Alexisonfire Powerstation Auckland

Live Review: Alexisonfire at The Powerstation, Auckland

Alexisonfire

w/ Barracks

Powerstation, Auckland

Monday 23 January 2016

You’d think that with the amount of trouble I get into, I’d have learnt by now not to underestimate my ability to get lost in another city. But unfortunately I still find myself in situations like that today, in which I managed to get stranded on an island.

After an exciting day of exploring old army bunkers on Waiheke Island, I found the winding roads too hard to navigate, and managed to narrowly miss the ferry I needed to catch back to Auckland in time for the gig.

Sadly opening act Barracks had long finished their set by the time I got to the Powerstation, and Alexisonfire were already half way through their second song as I entered the venue.

I was kicking myself for showing up so late, but my excitement meant that I was soon caught up in the moment and forgot about the stress of trying to get there earlier. I’d been looking forward to this show for many months, and after an eventful drive up from Wellington I was finally here – albeit slightly late.

Alexisonfire are five piece post-hardcore act from Ontario, Canada. They released four albums between 2002-2009. One point of difference they boast is that they have three singers: George Pettit fronts the band on unclean vocals, Dallas Green sings clean vocals as well as playing guitar and piano, and Wade McNeil provides backing vocals whilst also playing guitar. In 2012 the band disbanded, with each singer going on to front other projects.

The Powerstation was well packed for a Monday night, with a generous turnout to see the newly reformed Canadians back in action. Here was a band that was most relevant a decade ago, but could still attract a decent audience on a work night.

And after seeing them play, I could see why. This was one of the more intense shows I’d been to in a while. The driving drums, high energy riffs and powerful roars all blended together to create a visceral experience.  I’m surprised that the mosh pit wasn’t more wild, between the music, Pettit shouting at us to “Fuck this place up” and McNeil telling us to punch Nazis in the face.

To be honest they could have said just about anything and the crowd would have lapped it up. People even tolerated  Green’s request for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the roadies. In fact, if I remember correctly, he also asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to his guitarist when City And Colour last played in Wellington as well. In my experience this seldom goes down well when a musician pulls this. But everyone was having a good time. People cheered when the band announced that the venue was a safe and tolerant space. People cheered when they heard that former local act The Bleeders lived near the band in Canada. People cheered when Pettit said he could see us all clearly after having had laser eye surgery.

The band covered a great cross section material, with tracks pulled from all four albums – predominantly 2006’s Crisis – and even the title track from their 2010 Dog’s Blood EP.

It was a dynamic set. The band ripped through popular hits and offered an all-out assault at first, but towards the end of the set they changed it up by introducing meandering instrumental sections and tender sing along moments. Encoring with some songs from the older two albums was met with favour, with many people noticeably running to the front to get closer during their old-time favourites.

Although the band’s punk pedigree was a big draw card, their slow burners and more melodic moments stood out. Green has enjoyed a fine career with his solo side project City and Colour, which is more folk/singer-songwriter styled. His strengths lie in vocal melodies and this was more than evident tonight, with his voice being far louder in the mix than the others. His voice is fantastic, and although he strained at times, his singing sections provided standout singalongs that brought balance to George and Wade’s double teamed shouting.

It was a brilliant gig. Varied, dynamic, and featuring all the expected hits. The band not only played their songs, but they put on a show. Nostalgia for well-written old songs were enough to draw the punters in, and excellent delivery kept them wanting more.

 

Joseph James

Incentives Melbourne

Interview: Incentives

Melbourne based hardcore act Incentives have just dropped their début EP, Dusk, at the end of June. I fired some questions off to vocalist Kyle Adams just before then to see where the band was at prior to dropping their first EP, and to learn more about who they were.

Will Not Fade: I’ve visited Melbourne once. It was in 2012 and I stayed with my friends who were in the band The Voyage, and we all went to see Terror play that weekend. I got the impression that in Australia people take being in a band pretty seriously, whereas here in New Zealand it’s more like “hey let’s start our sixth side project, and I’ll play an instrument that I haven’t learnt because it looks fun!” Have you noticed much of a difference between NZ/AU bands?

Kylee: We were lucky enough to tour New Zealand early 2015 and made great friends with a band called ‘The Inquisition’. I don’t really feel like we picked up on any huge differences other than the fact that the New Zealand scene is considerably smaller. This probably means that as an Australian band you really need to put in a little bit of extra time and money to get yourself noticed and grab opportunities. End of the day I think both scenes really love their music it’s just a matter of scale.

How does the Melbourne hardcore scene feel at the moment?

The Melbourne hardcore scene is super, super, talented right now. We have heaps and heaps of bands coming out and continually impressing! I still think there is a bit of a gap between the “In group” and the rest of the scene but that’s always pretty standard for any kind of scene in any facet of life.

I read that many of your songs are written about girls. Which member of the band is the biggest ladies’ man? (You need a story to back up any answers to this question!)

Daaaammmn, this is tough but good old Jezza (bassist) is currently the only single member so best for the future of all four other relationships I don’t disclose a great deal. Jezza has a pretty neat track record when it comes to Tinder, and has been known to pull some local girls when we pull up in their town. Currently boasting a 100% strike rate down in Tassie!

The Dusk album cover features a picture of a faceless man with a gorgeous beard, but I see in your publicity pics that none of you have beards. What gives?

Well you see before our drummer Joe moved to Melbourne he lived in the mountain ranges, and whilst stalking his Facebook to ensure this new drummer was a legit person I stumbled across a few photos. These photos depicted a wild Joe two weeks after his 18th birthday. Where Joe grew up you aren’t considered a man unless you trek through the bush for two weeks either side of your 18th birthday., and so these photos our dear drummer was sporting one fine beard and that’s basically where the inspiration came from.

You came to NZ last year to tour with Depths, Hand of Mercy and The Inquisition. Tell me what you enjoyed/learnt during that trip.

We loooooove New Zealand! Everyone was just so genuine and kind to us throughout the entire trip it was quite incredible. We made some lifelong friends in The Inquisition so that was great. One thing we did learn though was that our New Zealand friends weren’t all that great with the local geography and with an adventure that ended in Papatoitoi. I feel we Australians have a better idea when it comes to such matters.

Do you prefer playing all ages or R18 shows? 

I really don’t mind! Over ages is fun because everyone can get drunk and have a bit of a time, but then it’s equally fun playing to younger crowds too. It’s all a good time really!

Joe’s dad built his drum kit for him. How did he learn how to do that?

This is the question I have asked myself a million times, but again I think it comes down to the coming of age ritual. Upon Joe’s return he had a fully constructed guitar he had built out of tambark and other fauna, so my tip is that Joe’s dad managed to do something similar but in the form of a drum kit.

You’ve been playing for three years, but have only just recorded your first EP. Do you think this will open many doors for you?

One can only hope! It’s been hard for us to keep things consistently moving given that we have had so many lineup changes but now things have got a bit of a move on and we just want to keep the momentum rolling.

You’re just about to drop your first EP, and have a tour lined up. What else is on the cards for Incentives?

I guess just more of the same! Everything bigger and better would be the goal. Creating memories that we can always look back on is my biggest wish. I understand bands aren’t the be all and end all, so really I just want to do as much as I can during this short little time frame we have. Then when my kids give me shit for wearing cardigans I can whip out some old photos and music and say “your dad had a half decent run back in the day” hahaha.

Which song do you think I should share with readers who aren’t familiar with your music?

Hmmmmm possibly “Dawn”. We’ve had a great response to that track and Jezza has a sing on it too! It’s pretty much the only song on the entire EP with a chorus so perhaps this chorus trend may continue with the new stuff.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Hopefully I’ll catch you next time you cross the ditch to play in New Zealand again!

Thanks heaps for the interview man! Probably the most fun I’ve had with an interview this entire time (had over 50 of the buggers). Hopefully we can make it out to New Zealand again soon and see you at a show.


 

Incentives links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncentivesMelb/

Bandcamp: https://incentivesmelbourne.bandcamp.com/

Tour: https://www.facebook.com/events/1752335758369622/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/incentives-band 

 

Joseph James

La Dispute Here Hear

Buried Treasure: La Dispute – Eight

Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Melodic hardcore band La Dispute just dropped their new track “Thirteen“, so this is a good time to shine a spotlight on some of their non-album material.

La Dispute have three EPs in the Here, Hear series that are wildly different from their regular output. Rather than the intense hardcore we are used to, these EPs include untitled experimental spoken word songs based on literature, poetry, philosophy and prose. When I saw La Dispute play with Balance & Composure in Wellington a few years ago I was delighted that they even included the song ‘Nine’ into their set by playing it as the first encore.

La Dispute here hear liner notes

Setting up for recording in a garage. Picture taken from the Here, Hear II EP liner notes

The series is delightfully low-fi and creative. Most of the tracks use unconventional objects as instruments, like clapping wooden blocks together in a basement. Other examples that stood out as interesting were using a pocketknife as a guitar slide, flipping book pages, or using a pencil sharpener for percussion. You can even hear a dog howling in the song “Seven”.

They draw on a variety of literary sources for inspiration, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic Annabel Lee, and Kenneth Grahame’s charming The Wind in The Willows. My favourite though, is the song ‘Eight’, adapted from the afterword of J. Michael Straczynski’s graphic novel Midnight Nation.

Written in the form of a diary reflection, Straczynski explores the dichmidnight-nation-cover2otomies of his city, with the characters that feature during the day and during the night seemingly from two different worlds. This theme provides the basis for the graphic novel, a story of the lost and forgotten trying to find their way out from beneath the cracks of society.

I love listen to this track through headphones as I go for walks. I picture the narrators story as I explore my city, and try to see the places I’ve walked through hundreds of times with fresh eyes, trying to notice the hidden and forgotten.

Go and listen to Here, Hear series to fall in love with the blend of brilliant music and literature.

Joseph James

ignite war against you

Album Review: Ignite – A War Against You

This album caught me off guard at first listen. I thought that Ignite were punk, bordering on melodic hardcore. But the first song “Begin Again” is straight up glam metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. It was just unexpected. Throughout A War Against You We hear soaring harmonies and bombastic riffs that are fun and infectious. Like a more epic Pennywise with searing guitar solos, which makes sense, seeing as vocalist Zoli Téglás also fronted Pennywise for a few years.

It’s been a decade since Ignite released Our Darkest Days (2006)so it is understandable that Ignite would have changed their sound since we heard them last. That said, it isn’t a complete departure from the Ignite we know. They have the speed and urgency of punk, crossed with the listenability  of stadium rock.

The band borrows from a range of genres to fuel their political charge. “This Is A War” commences with an intro riff that has filthy grungy guitar tone, before breaking into a fast gallop. “Oh No Not Again” musically gives a nod to Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” whilst delivering a message of unrest. Téglás’ vocals are as much power metal as they are punk rock. There is even a bit of a European flair brought into the OC punk band’s mix, with the album closing ballad “Work”, first sung in English, and later repeated in what I presume is Téglás’ native tongue of Hungarian.

Thematically, A War Against You is a war cry against war. Téglás addresses the very topical plight of refugees worldwide, something personally relevant to him and his family, who immigrated to America in the early 1960’s. There is also a definite eco-warrior buzz going on. Despite the serious topics, the music is still positive and uplifting, thanks to the vocal delivery style.

A War Against You is anthemic Cali-punk with both blistering attitude and soaring harmonies. And as odd as that sounds, it works.

For fans of: Rise Against, Nations Afire, Pennywise, H2O, Strike Anywhere

Joseph James

 

LIVE REVIEW: THE MENZINGERS AND MEWITHOUTYOU AT NEUMOS, SEATTLE

The Menzingers (Scranton, PA, USA)
mewithoutYou (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Pianos Become The Teeth (Baltimore, MD, USA)
Restorations (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

Neumos, Seattle, WA, USA
Saturday November 14th, 2015

Untitled-1

It had been a very long time since my last live show experience.  I’ve been to plenty of local shows over the past few years but I’m not even sure I can recall the last time I attended a live show where the sound check happened before the doors opened, people were actually at the venue on time, and the first band actually took the stage precisely at the time stated on the flier.  I’m sure very few paid attention to these details.  But for me, being reminded how professional bands operate at professionally run venues, like Neumos, was a breath of fresh air.  Obviously, I need to get out more.

Typically, the reason you attend a show and subsequently write a live review is to highlight the headliner, or in this case, the headliners.  And while The Menzingers and mewithoutYou put on a great show, I didn’t necessarily find anything too remarkable about their sets.  Honestly, this was my first experience with The Menzingers so, to be fair, I can’t really say much about them as I know very little about them (shame on me, I know).  As I like to say, “they were fine”, meaning they did their thing and people enjoyed it and I appreciated what they did.  Enough said.

mewithoutYou on Audiotree Live

mewithoutYou has always been one of my favorite bands.  They are fantastic at writing catchy music that is capable of hitting the heart strings of whatever emotion you’re in the mood to meddle with.  Ever since [A->B] Life came out in 2002 I’ve been quite comfortable keeping their music in my arsenal.  Frontman Aaron Weiss has a unique lyrical style that absolutely works for me.  While others may struggle digesting his lyrics, I am continually impressed with anyone that can work “pumpernickel bread” into their writing.

Restorations opened the night and did a great job setting the vibe for the evening.  I hadn’t really heard much from these guys prior to the show but they are definitely headed in the right direction.  Their stage presence was enjoyable to watch and kept a newbie, like me, entranced for their full set.  Like Restorations, mewithoutYou and The Menzingers held the attention of the venue for the entirety of their sets and I would definitely see them again.

This brings me to Pianos Become The Teeth.  While I had every intention of writing this review on mewithoutYou, it was Pianos Become The Teeth that absolutely stole the show for me.  And it was absolutely for reasons I did not expect.

Pianos Become The Teeth live @ The Underworld, London

Like most bands I come to discover, Pianos Become The Teeth have been around for a while.  They formed in 2006 and have honed their sound over the past nine years moving from an aggressive, post-hardcore band to masters of gloomy, emotionally packed, post-rock.  For those of you who have yet to indulge in their newest record, Keep You, I highly recommend you do so.  If you need an enticing comparison, this album is very reminiscent of Oceana’s Clean Head from 2010.

While the other three bands put on visually stimulating performances, Pianos Become The Teeth struck me in a different way.  I was lucky enough to get to the venue early enough to grab one of the few spots on the balcony that gave me a great view of both the band and the crowd.  Pianos Become The Teeth were steady, energetic at times, but the way they moved the crowd was absolutely stunning.  The movement I witnessed was not physical by any means.  In fact, the crowd was absolutely motionless, aside from a bit of head-banging here and there.  Being fairly in tune with my mushy side, the emotional grip that pushed and pulled throughout the crowd was mesmerizing.

I think I spent most of my time watching one specific kid in the crowd.  By appearance alone, he was completely out of place.  If I would have seen him walking on the street prior to the show there was no way I would have thought he and I were headed to the same destination.  But this kid knew absolutely every word to absolutely every song Pianos Become The Teeth played.

PBTT03_Edit

Pianos Become The Teeth from the balcony @ Neumos

For those who are familiar with frontman Kyle Durfey’s lyrics, you know they are very sad and tend to center around the loss of his father in 2010.  Like many lyricists, Durfey’s lyrics are dark and contemplative.  But unlike some, Durfey is surrounded by an exceptional band that is able to add deep dimension to his words.  The coupling of his lyrics with the desolate tones of his band’s music is nearly heartbreaking.  To me, it’s the cohesion of these two elements that make my eyes well up with tears and send chills down my arms.  I’m sure we all experience these phenomenons in our own way, but experiencing Pianos Become The Teeth live was the pinnacle of emotional overflow for me.

The kid three rows back, belting Durfey’s lyrics will forever be seared into my musical memories.  It was a profoundly powerful moment for me.  It left me wondering how this out of place kid related to Durfey’s lyrics.  What was it that moved him by this band.  Being witness to the connection between the writer and the listener added a totally new experience for me.  Usually you only get to see the back of everyone’s head at a show, but my balcony vantage point let me see things in a new light.  It was truly an honor for me to be in the same place at the same time with five guys in a band, the kid in the third row, a few friends, and a room full of strangers.

C.J. Blessum