There is nothing more amusing than to be at a rock show, with every late-20 to early-30 somethings in your immediate vicinity freaking out more over the lead singer of the band than you. HQ is packed to the brim tonight (1100 attendees as I later found out) for Karnivool and although we’ve got two support acts to get through, the excitement stirring purely because Ian Kenny is somewhere in the venue is just ridiculous. But we’ll get to all the Kenny goodness soon enough…
Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves are up first and I didn’t really know what to expect. I had forgotten they were an instrumental group, so it did take me a bit to re-jig my expectations. They were impressive to watch; increasingly energetic as the set continued, with each musician screaming or yelling along to lyrics that accompanied the music but weren’t actually sung. While the band is rooted heavily in post rock influences, there’s something really interesting about the way sleepmakeswaves have inserted their own modern and unique twists. Tim Adderley in particular, is great on the drums, adding an amazing dose of drama to what is already a pretty full-on set. There is so much effort put into the arrangement of the band’s guitar sections and with every soaring effect, sleepmakeswaves honestly put on a performance which was deserving of every bit of praise and acclaim that has been afforded to them.
From where I had been standing tonight, I was pretty much next to where all the equipment cases were, so I spent a lot of the intermissions watching musicians pack their own gear up and stand nearby, trying to look inconspicuous as the people around me tried to act like they didn’t want to go over and say hello. This was the case with Melbourne’s Redcoats, too. I’d interviewed lead singer Emilio Mercuri what seems like years ago now, when they were first making music heads scramble with their unique and raw sound; tonight was the first time I’d been able to see the band, and going from the crowd reception, Redcoats have amassed quite the fan base in the meantime.
This was their first show of the Karnivool tour and although their stage presence in between shows didn’t really come across as hyped up, their performances were charged with brutal energy. Mercuri himself is a character who I wanted to take my eyes off, but couldn’t; every time he’d look in the direction I was standing in and wail some lyrics, it felt like he was staring me out. The band’s hard take on psych-rock is reflected well in the punishing vocals and guitar riffs provided by Neil Wilkinson; the music isn’t to everyone’s taste, I could easily see that in parts of the crowd tonight, but I couldn’t see anyone not watching the band. “Dreamshaker” finished their set on a great note and Redcoats switched from the howling rockers they’d been for the last 45 or so minutes, to the guys who had to still pack their own shit up; I like seeing bands still do those tasks themselves, reminds me that they’re still human.
The half hour in which it took for Karnivool’s stage set up and lighting to be tested for the final time saw the guys I’d mentioned at the beginning start to take their spots. By the time the band open their set with “The Refusal”, these guys are literally reverting to fanboys before my eyes and well, fair enough. I’d seen Kenny with Birds of Tokyo plenty of times before over the past few years, but not nearly enough with the harder and edgier Karnivool. Watching this man perform is like watching some impeccably-dressed, ethereal being speak his own language; the classic Kenny dance moves are on fire tonight and each lyrical delivery is made perfectly, bringing the crowd to roaring applause after each song. He also seems to be in an awesome mood tonight, taking moments to look around the crowd, offering waves for –manly- screams and praises for Adelaide and the crowd tonight.
Adelaide comes rather early on for Karnivool’s tour, as pointed out by Mark Hosking, so we’re getting the band at their freshest, as opposed to getting them on the tail end of the tour where it’s all about winding things up and getting to the after parties. It’s undeniable that the crowd assembled here have been waiting for this show for quite some time; the response and belting out of lyrics along to songs including “Set Fire to the Hive”, “All I Know” and “Simple Boy” was amazing to witness and be a part of. The band performed some new material tonight, which was another high point, indicating towards some pretty amazing moments on the forthcoming third album – it’s definitely going to mark an end to where Karnivool was when Sound Awake was released in 2009.
Unfortunately, I had to bail before the end of the show tonight due to sickness, but I can say that it was worth it; the bond this band hasn’t diminished any though Kenny has gone on to enjoy great successes with Birds of Tokyo, I’d say this is the best time for the re-emergence of Karnivool and for us to see what they’ve come up with in the interim.