Back in a 1998 issue of Flipside Magazine (the punk one), the Warped Tour got a righteous lambasting in a column detailing the tour’s mall punk lineup, excessive prices of bottled water and the general lameness of the music festival routine. It was a terrific piece detailing a punk rocker’s bewildering and angry journey into a then bubbling underground; a soon to be mass produced factory-line punk rock show. At the time, the Warped Tour was in just its third year, and already its predictable transformation was seen as inevitable.
News has come to light that the Warped Tour will return to Australia for the first time since 2002 and people seem to be excited about it. But in what capacity does Australia need the Warped Tour? It doesn’t of course, but for co-organizers Kevin Lyman and Soundwave honcho AJ Maddah, this is just another clever, money printing venture meant to tap in to the already saturated, exhausted alternative music touring scene.
But you see, Lyman and Maddah are brilliant entrepreneurs. They saw a gaping hole in a scene bursting into the mainstream and filled it with their money-hungry, intelligently forward-thinking dongs. When Warped Tour pulled the plug on their Australian adventure in 2002, Maddah saw a perfect opening in the genre and grew what eventually became Soundwave in Perth from some extreme sports/music festival called Gravity Games. True to form, the first Soundwave in 2007 featured many of the same Warped bands- Thrice, MxPx, Unwritten Law etc- that became the staple of Lyman’s annual touring circus. And as the year went on and the festival grew, it very much became the Southern hemisphere’s alternative music festival.
You can say they’re “different” AJ, but they’re not.
So here we are, drenched in music festivals and broke because of $10 bottles of water and $100+ tickets, and we’re getting the Warped Tour in December, just 3 months before the annual Soundwave Festival. It is another preposterous money grab at the poor kids who love alternative music and can only seek refuge in the giant arms of Maddah and Lyman. And save your time from announcing the bands, I’m sure half of them will have been here on Soundwave. Same festival, same bands, paying for it all twice.
I am unsure who is the bigger villain here; Lyman and Maddah or all the people who bought in to all of this bullshit. Growth and success come with choice. With success comes the idea that you can still be at the top of your mountain while giving back to those who put you there. Perhaps alternating the years in which Warped and Soundwave tour? Maybe kids are just stupid enough to buy a ticket to the same festival twice.
There are pages and pages worth of bile reserved for all the music festivals currently on the Australian market. We are slowly seeing the market implode as the garbage festivals are weeded out of the pile. Imbecile promoters interested in the bottom line more than an artist is interested in the biggest paycheck out of a 30 minute performance. As festivals fall, we will find a balance in what music, and in certain cases punk rock specifically, is all about.
Queers frontman Joe Queer said it best;
You play music because there’s something inside of you that says you have to play music … The Warped Tour changed it. Fuck it. To me a punk gig is a small sweaty club with the audience right in your face knocking over the mic stand and boogying off the energy.
Too bad there are not enough Joe Queers left in the world. And too bad not enough listeners of whatever the hell consists of punk music today know who Joe Queer is.
Both festivals and their promoters are no stranger to endless amounts of criticism and drama. Maddah being the most notorious with his trigger happy twitter account and his incessant need to pick fights with the likes of that Good Charlotte guy, Travis Barker and anyone who generally rubs him the wrong way. If only someone could add an extra “think before you hit send” button just for him. Just as if we could add a “think before you buy” one to everyone thinking about buying a ticket to Warped Tour Australia 2013. But if you are too stupid to do so, well, there’s nothing I can do about it except to tell you, like those in 1998, you are fucking lame.
A Night with Northlane
Josh Hockey went to go see Northlane in Melbourne and took photographer Albert LaMontagne with him to capture the night.
Settling in to 170 Russell would have been nice, but as we stepped in at the allocated 6:30 door time we were greeted with the start of Void Of Vision’s set. Sprinting down the stairs and into the room, it was clear that moving the door time forward half an hour had definitely affected the crowd.
A decent audience had streamed in, but nowhere big enough considering the year Void Of Vision has had. Releasing their magnum opus album, Hyperdaze, they have been on an absolute tear, and it was clear during this set that they were going to keep going hard.
Opening up by bringing the heavy early, Void had the room shaking from the world go. An impressive light show and an almighty wall of sound filled the room with layers upon layers of adrenaline. Vocalist Jack Bergin led this assault, bringing as much energy as he possibly could, whilst utilising his seemingly endless amounts of stage presence.
New songs like “Babylon” and “Hole In Me” showcased their new sound, while “Kill All Your Friends” got the pit going like it always does. They finished strong with “Ghost In The Machine” and left their stamp on 170 Russell.
International act Silent Planet were up next. A pretty much completely new band to me, I was immediately impressed by the connection they appeared to have with their audience. From the word go, the pit was open, and everyone in the front few row was singing along with all the passion in the world.
Spoken word vocals mixed with harsh screams ensured that vocalist Garrett kept the audience on their toes. The instrumentals kept up this pace as well, with their hard hitting dark tones unrelentingly assaulting the ears of all listeners (in a good way).
Silent Planet sounded incredibly large all the way through, and definitely would have made themselves some new fans on the night. Their music appeared to be full of themes of mental illness, and political issues, which is absolutely super important in today’s societal climate.
Counterparts were up next. Definitely a well known band, the heavy Canadians immediately made clear the tone of the set announcing themselves with a call of, “Counterparts Schoolies Week Motherfucker.” They launched into their first song and it was immediately clear why they are as acclaimed as they are. Ridiculously tight and sounding stupidly massive, they had fans moving from the second they started playing.
The shit talking between sets would have been the highlight, but the songs themselves made it hard to top. Playing the old classics as well as the new heavy-hitters, there was as much two stepping as there was singing along. Also this was perhaps the first time in history I heard a pitcall of “schoolies 2019 motherfucker open it up,” which was an experience that I’m glad I had.
Dedicating a song to Australia’s very own Trophy Eyes, their massive sound continued unrelentingly. Coming towards the end, the set closed with a wave of crowdsurfers all diving and climbing towards the microphone, trying to get ahold of vocalist Brendan so they could scream his words right back at him. This set was great, and I’m quite sad I personally am not a Counterparts super fan so I couldn’t join in the fun. Next time boys. Next time.
Finally it was time for the big dogs, Northlane. The lights went down and hands went up, ready to go and awaiting the bands arrival impatiently, the audiences cravings would soon be met. Northlane charged onto stage and belted into “Talking Heads.” The movement was huge from the start, and the audience was off their feet and jumping non-stop all the way through.
“Details Matter” was a definite highlight of the set, with the ridiculously massive sound of one of the better songs of 2019 running rampant through 170 Russell. Headbangers were aplenty and moshers were in surplus. This continued even into one of their softer songs, “Rot.” The first song released by the band with vocalist Marcus Bridge, “Rot” went down an absolute treat as always.
Northlane are a ludicrously tight live band, and this became ever more clear as they smashed through “Citizen, “Obelisk”, and “4D.” New party song “Eclipse” had the room shaking as everyone refused to stop bouncing. The set began to come to a close as massive Alien single “Bloodline” was the definite highlight of the show. It has been one of my favourite songs of the year, and this rendition locked that in even more. Cannons and lights were ablaze and firing everywhere, and made this even more of a spectacle.
Leaving stage momentarily, Northlane returned as Marcus came back wearing a big sparkly coat. “Sleepless”, the closing track of the album was incredibly effective and touching live. And was a nice sombre end to the show, right before they launched into the timeless heavy classic, “Quantum Flux.” And goddamn was it massive.
Northlane are one of the best bands out there, and this show only locked that in.
Check out the images from the Northlane show:
All photos by Albert LaMontagne. Copyright 2019 Albert LaMontagne / Sound the Sirens Magazine. Please do not use or distribute these images without the permission of Albert LaMontagne. If you use these images without permission, you are a terrible person.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.