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In what seemed a rag-tag collection of offcuts, Melbourne’s first taste of Soundwave 2014 action came with a rather strange joining of bands baring no semblance to each other in sound nor shape. New Orleans experimental electro four-piece Mutemath took to the growing crowd at 8pm and it was clear they had their own following who arrived especially to see them.
Vocalist/keyboardist Paul Meany was effervescent despite his role often dictating a stationary position sitting behind his instrument while drummer Darren King provided some quality percussion work to keep the pulsing electro moving. It wasn’t all beats however, with some radio friendly rock in the form of Blood Pressure, while set closer Reset could only be described as a multi-faceted opus.
Clocking in at over 10 minutes, Reset manoeuvred like a Mars Volta epic though time signature and instrumental changes, and saw Meany dive onto a flashing rubber dinghy, a three-person drum-off, and guitarist Todd Gummerman picking up and fiddling with his guitar pedals, and doing so as a second support act. Someone certainly forgot to send them that memo.
As one instalment of the crowd took their turn to move back, another swarm gathered towards the front as San Diego’s reunited ska sextet Rocket From The Crypt took to the stage. John Reis aka Speedo played the charismatic frontman and did so admirably, portraying the affable larrikin who maintained his sense of humour throughout the set (even as referring to the crowd as “Austria” fell flat for the fourth time in a row).
However, the inevitable transpired and it was clear that the audience at large just weren’t feeling the vibe. Playing to a crowd largely there to see another band from different genre, it was a tough gig from the outset, but the band maintained their enthusiasm throughout. Boychucker and Sturdy Wrist were highlights of a set that would have been better received with some of the stellar punk acts on the 2014 Soundwave bill.
It was then Eagles Of Death Metal, sans Josh Homme, who graced us with their presence, and grace us they did. Whilst no one was expecting Homme to feature in the live show, the frontman with the most swagger, Jesse “The Devil” Hughes, had every single member of the audience in the palm of his hand from the get-go.
Whilst his vocals seemed stretched early on, this soon became an afterthought as the band plowed their way through a set featuring generous slabs cut off of fan favourite albums Peace, Love & Death Metal and Death By Sexy. Drummer Joey Castillo added some powerful grunt to the already thick layers of fuzz generated by Hughes and Dave Catching.
Excitedly parading about the stage back and forth, Hughes commanded a level of desire from the women in the audience that bordered on Beatlemania-like hysteria, whilst continuing to be an awe-inspiring figure for the gents. “We are gonna burn this motherfucker down tonight Melbourne! Can you dig it!?” Hughes exuberantly proclaimed on multiple occasions, with near evangelical power surging through him.
Rounding off their initial set with the brilliant I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News), the band took a breather while Hughes accepted some amusing requests, such as the Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit Takin’ Care of Business, which the audience gleefully participated in.
Rounding off the encore with the one-two punch of I Only Want You and Speaking in Tongues, it was a triumphant return to our shores for our favourite moustache-combing, stage-strutting lead man and his Palm Desert bandmates.
If what Hughes says is true about wanting to move to St Kilda to live opposite the famous Luna Park façade, we might well be seeing a hell of a lot more of this rock ‘n’ roll troubadour, and to the lucky punter who walked away with Hughes’ moustache comb, those days can’t be here soon enough.
Photo by Rebecca Reid