WESTFEST `15 Live Review

By Kate “One Take Kate” Taylor.

Image via Mr Leon Taylor.

It’s taken me until now to fully download all the rad moments of WESTFEST `15 to coalesce into a somewhat succinct little write up about Auckland’s recent day of blistering metal and punk. Taking place on March 3rd 2015, a Tuesday…gasp! All assembled truly seemed to be having a fantastic time, without any major hoo-haa and a general vibe of ‘Hey man, this is cool eh?!’ amongst the punters. After all, there’s been much bemoaning in the metal, punk and heavy music community in general about Australia’s covetous Soundwave festival, leaving many of us to scrape together the pennies to get our butts over the ditch to see the acts we need to see.

Lens flare, music and romance with Mr Leon Taylor.

But no, oh no not today. That day metal friends we were the victors, with a smorgasbord of musical talent to choose from, only the negative and those seeking attention could really complain about what was on offer. My day went a little something like this…

DEPTHS rip it up early in the day. Image Via: Ambient Light Photography

3:00pm-ish:
After managing to assemble my rag-tag bunch of metalliers; we paced to Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium to witness the day’s musical offerings. Mount Smart the home to many of my live concert experiences; from the early 90s Big Day Outs, Smashing Pumpkins in the Supertop and in more recent memory the incredible Iron Maiden show in 2009. As we approached our target it appeared that organisation and sussing of parking had been well made and in our search for a spot for our Mirthmobile, we managed to hear some of New Zealand’s premiere metal act – Depths; as they melted faces on the Ding Dong Lounge stage in the opening slot for the day. My rag-tag bunch of metal revellers now feeling more anxious, excitedly started pointing out non-parks in our effort to get the hell out of the car and make it inside the gates to see Fear Factory in time! A quick pick up of the tickets at the gate, a race down the drive into the main Westfest 15 area and we’d made it, the stages were easy to find and with plenty of info around of who was on when – we made it to
Fear Factory in time to see them! Fear Factory, a favourite of mine from waay back crushed
Self-bias Resistor and Replica before leaving us to bask in their industrial metal glory. But ever the rad guy, frontman Burton C. Bell left us with a tantalising tip-off. “We. Will. Be. Back!” he spat out in a staccato rhythm over a big rock drum solo to finish off. Niiiice. Looking forward to your return guys.

BURTON C. BELL of FEAR FACTORY Image via Alexander Hallag

4:00pm-ish:
Feeling pretty stoked after making it to see at least a wee bit of Fear Factory in time, me and my metalliers looked to the time table to see what was next. For us that was Antemasque. Being fans of At The Drive In and The Mars Volta we were keen to check out what Antemasque (featuring Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala) had to offer; and they didn’t disappoint either. Bringing a very rock focus with intricate instrumentation, everything kicked off well with Rodríguez-López telling the crowd: “Citizens of middle earth…we mean you no harm”. Which wasn’t technically true as somewhere along the way; he then proceeded to throw an unwanted kettle and obscenities into the crowd. Ticked off and fed up, Antemasque cut their set short, whilst complaining that they had a short set; and had been saddled with a terrible Westfest experience, taking it upon themselves to speak on behalf of all the acts playing on the day. They leave the stage. Confused audience looks on. Awkward silence. Crowd looks back at timetable to see whose next. Everyone’s day goes on, un-phased by the tanty on stage that was just witnessed.

Mmm Pizza. Mmm Mango Smoothie. Mmm…sitting down.
Unperturbed, I and my metalliers took this opportunity to wander off in search of a feed and we weren’t disappointed in this pursuit either! There was lots of food selections to choose from on the day: Pizza, Burgers, Salads, Slushies, Pies, Meals, The White Lady was in attendance and of course there was plenty of Hot Chips…can’t have a festival without hot chips. Hot Mini Donuts; with the genius idea of roaming doughnut vendors in the crowds – because who wants to walk to get doughnuts?! I settled in with a couple of bits of Margarita Pizza (Yus! Good vegetarian food on offer at Westfest `15!) and the most delicious Mango Smoothie that would put Tank Juice Bar to shame. Monster Energy Drink promo peeps were out in full force and must have developed some pretty sweet callouses on their ring tab pull fingers by the end of the day as they passed out hundreds of cans of Monster. Plus there was the merch stand which was epically attended at all times and many little stalls to look around; access to fresh, free drinking water, plenty of shady places to sit annnd a signing table with a good looking timetable of acts taking time out of their schedule to sit down and meet with their fans in person. There was also a giant thrill ride thingy you could buy tickets for, but that went upside down. One Take Kate doesn’t do no upside down. I really DID want to get a big henna tattoo and was seriously considering it, when I thought twice about how much time I’d take away from seeing bands in action. Overall the crowd was respectful and just out to have a great day which made moving around easy and without any hassles. Rad!
LAMB OF GOD Image via Ambient Light Photography

4:45pm-ish:
Was right about the time that Lamb of God shut my fool mouth. I’ve not ever been a negative, outspoken non-supporter of Lamb of God; I’ve just never had, nor given them the time of day. I had other stuff to listen to and I could see they have a massive following the world over for their traditional style of American Metal…they didn’t neeed me as well as a fan. However, Westfest 15 changed everything; for an act that no doubt is well loved, but one that I’d personally never clamoured to see previously; taking a punt on dropping by their set to check them out on a festival day is like a no-risk guarantee. Why not check em out and if you don’t like em, well there’s plenty of other things you can go and do. But no, no! Lamb of God were infectious, fun, gracious and genuinely loved performing to the Kiwi crowd with much maligned front man Randy leading the uninitiated through what a Lamb of God set feels like, and what to do where – with handy circle pit and ‘wall of death’ real time tutorials. So thoughtful. When Randy and Co. weren’t delivering hit after hit, he was wooing us with anecdotes about how much he loves playing shows in Aotearoa…
I love New Zealand it’s so good to be here, cause it’s fvcking great here!” or “When they told me we were playing another date I was saying – please let it be New Zealand, please let it be New Zealand, and when they said we were coming here I was just like YESSSS!” As Randy then mimes a power squat and fist pump that could split the earth. Randy also did a ‘Where are you from’ audience whip round before stating… “Well it doesn’t matter where you’re from cause you’re here with us”. Feeling warm and fuzzy and very much set right in my attitude towards Lamb of God, I farewelled them from the Westfest stage, very much looking forward to seeing them come back to our shores again.

LAMB OF GOD Frontmand RANDY shutting One Take Kate’s fool mouth! Image via Ambient Light Photography.

5:30pm-ish:
I was totally delighted to see one of my ol’ Aussie favourites – Frenzal Rhomb perform on the Boom Brothers Stage for all the crusty punk fans assembled. Running over to them from elsewhere on the Westfest grounds myself and my metalliers arrived just in time to hear cracking renditions of; I’ve never had so much fun, White World, We’re going out tonight, You are not my friend, World’s Fvckest Cvnt and the icing on the cake…love song,  Bucket Bong. To which enigmatic frontman
Jason Whalley
let us know, “We practiced that specifically for Auckland, we haven’t practised since July 2008“. I pogoed to my heart’s content and felt zapped right back to my time living in Melbourne and all that brought with it; plus our obvious enjoyment led to being heckled by Lindsay McDougall. Can’t get much better than that. Sweet!

FRENZAL RHOMB getting their Aussie Larrikin on!

Aware that the jewel in the Westfest 15 crown would soon be gracing us with their appearance, myself and my metalliers stopped by the Ding Dong Lounge stage on the way back to the Monster Main stage; and sampled some Escape the Fate for ourselves. Touted to be some of the loveliest, nicest guys on the tour – Escape the Fate, for the short time we visited their set, were polite and funny, super professional and obviously cared about the show they were putting on featuring flashy lighting and a well thought out stage space. That’s the best thing about going to a music festival is often the acts you hadn’t been hanging out to see turn out to be nice surprises for you from the event.

Still got it. ROB HALFORD of JUDAS PRIEST. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

6:00pm-ish:
Then it was time. Having checked out our fill of Escape the Fate we darted back to the Monster Main stage for the big daddies of the day, the legendary – Judas Priest. The glitz and glamour, the outrageously sequined stage jackets worn by Rob Halford, the huge growling Harley rode in by Halford to the delight of the crowd assembled. It was big stadium metal and we loved it. All of ‘Priest looked comfortable and to be enjoying themselves; all was well. It was like a little slice of Wacken or Donnington in our own backyard, just for one afternoon. Blazing through their catalogue highlights, ‘Priest stomped butt particularly on Breaking the Law to the delighted sing-a-long of all; and Wolves of Valhalla – my favourite. It was a stop-time kind of set, in this moment, everyone was taking in all that Judas Priest had to offer; even members of Soundgarden and Faith No More were visible on the side of stage, watching a band that they themselves had no doubt grown up listening to and loving.

GLENN TIPTON of JUDAS PRIEST. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

7:30pm-ish

20 years in the making: FAITH NO MORE. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

Then it happened. Something I’ve been waiting since 1995 for, a long 20 years…to see
Faith No More playing live. It was rapturous. It was everything I hoped for and more, the stage was bathed in light, draped in white and adorned with masses of bright flowers bursting from the foldbacks, stacks and any area that could hold them. I was immediately on-board the moment the stage had been set for their performance and as Mike Patton and Co. expertly wound through their catalogue, I screamed, cheered, grabbed at my face in astonishment, bounced along and sang along at the top of my voice to my favourite FNM tracks. We were graced with Ricochet, Evidence, Cup of Sorrow, Mid Life Crisis, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and Easy. With the latter drawing a fantastically huge smile from the debonair Patton, as the Auckland crowd sang along with the chorus of one of NZ’s biggest favourite tunes on rock radio from waaay back. Plus Epic, I lost my shizz when they played Epic! I surely hadn’t thought they would play the 1989 MTV hit that I first witnessed on TV2’s RTR Countdown when it came in at Number One for a couple of weeks running. I was 8, I loved it and thus further locked in my love of heavy music and certainly sparked my first interest in the rock god crush – looking upon Mike Patton with his long silky hair and crazy neon pants. Faith No More at Westfest 15 rocked my world and I’ll never be the same again. Bucket list and life goal = achieved.

How couldn’t you crush on a face like that?! MIKE PATTON of FAITH NO MORE. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

9:00pm-ish

Formidable. ATTILA from MAYHEM. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

That was right about the time that I and my metalliers regrouped and hustled over to the Boom Brothers stage once more to see the terrifying Norwegian black metal legends – Mayhem, rip it up for the innocents witnessing their brand of pioneering and extremely controversial black metal. Mayhem were commanding in every sense, their presence, their skill and showmanship – all of it had a tangible and incredible hold on the audience. These masterfully brutal characters have been at their dark art since 1984; and we were incredibly lucky to see them in this festival setting. No, really…this very intimate show with some of the most credible and important figures of the international black metal scene were so close, that I legitimately felt that if they spotted me on my phone posting, even if it was a raving social media post about how great Mayhem were – they would cast some sort of demonic musical spell on me. The motions and theatricality of frontman and potential immortal, Attila are perhaps the most brain-washing of all stage devices; his manic yet purposeful movements are spellbinding in their own right. I, like everyone else, watched absolutely enthralled. An amazing experience of evil delights, Mayhem controlled my brain stem and I’ll never be the same again.

FALL OUT BOY Image via Ambient Light Photography

9:40pm-ish.
Feeling like some sort of sacrifice to the gods of black metal, myself and my metalliers stumbled away from the Mayhem experience and made our way back to something a little less nightmare inducing to round out the evening, with Soundgarden seeming like an excellent cap off to the evening. But being a casual Fall Out Boy fan, and even though I’d seen them twice before, I figured I’d pop in to see what they were getting up to. Sadly, this was not the engaged and amped Fall Out Boy that I’d seen on previous NZ tours. All the members seemed a little bit bummed to be there, and I could have sworn that Patrick Stump was just the slight bit tetchy with Pete Wentz; even if Pete did go on to say how much FOB love coming to New Zealand and proceeded to tell us the fable of the Frog and the Scorpion (you know, the one that’s in Drive), before breaking into Irresistible. I stuck around for my favourites: This ain’t a scene, Sugar we’re going down and Dance, Dance before I felt like I was maybe missing out on being at Soundgarden and had to go.

Chris Cornell woos the crowd at WESTFEST `15. Image via Ambient Light Photography.

10:25pm-ish:
That’s when myself and my rag-tag bunch of metalliers thought about picking up a feed from one of the many still operating stands but deciding instead to head to the cap off of the evening – Soundgarden. I’m lucky enough to have seen Soundgarden playing on their 1994 Big Day Out tour so I was keen to see them again now, although well aware that they wouldn’t be the young, wild rock men of their day. Although I was proven right in this assumption, it was cool to see the new beast that Soundgarden had evolved into; with the members treating their ol’ hits with respect and clearly enjoying their time performing. Chris Cornell was positively delighted to announce their imminent rendition of Birth Ritual which he explained was not actually ever released on any Soundgarden record but only on the original soundtrack for the film Singles. Chris need not of bothered as, for at least myself, Singles was one of the only links to the romantised Grunge mecca of Seattle that little rockers of the time all wanted to journey to in order to be cemented in our alternative state of being. On the whole the new Soundgarden was very cool! Slower, more like something akin to Mastodon or Isis – dirgey, moody and representing their new material as nonchalantly as their classics like Black Hole Sun and Fell On Black Days.

A day well rocked. One Take Kate is ready for home time…so is Mr Leon Taylor’s arm in the background there!

As the stars came out above the crowd, the warm evening folding around us; with the slightly pissy taking a seat, the happily pooped swaying on their feet and the vibes of a good day of rocking washing over us; it occurred to me that I’d not really sat down all day and that the flow of the acts was well thought out – even if I’ve only managed to see and cover a bare fraction of the different heavy genres that were on offer. Realising that things were drawing to a close, the traffic to get out of the Mount Smart area would be mental if we waited until the very last encore and that geez man I had work tomorrow (!), myself and my metalliers, happily sated by the sweet dulcet tones of our homeland – Bogansonia; we toddled back to our chariot, to meander our way home, taking the route that will give us the most amount of fellow Westfest `15 attendees to wave to, grin at and blast
Faith No More from the car stereo to. Because that’s how it is with Metal heads, we get together, we have a good time and we live to tell another live show anecdote. Until next time dear brethren, bring on Westfest 16!

Did you go to WESTFEST `15? Which band was your favourite?

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