Head Like A Hole at Valhalla – 25th Anniversary Tour

Head Like A Hole Valhalla Wellington Poster 25th Anniversary Tour

Head Like A Hole playing the album 13

w/ Hiboux

Saturday 20 May 2017

Valhalla, Wellington

A friend of mine has a story from when his band opened for Head Like A Hole many years ago. During HLAH’s set a naked man run onstage and stage dived off. He got consumed by the mosh pit, only to emerge from the midst of it right and the end of the night when the crowd had dispersed.

Imagine being part of that mosh pit. It’s hot. You’re enjoying the music and bouncing between other sweaty bodies. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an undressed man with flailing penis appears out of nowhere, blocking out the light and landing square on top of you.

My friend is now a priest, and although it isn’t very priestly to condone tales of rock n roll like this, he loves sharing it. He grins from ear to ear as he tells his story, giggling about wild times.

Of course Head Like A Hole have been known to perform naked and caked with mud in the past as well. Tonight was my first time seeing the band, and they were performing their début album 13 (released in 1992 – the year I was born!). All bets were off, and I braced myself for some madness.

Hiboux opening for Head Like A Hole at ValhallaHiboux

I’ve been following the Instagram account of local post-rock lads Hiboux, and it is clear that they’ve worked hard recently. With a début album now under their belts, the band have filmed videos, written more music, and are planning an upcoming trans-Tasman tour. They sounded great when I saw them open for Alcest last month, and tonight was just as great.

The lighting guy was having fun trying to destroy my photos, employing far too much red light and working the for machine overtime – two ingredients that serve to foil my camera’s ability. I had fun though, climbing up on the side of a speaker rig to find interesting angles.

If you haven’t heard Hiboux yet, I recommend checking them out. Their hypnotic instrumental tunes cast a spell over Valhalla. It was perhaps a bit sedate at first considering that they were opening for legendary wild men, but later on the set the distortion pedals came to the foray and the headbanging material unleashed. Although their music is well-crafted and exact, fantastic energy brims beneath, making the explosive sections of the songs all the more dynamic.

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Head Like A Hole Valhalla WellingtonHead Like A Hole

Head Like A Hole disbanded when I was eight, meaning that although I’m know of them, they have never been at the forefront of music I listen to. They’ve had their share of play on The Rock radio station, and one of Dad’s friends used to bring HLAH CDs to our family BBQs [related story], so I am familiar with a few hits, but couldn’t say I know any of their albums well. Knowing that they had planned on playing début album 13 on this tour, I’ve listened to it leading up to the show.

13 is snotty punk music: fast, aggressive and fun. It captures the band at the start of their career – slightly naïve, yet with obvious potential. The recordings sound dated –  funky alt-rock Faith No More worship with bright popping drums and wiry guitars – but despite this the album remains a fan favourite.

By comparison, tonight when the band played the 25 year-old songs they sounded full and punchy. Not only did they sound great, but they had brilliant presence. We didn’t see the naked mud men of yesteryear, but the wildness was still evident.

Head Like A Hole Valhalla Wellington

Like their contemporaries Shihad, they’ve taken rock music, added an alternative edge, and perfected the delivery. Frontman Booga Beezley – dressed in black leather and hair dripping with sweat – swung his mic stand around and told self-deprecating stories.

“This song [Penut] was written after a night of dangerous drinking.” He revealed, half proud of himself, half cautioning us. “I woke up at Nigel’s mum’s house, having shit myself. Shit was everywhere: on the walls, on the toilet. There was shit on me. Nights like that define who you are as a person, which is how we manage to write such great songs.”

Crowd Surfing at Head Like A Hole

Crowd Surfing at Head Like A Hole

Valhalla was as full as I’ve seen it in a year or two, sold out and filled with aging rock fans wanting that taste of their teenage years. The pit up the front was in full swing and a handful of punters tried their hands at stage diving throughout the night – with varying degrees of success.

“We’ve come to that point in the night where we are going to play some radio friendly pop hits”Head Like A Hole Wellington Set List Beezly laughed when the band approached the second half of the set, “who wants to hear some Ed Sheeran?”

Despite never having listened to Head Like A Hole much, I was pleased to learn that I actually knew many of the songs from the second half of the set. “A Crying Shame” was great fun, with a signature trumpet hook played by the woman who had given me my wristband at the start of the night. “Hootenanny” earned cries of excitement, with everyone chanting along to the chorus. A cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” brought the mood down, before the band switched it up a gear to turn it into a rowdy frenzy.

The band members live distributed throughout the North Island these days, but a Wellington show will always be a homecoming gig. I’m glad that I finally managed to see Head Like A Hole live, but I bet that the old fans were even happier than me.

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All words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review and Photo Gallery: Caligula’s Horse at Valhalla, Wellington

Caligula's Horse Valhalla Wellington

Caligula’s Horse

w/ Clæmus and ELIM

Valhalla, Wellington

Wednesday 1 February

Sadly I missed ELIM’s set, but was able to catch the other support act, Clæmus, who proved themselves a great choice to open for Brisbane prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse. Clæmus have a similar progressive sound, and plenty of energy to bring their set to life. It’s amazing how such talented locals keep coming out of the woodwork. Where do they keep hiding? Anyway, now that I’ve discovered them I’ll be sure to attend more gigs that they play.

This was a last-minute show, announced mere weeks before the event. Caligula’s Horse were due to come to NZ for the first time to support Opeth at their gig in Auckland, and seemingly decided to add a Wellington date the night beforehand, much to our pleasure.

The lads in Caligula’s Horse were buzzing to see such a turnout. And it wasn’t bad, but it was hardly packed either. It was however, a case of quality over quantity. Valhalla wasn’t filled to the brim, but the fans who had shown up were diehards, many of whom sang all along to all the words, much to singer Jim Grey’s delight.

I think Caligula’s Horse strike a great balance. They described their own music as “prog-wank”, but I disagree.Sure, the songs are long, and have noodly solos, but they don’t venture into boring territory like some other prog-rock bands. The solos are interesting, the music makes you want to move, and the vocals are on point.

I’m writing this a few days late, having been out-of-town yesterday for the Opeth gig. So with hindsight on my side, I can safely say that it was worth seeing Caligula’s Horse play at Valhalla. OK, it was worth it regardless, but the Valhalla set was far better than the set that they played opening for Opeth in Auckland. This is not to say that the band played badly in Auckland, but there are only so many songs you can fit into a half hour set when you play prog-rock. A band of this calibre deserves more than 30 minutes to show off their talents on stage. This headlining show gave provided us Wellingtonians the opportunity to see Caligula’s Horse let loose at their peak, and not constrained into a supporting slot.

Something I loved was seeing guitarist Sam Vallen’s grandmother positioned just in front of the stage filming her grandson’s band on her smart phone. I wouldn’t usually expect to see that generation at a gig, let alone at a metal bar late on a Wednesday night! It certainly brought a grin to my face to see a grandmother so proud of her grandson.

It was an absolute pleasure watching the band play, drawing from a music new and old. Half way through their set, my mate turned to me and said “I think that this is the best band I’ve seen play at Valhalla!” I thought about it for a minute, and I agree. Caligula’s Horse are a band worth seeing, and I am happy that we saw them play their own unbridled set as well as an opening set for Opeth the following night.



Website: http://caligulashorse.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaligulasHorse

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/samvallen

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caligulashorse/


Words and photos by Joseph James

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