This was an unexpected gig. Counting Crows announced a tour late last year. They’re a band that I’m neutral on. I don’t mind them, but wouldn’t choose to listen to them either. But when Frank Turner was announced as the support act I decided I was going immediately. Part of me winced as I dropped $150 on a ticket so I could see someone play a 30 minute support slot, but hey, money comes and goes, my love for Frank Turner is forever.
So imagine my delight today when I hear that Counting Crows have cancelled their show at Michael Fowler Centre, but Frank Turner has arranged a consolation gig at Meow. My condolences to Counting Crows fans, but that wasn’t the band I wanted to see. And this Meow show was free! I would have happily paid, but I won’t complain. This way I got to see a full Frank set!
I made sure to arrive at Meow early, wanting to avoid the risk of missing out if the venue hit capacity. When I got there around 6.30pm, there was already a queue snaking down the alleyway. We were let inside at 7pm and the venue was close to full at that point.
DEE opened the night with sweet, shimmering folky music. She was glowing under the blue light, with a sparkly sheer shirt and glittery make up. Her music was pretty sleepy, but her voice was stunning and carried plenty of personality. She was clearly chuffed that she’d been called in to open last-minute, but if she was nervous it didn’t show.
Frank Turner came onstage to rapturous applause. I think it’s fair to say that many people were like myself, and actually glad about the turn of events that led to this. Nothing against Counting Crows, but this sure beats only getting a short 30 minute opening set.
Always one to please his loyal fanbase, he touched on eight of his nine albums out to date, as well as playing the title track to his forthcoming album, Undefeated, and an obligatory Counting Crows cover, which made perfect sense. He shared how he grew up on metal and punk music, but learnt to play every song on his sister’s Counting Crows record because the guitar playing was easier to learn than Megadeth solos.
This is the second time I’ve seen Frank play solo. There were times that it seemed as if something was missing – obviously the music sounds better fully fleshed out by a band. But Frank had us help out, humming lines that would usually feature guitar solos, or clapping where a strong drum beat was needed.
He’s clearly a master at what he does. I guess you can’t help but attain excellence after playing 2744 shows. He knew how to play dynamically, where to invite crowd participation, and had great banter.
I’m always surprised by how much of Frank’s music is shouted – as opposed to sung – in a live context. But this is perfect for a fired up crowd wanting to join in. I’ve listened to these songs hundreds of times and I made sure to belt out the words along with everyone else. The energy was contago
I think one of the things I find most appealing about Frank’s music is that he can articulate feelings that I find incredibly relatable. I remember last time I saw him, he started his set with “Don’t Worry”. And as corny as it sounds, it felt like all the stress I’d been carrying just melted away. I love the fired up songs about the power of punk rock, about rejecting Nazis, about but I also love the sincerity of some of his more vulnerable moments. Tonight, “Get Better” and “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” struck a chord. Frank doesn’t know me at all, but I felt seen, and somehow supported, knowing that I’m not always alone in how I feel. It’s powerful.
And as soppy as it sounds, I think it is because Frank genuinely cares. He’d spent the day working on his pronunciation so that he could say “Aotearoa”. He played the song “Miranda” at special request from a 6 year old fan in attendance. And also mentioned how this song was topical, in light of the recent protests around Nazi anti-feminist figure Posie Parker visiting New Zealand to spread a message of hate.
And he put on this free show for us tonight.
Because he cares about his fans.
I came out of that show feeling revived. I was energised and refreshed and willing to take on the world. Now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all?
It’s awesome to see the rise of Wellington punks Dartz. They’re fast gaining momentum as a band to be reckoned with, especially with the recent release of their debut album, The Band from Wellington, New Zealand.
They are fast witted and forthcoming with the banter, and their songs are relatable, capturing a slice of NZ life. Drinking beers, driving crap cars, living in substandard housing, struggling with the cost of living… These are things that almost everyone in our country has experienced. Somehow they ride the line between being both silly and fun, and authentic.
I especially enjoyed their cover of Deja Voodoo’s “Beers”, which proved fitting within their repertoire. “Dominion Road (Dumpling House)”, a reworking of The Mutton Birds song, also proved endearingly nostalgic, with a breath of fresh life breathed into it.
The press release for this tour details how The D4 created a world of recklessness and high octane energy, touring the world relentlessly with incredible rock and roll bands. Their big album 6Twenty came out in 2002, so they’ve re-released it as 6Twenty One and given it the vinyl treatment for the twenty-first anniversary, along with this tour.
My first exposure to The D4 was the song “Sake Bomb”, on a CD sampler. I know that I’m showing my age here, but I didn’t have a have clue what Sake Bomb actually was. I thought it may have something to do with warfare. My exposure to alcohol at that stage was limited to the scrumpy, Speights and awful RTDs that we drank at highschool parties. It certainly didn’t extend to Japanese spirits.
I guess that I’m just slightly too young to have known The D4 when they were big. I do remember Jimmy Christmas’ next band Lugar Boa having a strong presence on The Rock radio station and at many gigs during my later teenage years.
I have actually seen them play before, at this same venue in 2018 with The Datsuns. But in all honesty, the only memories I have of that night are reduced to remembering that it was extremely hot, and of being concerned for my friend Conor, who got knocked out during The Datsuns’ set.
Well it’s a shame, but nothing felt especially knockout about tonight’s set. The musicians were all clearly weathered players, but it lacked that feeling of danger or excitement that I’d want from a band who writes so many songs about partying and drinking. They have a history of sharing the stage with Guitar Wolf – one of the most exciting rock bands I can think of. But this just felt pedestrian.
Dion Palmer appeared to put the most into the performance, with a bit more movement and plenty of guitar solos. He really should have been centrestage. “Out of my Head” had a bit more oomph, and the aforementioned “Sake Bomb” was fun – possibly because it was a lot faster and more energetic than many of the other songs.
They finished up with the encore of “Exit to the City”, “Feel Like It” and “Invader Ace”.
All in all it was fine, but lacking the energy that I expected from a band of their reputation. Many bands do anniversary tours these days. One punter was wearing a tour t-shirt from when Shihad played Killjoy and The General Electric albums in full. I remember those being killer gigs. In recent years I’ve seen David Dallas play The Rose Tint, and Jakob play Solace. Both were incredible nights. But sometimes these anniversary tours just feel like stale cash grabs and tarnish treasured memories about music that used to feel vital.
Another special one today whanau, far out I got an advance copy of the new Planet Hunter album that I’ve been spinning this week. I’m not too sure how many shows around the country Planet Hunter has done, so if anyone from outside of Wellington is reading this and doesn’t recognize the name, man give this fucking thing a spin and get woke to one of Wellington’s sickest bands.
Which Dragon Ball Super arc exactly was the Planet Hunter in?
Does this mean we won’t get an Aethea reunion?
What happens when stoner rock bands sound like they don’t smoke weed?
Planet Hunter is a complete anomaly man, they exist in this super weird space where they’re stoner enough for all the people who’ve never worn hemmed pants in their life to lose their fucking mind over them, but also calling them a stoner rock band actually kinda negates all the super cool shit they do. They’re like the guy at the show who gets way too drunk and annoying, does a few snortskies and turns into a maniac, so someone gives him a spliff just to not have the same fucking conversation AGAIN then post-spliff he’s actually really interesting and has dope riffs. That’s Planet Hunter.
I first got turned onto Planet Hunter because homie Chris Roberts, who most of you probably know by his stage name of “Dreaded guy who got murdered on Glassblower’s music video for Gatekeeper”, text me at like 2am and said they were basically the best band he’d ever seen and I have to see them. So obviously I didn’t go see them for like another 6 months, but man I can’t even explain how much I fell in love with this band when I finally saw them.
Planet Hunter is made up of William Saunders on guitars, Cormac Ferris on vocals Jed Van Ewijk on bass and David McGurk on the drums. God damn that’s a strong line-up, Will is the kind of guitarist that you know will always have the best tone of any show he’s on, but you have to avoid him after the set because you know he’s going to want to talk about his pedalboard. Jed is a monster bassist, I always remember when I first moved to Wellington he was playing in Aethea and even though they had the sickest live DM live show (Fuck Pixelated Stripper and Ringbinder were bangers) around at the time, they used to cover the Alex Kidd theme song too and everyone would always lose their mind so much harder at that, I love thinking about him still being punished about that 15 years later OH MAN YOU’RE THAT GUY ALEX THE KIDD RULES I LOVE SEGA MASTERDRIVE. I don’t actually know David well, so I really don’t wanna rag on him just in case he’s a pre-workout kind of guy and smashes my head in, but he’s a wicked drummer. Planet Hunter are also super brave because they’re the first band ever to my knowledge to have an actual art installation on vocals. Mark my words in 30 years people won’t be speaking about Marina Abramović without the mention of Cormac Ferris from Planet Hunter.
Image: Will Not Fade
Alright let’s talk about this album man, it’s a doozy.
Like everyone else in New Zealand, I also had to google the word Moscovium, because fucking hell, what? Turns out it’s a highly radioactive metal that only a few atoms have ever been made. Also turns out it has no biological purpose, just like Will’s dating life, I guess that’s why they named it that? Fuck yea concept album.
Generally, I like bands that are pretty fucking miserable, I fucking love the kind of band you have to google their political views before you buy their merch just in case, you know? Ugh, then having some punisher tell me I should separate the art and the artist like their opinion matters in the slightest while they’re probably quoting fucking Fight Club at me. But man, Planet Hunter isn’t that – There were several points during the album that I actually felt like it was trying to fix me. Bad news Planet Hunter, you fucking didn’t okay, and I resent you for trying. It’s got this really uplifting energy without ever being happy or annoying. Like crushing a zopiclone and going to Timezone instead of smoking weed and sitting in a tree like every stoner band wants you to do.
Man, Planet Hunter exist in such an interesting space, they don’t quite fit any specific genre tag without feeling like you’re doing them a disservice. The only way I can explain it is you know how all the metal and hardcore kids in their thirties had their music tastes all fucked up by the Tony Hawk 2 soundtrack? Planet Hunter are the kids who grew up on Syphon Filter. Syphon Filter ruled man, but don’t play it now because it sucks ass, I know you think it’s probably aged okay and after hearing me say this you’re gonna download it, but fight that man, it sucks now, you strafe with the left and right bumpers for fucks sake. God, it sucks so hard now. Not Planet Hunter though, they’re alright.
The album starts off so hardout strong with Humans of the Wild that wouldn’t feel out of place on any Melvins album when they had Big Business as a rhythm section, which is also their best era don’t even try tell me their new stuff is still good, they’re like a Melvins parody tribute band at this point.
Cormac’s performance on Moscovium is really fucking great man, every time I hear him sing I can’t help but think of an awkward interaction I had with him after the second or third time I saw Planet Hunter. I was drunk as and doing something else I won’t post just in case I ever want to apply for a job again, I went up to him after a set and gave him what I thought was a bangin’ compliment. I told him that I fucking loved his vocals so much because they’re clearly inspired by Maynard James Keenan but they’re not annoying as fuck and trying to sell me shit wine. I think that’s something Planet Hunter does really well, you can hear that they wear their influences on their sleeves, but it never just sounds like that band. Like you can hear Alice in Chains, but it’s not whiney and 47 years old. You can hear Tool but it’s not exhausting. There are hints of the more intense stoner rock bands like Red Fang and Sasquatch but the influences never overstay their welcome.
Also don’t fucking @ me for the Tool jab, I have no opinion on Tool and I can’t be fucked talking to you about them. You’re just mad your favourite band hasn’t had a good album since 2001.
The Ocean is a big standout on the album for me, starting with what people would assume is a synth but I fucking KNOW Will used a bit-crusher on his guitar to get that sound to save money. TELL ME I’M WRONG WILL. By the time the bridge hits this shit becomes oppressive, in the best way possible. The bridge is absolutely crushing and I could listen to that riff all day, in fact someone make me one of those 10 hour supercut Youtube videos of just this riff. Name it ‘Planet Hunter Fappening Leak’ so only the true fans will find it.
I’m a massive fan of Will’s guitar playing on Moscovium, his tone is as flawless as his life choices are flawed. He always seems to be playing exactly what the song needs in the moment instead of appealing to his ego and putting flashy shit all over it, but when he needs to be flashy he’s right there with a texture or a lead that becomes the centre of the track. Don’t even get me started on the chorus riff of Droning, it’s shit like this that helps differentiate Planet Hunter from any other band in the perceived genre.
Jed has been such a mainstay in the Wellington scene that you can guarantee if he’s playing on an album the performance will be tight as fuck, and his bass performance here is fucking awesome. His tone is never overwhelming but always present. The way him and David are in sync is perfect and best represented in a song like Valley and I fucking love that David doesn’t fall into the ‘what would a stoner band do’ groove, his performance is unpredictable and can go from classic stoner vibes like in Dying Since Birth to frantic psychedelic passages almost reminiscent of Earthless in songs like Droning.
I’m still getting used to reviewing albums I don’t fucking despise, so please bear with me while I find my voice with this style, and this isn’t some toxic shit about not being able to say nice things to people, I tell my friends I love them all the time, fuck I’ll kiss all of you on the lips right now DM me for my address don’t even fuckin’ try me. But I tell you what, being nice about an album is fucking hard work.
Is this album going to be for everyone who reads this? Fuck no, I know how broken most of you are. But man, I can’t stress this enough – Give this album a spin, even if you’re a beatdown lizard death metal gatekeeper hating on Stranger Things kids. There’s SO much here to love, so many genres being represented in a cohesive way and there’s layers to this album that every time I listen to it, I find more stuff that I love. Songs like The Ocean have the heaviness that make you want to close the curtains and reassess things, the songs like Humans of the Wild and Droning are pure party energy to impress your friends with, and we all know you’re struggling to impress your friends with your shit Soundcloud bedroom recordings.
I discovered Reliqa a few months ago. I was looking up the acts I didn’t know ahead of attending Monolith Festival in Melbourne, which featured some of the best prog and post-rock bands that Australia had to offer. Reliqa was new to me, but I was floored straight away. Energetic, innovative alt-prog with an incredible singer. It’s by no means their heaviest, but the song “Earthbound“, was a fast favourite, full of moody gravitas.
Reliqa have been on high rotate ever since. I just can’t get enough. They’re only young – all being in their early 20’s – but their songwriting and playing abilities are truly outstanding. It’s a bit of a given – seeing that they are a prog band – but their ability to draw from a variety of genres and experiment with sounds and styles makes their music exciting and enticing. And just as I’d hoped, Reliqa killed it when I saw them play live. A good portion of their set was yet-unreleased material from this EP, and even though nobody knew those songs, it still garnered a great reaction from the audience.
I Don’t Know What I Am, kicks straight into it on the eponymous opening track. Vocalist Monique Pym’s delivery is direct and aggressive, backed by distorted guitar. This juxtaposes abruptly against a floating ethereal passage before launching into another rocky section. The crazy glitchy breakdown in the middle is one of the stand out moments on this EP. An effect kicks in, causing Pym’s vocals to stutter, falling away for the solo. I’m not sure which instrument is responsible but it sounds like a drum solo on synthetic boomwhackers, leading into a ripping guitar lead. The sheer weirdness of the tones and timbres make my ears prick up and notice. What is that sound? How did they pull that off? The guitar playing is reminiscent of their Monolith festival co-players Plini – extremely technical sounding, heavy and metallic, yet still very articulate and accessible.
“The Bearer of Bad News” takes us to exotic lands before crashing back to reality with frenzied riffing and playing. Pym alternates between singing and rapping, showing some diverse ability with her power voice. One moment her singing soars high, the next she’s whispering with menace. You know how System of a Down sometimes use scales that aren’t often found in traditional Western music? I have a feeling that Reliqa may be doing something along those lines to give sections of this song an different flavour. Listening to some of those guitar lines makes me conjure images of snake charmers.
“Safety” was an obvious choice as a single. For one, it features Make Them Suffer vocalist Sean Harmanis. Reliqa have been touring with and opening for an impressive selection of bands – a who’s who of premiere Australian alternative acts – so it’s cool to see them making the most of some of the contacts they’ve made by getting Harmanis to guest on this track. It’s also a heavy track, and the chorus is a real ear worm. Good luck getting it out of your head after a few listens.
“Second Nature” is the ballad of the EP, in the sense that it’s slow and powerful. It commences with serene guitar picking and spacious halftime drumming, revving up for the the chorus and a breakdown. Doublekick drumming fills the beat, giving the song some oomph. Throughout the song we feel an elastic tension with the tempo, pulling and pushing as the energy comes in waves. A soft cut out preludes a big build up, with lots of layered harmonies that create an anthemic final chorus and a juicy riff-laden outro. This powerhouse track shows Reliqa as masters of dynamic songwriting.
“.blip” is an interlude, an instrumental track that gives the Miles and Benjamin Knox a chance to show off how in sync the rhythm section is. They lock in, tight drums and warm running basslines, while guitar helps to flesh it out tastefully. This leads into “The Ritualist”, which also has a tight djent feel, with dense stop/start chugging..
True to its name, I Don’t Know What I Am EP is all over the show, never staying true to a set style or sound. But this eclectic dynamism is what I find so alluring. This music demands your attention, showcasing the immense talents of the four musicians responsible. Monique Pym’s singing is the true star of the show (and will earn Reliqa inevitable comparisons to Spiritbox), but the other three players are also incredible. Despite the technical nature of the music, I don’t consider it challenging or pretentious. Perhaps it’s because they explore a whole array of concepts within each song, but condense them into a standard length, unlike many other prog bands who are known for writing long songs. This keeps it sounding fresh, at any rate. It’s just great music, played by musicians who are talented beyond their years.
I Don’t Know What I Am drops on Friday 16 September 2022
feat. Karnivool, Cog, Ocean Grove, Plini, sleepmakeswaves, Reliqa, Yomi Ship
Saturday 26 August 2022
Australia hits well above its weight when it comes to excellent prog-rock and post-rock bands. Belgium does well, possibly because dunk!records is based there. Japan has an incredible scene, especially with the math-rock offshoot. America is obviously well represented, but that’s a given because America is huge and is there anything that they don’t dominate at? But honestly, give me the choice, and I’d most want to see Australian post/prog bands.
Monolith Festival was my chance. When I first saw the announcement I was almost too scared to hope. The lineup seemed too good to be true. Karnivool AND Cog? I’d consider coming over for either one of those acts, let alone both of them together. But this is the time of covid. A time of ruined dreams and cancellations and postponements and lockdowns and all those nasty things a pandemic can cause. It was too risky.
And sure enough, the gigs were postponed. But this worked for me. It meant that it took us to a time beyond extreme border restrictions and mandatory isolation. Travel was viable again. I could afford a glimmer of hope.
I’ve come to Melbourne for gigs a few times in the past: Into It. Over It. and Download Festival. Both were amazing, truly treasured memories. It was time for a hat-trick. Monolith Festival, here we come!
I arrived at PICA with my friend Francie half way through Yomi Ship’s set. Navigating Melbourne’s public transport had proven more difficult than anticipated, with some train services being closed for maintenance. PICA – Port Melbourne Industrial Centre for the Arts – was a cool spot. As the name suggests, it was in the port area. It used to be a warehouse of some sort, that had been repurposed as a venue. A bunch of old shipping containers had been converted into bars, and there were a few bars spaces that didn’t look quite so industrial. It was covered in corrugated iron and the walls didn’t come down far, giving it a half open-air feel – like an industrial gazebo of sorts. There was a designated area with picnic tables and an assortment of food trucks, and the obligatory merch tent and portaloos. It was a great set up.
Perth’s Yomi Ship – named after a Yu Gi Oh card – were a trio playing very technical-sounding post-rock. It was fairly laid-back, despite some time-signature changes that bordered on jarring. Melbourne had put on an unexpected beaut of a day, and this dreamy music was wonderful as we enjoyed the sun.
Reliqa is one of the acts I hadn’t heard of before seeing the Monolith line up. I figured I better check out all the acts about a month ago, and was blown away with how much I loved their music. They’ve been on very heavy rotate ever since.
I came in with high expectations, and Reliqa more than delivered. They draw from a range of styles, with elements borrowed from prog-rock, metalcore, djent and and similar alternative styles. They’re a young band, but showed great mastery as musicians and songwriters. Frontwoman Monique Pym stood out especially with her powerful pipes.
Mikey from local metalcore band Gloom in the Corner came on for a guest spot on their latest single “Safety”, with some pretty heavy hardcore vocals. After that the band previewed unreleased material from their forthcoming EP: I Don’t Know What I Am. I tell you what: it’s great music. Uplifting passages, thunderous breakdowns, infectious riffing – I was absolutely lapping it up.
I was very impressed with their set. Note Reliqa down as a band to watch out for.
Back in 2017 I tagged along with Montana post-rockers Ranges on a two week tour across America. I saw a lot of post-rock bands during those two weeks, especially because the tour involved a few days in Vermont at the inaugural dunk!USA festival. I remember discussing with Ranges guitarist Joey Caldwell what it took for post-rock bands to stand out in a live context. They need either memorable melodies or great energy. Anything less, and they’re just not up to par.
sleepmakeswaves have both. Delicious riffs, interesting effects, great dynamics. And energy! Such energy! I’d seen them open for This Will Destroy You when they came to Wellington in 2015, hot off a three-month long tour. They, well, destroyed TWDY. Their energy was incredible. I’ve long awaited the chance to see them play again.
Sound check for their set had me giggling. Certain frequencies had the corrugated iron on the roof of the venue rattling sympathetically, like the wire snares on a snare drum.
Right from the opening notes of “Tundra”, I was transported into my happy place. Pure euphoria. It reminded me just why Made Of Breath Onlyis one of my favourite post-rock albums. As I already mentioned, they are an incredibly energetic band. And that energy was contagious. The three string players were bounding all over the stage, leaping up and off the foldbacks. I could tell there were some issues with the bass guitar because a roadie kept coming up to adjust the pedal board and swap out the lead, but I couldn’t hear anything wrong.
They dismissed their music as mere “interlude songs”, but honestly, their set was the highlight of my day. It has been a tough few years. I wouldn’t usually consider myself a happy person and life is often a struggle. But sleepmakeswaves made me experience such elation that I struggle to remember when I was in such joyful spirits.
The sun had set by this stage, so the lights finally looked effective onstage. It was quite comical how much stage smoke was deployed, with the band often engulfed in clouds.
Like sleepmakeswaves, Plini plays guitar driven instrumental music. But I’d call Plini technical guitar metal, rather than energetic post-rock. I’d seen Plini play in Wellington once at a sold-out gig, in many ways reminiscent of the Intervals gig that had taken place maybe 6 months before. It was a great night.
I don’t have too much to say about his music. It’s a lot of widdly widdly wizardry. Once you’ve heard one of his songs you’ll have a fair idea what the rest will sound like. Very tappy and technical, bridging the gap between melodic and heavy.
One of the reasons that I love the prog/post styles of music is that the artists are often pushing their abilities as musicians. Plini doesn’t put on much of a show – he’s quite unassuming and self-deprecating – but he is a phenomenal guitarist. And his band members also have to be incredible as well. This was an act that you just stand and watch, mouth agape, in awe of their talent.
Now you have to understand that I am from New Zealand. The internet does wonders for connecting us all, but some big Australian bands just don’t have a presence over the ditch. I’d never heard of Ocean Grove. But based on their streaming stats, and the of bands they’ve opened for, I’d wager they’re pretty big here in Australia.
I gave them a few listens online leading up to Monolith. And to be honest, I never lasted long before switching to something else. I didn’t really get the appeal. But they made sense live. Their music was definitely more commercial sounding and catchy, something I could easily imagine gaining radio play. And they had great presence. They’re local to Melbourne, so I imagine that many people in attendance had seen them plenty of times.
Their sound reminded me of Limp Bizkit and Sum 41, switching from rapping to hook laden choruses. Their visuals weren’t exactly cohesive, but you can tell they’d put some thought into their image. The singer wore a boiler suit, and the lead guitarist had a skeleton hoodie and sequined jeans.
They encouraged everyone to get up on shoulders and crowd surf, with singer Dale Tanner jumping out into the crowd rows of the audience himself.
Cog are incredible. How can a mere trio be such a powerhouse act? One of my mates put my onto them a when I started university and I was instantly hooked. Cog were old news by that stage, and inactive. There was the wonderful side project from The Occupants that they released around that time, but I thought Cog was over. Thankfully after a few years, Cog reunited, released a few singles, and I was able to see them play on a trip to Sydney. It was everything I wanted and more. I even caught one of Lucius’ drum sticks that night, but regretfully left it in the hotel room when I returned to NZ a few days later.
They were obviously a huge drawcard for tonight. Looking around, you could see most people singing along to most songs. Guitarist Flynn Gower mentioned that they’d been coming down to Melbourne for close on 25 years, and felt that Melbourne was a musical home for the band.
As is the case with every band on the bill, the musicians in Cog were amazing players. All three of them sang. I was especially in awe of drummer Lucias Borich. He had a huge DW kit, flanked by sample pads with a huge Zildjian gong at the rear. And splash cymbals for Africa. He seemed like an octopus at times, utilizing so many different percussive elements in his playing.
Some of the mix wasn’t quite right. Flynn had two microphones with slightly different effects (I’d seen Faith No More’s Mike Patton do this in the past too) and the secondary one wasn’t working for the start of the set. And the samples from the drum trigger pads were a lot louder than the band at times, but all in all, none of this really detracted from the gig.
Everyone knew the songs so well, so it was neat to see how the band gave these songs live treatment. The song “Open Up” (A Leftfield/Public Imaged Ltd cover) stood out somewhat, having a more dancy/electronic feel. I loved the handful of songs which had extended jams, with “No Other Way” having an especially big build up.
Bassist Luke Gower was having the time of his life. You could see him dancing and grooving onstage, even between songs. You could even see how much fun he was having as he sang some of the non-lyrical vocal parts, playing with what his voice could do. I chatted to him briefly after his set and he said to me “oh yeah, you could tell that tonight was a great set”. I have to say I agree with him.
I dreamt of becoming a music journalist as a teen. Imagine being given albums to review, getting passes to concerts, interviewing rock stars. I never managed to make a career of it, but I did start this music blog so I’ve had a taste of it. My favourite magazine at the time was Rip It Up, a long standing NZ music mag that was celebrating its 30th birthday around the time I started reading it. Annual subscriptions worked out cheaper than buying each issue, and you’d get a free CD too. From memory I got a Velvet Revolver album the first year. The second year I got a CD from a band I hadn’t heard of: Sound Awake by Karnivool. I’m so grateful for that. I wonder if I would have ever discovered Karnivool if not for that chance subscription bonus?
That album was a game changer. As a teenage bogan, I was dutifully a huge Tool fan. This was a band who came incredibly close in terms of musicianship and feel, yet didn’t feel derivative. I loved the moodiness, the emotion. As a beginning drummer, I was in absolute awe of the drumming. There are plenty of brilliant drumming moments found within, but the intro to “The Caudal Lure” stood out, because Steve Judd plays around the beat. I couldn’t comprehend it.
I was even more fortunate to see them play at Big Day Out the following year. It was amazing, but criminally early in the day, and not a very long set. That was 12 years ago. I’ve craved more live Karnivool ever since.
Sound Awake remains one of my favourite albums. Now and again I meet someone who is a fellow Karnivool fan and it feels like we instantly form a special bond. I remember chatting to some of the guys in OHGOD (who opened for Karnivool in South Africa) at dunk!fest 2018, who share my reverence for the Vool. And my mate Josh (Tides of Man) talks about touring with Karnivool, and just being completely floored as he got to watch them from side of stage every night on tour. They’re on another level.
Tonight was the night. I would have come over just for Karnivool. I couldn’t miss Karnivool AND Cog, along with the other incredible bands.
They’d hung a huge transparent curtain in front of the stage during set up and sound check. I couldn’t tell what the point of this was from where I was to the side, but I assume it added a theatrical element, dropping to the floor half way through their first song.
As I said before, Sound Awake is a huge album for me, so songs like “Simple Boy” and “New Day” were big highlights. But they treated fans to works from throughout their catalogue. Their encore was their newest song, “All It Takes”, followed by “Fade” – one of their oldest.
It had seemed like most of the crowd had been singing along to Cog’s set when they played. Well for Karnivool, it seemed like that number had doubled. It was a sight to behold, seeing everyone mouth along to the words, arms in the air. One of the best moments was the outro to “We Are”, which the band slowly faded out to. It felt magic, everyone singing along in unison at the last notes lingered in the still night.
Monolith Festival was a huge success. Incredible bands, great venue, sold out show.
Karnivool guitarist Mark Hosking to summed it up well: “If there is one thing that this tour has made abundantly clear, it is that Australian music is alive! And here! And relevant!”
The pandemic stole a lot from us. But it didn’t defeat us. And tonight was a testament to that. Great music unites people, and reminds us what we have to live for.
Let’s do it again. Add Meniscus to the lineup. I’ll come back to Australia for that in a heartbeat.