It's been a busy year already for Sydney's Sleepmakeswaves. They've traversed Australia supporting Post Hardcore heavyweights Underoath, as well as embarking on an extensive tour of China before returning triumphantly to their homeland for this, the “Made of Breath Only” tour – Supporting their excellent new album (by the same name), also released this year. These guys are no strangers to touring – spreading their wings through Asia, The UK, and Europe, as well as their own backyard, Sleepmakeswaves have become a force to be reckoned with on the road, and with a series of dates coming up with The Devin Townsend Project, the guys are showing no signs of letting up.
I always feel a sense of trepidation when I come to Brisbane's Max Watts. By all rights, I should love the place. Situated right in the heart of the West End, surrounded by a plethora of great restaurants and bars, and offering ample parking for a guy like me, too cheap to get an Uber. But alas, there's something wrong with the venue itself that irks me. Although I'm not technically proficient enough to properly explain what it is, in layman's terms, it's simple. The venue sounds like shit. At first, I thought it was the bands, then I thought the sound guy was drunk at the wheel, but having been to enough gigs there and never experiencing what I would consider to be good sound, I must conclude there's something wrong with the place. However, I'm a professional, dammit, and I refuse to let a home-made PA system in an echo chamber ruin my fun!
By the time I got through the door, Aerials were already ripping through their set. After a 9 month hiatus from live shows, the Brisbane locals were shaking off their stage rust as the venue started to fill up. Ploughing through tracks from their previous 2 Ep's, their set was dynamic and sharp, mixing moody ethereal textures and big booming passages, and high energy rock tracks. They brought the energy to wake the crowd up and dominated the rarely enviable opening slot with their bold performance.
The growing crowd cheered as fellow locals Caligula's Horse took the stage, but in what would appear to be act one of vocalist Jim Grey's comedy act, he decided it wasn't up to his high standards and took a second crack at it. The audience roared, we all had a laugh, he told a few jokes, then the music started. Godamn these guys can play! Taking the prog foundations that have been so prevalent in Australian rock music for the past decade, and meshing it with glorious Steve Vai style soloing and guitar work, Horse have developed a whole new evolution in prog rock. The playing is absolutely ridiculous and these guys are a tight unit. Vocal harmonies all through the set were on point between Grey and bassist Dave Couper. Every member of the band plays a significant role in the overall package presented. Whether it's Grey's massive vocals and hilarious anecdotes (not to mention his glorious “punishment” moustache, which if you ask me, is definitely more of a prize than a punishment) or the massive thundering of the drums and bass together, or the insane shredding by Guitarist Sam Vallen, live, the band truly is the sum of its parts. They came to entertain and to impress and they did both, as they tore up Max Watts with old songs and even a few new ones that were showing off a heavier, grittier, more djenty side of their sound.
Now it was time for the main event, so I took stock, as I often do, of the audience around me. I find a fascination in the construction of an audience. Who does this band attract? Who is their target audience? With Sleepmakeswaves I was more curious than normal, as I've never truly understood the place of instrumental bands. I've always enjoyed watching virtuoso's with backing bands, such as Joe Satriani, or even virtuoso bands like the Heavy Metal Ninjas, and I've even had the great pleasure of touring alongside atmospheric genius', Jakob, But I've always found such a specific audience with these bands – Musicians and appreciators of high level musicianship. With the rock and prog instrumental bands that seem to popping up all throughout Australia, I've started to notice a diversity in attendance. It seems no longer are audiences comprised of guitar enthusiasts and gear heads (yeah, we're easy to spot), but its a growing appreciation from the wider heavy music audience as these bands find their way into the mainstream – the mere fact that Sleepmakeswaves are ARIA nominated is high praise of this progress. So a near full house in a fairly large venue is a hell of a pull – especially when sharing Brisbane this night with Prog Godfathers, Cog - and I was excited to see what the band would do with it.
Sleepmakeswaves did not fail to impress. They exploded onto stage, no build up, no messing around, just full noise and full intensity right out of the gate. In a venue that traditionally sounds like absolute custard, Sleepmakeswaves sounded massive. Soaring staccato picking balanced perfectly against a backdrop of massive drums and bass. A wall of sound pulsed at the audience as they jumped and moshed along. The movement on stage was intense as guitarists Otto Wicks-Green and Lachlan Marks climbed the stage risers and got right in the face of the audience. The band was engaged with the crowd from the get go. There was no shoe gazing or hiding behind the music as is the case so often with instrumental bands, this was a rock show and there was no way they were going to hold back. When the band kicked into evening highlight “The Stars are Stigmata”, it was apparent this is a true rock band. Big riffs, big drums, melody, dynamics – every song is a careful crafted piece of art, and the live translations are epic journeys for the audience to immerse themselves in. Behind the lights and fog, keeping the entire ship afloat, drummer Tim Adderley is an absolute monster. Shifting time signatures and locking in tight grooves plays such an important part of Sleepmakeswaves sound. Without such a reliable foundation, the melodic complexities and movement would be set adrift in a sea of confusion.
As massive and glorious as Sleepmakeswaves sound when the throttle is pulled all the back and they're unloading the heaviest of heavy tunes, their true strength is in the space between. In the slower passages of songs and even through the more stripped back and melodic tracks like Great Northern, the true exceptional melodic creation has air to breath. As Alex Wilson shifts between Bass and Keys, the dynamics shift heavily and gorgeous passages of guitar harmonies play out complex motifs, weaving in and out of rhythms gracefully and effortlessly. The playing was tight and confident when it needed to be, and complex and emotional when the occasion called for that too.
The show was dynamic, to say the least. A carefully constructed, well-flowing set that kept the show interesting and the audience engaged is vital for any instrument band. Without the immediate connection of a singer and the hooks of vocal melodies, an audience can grow weary and fatigued, Sleepmakeswaves never lost their audience, not even once. They had pulled out a great set and played it incredibly well. Their stage engagement with the audience was phenomenal and the individual performances were simply electrifying. It's not difficult to understand how the band has been wowing audiences across the world. To be an instrumental band is tough, to be a great one is even tougher, but to reach the level is such a rarity, they definitely need to be witnessed.
In the mid to late 90's, when grunge began to wither away and MTV strived to find the next easy to access label to attach to new batch of up and coming rock bands, global attention started to shine on the Alt Rock scene.
The I Love The 90s Tour returns to Auckland next year March 23rd at Auckland’s Spark Arena, with a completely off the chain lineup featuring classic Hip Hop crew Naughty by Nature. Vin Rock from the Grammy Award winning rap group speaks fondly of this country and love of our people.
The Soundsplash Festival is returning to Raglan in January 2018. Local reggae favourites Katchafire are returning to feature on the bill. We sent a few questions over to lead vocalist Logan Bell ahead of the festival.
Following 2015’s Kitty, Daisy & Lewis'The Third', the sibling trio are back stronger than ever, harnessing their ability to create pop-infused soul, blues, rock n roll and a large mix of genres to perfection, in the shape of their fourth studio album, Superscope.
Kylie Price has just released her new album Bones. Last week she appeared on theNZ Entertainment Podcast, where she sang a new song I Dont Want To Go off the album while talking shop about her dream gig to play with Ed Sheeran and her Philipino roots.
Last week I caught up withPeter Hook ahead of returning down under for Australasian leg of the Joy Division and New Order Substance tour. We had a great chat about the spirit of punk, what it takes to write a book and why shows like the X-factor are so unhealthy…
Long established as one of New Zealand’s finest acts, South Pacific reggae-soul legends, The Black Seeds are set to tour the country in September, following the release of their long awaited 6th studio album Fabric, (out today - Friday September 8th).
Jacqueline Nalpant is a Booking Agent for the Paradigm Talent Agency, and is heading to New Zealand early next month where she'll be one of the speakers for the Going Global Music Summit (Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September at Roundhead Studios, Auckland).
Since making her musical debut with her song Drift early last year, fast attracting a solid fan base and over 1 million plays across Spotify and Soundcloud in just a few months, Madeline North, better known by her musical moniker So Below, has once again blessed us with a moodier, masterful electro-pop banger, titled Ruin.
Since forming in 1998, the Antwerp, Belgium based trio Triggerfinger have long become a mainstay on the rock scene, building a solid reputation across Europe, the US, Canada and beyond, as one of the hardest-driving and sharpest dressing bands around.
Popular metalcore group Northlane are on their way to New Zealand. The Sydney band are touring North America taking in countries like Chile and Mexico as they head our way down-under next month to play Wellington’s San Fran then Auckland at the iconic Kings Arms.
Returning to New Zealand for the first time in three years, Australian metalcore band In Hearts Wake are on their way to our shores next month for a quick run of shows supporting their label cohorts Northlane.
Courtney Marie Andrews has landed in New Zealand, and set to play two concerts this week with Joe Pug - tonight at San Fran in Wellington (Wed July 19) and tomorrow night at The Tuning Fork in Auckland (Thu July 20).
Certified maniac Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the USA, despotic leader Kim Jong-un threatened a nuclear war, and former household hero Bill Cosby was outed as a sexual predator: 2017 was a very dark year.
South African singer-songwriter Jeremy Loops has just announced a global tour, which includes two shows in New Zealand at Neck of the Woods in Auckland on Wednesday, May 30 and San Fran in Wellington on Thursday, May 31.
After more than half a century on the road and an unparalleled career that has redefined the cultural landscape and seen Elton John claim his place as a true global icon, the superstar today announced via an exclusiveVR180 live stream on YouTube, details of his final 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' tour.
Roger Waters is bringing his US + THEM tour to New Zealand this week, performing two shows at Auckland's Spark Arena on Wednesday Jan 24 & Friday Jan 26, before heading to Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday Jan 30.
Central Otago was on song today, when the annual nationwide Summer Concert Tour kicked off in Queenstown with international music artists Colin Hay of Men At Work fame, Alanis Morissette and The Orchestra starring former members of Electric Light Orchestra performing to a 18,000 strong sell-out crowd at the Gibbston Valley Winery Summer Concert.
Robbie Williams held a press conference in Auckland yesterday (February 13) on his Birthday, ahead of his New Zealand shows in Auckland ( Spark Arena Wednesday February 14) and Dunedin ( Forsyth Barr Stadium February 17).
Less than two weeks until the release of his hotly-anticipated sophomore album, Nation of Two (released on Friday 23 February via Liberation Records), and alongside the announcement of a colossal run of international tour dates, Vance Joy will be heading out on a tour on Australia and New Zealand this September.
The countdown is on! In just 4 days time, Robbie Williams will arrive in New Zealand, bringing his mammoth Heavy Entertainment Show World Tour to Auckland's’ Spark Arena and Dunedin's’ Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The love between Sam Smith and fans down under is stronger than ever, with thousands of pre-sale tickets being snapped up to the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s The Thrill Of It All Australian and New Zealand tour this November.
In celebration of reaching over 1 million streams on Spotify with their latest single release Too Strung Up, Alae deliver a brand new acoustic take on their digital streaming smash, with the video premiering today through youtube.com.
Gifted Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy has big news for his New Zealand fans. The current Rolling Stone Australia cover star today announces a one-off solo show at The Tuning Fork on 28 March to celebrate the release of his sophomore album Nation of Two.
While in Auckland for St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival at the end of this month, Billie Eilish will also play an intimate all ages sideshow at The Tuning Fork on Tuesday, January 30th, which Laneway Festival are excited to announce as “a gift to Laneway’s Under 18 friends.”
SIX60 and Nico & Vinz’s Hawke’s Bay show at Black Barn Vineyards has sold out within minutes of going on on sale, but there’s good news for those who missed out, an extra show has been added for the following night, Wednesday 10 January.
SIX60 have landed back on New Zealand soil after wrapping up the massive European leg of The New Waves World Tour with Nico & Vinz. Now they’re getting set for another Kiwi summer, and they’ve got news.
Following the earlier announcement of the North American, United Kingdom and Ireland dates, ten-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour will land in Australia in late 2018 kicking off in Perth on Friday, October 19 then onto Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane before heading across to Auckland.
As the Auckland weather continues to impress, Silo Park continues to be the spot for your summer outdoor drinking from Friday night, right through to Sunday afternoon. We also have (arguably) Auckland Waterfronts largest area of public shade - the infamous ‘stretch tent.’
In a global first, documentary maker, author and actor Ross Kemp will reveal the truth about how the extreme world works live on stage, delivering remarkable insights into the 73 documentaries that he has made with his team across the world in the last 15 years.
Bringing together some of the city’s most impressive minds, the Puāwai Festival returns to Auckland from Monday 27 November to Saturday 2 December to champion honest and authentic representation of HIV in Aotearoa. The week full of events is timed to honour World AIDS Day on December 1.
The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) has announces its most provocative and poetic national tour yet, The Absurdity of Humanity to be presented this September in New Plymouth at the Taranaki Arts Festival,Marlborough, the Christchurch Arts Festival and in Wellington for strictly limited performances.
The Auckland Philharmonia will perform Harry Potterand the Philosopher’s Stone as part of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series at the Spark Arena this Sunday, July 2; while the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Horncastle Arena on Wednesday July 5.
New Zealand's own Hayden Tee returns to Auckland for his one and only local performance this year in support of Broadway Dreams New Zealand (BDNZ) at A Night of Broadway Dreams, an exclusive fundraiser at Rannoch House on July 2nd.
Born out of the Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory, the Pacific Dance Festival is now on at the Mangere Arts Centre in Auckland, providing an opportunity for Pacific choreographers to create, develop, and perform original dance works in a celebration of Pacific cultures.
From the soaring Jerusalem and patriotic Rule Britannia to iconic Brit pop and much-loved classics, Auckland Symphony Orchestra will take you on a musical journey that will have you dropping your cuppa and singing your heart out!
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