However, not everyone can see a band’s live gig and a band playing live is a good litmus test of their worth. It’s easy to sound good with studio assistance, not so without.
Over the years, I’ve seen a whole heap of live music. Some of it big names, others not so. Here’s an incomplete list, with venues and years (if I can recall), and my mild thoughts and recollections.
Exhumed / Fuck… I’m Dead / Vaginal Carnage – Arthouse, Melbourne – 2003.
I believe I went to this gig for the support bands as much as the headliner, Exhumed. Maybe I was starved for seeing metal gigs. These days Exhumed are considered a classic extreme band. I don’t recall their set doing much for me. It’s pretty common for metal bands OS to be overshadowed by the local Australian support. Vaginal Carnage were the ubiquitous goregrind band of the night. The vocals were both brilliant and hilarious. At one point, the lead singer for Vaginal Carnage mistook me for one of the Exhumed guys and wanted me to come to the green room – ie where the bar kept the spare beer kegs – and smoke buckets. He died later that year. Fuck… I’m Dead wore white shirts covered in fake blood. They also used a drum machine. They were surprising tight. There was also a Sydney band on the bill. Possibly it was Garbage Guts? Halfway through their set they donned wigs and danced out YMCA. I also played a game of pool with one of the members of The Kill.
Dillinger Escape Plan – Corner Hotel, Richmond – 2003.
Pre Miss Machine. Chris Pennie was still in the bad. They opened with ‘Sugar Coated Sour.’ When the song was finished, you could detect a small pause before the crowd went berserk in appreciation. It’s hard to get that reaction out of the fickle Melbourne crowd. I’m pretty sure Pennie triggered the samples during the set, too. Greg threw his microphone at the wall, Pennie wore headphones after the second song, Weinman played the guitar behind his head for ‘Abe the Cop.’
Cephalic Carnage / Akercocke – The Underworld, Camden, London – 2007.
When I was in Europe, trying to inseminate anything that moved. Some mediocre Brit bands supported. Cephalic Carnage opened with ‘Hybrid.’ That’s the song that starts as brutal death slams, then grind, and then morphs in space jazz. The band obviously didn’t have their own soundman doing front-of-house cause the mix was a complete mess, which sounded just right. Cephalic also played the title track off Lucid Interval, with all the noodling, false intros. It felt like no-one in the crowd knew how to react. The club in Camden didn’t do pass-outs, and I didn’t want to miss my train, so I left before Akercocke played.
Nine Inch Nails – Big Day Out, Bassendean – 2000.
Post the total destruction that was the Downward Spiral touring band. Trent still flipped a keyboard. When Trent first addressed the crowd, he sounded really unhinged and emotional but calmed down as the night progressed. The performance was impressive, if as much for the light show and visuals than for the impact that the music had. When they played ‘Hurt’, a tone-death Goth sung the entire song into my right ear as the crowd slow clapped.
Geek Show – Metropolis Night Club, Fremantle – 2003.
Tomahawk – Big Day Out, Claremont – 2001.
Mike Patton showed his dick to the crowd. He also deep throated the microphone and lost a filling.
Whitehouse – Greek Club, Perth – 2003.
Pungent Stench – Amplifier Bar, Perth – 2004/2005.
I saw these guys twice. The second time, I was fired for leaving my job early so I didn’t miss their set. I’ve always thought there should be a law for touring bands, where if they play in Perth, they have to include at least one ACDC song. Pungent Stench covered TNT. Both times they were here. The song received the best reaction of the night. They also played two grindcore songs.
Iron Lung – Hyde Park Hotel, North Perth – 2005.
Bands never play on time. We didn’t want to turn up and wait around Hyde Park for too long. We arrive fashionably late, twenty minutes after the advertised set time. Iron Lung had already started and finished. I bought their tour LP – it was in a DVD case. When the Hyde Park held gigs you had to pay for, they would setup a partition between the pool room area and the front bar. It was rather easy to stand on the other side of the partition and hear the bands for free. Here’s what someone else said about it.
AIDS – Grosvenor Hotel, Perth – 2000.
Back when the Grosvenor supported live music. This was in the front bar. Somebody I went to school with was having a twentieth birthday party and asked AIDS to play. AIDS were an old school grind band, similar in sound to Napalm Death, I guess. Short songs, but unfortunately no whammy bar solos. When they finished, the birthday boy jumped on the stage and did some DJ scratching as AIDS covered reggae.
Jed Whitey – Mojos Bar, North Fremantle – 2000.
Jed Whitey started off as a stoner rock band but by the time I saw them they were more proto-punk. This gig started out really good until the band messed up the start to a song and the audience laughed. The bass player called us hippy faggots and asked why we didn’t fuck off to the cappuccino strip for lattes. Then Jed Whitey continued to play. To say that there was a tension in the room after that would be an understatement. They were loud enough that my ears were ringing for the entirety of the next day.
A Perfect Circle – Somewhere in North Melbourne – 2003.
I used to love the first Perfect Circle album: Mer de Noms. This was the tour for the second album, and Geordie White and James Iha were in the band by then. There was paranoia about unsolicited filming, so no one was allowed to bring a bag inside the venue. Security was frisking everyone and there were huge lines outside every entrance. I had partial view seats. The best part about the gig was the music they played over the PA before the band proper. When the band started, I looked around at the audience and felt disgust with how everyone were getting into the music. I left after three songs and didn’t listen to A Perfect Circle for a long time after.
Snowman – Mojos Bar, Fremantle – 2001.
This was their third, or fourth, gig. It was pre-Triple J airplay, Pitchfork, Perth Scene friends, Joe McGee doing vocals and everything else. Back then they sounded more like an indie rock version of Radiohead, with horror film obsessed lyrics. After catching them at this gig, I went out of my way to see them whenever they played live, leading up to the band winning the Next Big Thing competition. The band went into the stratosphere and I didn’t have anything to do with them until a few years later, and by then it was too late as they sounded completely different to me.
Fear Factory – Metropolis Nightclub, Fremantle – 1998.
I do believe this was the first real live gig I ever went to. Fear Factory were still the classic line-up. Burton C. Bell pulled off his mix of grunts and clean singing convincingly. They also did an awesome version of PissChrist, a song I never liked on the album, but had a new appreciation for after. I was drinking Vodka, lime, bitters – don’t ask – which the bar staff would serve in pint glasses. Fear Factory played Raped Souls, which made my night.
Sleepy Jackson – Amplifier Bar, Perth / Newport Bar, Fremantle – 2001.
Sleepy Jackson were getting a huge buzz around this time: front cover of Spin; UK music press big noting the band. ‘The next thing in rock.’ I went with a group of friends to Amplifier. They sounded like modern country. I went into the beer garden after the first two songs. Friends loved the band. I couldn’t understand how I didn’t like the band; especially after all the attention they were getting. Sleep Jackson were playing in Fremantle the next night. I went alone. Paid my thirty bucks. Stood at the front. I had to make sure I was getting this right! They played modern country. I left after two songs. Luke Steele, you have my sixty bucks.
(Eskimo Joe supported at Newport. I deliberately missed them. They’re now huge in Australia.)
Converge – Amplifer Bar, Perth – 2006.
Standing room only for this gig. After the first four, five songs, the room was half full. I was disappointed that live, converge sound exactly like the studio albums. I was expecting something volatile, spontaneous - dare I say it? - dangerous. The choice of songs for the set-list left much to be desired. My interest in the band dropped after this.
Cephalic Carnage / Black Dahlia Murder – Amplifer Bar, Perth – 2007.
Another Amplifier gig! I went with a friend to this night. We spent more time in the beer garden talking about music, than we did watching music. Cephalic Carnage supported Black Dahlia, and as such played a shorter set than they did in London. They played Anthro Emesis; which isn’t my most favourite song they do, it also goes for nearly seven minutes! However, we got to see John Merryman do this hand warm-ups, which was impressive. We lasted half a song into Black Dahlia Murder before declaring, “Fuck this shit!”
Wolf Eyes / Cease / Extortion / Cobilis – Rosemount Hotel, North Perth – 2006.
One of my friends was mates with the Cease guitarist, so we go to visit the green room upstairs and drink the bands’ Red Bulls. Wolf Eyes smoked a joint before they went on. Chris Cobilis supported with a laptop, guitar and stool with his style of improvised, emotional rock with some loops. Cease were in their pre-wearing dresses, pre-overt worship of OM stage, before becoming darlings of the scene. I believe they didn’t sing with vocals this night, and their volume was lower than it should have been. (I originally made this a separate entry until I was fact checking the dates, I didn’t realise Extortion were the support!) Extortion: I believe this would have been around the Degenerate album period. Extortion has become a much better band since then. They played with the Rupture drummer at one point but I don’t know if he played for them this night. Rohan introduced a song with “this is about new movies, which in my opinion are all fucking shit.” Wolf Eyes pulled a great crowd for noise music. Besides from Stabbed in the Throat, they didn’t play much from the Subpop album. It also felt like they were cheating with the home-made instruments. They were more music, than actual noise. After the set, my friend and I did a good impersonation of their sound in the Rosemount car park outside.
Metallica / Lamb of God / Baroness – Perth Burswood Arena – 2010.
We arrived too late for Baroness. I didn’t even know they were supporting. I also didn’t realise I was watching Lamb of God until the end, when Randy Blythe announced, “We are Lamb of God!” Seriously overrated. My mum – yes, I went with my mum – turned to me and said, ‘I liked the sound of their guitars!’ Yep, that’s how extreme they are. Metallica? They played Orion! Who cares how they were.
Abe Sada – The Castle, Highgate – 2006.
This was an infamous band put together by Cat Hope, which featured a revolving cast of local Perth musicians and identities, usually four of them, all playing bass guitars. Yes, there were only bass players in this band. On this night, there were four bassists. One of them was Chris Cobilis. The music was unstructured – to me at least – improvisation. At the end, Cobilis was banging the headstock of his guitar into the ground, creating a sound that – to paraphrase Discharge – sounded like a giant door slamming in Hell. My ears were ringing for three days afterwards.
Tool / Melvins – Perth Entertainment Centre, Perth – 2002.
During the Lateralus tour. Tool sounded exactly like their albums. I was sitting so far back the band looked like ants. The best part was the visuals they played behind the band. When they played Anima, Danny Carey hit the mystical gong behind him and the resulting sound made me think my eardrums had popped. The Melvins wore black nighties with red love hearts.
Akron Family – Mojos, Fremantle – 2011.
We had been looking forward to this gig for about a month. Akron acted like prima donnas with the lighting setup on the stage; as in: it’s shining in our faces! The band called us pussys cause we weren’t getting into it more. The band played none of the songs we liked. Their improvised drum circle crap was anything but – they play the same noise shit at every gig, the same way. Major letdown, haven’t listened to their music ever since.