Sunday, 19 January 2014


“That’ll be ten dollars thanks” uttered the liberally tattooed, rooftop bartender of the Aurora Hotel. I walked away with an icy pint of deep amber lager in each hand and I was more puzzled than a dog looking for a ball that was never thrown. The short tempered Wolverine informed me that everything over the bar during happy hour was a measly five bucks and so, and so……and so we drank everything. Steins and goblets and chalices (Oh my!) piled up on our table like the halls of Valhalla as the pauper priced mead was rapidly depleted from them. We debated the uselessness of Superman and how the ridiculously turd “Arrow” was still on the air whilst our veins were continuously pumped full of any beverage that would have its way with us. The conversation turned to the amazing value of the majority of products available from K-Mart and then back again to Superman being shitter than a prune fuelled nappy puddle. Time soon got the better of us and Mr Cabman ensured that we made the inebriated journey into Coruscant faster than a bolt fired from a wookie bowcaster. It was time to marvel at three Australian bands at the top of their game under the roof of the infamous UNSW Roundhouse. 

The sun was still blanketing the sky when Sydney’s SLEEP•MAKES•WAVES hit the stage dressed in their matching black attire. The last time I saw them was at a pre-taco bar Excelsior Hotel (R.I.P.) playing to a total of around thirty people, so I was curious to see how far they’ve come and if their brand of instrumental/atmospheric post rock could hold the attention of a much larger room. The set opens with “To You They Are Birds, To Me They Are Voices In The Forest” from their debut album “…And So We Destroyed Everything” which filled up the vacant room quicker than Kanye West can offend someone after rousing from his self-obsessed slumber. From the opening note the sound was crisper than a post Vesuvius citizen of Pompeii and the boys were loving it. I immediately notice the incredible on-stage chemistry of the musicians, which for a band without a vocalist, is an absolute must. Viking overlord and bassist supreme Alex Wilson is the centre of attention in a love triangle between himself and the other two stringed musicians. As Guitarist Otto Wicks-Green surveyed the crowd his smile formed a perfect semi-circle reminiscent of Fozzy Bear. Percussionist Tim Adderley’s head was constantly gyrating as he threw every ounce of his being into punishing his kit. Guitarist Jonathan Khor rocked out like a quarry and although he didn’t play off the crowd as much as the other three did, he was still just as entertaining. Electronic drums and samples galore added to the pied musical canvas before me as every appendage on stage was flopping around like a nut sack in a sweltering Big Day Out mosh pit. At one point the Sydney based quartet were bobbing their heads to a different beat of the music; Wicks-Green to every forth, Khor to every third, Wilson to every second and Adderley to every beat. I’m not sure if it was planned or merely coincidence but it did amuse me while it was taking place. Guitar straps were the enemy of the band as both Wicks-Green and Wilson had to battle with guitars constantly trying to flee the stage, which had the roadies panicking more than the band seemed to put on. Sleep•Makes•Waves create lush musical landscapes which can be appreciated by people from all walks of life, ranging from pacifist hungry hippies to stubborn metal purists and it is little wonder they have gotten to where they are. Brilliant way to start the night.

After a rather lengthy visit to the world’s worst staffed bar, The Wolverine and I found ourselves back amongst the hot and sweaty crowd to welcome Brisbane’s DEAD LETTER CIRCUS to the arena. DLC are the epitome of bands exploding overnight; my first viewing of them was opening for Superb Lyrebird at the Annandale to twenty people and a mere month or two later, they had sold out the very same venue. The very fact that they were in the support slot showed just how epic the line-up was and when they opened the set with “The Space On The Wall”, the frenzied audience lapped it up. Anyone who has seen the band before knows about staccato friendly bassist Stewart Hill’s supernatural ability to nail his feet to the floor and bend around like the Roly Poly Man. The movement of his body effortlessly accents the position of every note he contributes to the melodies.  Vocalist Kim Benzie’s stage performance has come a long way since the release of DLC’s debut EP. He’s grown from an Ian Kenny impersonator into a whole new manifestation of commanding front-man that is entirely his own and he works the savage crowd like a seasoned conductor orchestrating the finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”. The instantly recognisable and altitude defying tones of his vocals are uniquely Dead Letter Circus and make their concoction of slightly prog inspired alternative rock easily accessible to any person who has ever proclaimed to have a love of music. Hits “The Mile” and “Cage” had the cattle singing along in droves as an orchard of branch-like arms lovingly reached out towards their idols on stage. I was half expecting Luke Williams on the drums to knee himself square in the jaw as his legs sprang off the pedals like a double-bounced cat off a trampoline. The battle continues as he absolutely punishes his snare after the break down of “One Step” which means it’s only a matter of time before one of them gets the better of the other. Six-string advocates Tom Skerlj and Clint Vincent guard the outer walls of the stage with an iron resolve, adding layer upon layer of echoed and delayed guitar work to the fold. Neither of the gargoyles let emotion betray their faces which causes them to look almost bored throughout the duration of the performance. Skerlj sporadically adds some extra stratums of percussion to the music, which visually takes the dynamic of the stage up an extra level to the excitement of a gentleman whipping me in the face with his dirty dreadlocks amid the mosh. DLC played a healthy mix of tracks from all of their releases which seemed to please every face in the room. Of particular note was when Benzie handed a camcorder to the centre security guard effectively making him a security camera (badoom ching). The sentries’ face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning at the chance of being involved in the show. As he handed back the device he proudly screamed out “Well that was a first for me” and resumed his post with a huge smile on his face. The Brisbane ambassadors close the lengthy set with the punchy single “Lodestar” which had Stew stomping around like a freshly angry Bruce Banner and gave the mob one more chance to unify with the band before they left the stage. Incredible set which put the anticipation for the headliner higher than what I had expected.  

Every eye in the room was focused upon the stage when the lights went dark. The tension in the room was denser than an adamantium coated bone claw and the drooling horde were waiting for their cue to start belting out their favourite prog rock anthems. Perth’s KARNIVOOL are welcomed to the platform with a cheer that would rival the decibel levels of the horn of Gondor and the boys waste no time by immediately busting out into the appropriately named monster that is “Goliath”. The sweeping guitars of Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking unify the bobbing heads of the room with a countdown for the advent of the bowel fisting rumbles of Jon Stockman’s beefy brown-noter. Steve Judd’s appendages were flailing around like paladin wielding a morning star as Ian Kenny’s head nodded like a curious cockatoo as he awaited his opening note. The atmosphere in the room was intense like the veins on the neck of a roided up body builder and as he opened his beer hole, the sweaty and overexcited chorus of punters insisted on adding their voices to his every word. EP track “Fade” made an unexpected appearance in the set and the entire room humorously belted out the first line of the song before mumbling the second one; even Kenny had a good laugh at our expense. The mosh was ready to cream their denim when C.O.T.E. had us frothing at the mouth at only three songs into the set. Hosking’s glorious barbarian beard couldn’t hide the child-like enjoyment he was experiencing as he brought the wrath of his twin hammers “Mjolnir” and “MC” down upon his unsuspecting xylophone. Kenny didn’t miss a note during the flawlessly executed “Umbra” as his expressive hands made you feel the raw emotion behind each song. The polyrhythm heavy tracks of “Asymmetry” were welcomed with open arms as Judd works the skins with a surgeon’s precision. “Sky Machine” and “We Are” had the masses swooning over Stockman’s delayed bass hooks and the angsty screams he used in “The Refusal” (which was my pick for the strongest song of the set); right down to the Lannister crimson lighting used to highlight the silhouettes of the prog-rockers. “Set Fire To The Hive” turned the audience into rage zombies by effectively injecting 20cc’s of adrenaline into the already savage punters. Kenny licked his lips as the ever increasing levels of excitement from the crowd became more obvious while Goddard maintained his cool demeanour throughout the set. Karnivool’s go to anthem “Themata” had us jumping like the boys from Kris Kross whilst the slow building “Alpha Omega” had me tingling with excitement of the arrival of Stockman’s thumping bass loop. As the band left the stage, the Karnivool brood voiced that they weren’t having a bar of it by being louder than an army of cats in heat. The Vool were heralded by a king’s welcome upon their return where they opened the encore with the fan favourite “Roquefort” much to the delight of the rabid audience. We jumped one last time and even the intrusive hair of Dreadlocks McSlappyface didn’t seem to bother me. Kenny thanks the crowd and announced the closing track “New Day” which had every security member on staff absolutely bewildered by the passionate crowd participation of the awe inspiring tune. Not  a single mouth in the octagon wasn't singing along to the perfectly chosen track to close this unbelievably ambitious show. The omission of songs such as “Simple Boy”, “Shutterspeed” and my personal favourite “Deadman” didn’t hinder the set one iota and I confidently walked away having witnessed the greatest performance I have ever seen Karnivool put on in my life; and I have seen a lot.

It’s gigs like this that make me go out and watch as many local bands as possible. I am filled with a sense of pride having witnessed all three bands quite early on in their prospective careers and seeing them evolve into rock titans that that are adored by strangers the world over. This success starts in the dingy pubs and dives around the country and without support from the people who claim to love music, then nights like this are going to become less accessible. If you like a support act then add them into your music library and make sure you join them on their journey. One gig a month really isn’t that hard to slip into your calendars.

Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the live music scene.

Joshua Towney

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