By: Gilbert Potts
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Support: This Will Destroy You | website
Max Watt's House of Music | June 12, 2015
In the song ‘Nightswimming’, Michael Stipe sings the line; “I’m not sure all these people understand”, and last Friday night in Melbourne this seemed to reflect Alex Wilson’s thoughts as he thanked the crowd effusively.
This was no ordinary thank-you. Nearing the end of their solid and energetic headline set to almost 700 punters, not to mention it being show 54 of 55 in 22 countries in the last couple of months, the bass player was close to tears. Thanking fans old and new, Alex spoke of when he and Kid had formed the band nine years ago, they never imagined they would be doing what they were right now. It was genuinely moving, and even recounting the story to my wife the next day I was getting goose bumps.
When guitarist Otto, the sleepmakeswaves fanboy who actually joined the band, addressed the crowd his excitement was off the scale. He was in genuine disbelief that one of the world’s iconic post rock bands, This Will Destroy You, had just played support for them. The venue where smw had supported Karnivool and others in the past was now their place. And he played that guitar like a rock star.
The night had kicked off with Sydney heavy rock funsters Gay Paris. Although they are the kind of band that would be most at home in a smaller room without a moat protecting the innocent public from singer Luke ‘Wailin H’ Monks, they had the sizeable early crowd laughing and cheering, and I’m sure everyone was dancing like fuckery on the inside, if not exactly moshing. It was a high-energy set of mammoth riffs, sexual innuendo and not-so-much innuendo, and unabashed ‘self-aggrandisement ‘, as Wailin H put it.
Yeah it was a mile away from what you get at a typical post rock show, but sleepmakeswaves are increasingly snuggling up with a broader range of styles when playing live, which is adding to the shows as a whole. Oh, and if bass player Dean ‘Slim Pickins’ Podmore is reading this, my friend Ryan from Wisconsin wants your Herzog tee.
A 180 degree change of pace saw Texan masters of slow burn crescendocore This Will Destroy You play a set of six tunes, including three from last year’s Another Language and a spread from earlier releases. The centrepiece pairing of Communal Blood with War Prayer is as intense a musical experience as you could wish for, while the other songs provided some relative lightness before and after. Burial on the Presidio Banks and Quiet formed another couplet – songs heard by literally tens of millions of people who have no idea where they came from, and the set closed with the sublime and hopeful New Topia.
It was a shame that Donovan Jones didn’t bring his Rhodes 88 piano this time around, although I imagine it’s a prick to lug around and in a live set might be more about visual than aural aesthetics. But he did have his San Antonio Spurs colours on show instead, and who doesn’t love a display of team loyalty. In any case when he wasn’t at the keys and instead smashing the absolute fuck out of that bass, the chords cut through the wall of guitar and hammered your brain without mercy.
Now it was time for the triumphant return of sleepmakeswaves. I’ve seen them play eleven times in the last three and a half years and not once have I felt anything other than invigorated by their performance. Their album launch tour show in Melbourne last year had seen their biggest crowd to date for a headline, and tonight that was validated with an even bigger audience. Kicking off with to you they are birds, to me they are voices in the forest it soon became clear how much tighter the last 53 performances had made them, and how far they had developed their songs for live performances.
Sleepmakeswaves have been able to find a connection to those who normally only listen to songs with words. There’s riffs, solid bass lines, great drumming, towering crescendoes, melodies, and importantly they they keep things moving. It’s amazing that you can start a set with a song as monumental, grand and vast as birds and still have epic tracks in reserve. After we sing the body electric and in limbs and joints, the rest of the set consisted of eight songs from Love of Cartography, with a gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun providing the encore.
Of these I can’t single out highlights, although the intensity and gravity of Emergent split the set neatly in two and was the most “serious” tune of the set. It was a tune missing from the launch shows last year because the band needed more time to rehearse and prepare to deliver it live without losing any of the depth it has on the record. They succeeded, and it was without doubt the most solid set I’ve seen from sleepmakeswaves.
I can’t overstate the love in the room – sleepmakeswaves were even forgiven for being from Sydney, although there was a fairly solid boo at the mention of that place. Hell, they’re pretty much honourary Melbournians. As the main set drew to a close and they prepared to play Something Like Avalanches, Alex again offered his thanks and asked us “to go home feeling awesome and happy, because we feel awesome and happy”. And that’s when it occurred to me that a band used to communicating without words, was at that point still unsure if their emotions were showing – “I’m not sure all these people understand”.
I think they can rest assured that there was no need for words. Given the performance they’d just been treated to, everyone in the room absolutely understood.