A music festival with a little something extra – just last month, it was the inaugural Knotfest Australia with their dark metal circus, and now, The Smashing Pumpkins have brought their rock + wrestling experience to Australian shores while the Aussie weather is still nice and warm. The Smashing Pumpkins are a sacred force in rock music, and today at Sandstone Point Hotel in Bribie Island, they are due to deliver the second leg of their monster The World Is A Vampire tour in Australia. Joined by Jane’s Addiction no less, as well as Australia’s latest and greatest rock acts, it’s the iconic duo that both Gen Xers and millennials have probably dreamed about for the last two or three decades, and today it’s actually happening. Suffice to say, we’re all more than a little excited.
Local lads Pistonfist are the perfect opener for the day with their balls-to-the-wall brand of ripping hard rock, or self-described “petrol rock”. The five-piece are positively bursting with energy on stage, thrashing around like nobody’s business. They’re clearly stoked beyond belief to be on this bill, and they really do give it their all in their snappy, rollicking half-hour set. There’s something about the combination of the band’s punchy pub rock stylings and the pristine, beachy Bribie Island Sunday afternoon setting that screams “day drinking”, and it’s great. The band seamlessly vacillates between pummeling riffs and dirty grooves that get a handful of punters moving and heads banging at the barrier. Pistonfist have smashed it today with a very enjoyable set indeed.
Before long, staggering seven-piece heavy metal outfit Battlesnake march onto the stage all decked out in glittering pope robes like the bad priests of heavy music – the phrase that instantly comes to mind is “Monty Python metal”. With a whopping three guitarists and a keytarist, I have the feeling we’re in for some serious shreds – and that’s exactly what we get. Amused punters curiously approach the stage as the band launches into a gloriously uplifting sound that’s like Sabaton meets ACDC, with some Dragonforce-level guitar solos thrown in for good measure. The vocalist, whose own bad pope costume features great sparkling horns on his head, is channeling Gwar vibes with his comical and committed character performance. Highlights include a fantastic breakdown section in The Rotten Priest and raucous crowd responses to The Atomic Plough and closing belter The Nightmare King.
After a round of wrestling, Sydney’s alt-metal dynamos RedHook take the stage. As soon as frontwoman Emmy Mack runs on stage in a straightjacket and Hannibal mask, launching right into absolute banger Cure 4 Psycho, I know we’re in for 45 minutes of pure chaos. And wow, these guys are on FIRE today with a frenzied energy that is infectious and so much fun to watch. Emmy in particular is a whizzing firecracker on stage, and she’s added some impressive harsh vocals to her artillery that lend a real edge to the band’s candy pop punk-tinged sound. This set runs us through the gamut of moods and emotions – heart-wrenching trauma survivor tribute Jabberwocky strikes a chord, whereas a brief but brutal cover of Break Stuff gets the blood up. The trusty metal sax makes an appearance for I Don’t Keep Up, courtesy of guitarist Craig Wilkinson, after a hilarious intro featuring soundbites from Space Jam. Kamikaze raises a full-on circle pit, and closing with Bad Decisions, the Battlesnake crew join RedHook on stage to pelt toilet rolls into the crowd. A chaotic end to a riveting set that’s standout so far.
Round 2 of wrestling is followed by the ocker anarchy that is Amyl and the Sniffers. Second up in the set is beloved hit Security, which instantly gets a mosh going. It’s good old-fashioned anti-authority, brash and bratty punk chaos, if that punk gig was storming the carpark of your neighbourhood RSL. There’s a lot of jostling in the pit as it grows increasingly loose and rowdy, thanks in no small part to the seemingly boundless energy of the frontwoman herself as she riles up the crowd. Amy Taylor is a pocket rocket, a proper modern-day Chrissie Amphlett with the chaotic buzz and pep of Johnny Rotten. As she announces how much she’s loving the wrestling matches, I’m half-convinced she’s about to throw down herself. The once-supermarket worker who’s fast becoming a rock icon in her own right must be battery-operated to jump around and yell at us for so long – which she advises she’ll keep on doing “until I’ve had too many durries and my hips fall off” – and the crowd is lapping it up. Bangers like Guided by Angels and Maggot inspire great singalongs, and wrapping up with Hertz feels like a real party. It’s a slightly tamer set than I was expecting from these guys, but still rollicking good fun.
The end of the wrestling decider round heralds the beginning of today’s much-anticipated penultimate act. Jane’s Addiction burst onto the stage, delivering maximum impact with the belter of an opening track in Stop!. The band’s trademark high-octane rock sound is bolstered by the striking visual addition of three burlesque dancers on stage, which adds a true LA flair to the proceedings. Is there anything more rockstar than that? After nearly 40 years, Perry Farrell is still holding his own and capturing hearts with that raspy, throaty tenor of his, and Eric Avery is a powerhouse on the kit. The virtuosic Josh Klinghoffer has taken up the axeman mantle in Jane’s Addiction for this tour, and he is a wonder to behold. He performs with palpable energy and executes endlessly impeccable shreds with nary a sweep out of place.
With the dancers hanging off bars behind him, Perry shamelessly announces that “this will be a horny experience”, and he’s not wrong. It’s a fitting time of day for this set – as day slowly bleeds into night, the sense of decadence is heightened as the dancers climb and gyrate to sexy, grungey numbers like Summertime Rolls and Mountain Song. Faster tracks like Idiots Rule are electrifying with the speedy drums and thunderous bass courtesy of Stephen Perkins. They’re powering through the set like demons with so much intensity as a unit – they’re a perfectly oiled machine. Leaning into the full rockstar image, Perry languidly swigs straight from a bottle of shiraz in between vocal sections, and he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Coming in for a final king hit with feral banger Been Caught Stealing, it’s been a memorable experience from these rock gods today.
With night descended, entrancing, eerie white lights flicker from on high as a synthy intro announces that it’s Smashing Pumpkins time. The legend that is Billy Corgan seems to have taken the name of the tour to heart as he emerges in deathly white face paint and goth eye makeup. He is a truly mesmerising presence as the band launches into the bass-heavy Empires, followed by crowd favourite Bullet with Butterfly Wings, which inspires an arena-wide singalong and Billy unleashes some terrifying harsh vocals in a few places. Jimmy Chamberlin is an absolute beast on the drums in both the heavier numbers and the lighter ballads like the belter Today, and James Iha makes ample use of a ray gun on his guitar during a few numbers for ultimate psychedelic goodness.
The lighting is honestly out of this world – it amplifies the magic of these much-loved songs, transforming the overall experience into something that is kaleidoscopic and immersive. This is especially the case during a touching acoustic version of We Only Come Out At Night, where the lights actually look like a backdrop of stars, and an evil red glow that overlays the big doomy riff that kicks off a cover of Once In A Lifetime. With the shoegazey guitar effects and Billy’s distinctive voice, it gives the feeling of disappearing into a trippy sound warp as we travel through time and space. Ava Adore resounds through the arena to a rapturous crowd response, and an acoustic version of Tonight, Tonight really hits us in the feels. James gets a chance to show off his vocal chops in an intimate acoustic cover of The Church’s Under The Milky Way. During numbers like Cherub Rock, Zero and 1979, the crowd is absolutely going off with crowdsurfers breaking out and the vibe in the arena soaring to ecstatic heights.
Towards the end of the set, Billy announces each member of the band with a preceding partial cover of an Aussie rock classic, in a masterstroke of reading the room. The wrestlers from earlier make an appearance on stage for the penultimate number, which is somewhat at odds with the proggy tones that are emanating from the band. Rounding out with the trippy Silverfuck, it’s an impactful closing number as the intensity is ramped up to the final blaze of heavy guitar riffs and lightning shreds that seem to unravel endlessly. What an incredible way to wrap up an incredible day of music that has transcended generations of alternative music lovers.
Thanks to Maric Media