For one of my uni assignments, I have to attend weekly “cultural events” and blog about how they are useful for developing my own creative practice. Since I’m currently a bit disillusioned with the art world and drifting once again back to music, that means gigs! So for the next 10 weeks or so, I’ll be sharing these uni blogs with you here. I hope you find them interesting, but I also realise that they might seem a bit odd, due to the requirements I have to meet. They’re not meant to be like a proper review, rather, they’re meant to be more about me. Since I love to write ALL THE THOUGHTS down though, there will be some review-like snippets in there, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for. So, without further ado…
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a gig. Depression really killed my desire to leave the house, and made it difficult to enjoy music anyway, so when Rainbow Death Ray went on hiatus, I mostly just stopped going out. But now that I’m well again, I can finally go out and rock! Hurrah!
Last night, I headed back to the Stag for the first time since they removed their pokie machines. The venue has recently had a bit of scandal with a shady promoter not paying bands, but I still really love the place. When I walked in, they even had some other band out by the bar, which was cool to see (and a possible opportunity to keep in mind if I wanna do a smaller gig), but I went straight through to the main auditorium to get my metal fix. I was only able to stay for the first two bands, but for my first proper night out in ages, I was plenty happy with that!
So this isn’t meant to be a review of their performance, but I have to say I was impressed. Panik’s style of metal isn’t really my thing, but they put on an enjoyable, professional show, despite the room being fairly empty as is often the case for openers at these smaller, local gigs. I really love bands that take every show seriously, no matter how small. Their onstage antics and interactions were much more entertaining than most, and their sense of humour really worked well in their stage banter.
I also took note of their presentation – they all wore white singlets and dark pants, and this sort of consistency is really quite rare in most of the bands I’ve seen in Sydney. Usually the guys will just get up there in any old band shirt, which is fine, but incredibly boring, and those bands tend to be rather forgettable. The unfortunate reality is that humans are a predominantly visual species, so it’s not always enough to just rely on the music to make an impression on fans. Panik, however, while not being extreme in their image, actually show that they’ve put some thought into how they present on stage. The fact that they’ve chosen white is also a good move in my opinion, to help differentiate them from the bands who opt for a more traditional black. It’s subtle, but sometimes the best messages are transmitted subconsciously.
One final comment I have is less about Panik and more about the experience I had while watching them as the first band of the night. The other day, my intellectually disabled brother was watching The Wiggles singing the ABC song, when they switched into sign language. Having never seen singing in Auslan before, I couldn’t help but go google it, and discovered that there have actually been concerts interpreted for the deaf, and there’s even a deaf rapper, and while deaf people can’t hear, they can feel the vibrations that come from heavy bass beats. On this last point, it turns out that heavy metal concerts have been held for the deaf with vibrating floors designed with them in mind, and while standing in the Panik audience, I can 100% understand why. Metal gigs are always incredibly noisy, beyond what’s necessary, to the point that you’d be mad to listen without the protection of ear plugs. Combine that with the driving bass and the fast-paced double kick beats, and you have a room full of rhythmic vibrations that fill your whole body. And it really does make me feel happy to know that even without hearing, people are still able to experience music.
The other band I was able to stay for was Armoured Earth from Melbourne. As far as their sound goes, they are honestly much more my style, so musically I found I enjoyed their set better, and with more people on stage, there was more to look at, even if the stage was now a bit too crowded for the types of antics that Panik engaged in. The technician running their lights also did some great work for them on a couple of their songs, helping to set the mood for the particularly dark and gnarly passages. But with these guys, I did notice a lot more little things that I was a bit less impressed with, despite the enjoyability of their music.
One of the first things I noticed was the total contrast in the band’s approach to their appearance. As mentioned before, the standard miscellaneous black band shirt stereotype is in force here, but to make things worse, the bassist confuses things by beginning the gig looking completely out of place, as if he belongs to an entirely different genre. It’s only later when he takes off the outer shirt that he begins to fit in. Having someone look different isn’t terrible in itself, but when it’s done without any apparent reason, I personally find it confusing and detrimental to the overall band image. But I was a little bit surprised to hear the vocalist actually publicly point him out as different, which brings us to some other issues…
1. This band seemed to overdo the vocals a bit. Fair enough give the guitarist a mic, his backing vocals were a great addition. But giving the drummer a wireless headset that he barely seemed to use? And while I can understand giving the frontman a wireless mic frees him up to move around more without fear of accidentally pulling the cable out (which I have done), it also gave him the idea that he should come out into the audience and sing from amongst us. This is actually really cool from an audience interaction perspective, but the audio engineer in me was incredibly nervous about feedback. Fortunately, this only occurred as the singer was returning to the stage, but I personally leaned towards disapproval, particularly since I had to turn away from the band to see him behind me, and I’m the kind of person who wants to be able to appreciate the musicians and not just their mouthpiece.
2. Speaking of feedback, it seemed to me that this singer was really unaware of microphone technology and proper technique, and it was distressing to see yet another growler covering the rear ports of the mic with his fingers. He was only a one-hand cupper, but it was enough, and I particularly noticed the problems when he switched to a singing passage, at the same time that guitarist was also singing, and the guitarist just sounded that much better.
3. The onstage banter was another problem for me. Of course I understand, big scary band, maybe they wanted that macho stereotype dickhead persona. But from making a sexual joke at an audience member’s expense, to dissing his own band members for the way they dressed, I found it harder to want to connect with the band as a result. Panik utilised humour effectively. Armoured Earth seemed to just make a mess of it, and it reminded me of some of the arrogant singers I had to work with back in music school. As a singer myself, it’s this sort of thing that I really hope I can avoid.
So yeah, as much as I found their music to be more my style, I couldn’t help but be distracted by noticing all these little things.
I said this wasn’t meant to be a review of the performances, but since I kinda did that, I guess I’ll get to the point – how experiencing this gig has been helpful for me as a musician. And I think for this gig, the main thing for me has just been about reengaging with the live scene. As I watched the bands, it helped me recall some of the good old days back when I was gigging with Wintergaunt, and I actually do miss being in a real metal band, complete with live drums shaking the room apart. Unfortunately, I can’t currently afford to be in one of those bands, due to rehearsal and travel costs, and also a lack of time while I’m at uni. But it’s something worth thinking about for the future. At the moment I’ve mainly been working in industrial, but I think I’m always going to be wanting another piece of the heavy metal stage. And when that time comes, I guess the other key benefit of seeing this gig would be the reminder of all the do’s and don’t’s of putting on a good show.
Yup, I write a lot, but that’s all for now. Til next time. \m/