Westfest 2014 (Day 1)

By Clare McCabe

Date / Venue: Wednesday 19th February, Vector Arena

Let me begin by saying with such a huge amount of international acts being bought to NZ lately, you must choose wisely or miss out. Luckily I chose Westfest (Day One). And at $120 per night, or $200 for both nights, this festival was a complete bargain with so many great bands to see all in one place.

Vector Arena was set up with two stages last night, which they later converted into one for the Megadethand Rob Zombie sets - and a great idea it was too.

We made it in time for Eagles Of Death Metal - but there was already a huge crowd of black-clothed fans in attendance who had enjoyed the likes of Devilskin, 8 Foot Sativa (sorry I missed you guys, sounds like you blew everyone away) and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats.

One of the things I love about going to these events is the pure enthusiasm you get hanging out in the crowd from all the true fans. Everyone is there for the same reason and has similar music tastes, although I suspect (from listening in to conversations around me) that the majority of these guys were there to see Megadeth.

Anyway. Back to Eagles of Death Metal. Jesse Hughes is a great front man. He bounds on stage and swings into I Only Want You (the sound was slightly off there, but was soon corrected). And they were off.  "Are you having a good time?" yelled Jesse. Why yes we were. The wonderfully bearded Dave Catching tried to steal the show on guitar, but who could outdo Jesse - with that great Cramps-esque voice? They flew through their 40-minute set, refusing to stop when told (three more?) and Jesse dedicated one of his songs to Mr Rob Zombie - a true God of rock n roll. And yes they played the great Stealers Wheel cover, Stuck in the Middle With You.

Oh and did you see the long-haired hippie guy from Big Day Out dancing like it was 1969?

Up next was Five Finger Death Punch with the mighty Ivan Moody on singing duties. First time in New Zealand for these guys and they are certainly crowd pleasers. Ivan's singing alternates between super heavy growling and a fabulous ballady-type croon. He even tried to get the crowd up front to commit to an "old school circle pit". Indeed. During Burn MF Burn, a slightly dazed fan was pulled from the crowd to help him sing along to the anthem - Oh Angela, a bit of stage fright perhaps? Highlight of the set was the wonderful Bad Company.

And then the two stages became one and on came Mr Dave Mustaine himself. That hair. That guitar. And straight into Hangar 18. So much noise coming from just 4 men onstage. Mr Mustaine still has THAT voice, and he used it to its full capacity last night, accompanied by Chris and David up front and Shawn Droverback there on drums.

The Megadeth boys played for over an hour, and managed to sneak in one from the new album, Kingmaker. But the fans wanted to hear their favorites, and Peace Sells, Sweating Bullets and A Tout Le Monde covered those beautifully. Then, after a super loud version of Holy Wars as the only encore, Dave left the stage last (to the dulcet tones of Sid Vicious singing his version of My Way). Nice touch Dave.

Oh and in the words of Dave - we would never cancel New Zealand. Lucky for us, not so lucky for our friends over in Australia.

And then there was Zombie.

On came the boys: Zombie, Five, Piggy and Ginger Fish, straight into Dead City Radio. Zombie pranced around (and across) his three platforms while Piggy and Five skulked around behind and beside him. Costume changes abounded. Five played his guitar with his teeth. There was a stunning drum solo from Ginger Fish and a guitar solo from John 5, during which Mr Zombie ran through the crowd, up through the seating area with his spotlight, trailed by security, to make sure everyone was having a good time at his Zombie party.

They played Sick Bubblegum. They played Living Dead Girl, Thunder Kiss '65 and the mighty More Human Than Human. Zombie reminisced about being here 21 years ago and said sorry for not making it back sooner. They even played We're An American Band from the new album. Zombie threw himself around the stage like it was 1995 all over again and even convinced the audience up front to help him out with a bit of crowd surfing.

And then there was a final rendition of Dragula and they were off to the chants of Zombie. Zombie. Zombie.

What a show. What a night. What an event. Thank you Soundwave for lending us these bands this year. Next year, surely you can bring the whole festival.

And I will leave the last words to my husband: #westfest. f*** that was good.