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Live Reviews : Mastodon, Gojira and Kvelertak @ The Hi-Fi, Sydney

By on March 20, 2012


w/ Gojira, Kvelertak

The Hi-Fi, Sydney – 1st March 2012

I now find myself reviewing my third sidewave, which is the last of a very long week of live shows, including the massive day that was Soundwave, three sidewaves, and one local metal show (as well as all the usual daytime activities like work, university and sex). At this stage, all I was craving was to sit down and enjoy the night’s show over a few cold beers. Unfortunately the new layout of Sydney’s The Hi-Fi (previously known as The Forum) was not only not going to allow this, but they were also going to throw as many hipster wankers in my face as possible.

I will say it straight up; I HATE the new layout of the Hi-Fi. Back when it was known as The Forum, it was laid out a lot better, with several balcony positions and a tiered flooring area before the decently-sized flat floor area in front of the stage. No matter where you were, you had a great view of the stage and could always move towards the bar, merch desk and bathrooms with great ease. The Hi-Fi doesn’t allow for any of this. Pretty much picture a great big squared area in front of the stage which everyone’s crammed into, with a small bar either side. The access to one of these bars is severely affected considering it’s up on a leveled step, therefore everyone is up there trying to gain a slightly better view of the stage. Also, the merch area is in the small corridor leading to the venue’s bathrooms, so the inevitable clash of queues was enough to both make you want to hold it in all night and leave the show without a shirt. I should mention that around halfway into the first band’s set, they opened up an upstairs area which I didn’t originally see, but this area did not allow for many to gain a better view, so unless you were content on standing up on your toes, then there wasn’t much point.

I think one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy the venue so much was not only the terrible new redesign of the venue, but the fact that it was clearly oversold. And the attendees weren’t what I was used to either. Packed full of hipster douches, I could barely move without some singlet wearing fucktard with a sidefringe knocking half his beer over me, obviously drunk off his arse from drinking the first half. Obviously their presence was because of a more ‘mainstream’ metal band like Mastodon, who I really enjoy, but it would have been a lot more enjoyable without either these types being present, or at least enough room in the venue to avoid them at all costs.

Anyways, enough about all the negatives of the night. It’s now time for the positives, and those lie within the performances of the three bands playing on this evening. This night was definitely a collaboration for some of the most unique bands to grace Soundwave this year. Unfortunately I missed all three bands’ sets at the festival due to clashes with others, but I wasn’t too worried at the time as I much prefer to see these kinds of bands within a indoor venue environment where they seem to be much more at home.

First up was Norwegian party rock-metal-punk-whatever band Kvelertak. After hearing their debut album last year, I was very keen on seeing them live as their music screams out a shitload of fun and energy which I was hoping that they’d be able to pour into their live performance. I was not wrong! While only having a half hour set, Kvelertak managed to put everything they had into one immensely intense show, which was both captivating and extremely entertaining. Boasting six members, including a vocalist, drummer, bassist and three guitarists, they were the kind of band that had your attention shift constantly from member to member as each one brought their own energy and musical influences to the stage, making their unique blend on genres much more understandable. Playing a mix of tracks from their debut self-titled album, Kvelertak gave it their all, running from side to side on the stage as if it was a sporting match, and interacting with the crowd as much as possible. Definitely one of the most interesting and entertaining live acts I’ve seen in awhile. From the reception they received while performing and how many people I saw wearing their merchandise afterwards, I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again upon their next release.

Next up were French heavyweights, Gojira, who like Kvelertak, were on their first tour of Australia. I saw these guys live around four years ago at a festival in France, and was quite impressed, but I just wasn’t feeling it that much. It could have been that they were the first band up for the day and I was still quite groggy from the night before, or it could have been the massive sound issues they were having on the outdoor stage, but either way, I left expecting more. Well, not only did Gojira deliver tonight, but they blew my expectations tenfold. They dominated the stage with their precision-like playing and each member commanded the audience’s attention with their stage presence alone. Singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier’s vocal performance was superb, resonating throughout everyone’s skulls in the venue. Their set consisted mainly of tracks from their two most recent albums, which was great as I got see some of my favourite Gojira tracks like “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe”, which was absolutely superb. It was fantastic seeing drummer Mario Duplantier flawlessly rip through the tracks, with some amazing double kick work which definitely rivals some of his more well known contemporaries. I think after their run of shows with Soundwave and the Sidewaves, Gojira have definitely now got a steady foothold in Australia and will be visiting us a lot more in the future.

And finally we come to the night’s headliner, Mastodon. It was going to be tough for this band to top the performances of the opening bands who absolutely nailed it tonight. The band hit the stage quite later than they were meant to, which was apparently because of a power failure up on the stage. After techs running around trying to fix it, a voice came over the PA informing the audience of the problem and saying that they were going to go ahead with the show and basically if there was a problem during the set, they wouldn’t be able to continue. So Mastodon entered the stage to a deafening round of applause and opened with “Dry Bone Valley” from their latest album, The Hunter. Luckily the power held out, so they continued their set, playing very little from their back catalogue and focusing on their new album. In fact, I think there were only a few songs they didn’t end up playing from it. Even though they are touring in support of their new album, I personally think they should have played a bit more of their older stuff at this show, especially to try and match the ferocity and energy of the opening acts. This isn’t to say their set was boring or anything like that, as it was far from it. Their new material came across quite well live and I really enjoyed seeing all four members impressively sharing vocal duties, which is one thing I’ve always enjoyed about Mastodon’s music. I don’t know if the power issues were a factor, but the mix of Mastodon was nowhere near as loud or as clear as the first two bands, which really took away from the power of their music, another reason why the first two bands sounded even more powerful than the headliner. I can understand these issues at a festival, but this should not occur at a venue. It could all come down to problems with the Hi-Fi, which after seeing the new set-up, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was another downfall to add to the list. Fingers crossed they lift their game soon.

All and all, Mastodon managed to play an impressive set and it appeared their die-hard fans still left with smiles on their faces. I would like to see a headlining set of theirs again at a better venue and perhaps with support bands who don’t outshine them. I’m sure many wouldn’t agree with me, but each to their own I suppose.