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Words by Matt New

Pix by Angie New

Billy Corgan is a busy dude. Not only does he front one of the most influential rock bands of all time, he is also the owner of a wrestling association. And what better way to showcase both passions than visiting Australia with The World Is a Vampire tour! Led by Chicago alt-rockers The Smashing Pumpkins, this tour has been something highly anticipated for the past few months.

Angie and I were lucky enough to attend the sold-out 1st night in Sydney at the Hordern Pavillion, and it would be a night to remember.

Up first on the festival proceedings were Sydney natives Battlesnake. The mighty 7-piece led by a roaring triple guitar ensemble, firing riff after riff with precision and a great respect to the great classic rock bands of yesteryear. Opening with the extremely catchy single I Am The Vomit, Battlesnake had the crowd in the palm of their hands.

A perfectly crafted mix of classic rock with distinctive influences from bands such as Queen and AC/DC, they also channelled a comedic medieval theme inspired by Monty Python‘s The Holy Grail. The band are usually known for their performances in their tighty whiteys, but they were adorned in very elaborate costumes that complemented their highly intense and theatrical performance. A highly enjoyable experience, and a band to watch for the future.

As a cautiously sceptical observer of the sport of professional wrestling, I was nervous to see if this would be a successful inclusion to the proceedings of this festival. Given that Billy Corgan loves the sport and owns the National Wrestling Association (NWA), I was sure it would be a treat and not a hindrance. Some exciting bouts including local and internationally acclaimed wrestlers providing some fun and excitement between the sets of the bands on the bill.

With every flip, punch and body slam, the crowd was entrenched by every loud slap within the ring. There is no faulting the athleticism and entertainment qualities that these wrestlers provide, and as someone who is not a fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle and applauded its inclusion.

Regarded to be the most in-demand band in Australia right now, Melbourne’s pub-punk rockers Amyl and the Sniffers brought a tonne of attitude and fun to this festival. Led by the enigmatic Amy Taylor on vocals – who graced the stage wearing a leather-bound outfit – it was hard to keep your eyes off her as she ran laps around the stage screaming at the top of her lungs.

The band was a powerful force that was absolutely bloody loud. This was my first experience witnessing Amyl and the Sniffers, and I was highly impressed with their authentic punk rock product. Highlights from their set included Shake Ya, Got You and Security, which resonated loudly through the Hordern Pavillion accompanied by the deafening roar of a charged audience singing along to every last song the band threw at them. The only criticism would be the set was too long for this particular occasion, as exciting as the band were, the novelty wore off about halfway through the set as they are a band that can lack variety. But that being said, they absolutely nailed their opportunity on this bill.

The second bout of wrestling for the evening saw an all-female tag team match-up between Australia and the USA. Sadly, with our Aussie girls going down, they provided some highly entertaining banter and big hits. A title fight for another Australian wrestler sadly not going to plan as he was pummelled by the collective known as the Southern 6 admirably for the many fans cheering him on.

After 13 long years since performing Down Under, LA’s Jane’s Addiction were greeted to a packed house at the Hordern Pavilion. The band hit the stage opening with the powerhouse track Stop off the 1990 album Ritual De Lo Habitual, and it was clearly evident the band was elated to be back in Australia as you could not wipe the smile off Perry Farrell‘s face.

A notable omission to the tour was founding guitarist Dave Navarro who is currently recovering from the effects of long covid. Taking his place was the highly talented Josh Klinghoffer formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Klinghoffer’s amazing playing completing Navarros’s parts perfectly, leaving the crowd in awe with his raw talent and solos.

Breaking up the set mid-way with the drum and vocal track Chip Away off the 1987 self-titled live album, before taking a fan request from the mosh pit. Like the gentleman Perry Farrell is, he kindly obliged and treated everyone to Summertime Rolls from their 1988 masterpiece Nothing Shocking.

The band was faultless as Stephen Perkins and Eric Every provided a wall of energy for the rest of the band to feed from. Perry moved gracefully on stage while he belted every last note with the conviction and control that he is renowned for. Accompanied by a posse of sultry burlesque dancers led by Perry’s wife Etty Lau-Farrell, swinging and grinding seductively to every groove and melody from the band. Finishing with Mountain Song, the audience had yet again been treated to a masterclass of the highest order in alternative rock.

Like Jane’s Addiction, The Smashing Pumpkins have not visited Australia for some time now. The headliner made up for their long absence by exploding into Empires off their brand-new album with a burst of sonic energy accompanied by an insanely intricate light show. The beating toms of Jimmy Chamberlain‘s massive drum kit resonated throughout the venue before Billy Corgan softly sang “the world is a vampire“, then we went on the wild ride that is Bullet with Butterfly Wings.

The opening half of the set featured some absolute bangers including Today, Solara and an incredibly fascinating cover of Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads that was so uniquely The Smashing Pumpkins. Throughout the set the banter between James Iha and Billy Corgan was entertaining and humbling as it was a treat to see the two guitarists back on stage yet again. Billy parted with his guitar and began prowling around the stage with mic in hand to the infectious sounds of Ava Adore.

Mid-set the Pumpkins had an acoustic break, which included a cover of Aussie rock royalty the Church‘s Under the Milky Way and an intimate and captivating rendition of Tonight Tonight, featuring only Billy and James. Lighters and phone lights were glowing brightly through this beautifully delicate arrangement.

After teasing the crowd with snippets of AC/DC and John Farnham whilst introducing the band to the audience, the remainder of the set was a rollercoaster ride of hits. Ending with classics like 1979, Cherub Rock and Zero, The Smashing Pumpkins proved they are still as interesting and entertaining as they were 30 years ago when they were at their peak. Billy Corgan unapologetic in letting the crowd know he “felt like death” on this particular night. He powered on regardless.

All in all this was a very fun, diverse, and incredibly entertaining festival. The combination of four uniquely different rock bands and professional wrestling was a winning recipe that catered for so many individuals.

The World Is a Vampire tour is proving a great success, be sure to check out the remaining dates of this tour if you can!

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