The Sword + Clowns + American Sharks
Max Watts, Melbourne
22 February 2016
Review by Callum Doig
As part of the Rolling Thunder festival that took place the day before their headline set in Melbourne, Texan stoner quartet The Sword announced their very first headlining run in Australia, with their hometown brothers from American Sharks (who are also managed by Kyle Shutt of The Sword) and our very own Clowns supporting them on the tour.
American Sharks opened up with furious potency. Being on the right hand side and at the front of the stage all night, I had the chunky bass from Mike Hardin flow aggressively in extreme distortion that overtook the sound of the guitar and drums from my position. Mind you, with a small drum kit they used throughout the night, only so much could be done for someone like Nick Cornetti, who even came to the point where he’d pour water on the snare and low tom drums and smack the hell out of them as he played.
Clowns seemed like an unlikely choice to support an act like The Sword, they present themselves as more as a punk band, especially seeing as they shared the stage with the likes of Rise Against just a few months ago. But, nonetheless, Clowns didn’t have to do a whole lot to get everyone’s attention, performing mainly off their Bad Blood record.
Moments before the nucleus of the night came onstage, there came a part during the interval where Mike Hardin held up a sign on a piece of paper with the words ‘We Need Weed’ written on it. A random request, of course, but luckily enough, one of the patrons at the front was kind enough to toss a dime bag to them, and the bassist walked away happily with the crowd cheering.
The Sword’s set was a little different to what I saw the night before at the Rolling Thunder festival in Coburg. Not just by what songs they played, but also how they executed each track and the atmosphere that surrounded them as they were performing. The vibes I felt at this headline set were way better than the day before. As far as their setlist went, The Sword pulled out a few classics from their discography, while mainly focusing on a handful off their latest record High Country that included The Dreamthieves, Mist & Shadow and Buzzards. Most particularly, hits such as Tres Brujas, The Hidden Masters and Mother, Maiden and Crone sparked a big number of patrons all throughout the venue. Even before the encore took place, their infamous Freya tune set people off like wildfire, before returning to perform Seriously Mysterious and Arrows In the Dark.
Moshing wasn’t exactly a rarity for a Monday night, or even for The Sword, but I saw more singing along and even air-guitaring than moshing. They’re not big talkers or even one of those acts that do the occasional rock star signature moves or anything of that nature, for they focus themselves way more on the riffs than their actual presence. That’s what I like so much about their onstage performance.
The supports were unusual choices for a group like The Sword, but maybe that’s just me. Nonetheless, American Sharks and Clowns deserved a shot in the spotlight, and they sure as hell came through with flying colours. But, with The Sword, I felt that this particular show was them at their best on this current tour. To have finally seen them for the first time in five years, for myself it was a bit more than a seismic gig. If anyone’s ever feeling bummed about missing them in Melbourne, make sure you keep the 28th free to have one last chance to catch them at the Cherry Bar in Melbourne before they leave the country.