of KISS or MOTLEY CRUE and distort it into something satanic and evil enough for black metal while keeping that flare, that’s what BEHEMOTH bring to the stage, and once they get going there’s no slowing down. Since this was the first time I’ve seen them live I was continually surprised as the show progressed and built in to something larger with pillars of fire, blood-spitting and costume changes being added to the mix as time went on. Nergal threw all kvlt-ness to the wind as he moved around stage, showing off for the crowd and enticing massive reactions from the violent sea of dedicated fans below him with every pose he struck and singalong he conducted. I’ve never seen anyone in black or death metal have as much fun on stage as he was having, pausing only for the sake of theatrics when necessary. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of BEHEMOTH’s recorded music, I know it’s great but death metal just doesn’t do it for me, even when mixed with black metal, despite that I have nothing but respect, praise and admiration following their set. They went out there and put on a show no one will soon forget, myself included, and everyone including them loved it. I couldn’t recommend seeing BEHEMOTH live enough after just one time, because I’ll sure as hell be there the next time they’re in town.

Gig Review: Soundwave 2015, Melbourne – Day 2

Here’s a neat little true story for you all, I once had to walk 500m uphill on a broken ankle to get medical attention, and it’s been the single most painful memory of my life for a long time, but walking the 5m from my bed to the shower Sunday morning wasn’t very far behind. Add that to the emotional trauma of realizing you slept in to midday and you’re not going to make it to Soundwave in time for PATENT PENDING, THE BENNIES, KING PARROT or NE OBLIVISCARIS, and my Day 2 wasn’t shaping up well at all. Luckily I’m excellent at running late so I was out the door in no time and off to the Showgrounds!

The advantage to being so late was not having to line up so when I arrived I went straight to the oven they call Stage 5 to see the mystery act I picked to fill my timetable, LE BUTCHERETTES. The Mexican garage punk/electronic rock 3-piece created a lot of confused faces in the crowd but not a single one dared to look away. I stayed for most of the set and at no time did I understand front-woman Teri Gender Bender’s onstage performance, but I could’ve had the Queen and the Pope standing either side of me and I wouldn’t have noticed because I was so focused on the band. I’d recommend seeing them live to anyone, and I didn’t even care that much for the music, I just love a group that can perform instead of just playing.

From one visual spectacular to another, albeit completely different one, back at the metal stage TERROR UNIVERSAL came lurking out from the side of the stage with their monstrous masks on. Sadly the gimmick wore off fast and what was left was pretty run-of-the-mill modern metal. It wasn’t bad but on such a diverse line up I’ve got no time to waste on bands that aren’t doing anything new. I wandered a bit and ended up at GERARD WAY who was soaking up the screams of thousands of teenage girls, and for the first time at the festival my ears actually hurt from the noise level. He played through all his new material, not touching any MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, but occasionally dropping the name whenever the fans’ screeching fell below 150 decibels. The music was not my thing, but Gerard and the band were great, and it’s good to see him having a successful post-MCR musical career.

Like a yo-yo I found myself back at the metal stage for GODFLESH, a band I’d only heard a little from, and boy was I bewildered. I figured they were running late when I saw no drum kit, only two amps and two guys who looked more like roadies than rock stars on stage, but apparently that was GODFLESH. The music sounded good, but I guess that’s a lot easier with a backing track so I wasn’t too impressed and neither were the rest of the crowd, it was the emptiest I saw the metal stage all festival. Much like the black metal bands, I feel they might have been a too niche market band for Soundwave.

Over at Stage 1 was the polar opposite though, Soundwave favorites and very much dressed up rock stars STEEL PANTHER were playing to a sea of fans, most of which were there for one reasons. Tits. Now while I love the piss-take glam rock revival as much as anyone, the jokes are getting old, the need to be more offensive than the last time is getting stale, and stopping a concert to peer pressure a woman in to getting topless is just fucking disgusting. They can rock like 1985 MOTLEY CRUE, but their live shows are as cringe-worthy as 2015 MOTLEY CRUE. Please bring back the STEEL PANTHER who promoted heavy metal, not rape.

On the hunt for some good, clean fun, I found myself skanking away in the middle of THE INTERRUPTERS mosh at the punk stage. The upbeat songs and laid back attitudes of the band kept my mind off how sore I was as I moshed and sung along to their anthems like ‘Take Back The Power’ and ‘Family’. The crowd was shouting for THE BENNIES to stop watching from side of stage and come join us in the pit, and while we didn’t get that, we were treated to BENNIES’ vocalist Anty joining THE INTERRUPTERS for a fiery cover of OPERATION IVY’s ‘Sound System’.

After a short lunch I was walking back to the metal stage when the sound of a powerful female vocalist coming from the punk stage caught my attention . I wandered over to see a stage full of vibrant colours and ICON FOR HIRE playing to a massive crowd of diverse people. I stayed for three songs and heard three completely different styles, the most memorable being an EDM drum solo by a drummer that was not only amazing, but seemed to be loving every second of playing. Everything about the band was bright and happy, so to balance it out I went to the metal stage for MINISTRY to hear them sum up the weekend well with ‘Life Is Good’ (I know that song isn’t about life being good, but it’s not like you can hear a word they sing anyway).

Benching myself up in the stands to rest up, I watched DRAGONFORCE with a great view of the colossal non-stop circle pits. Just seeing a circle pit at DRAGONFORCE was weird enough, but to have them on nearly every song, and to see them so huge, and the fact they lasted for multiple minutes, where the hell did all these athletes come from? With such long songs there was little time for chatter, but fans were treated to oldies like ‘Valley Of The Damned’ and the newer hits ‘Cry Thunder’ and ‘Three Hammers’, before the band finished with the Guitar Hero favourite ‘Through The Fire And Flames’. If you’re stuck in 2007 and still sit at home crying “but I heard they suck live and can’t play fast and speed up their recordings” you need to get out of your mum’s basement and see these guys live, I’ve seen them three times now and they nail it every single time.

With the infallible logic of “This pain can’t get any worse” I dragged my battered and bruised body in to the middle of the mosh pit, waiting with thousands of other sore yet eager fans for metal headliners LAMB OF GOD to take the stage. When the band came on there was a wave of second winds in the audience as we all screamed along to ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost Walking’ before the classics started. Randy Blythe stopped briefly to promote camaraderie in the audience, but it wasn’t needed for the arms-around-a-drunk-stranger fun in the pit for ‘Walk With Me In Hell’. The crowd was a swarming mass of unbridled madness, with some people falling to the bottom as others rode over the top. When you thought the violence couldn’t get worse Randy introduced what he called LAMB OF GOD’s punk song, ‘Contractor’, and everything became a blurry tornado of limbs. Before it all wrapped up the crowd humbled Randy with the chant of “You are a legend!” and in return we were gifted ‘Redneck’ and ‘Black Label’. LAMB OF GOD were the second band I ever saw live, and I’ve never been let down by them before, this set was no different and it further cemented them as one of the pinnacles of modern metal.

The crowd cleared quickly at the end of the set as I’m sure many had work the next day to worry about, and soon the showgrounds looked like an old war zone with veterans marching home, carrying the wounded and inebriated out with them. Upon realizing my ride home had lost his car keys, I also began the long stagger home, stopping for a froth or two with a good friend along the way. I won’t miss the exhausting two day format in 2016, but man Soundwave 2015 was one hell of a good time!

Gig Review: Soundwave 2015, Melbourne – Day 1

I woke up with excitement in my veins on Saturday, it was that time of the year again, Soundwave, and this time it was a full weekend of music to look forward to! After spending more time than I’d like to admit trying on outfits, I grabbed the festival essentials (hat, sunscreen, earplugs and ticket) and was off to the train station! I half-expected to rock up at North Melbourne station to a nightmare of too many festival-goers and not enough buses, but the last minute public transport fiasco seemed to work itself out and there was almost no wait for a bus to the showgrounds! Once I was through the Pearly Gates of alternative music and in the festival grounds I took some time to get a feel for being back at the Melbourne Showgrounds and check out the merch booth before wandering over to my little slice of heaven called the metal stage.

KING 810 opened the celebrations, this was their Australian debut after making a big name for themselves touring with SLIPKNOT and KORN across America. I was impressed that such a new band has managed to bring back nu-metal and make it not only relevant, but also good as well. The power of David Gunn’s vocals was lost slightly to the outdoor acoustics but his performance was intense to say the least. I’m sure a later time slot would’ve seen a much more active crowd, but there was still plenty of movement and familiar faces in the mosh pit. After catching up with a few friends I crossed over to the main stages, catching the end of I, VALIANCE who looked to be struggling with the rising heat already. APOCALYPTICA took the stage, cellos in hand and treated us all to one of the most unique acts of the day, their newer material was well received but the majority were hanging out for the covers they’re famous for. Having only seen them cover some of METALLICA’s slower songs, I lost my mind when they played ‘Seek & Destroy’, getting the whole crowd to sing along. Seeing people moshing to cellos was nearly as amusing as the bands adorable broken English and stage antics. They finished the set massively with the 19th century classic ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’, a grand finale for a spectacular performance.

Dashing back to the metal stage, I was quivering in excitement for the next act, the live debut of KILLER BE KILLED. The roasting sun could drain my energy but not my anticipation as the collection of modern metal masters took to the stage and ripped through the tracks of their debut album. The band had an extra guitarist handling Greg Puciato’s guitar duties so he could roam the stage and climb on the amps, the rigging and even over the barriers into the crowd as he loves to do. The band was insanely tight and seemed to love every minute they were on stage together, I know super-groups often are short-lived or have huge gaps in between activity, but I hope KILLER BE KILLED sticks around for a little longer yet. No metal act could follow something that great, so I headed to the punk stage for THE VANDALS, where I couldn’t go five minutes without a hearty chuckle at the band’s antics. The played through all my favourites and as a man who recently shaved off all his hair I appreciated the skinhead anthem ‘Oi To The World’ and had a good singalong with my mates.

Back over at the metal stage there wasn’t a great deal happening as EXODUS struggled with guitar problems, causing a 20 minute delay, a brief patch of rain came over while we were waiting and provided some much needed relief, even if it was only short. Once the band got going it took them the first song to get the sound right but when it was spot on everyone knew it. The band was in top form despite missing Gary Holt and the fans were going crazy in the mosh, it was thrash the way thrash was meant to be. I caught ‘Bonded By Blood’ but missed my other favourite ‘The Toxic Waltz’ to go and catch a bit of MARILYN MANSON, who was performing hit after hit in decent form. The crowd was a haze of marijuana smoke for the most part and the generosity of people sharing their drugs really warmed my heart, regardless of how messed up our community is, it’s nice to know we’re still a community.

After just a few MANSON songs I was off to my highlight for the day, black metal legends MAYHEM. I was dubious about them being on the line up as black metal acts in the past draw small crowds at best (WATAIN and SATYRICON for example) but the legacy of this band saw a decent turn out in the sweaty death-trap that is stage 5. I never imagined I’d say this but their Soundwave set was much better than their 2014 tour show, the songs were most of my top picks and they sounded on point constantly. The crowd was extremely different to the sea of jaded elitists you’d see at a club show, I never imagined seeing a circle pit or crowd surfing during MAYHEM but there it was.

At the end of the set it was a mad sprint to the metal stage to catch another group of metal gods JUDAS PRIEST. I got to the back of the crowd just as Rob’s microphone cut out during ‘Halls Of Valhalla’ yet I could still hear his raw voice from the very back over the amplified guitars, a testament to the power of his vocals if there ever was one. The band played through the difficulties well and after that it was on to classic Priest tracks stacked to the heavens. The show included all the classic JUDAS PRIEST markings, the motorbike on stage for ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, Rob’s vast array of eye-catching outfits, each more stunning than the last, and the most important one, amazing classic metal. Rob toyed with the crowd with various call and response games through two encores and unless you only came to see ‘Painkiller’, no one left disappointed.

I came to the main stages just in time to see SLASH play the end of ‘Paradise City’ with confetti cannons going off as I found a good spot to watch SLIPKNOT from, and as ‘XIX’ came over the speakers you could cut the energy in the air with a knife. When ‘Sarcastrophe’ started and the band took the stage in full masked glory the energy in the air was replaced with the screams of tens of thousands of fans losing their collective minds. The stage itself was impressive with raised platforms, scissor lifts, fires and a giant demon head at the back, you don’t get giant stage set ups like that anymore and I thought it was absolutely amazing in a retro way. Tracks from the new album fit perfectly in between the established live favourites, although I would’ve loved to hear ‘AOV’ which I consider to be a strange omission. Corey got the entire crowd to help with the intro to ‘Custer’ and at the end of the song the band left the stage as ‘742617000027’ played, leading the band back out for a massive encore of ‘(sic)’, ‘People = Shit’ and ‘Surfacing’ to close the mammoth set.

By the end of the show I was up the back laying down on the grass just listening to SLIPKNOT, completely drained and spent from the heat and a full day of amazing music. You could imagine my announce when I had to wait a full hour for buses in a line that didn’t move once the entire time. Eventually it was quicker to walk 3km to Flemington Bridge station and just getting the train there, not exactly what I wanted to be doing when I barely had the energy to stand for the last band though. It was a shame to end a great day on a low note due to poor festival planning but there was always tomorrow to pick it back up!