Live Review: This Will Destroy You and sleepmakeswaves at San Fran, Wellington

This Will Destroy You sleepmakeswaves San Fran Wellington

This Will Destroy You (Texas, USA)

w/ sleepmakeswaves (Sydney, Australia) and Spook The Horses (Wellington)

San Fran, Wellington

Sunday 7 June 2015

Image: Fergus Cunningham

Image: Fergus Cunningham

Local act Spook The Horse started the night off strong with their searing post-hardcore set. At stages heavy with roaring, and other times calm and contemplative, with plenty of tambourine shaking in between. They ensured that those who arrived early were rewarded for their attendance.

Sydney post-rock quartet sleepmakeswaves were outstanding. This show was towards the end of a long tour (22 countries over a three-month period), but they showed no signs of waning, clearly loving every moment onstage. Most bands who play this kind of music stand there solemnly in the dark as they play, but the lads from SMW were jumping around all over the place having the time of their life. I swear I didn’t see the drummer’s face once, hidden behind his shaggy mop of hair. The music was upbeat and positive, accompanied by quirky electronic samples. It was such a good set that I could have quite happily called it a night then.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

Image: Fergus Cunningham

After sleepmakeswaves’ energetic set, This Will Destroy You didn’t seem nearly as exciting. It was late on a Sunday night and the music was so slow that I could hear my bed calling me. Guitarist Jeremy Galindo was seated for the whole set and even commented that he was ready for bed too. I’m glad I didn’t answer the call though, because I was soon swept up in the music.

TWDY had one of the most intricate set-ups that I’ve seen. Transformers to help compensate for the electrical system differences between NZ and USA. Pedals upon pedals upon pedals. Keyboards and dials and switches, all draped in an assortment of wires. A spaghetti monstrosity of cables laying claim to most of the stage.

And all this equipment was used to create the music. Swells and hums and intricate layers of sound. Spaced drumming with washy cymbals. Sparse keyboard notes on top of haunting white noise. Even though the music was slow and the set lasted almost two hours, it certainly didn’t feel like it. Time didn’t drag its heels, but instead flew past sooner than I realised. And when my eyelids would start to feel heavy the band would launch into an electrifying overdriven segment to wake me up again. TWDY didn’t have the same stage presence of the previous two bands: they let their music do the talking.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

Image: Fergus Cunningham

Not only were we treated to seeing This Will Destroy You, but they also brought another stellar international band with them as support. And sleepmakeswaves actually put on the best performance of the night. It was a relatively small turn out, something that I can only attribute to the fact that it was a Sunday night. And it did go late, until around 12.20am. But once the sleep deprivation wears off, I don’t think anyone in attendance would say they regret having gone.

Joseph James

Thanks to Fergus Cunningham for the photos.

Live Review: Dragonforce at Valhalla, Wellington

Dragonforce Overload NZ poster Valhalla Welington


w/ Red Dawn

Valhalla, Wellington

Wednesday 18 February 2015


Saul Hudson often tops those “100 greatest guitarists of all time” polls. You may know him better as Slash (of Gun n Roses and Velvet Revolver fame). He played in Wellington tonight at TSB Arena. But I didn’t go.

You see, I’ve already seen Slash perform twice in the past. He puts on a fun show. His band is good and his set is riddled with nostalgic tracks. But I chose instead to go see powermetal act Dragonforce, who were also playing in Wellington. Despite Slash’s reputation as a guitarist, Dragonforce promised to put on a far more impressive display of guitar pyrotechnics.

Dragonforce are Iron Maiden on speed. Extreme, epic metal sped up and filled with insane guitar shredding and drum blastbeats. Some have classified them as ‘nintendo metal’. Fitting, seeing how the rose to fame through association with the Guitar Hero video game franchise. Their biggest hit, “Through The Fire And Flames” featured as the hardest song on Guitar Hero 3. Fans of the game spent many, many hours of their lives attempting to achieve the perfect score. No small feat, considering how long and fast the song is.


True to expectations, Dragonforce gave every bit the entertaining performance I was hoping for. Ex-Wellingtonian Sam Totman shared guitar duties with Herman Li, the two of them playing out long alternating solos, sometimes even switching out with Vadim Pruzhanov on keytar. Between them they showed off impressive virtuoso skills as they riffed, strummed, tapped and soloed throughout the night. Frédéric Leclercq held the groove on five string bass as singer Marc Hudson wailed dramatically into the microphone.

I must note that the new drummer was introduced as “Gee Anzalone”, but I suspect that he was really Thorin Oakenshield in disguise. This is clearly how the band so effectively incorporates a fantasy element into their songwriting. Oakenshield has done well trading his kingly throne for a drum throne. I don’t envy any drummer who has to play at that tempo for so long, but Anzalone seemed right at home behind his two bass drums, spinning and twirling his sticks as he played.

Thorin Oakenshield, left, and Gee Anzalone, right

Thorin Oakenshield, left, and Gee Anzalone, right

Valhalla was a no-brainer when it came to venue choice. Formerly known as Valve, Hole In The Wall, and Medusa, Valhalla has long been Wellington’s dedicated metal bar. The tiny venue made the gig all the more intimate, with hundreds of bogans crammed in together and the bands playing literally right in front of the mosh pit. The stage seemed almost too small to hold the six piece but they didn’t let it stop them from moving about as they took turns as the centre of attention.

I expected every second person in the crowd to wear denim vests and leather jackets adorned with band patches and studs. But surprisingly, the stereotypical long-haired headbangers were in short supply. There were more long beards than long heads of hair. The bar was jam-packed, to the point that at the end of the set the band didn’t even bother trying to leave the stage, because they knew they’d have to squeeze their way back for the encore. In a typical kiwi fashion, chants started up for band members to drink. The keyboardist even joined in the heckling, shouting out that the band needed to play some Slayer.

One blonde haired girl deserves a special mention. She was the first to crowd surf (with her handbag clenched tightly between her teeth). Then she generously wiped sweat off her brow and onto my cheek. After that she and a friend pushed their way onstage to dance, and she proceeded to lick her hand and wipe it on the back of Herman’s head. Herman didn’t seem to appreciate this. “Who ordered the strippers that didn’t take their clothes off?” He asked, “I feel ripped off!” The girl was a bit of a state all night. Her shoes had disintegrated over the course of the evening and at the end of the night she only had straps around her ankles. Parts of the soles and heels were in pieces strewn around the floor.

I’ve heard rumours before that Dragonforce can’t cut it live. “They record their song in the studio and speed it up on a computer”, people have said, “they get really drunk on stage to cover up the fact they can’t actually play that well.” I saw no shortage of talent. And I can forgive a musician for not being able to play complex songs note for note every time, but I didn’t need to, because the members of Dragonforce were more than proficient. The songs were fast but tight, and the vocal harmonies sounded great once the mic levels increased. They made their work look easy.

One of the themes in the latest Dragonforce album, Maximum Overload, is how we get overwhelmed and overstimulated by technology. It seems a bit ironic then, that so many people had their smartphones out, recording the band’s every movements. I wouldn’t have wanted to get my phone out, for fear that someone spill beer on it. But I can see why one would want to film such a spectacle.

I had hoped to see Dragonforce play in Los Angeles when I was on holiday there three years ago. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. I never really got over missing that opportunity. But after witnessing such a stellar show tonight I can finally let it go.

The line-up may have changed slightly, but I can finally say that I’ve seen that ridiculous band from Guitar Hero. And I enjoyed every moment.


Joseph James

The setlist

The set list