Hacktivist, Filter and Volbeat Live @ The Espy, Melbourne

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Facebook seemed to be populated by only crickets at the mention of tonights show, with seemingly every hard rock and metal enthusiast at every sidewave but. Hence, one would be right in their surprise at the sight of hundreds of black-clad punters lined up out the door, around the corner and halfway down The Esplanade to see Hacktivist, Filter, and undoubtedly the biggest band nobody’s ever heard of in Australia, Volbeat. A far cry from headlining massive European festivals to tens of thousands of screaming fans of metal and rockabilly alike, last night the few hundred people in the know at The Gershwin Room were in for a rare treat, one of the biggest hard rock acts in Europe playing a tiny club show.

Unfortunately due to doors being pushed back by nearly two hours due to late flights booked by Soundwave Touring, hip-hop djent kings Hacktivist were halfway through their 20 minute set by the time the audience was settled in. Despite a lukewarm audience response mainly due to their genre dissimilarity to the headliners, they played with ferocity and gusto, their set including a brand new unreleased track and culminating with a brilliantly executed cover of Kanye West and Jay Z’s smash hit Niggas in Paris.

The knock-on effect of the wrong flights being booked resulted in roadies and technicians rushing around for an agonizingly long period between acts. This, coupled with a lack of ambient music left the crowd irritated as they began to heckle the stage crew who were visibly stressed. The extreme lack of organization on this sidewave was definitely a discredit to the promoter. After a painfully long set-up and line check due to a lack of soundcheck, Filter hit the stage with their eclectic and dynamic brand of post-Nine Inch Nails rock, with songs like We Hate it When You Get What You Want and Trip Like I Do proving solid audience favourites. Despite several technical difficulties, Filter brought a wonderfully nostalgic edge to the show.

Filter frontman Richard Patrick handled the technical difficulties well from an audience perspective, but his frustration and disdain toward the crew was clear. Filling time before the band’s biggest hit Take a Picture, Patrick regailed the crowd with the drug addled tale behind the lyrics. The onstage energy and showmanship of the band was eminent, from the drummer who smiled and laughed the whole set in between stick tricks and puffs on an e-cigarette, and bassist Tim Kelleher with his ferocious energy, rounded off centre stage with Patrick’s intense emotional performance. The real let down for Filter visually was definitely guitarist Jonny Radtke, who lacked any sort of energy or physical impact on stage.

Unsurprisingly considering their immense popularity overseas, the real standout of the night was Volbeat. From the moment they stepped on stage, their intense charisma, professionalism and joy of performing was nothing short of infectious. Singer Michael Poulsen’s vocals belted out clear and flawless, while he entertained the crowd with Elvis Presley impressions and banter with genuine interest in the audience between songs.

Recent recruit Rob Caggiano of Anthrax fame blended in perfectly, and executed lead guitar duties with pinpoint accuracy. Drummer Jon Larsen’s heavily triggered kicks thundered along seamlessly in a locked rhythm with bass player Anders Kjølholm, who kept the crowd entertained with an onstage persona that wouldn’t be out of place in a striped shirt and beret miming on the streets of Paris. In between a well rounded set covering songs off their back catalogue, Volbeat even snuck in covers of Judas Preist’s Breaking the Law and a blisteringly tight segue into Slayer’s Reign in Blood. An honourable mention to Poulsen, for whom english is a second language, for managing to outdo an entire room of native English speakers on the rapid-fire encyclopedic lyrics of singles like 16 Dollars.

All in all, despite being at home on a much larger stage, and being up against such massive Sidewaves, Volbeat were absolutely fantastic. Due to their snowballing popularity worldwide, Australians heading to Soundwave would be doing themselves a favour by getting down to see them, before the next opportunity is at an arena.

Words and photos: Nelli Scarlet

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