That band with the comic books…
May 8, 2016

Coheed and Cambria’s gigs have always proven interesting.  On the one hand, the band have historically always sounded amazing.  On the other, their audiences have sometimes proven to be their undoing, insisting on inappropriately out-hardcoring each other as they slam out of time to the music.  How would tonight’s show at an apparently revamped HiFi Bar compare?

Coheed and Cambria, with Closure In Moscow,
Max Watt’s, Melbourne, May 6, 2016…

After a weird twelve months, including a seemingly-sudden change of ownership, weird name change, and flooding, it was my first look at an apparently renovated HiFi Bar.  First impressions were not promising, with a queue snaking along Swanston Street, surely for the first time since Prince’s first in, best dressed appearance.  Once inside, the alleged renovations were also not apparent, but that was unimportant – it appeared that Max Watt’s was keeping things business as usual for the HiFi Bar.  Familiar faces kept matters moving efficiently behind the bar so, despite the inexplicable entry queue, there was time for drinks before the opener took to the stage.

It was strange to think that I’ve never seen Closure In Moscow play before.  I am certain they have appeared on plenty of bills that I have been to, but never actually witnessed their performance.  They sounded like a cross between The Darkness and The Mars Volta, and the flamboyant frontman drew attention from the back of the room to the front immediately.  Vocally, he reminded me of Robert Harvey from the music, and visually he kept attention as he made use of the stage dressed in costume jewellery and a Grandma Yetta-style jacket. The group moved flawlessly between sprawling funk epics, hard rock and even spoken word interludes. After witnessing a bubbly closing number blending gospel, country and psych-rock tones that Rocket Science would be proud of, it seems more than worthwhile to see Closure In Moscow could do in one of their headline shows.

Rather than being introduced by a DJ, or opening boldly like they have in previous outings, Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever entered the stage without ceremony, carrying acoustic guitars with them to the microphones front and centre to pose as their own support act with a demure rendition of Ghost.  It shifted the tone from the party-rock of Closure In Moscow’s set, but it was to only be temporary, as the ending strains lead into the opening of In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3.  The rest of Coheed and Cambria appeared behind the singer and guitarist in time for the anticipatory build that would set the scene for the rest of the show.

coheedhifibright
The aforementioned super-mosh crew tried to slam their way to infamy at this early stage, but quickly fell out of the crowd as the majority kept up with the rhapsodic shifts fans can follow well.  (Surprisingly, it was the newest songs from the band’s current, poppy release Colour Before The Sun that brought them back to try their luck at inappropriately frantic moshing a couple of times later, rather than the heavy songs.)  The rest of us were left to join in for backing vocals in the dramatic return from the song’s false ending, and revel in swaying, jumping, and thrashing in perfect sync for the rest of the set.

The current release is a brilliant, yet different venture for the band, but more straight-forward highlights from Colour Before The Sun like Island, Eraser and especially Here To Mars fit perfectly within the progressive staples like No World For Tomorrow and Sentry The Defiant.  Throughout the set, it seemed like the band were enjoying themselves immensely on stage, not afraid to dance along and behave in other decidedly non-metal ways.  Likewise, the sold out crowd showed their appreciate for the duration, with no lulls in the movement and singing from the moment the group took to the stage to the end.

coheedhifimax
Once the applause died down at the end of the main set, the usual Australian audience chant of ‘One more song!’ was pleasantly absent, replaced tonight by a spontaneous rendition of the choral refrain from In Keeping Secrets…  When Claudio lead his band back to the stage for an encore, he seemed thrilled with the show of support, and after replying with his cry, requested the audience share the experience via social media to make it a trend.

‘What?’ he asked the pockets of laughter in the audience at the request.  ‘Should I be worried about being too corny?  We’re already that band with the comic books.’

As though to prove his statement, Claudio took up a double-necked guitar to pluck the opening chords of Welcome Home, before striking every rock cliché pose through the course of the powerful closer.  It was the Coheed and Cambria gig we’ve been waiting for.

Winter Soundwave…
October 2, 2011

‘Goodnight, Springton.  There will be no encore…’
– Spinal Tap – The Simpsons

It would perhaps be to risk committing slander to refer to the organisers of Soundwave Revolution as irresponsible, however, the fact remains that as late as the Monday before the show, statements were still being submitted to the press referring to the replacement Counter Revolution show for Melbourne as taking place at ‘Festival Hall and surrounds.’

Counter Revolution,
Festival Hall, Melbourne, September 30, 2011

I’d been kind of relieved when the originally announced Soundwave Revolution had been cancelled.  Whilst the line up had promised some appealing elements, I was concerned by the casual negligence of the event ads to mention the name of the venue.  When a racetrack in Melton was finally announced, I quickly discovered that Melton appears to have only one motel which was already booked out.  As September dawned, this was downgraded to the Counter Revolution ‘mini-festival’ at Sidney Myer Music Bowl and later to Festival Hall and its alleged surrounds, and was boasting ‘No clashes!’ which should have alerted everyone to the fact that this was no longer a festival at all.

Meanwhile, speculation with friends was rife regarding what these surrounds might be.  There were suggestions of the Carron or Spencer Hotels, and even North Melbourne Station, but I had less optimism.  I suggested that there would be no surrounds included at all.  If the owners of the terrace houses in neighbouring blocks complain to police when noise and activity are confined to within Festival Hall, imagine the outrage if it were to spill into their streets.

Sure enough, as I left the Carron and headed down Rosslyn Street, there was little sign of life other than a guy spray painting promotional stencils onto the street for The Getaway Plan’s new single.

Inside Festival Hall, it was already quite crowded at eleven o’clock.  I was given a cushy job that allowed an unobstructed view of the precedings:  finally making use of my ill-begotten RSA licence and issuing ‘Proof Of Age’ wristbands upon presentation of ID to those who wanted to drink.

The venue seemed to have filled very early for a fourteen hour event – which had apparently caught the cloakroom girls off-guard – but it was still very sparsely populated inside, and peculiarly cold.  The stage had been divided down the middle by a row of Marshalls, so that a band could be performing on one side of the amps whilst the stage was being set up on the other side for the next band.  It meant that there were no breaks between bands which was novel, but also raised some kind of compatibility issue with the lighting set up.  The half-quantity of lights only seemed able to cast the bands in a dim, sporadic glow, so it felt a bit like watching a Nirvana or Prodigy video.  Alesana were the first band anyone seemed interested in watching, and I guess for the people who rushed to the front of the stage the lighting wouldn’t have been such a concern.

My wristbands were a surprisingly sought-after attraction, with the expected allocation being claimed by the end of Alesana’s set.  When the stylish red and white checked design wristbands had run out, somebody quickly replenished my stock with an alternative.  These ones were emblazoned with the advice ‘Drink responsibly’ and a drawing of a Martini.  The combination of elements in the design made me crave a drink, like those television commercials with the Olympian who I went to school with.  Drinking responsibly seemed like a fine idea, but I still had around twelve hours of work ahead of me.

Skull and crossBandsThe efficiency of the stage set up was evident as the vastly superior yet obviously less popular Go Radio started playing Living End-esque riffs immediately as Alesana stepped off stage.  A girl with a Butterfree tattoo stumbled up to me, acting drunker than she really was.  Wordlessly, she presented her wrist to me, and when I asked to see her ID, she laughed maniacally to the point that she fell on the floor, spilling twenty dollar bills everywhere and suddenly becoming more sober.  I collected a few and handed them to her as she stood up, and she laughed some more, and found her licence.  I checked the age and picture and wrapped a wristband on her, and she thanked me with a kiss and stumbled away just as she’d arrived.  Meanwhile, the band’s cover of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep didn’t seem to elicit the response the band had hoped for.

Hellogoodbye – who I had been looking forward to seeing – also didn’t attract the audience that they perhaps deserved.  Their intriguingly-produced bubble-rock translated very well to the live arena, although the signing tables proved a much greater attraction to the bulk of the patrons, despite the apparently not outrageousness of having to purchase an additional ticket to visit, and another for each band.  My viewing of Hellogoodbye’s impressive set was occasionally interrupted by girls crying after their meeting with The Damned Things at the signing table.  I was surprised to see that they were the first of the singing draw card bands, especially since their set which followed wasn’t anything special, though I guess many of those were probably fans of band members’ main projects like Anthrax, or perhaps more likely, Fall Out Boy.

As per usual, I didn’t really get the hype surrounding Funeral For A Friend.  Even though their opening strains had audience members running from the stands and bars to get to the floor, other than some appealing album covers, I just can’t manage to find much of interest in the band’s sound or live shows, even after seeing them play so many times in the past.  They were followed by Set Your Goals, a band I hadn’t heard before.  I quite enjoyed their dual vocal, Good Charlotte sound.  It was during their set that a whole bunch of people decided they needed wristbands and a queue started to form.  I noticed that lots of the wrists were adorned with cuts of various severity.  I had almost identical conversations with several patrons.

‘You’re asking me for ID?  I’m, like, the oldest person here!’

After a brief and uninteresting debate, they would present their ID, which invariably showed a birth-year of 1992 0r 1993, and be given a wristband.  A couple of people felt like arguing because they had not brought ID, and made various demands which I did not meet, since I didn’t consider them important.  As an all-ages show, they were already inside and welcome to stay.  As far as I was concerned their ability to drink was entirely unimportant.

This Providence arrived and threatened to steal the show.  With a faintly Japanese sound and a flamboyant front man, their live sound would probably best slot in somewhere between My Chemical Romance and Yves Klein Blue, but with soft songs that proved reminiscent of Coheed And Cambria.  Although I hadn’t heard This Providence’s music before, their powerful set has inspired me to ensure that I listen to more of it in future.  Although the audience seemed to enjoy their set, it was clear most of them were just filling the time until Story Of The Year came on.  Never have I seen as many t-shirts that read ‘Blitz Kids Never Die’ as I did during Story Of They Year’s set which was fine, but nothing really revolutionary or otherwise memorable.

A pleasant surprise, though not of particular interest to the majority of the audience, were Face To Face in what I guess is their first Australian tour since their reformation.  Their somehow more serious sounding punk rock, drawing close to ska sounds, were amongst the best musical moments of the whole day, though few in the audience seemed to notice, I guess due to a lack of on-stage gimmicks, and a solid looking guy approached me, bringing his wrist slowly up towards me, and peering at me from beneath the brim if his hat.

‘Have you got some ID to show me?’ I asked him, meeting his gaze sideways.

He continued to glare at me from beneath the hat and slowly shook his head, the edges of his lips turning up in a vicious looking scowl.

‘Then you can’t have a wristband.’

Still wordlessly, he finally looked away, as though trying to barely contain some incredible rage, and finally flipped a drivers licence to me.  His age checked out and I gave him a wristband and he left without a sound.

Yellowcard were next up, and effortlessly drew the largest audience of the day, despite my consideration of the group as little more than a support act.  I guess that’s just because my previous experience of the band has been at such.  From the moment the trademark violin appeared on stage, the screaming was constant, and I have to admit that the band seems to have improved with age.  A rendition of Five Becomes Four was particularly enjoyable, and I caught myself singing along before it was through.  The peculiarly highly billed Young Guns followed, but their performance was largely ignored with the intermittent view of Brendon Urie as movement at the signing table caused the surrounding curtains to part slightly proving too big an attraction to ignore for the many who had missed out on the tickets for Panic! At The Disco’s signing, which was sold out by the time I arrived.  A few people asked me where to buy tickets, but by that point, the promoters in charge of the signing had left.

Meanwhile another of the event organisers was appalled when I refused to give a wristband to a pair of guys allegedly involved in the show in some way.  After a brief argument he told me to fuck off, before himself leaving, allowing me free time to watch a set which proved to be overly expletive-laden by All Time Low.  I was certain that at one point the band referred to the audience as ‘Sydney,’ and after the song, Alex Gaskarth, his band-mates laughing behind him, apologised for calling the crowd ‘Brisbane.’  I wondered if this was some kind of joke.  When they were playing, the group sounded okay – particularly a song towards the end that opened with drum machine that caught me off guard, like when I’m Your Daddy comes on during the first listen to Weezer’s Raditude, and you wonder if the sound is a joke or parody, but then it gets bumped up a notch on Can’t Stop Partying and everyone knew it was serious, but I liked it – but they just spent too much time on banter and innuendo.  Late in the set the band seemed to be joking amongst themselves when they proclaimed ‘Craig from D.R.U.G.S. is backstage fellashying himself.’  Presumably he meant ‘fellating.’

Whatever he meant, it didn’t seem to be true, because D.R.U.G.S. themselves appeared impatiently waiting on the opposite side of the stage for All Time Low to finish what turned out to be the only set to run overtime in an otherwise impeccably maintained schedule.  D.R.U.G.S. brought a darker and more layered sound to the day, which was a nice change, and it was good to see keyboards on stage, and more were being set up on the opposite side in preparation for Panic! At The Disco.  When Panic! finally emerged after D.R.U.G.S., it was perhaps to a smaller than expected audience.  It seemed that around half of the audience of the peak of the day had already filtered out after Yellowcard finished, but they missed a fine set from Panic!, who played hit after hit and sounded pitch-perfect, deviating from the formula only for a Darkness cover.

My suspicions turned out to be wrong.  I’d thought that after the initially appealing Soundwave Revolution line up, the Counter Revolution bill read like a series of side-stages.  Even though the show could hardly be called a festival, it was still a good day of music, and ran surprisingly smoothly.  Were it not for the public scandal that came before, Counter Revolution could have existed as a stand-alone rock show.  As it is, I think it provided what it set out to, and can be proud of that.