What most of you may know, I’m a Gold Coast local and that drive to Brisbane is somewhat of a killer. Although the drive to Eaton’s Hill Hotel; a total buzzkill. If it hadn’t been for Mastodon’s roaring tunes on the car trip, I would have thrown my Google Maps equipped iPhone out that window.
First up for the night was Brisbane / Gold Coast four piece Caligula’s Horse and what a match up it was. Tearing into songs old and new, the progressive metal act had a fairly eclectic bunch of Mastodon fans to please. Their intensively precise control of technical rock had me hooked from the first drop of the cymbal crash. My limited musical vocabulary may be my undoing here but the polyrhythms performed here were a feast for the ears. Longtime fans of Caligula’s Horse were easily detectable in the crowd showing their fond appreciation for the group – with the group giving it back. But it’s safe to say that at the next Caligula’s Horse show there may be a few new diehard fans calling out for song requests. In summary, #CaligulasHorse4Soundwave16.
A story most dear to my young festival-going heart is one of Soundwave 2014 where Mastodon were to close one of the back stages to the festival. Having the sun setting on one of the greatest sets of the day was Down whereby one too many crowd surfing experiences led me to lose my phone and wallet – alas, not my drink tickets. Unaware of the time or the whereabouts of my mates, I cautiously headed to the main stage where Green Day was just starting their heavily criticised – and for a good reason, too – three hour-long set. Instead of finishing my Soundwave 2014 adventure with the mind-blowing antics – according to subsequent reviews the following day – of Mastodon, I mindfully used the last of drink tickets, the last remaining thing in my possession, and watched Green Day unconventionally fill an almost three hour-headline slot.
Why tell this story? Because tonight was a redemption of a 13-month longing to see Mastodon in the flesh. Nothing, as I said, could holter this experience for me. Dipping straight into new material from their fantastic release of last year, Once More ‘Round the Sun, ripping into ‘Tread Lightly’ and the title track from said album. There was no casual, “Hello, we’re Mastodon. Here’s another song,” or, “How are ya tonight?,” kind of conversation between audience and band. In fact, during the entire 90-odd minute ramshackle set from the beasts of stoner rock, there was entirely no talking to the crowd. A strange sight to see coming from such a humorous band in their interviews and interactions in the media. But that wasn’t what this crowd, or this Mastodon fan, was after. The band had a lot of lot of ground to cover that night so the need to awkwardly converse with the crowd was nonexistent.
Smart move. An even smart move was the song placement in the setlist. Mastodon exactly knew when to throw a mid-album curveball for the bemused music critics and fans alike; and they knew when to place a single into the mix creating a roar of conservable energy into the mosh. The one-two-punch of ‘Chimes at Midnight’ and ‘High Road’ was delightful surprise and a sight to behold. Oh, and did I mention the lasers? Yeah, lasers. ‘Nuff said. ‘Aqua Dementia’ was quick to follow and, with that and ‘High Road’, was the band’ shining moment to show their vocal prowess. Hard to believe, even after listening to the Mastodon records back-to-front, that four scraggy, bearded, rock demons could all harmonise together. Amazing! It allowed that punch in the face of ‘Aqua Dementia’ to appear out of no where as I was, at this point, way too focused on the group’s ranging vocal proximities.
One unfortunate let down of the night was bassist’s Troy Sanders disappointing knowledge of the band’s lyrics. Placed on the ground beside the setlist was a A4 page of notated lyrics and cues to particular songs. During his moments behind the mic, with his signature growl and sludgy approach to the group’s harmonies, he would spend most of the time gazing down at this cheat sheet of lyrics as if they printed off from metrolyrics.com moments before their time on stage.