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Gig Review: Karnivool + supports, Wollongong

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Karnivool + Cairo Knife Fight
Unibar, Wollongong
30 April 2015
Review and photos by Chris Evans

It’s a little hard to believe that it’s already been ten years since Australia’s chart-topping alternative legends Karnivool released their debut album, ‘Themata’. Though it would only be fair to say that the group have come a long way over the past decade, most fans of the band will probably tell you that their copy of this album still gets plenty of use. And Wollongong was up to its armpits in ‘Vool fans that Thursday night; the Unibar could barely contain them.

The support act, Cairo Knife Fight, had a comparatively tiny following, but after a couple of songs they had the crowd warmed up and many had made their way to the stage barriers to demonstrate their approval of the finely crafted and well-articulated brand of progressive rock belting against their eardrums. I’m always impressed when a drummer is able to play well while also performing vocals. Nick Gaffaney was able to pull this off as well as standing up at one point during the set to manually feed bass loops into the song via synthesiser.

However, the enthusiasm generated by Cairo Knife Fight was nothing compared to the electricity in the air when the main attraction, Karnivool, arrived. Long before the sound check was finished, the audience had almost quadrupled in size, and punters were standing on benches, tables and footrests trying to secure a place where they could watch the stage. Ian Kenny and his merry men took the stage punctually at 9.30pm to the screams of three or four hundred devotees.

The band proceeded to launch straight into the first track on ‘Themata’, ‘C.O.T.E.’ Kenny’s high, melodic vocalisation soared above the thrum of bass-lines, groove of guitarists’ melodies and percussive syncopating punctuation of the drummer. The crew at Wollongong Unibar managed to nail the sound mix, maintaining the delicate measurement of each vital ingredient to the recipe that is Karnivool, so kudos to them. The lighting was also on point; I have to say that I couldn’t have been happier with the venue. (This may also been due to the sausage sizzle out the front.)

Halfway through the set, Kenny stopped to say a few words to the crowd. He thanked everyone for coming out and for all the support the fans have shown over the years, saying that the band couldn’t have gotten where they are now without them. He pointed at the posters on the wall, observing one of them was from a previous Karnivool tour in their earlier years, and he reminisced fondly about their stomping grounds.

‘Vool treated their adoring fans to the full tracklist from ‘Themata’, immersing the venue in waves of sound as Kenny implored the crowd with Peter-Garret-esque swaying and gyrating. The attendees moved as one organism, bouncing and crowd-surfing in appreciation. Finally, as ‘Change Pt. 1’ came to a close, the music tapered off and the band members left the stage one by one, amidst the sound of unyielding applause. It was clear that the band weren’t done, but as per protocol they remained backstage to await the shouts of “KAR-NI-VOOL” that inevitably burst forth after a few short minutes. The band emerged once more. The fuzz of recorded feedback filled the sound system and the crowd again fell quiet to listen for the commencement of the encore. It was no surprise when the feedback was followed by the high-pitched plunk of xylophones and rolling bass line of ‘Simple Boy’, but that didn’t stop the crowd from screaming their approval as they recognised the first track of Karnivool’s second album coursing into their ears.

The encore progressed with three more hits from the ‘Sound Awake’ and ‘Asymmetry’ albums and concluded with crowd favourite ‘New Day’. The voices of everyone in that room singing along could probably be heard from two blocks away.

Karnivool are always technically brilliant and create a thick, tangible atmosphere with their music, whether live or on their records, and this, their first show in a string of ‘Themata Decade’ gigs was no exception. What more can be said? If you’re a fan of Australian prog-rock and you haven’t seen this band play live, get yourself to one of their shows as soon as you can. It’s an experience not to be missed.

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