The World Is A Vampire Festival @ Eatons Hill Hotel, 15.04.2023

The World Is A Vampire Festival @ Eatons Hill Hotel, 15.04.2023
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Not all festivals are equal, not all festivals are the same and what you want from a festival doesn’t stay the same forever. Once upon a time the allure of a multi-day, multi-stage that involved multiple nights sleeping under canvas was everything. Those days are long gone.

All Tomorrow’s Parties might be a long-lost memory these days but they forever changed what festivals should be for anyone that went to them. In terms of line-up, location, vibe, ATP at Mount Buller was probably the best festival there’s been in Australia this century.

The big one-day festivals are often fun but hard work and as good as those line-ups might look on paper, you know that all the acts you’re excited about, the ones that you bought the ticket to see, are all going to be playing at the same time on different stages.

Too many festivals play it far too safe with the same triple j-endorsed Australian acts on a rotating cycle and/or just book the same international acts that competing festivals have taken a risk with and succeeded. Looking at some of the recent/current line-ups for some of the big name Australian festivals, it’s shocking just how beige and uninteresting they are, so little thought or effort seems to have gone into choosing the acts. Whatever curation is, this isn’t it.

When it comes down to it, the best festivals have always been those with the most eclectic line-ups. Outside of Golden Plains/Meredith, music festival eclectism seems on short supply in Australia.

The World Is A Vampire is a tantalising proposition, as there’s little reason for anybody these acts to be paired together for a one-day, one-stage boutique festival. Yes, the Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction come from a similar time and can be categorised under the broad “alternative” music genre that was once sufficient to describe a wide-range of guitar music in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but there isn’t a lot of common ground between them. Neither of them has much in common with Amyl & The Sniffers and possibly even less with RedHook’s very modern-sounding rock. Battlesnake and PistonFist are unknown quantities at the start of the day but by the end of the night, they’ve further reinforced the belief that putting a bunch of acts with little in common on a festival line-up guarantees you an excellent day of live music. And that’s without even mentioning the between-bands bouts of professional wrestling.


PistonFist @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

You can tell a lot about a band by what they call themselves and PistonFist look and sound exactly like you’d expect a band called PistonFist to look and sound like. It’s real old school metal, all pointy guitars with pointy headstocks. For a five piece with two guitarists, it’s surprisingly minimal, big on hard hitting, crunchy riffs rather than being supplemented with flashy extended lead guitar (unless, as the first band of the day, these are being lost in the mix. A solid enough start to the day without being anything spectacular, although the drummer is impressive, managing to get a lot out of a very small drum kit.

Having only ever seen a gig inside at Eatons Hills Hotel, the outdoor space is nice enough so long as the weather is fine and the temperature is temperate. I’d imagine it being an unpleasant experience if it rained, as there’s no cover. It might be well into Autumn but it’s still very hot in the early afternoon sun when PistonFist start. Despite all the forests and trees in the locality, the festival site only has two trees and most of those there for the start are huddled together along the side fence to be in the shade that the adjacent hotel building provides. The downside is that all the smokers are also seeking the shade in the absence (or enforcement ) of any designated smoking areas, which means forever being surrounded by chainsmoking Gen X-ers.  Even after the sun goes down, there’s no escape from the plumes of smoke, even down in the crowd and nearer to the stage.

Battlesnake @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

The second gig I ever went to was Bad News. They started with a spoken word introduction about creation and what happened on each of the first seven days that took some liberties with how this is written down in Genesis. More than 35 years on, Battlensake also start their set with a spoken word introduction about creation and what happened on each of the first seven days that takes some liberties with how this is written down in Genesis. This leaves me thinking “You can’t be serious” and as the band walk onto the stage, all dressed in matching golden jewel adorned white robes and with a lead singer that also gets a golden horns headpiece, thankfully it’s obvious that they’re not too serious.

I don’t know why, but whenever metal is ridiculed by metal bands on stage, it always works. Metal is so ridiculous it can often be hard to take serious at the best of times, even more so when bands do actually take it all seriously.

But Battlesnake do it so well. Bands like this make it hard to be an Iron Maiden fan, even though I think Iron Maiden have a degree of self-awareness and aren’t super-serious . Three guitarists do the full set of guitar harmonies, the singer hams it up, and they even have a keytarist amidst their ranks. I don’t know if I’ve seen one of those used in anger since DragonForce were here years ago for Soundwave. Battlesnake’s brilliance is that under all the dress-ups and song titles like “I Am The Vomit“, “The Rotten Priest” and “BeelzeBanquet“, the songs and playing are so strong. They could ditch some of the ridiculousness and still be a fantastic 80s-infuenced metal band. It would be half as fun though. Expect to see Battlesnake appearing on all the upcoming festival line-ups in the next year.

RedHook @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Redhook did an admirable job of headlining Stage 5 at Good Things last December but there was something missing. Was headlining a step too far for them at the time, after all they did have to play after Blood Command, who were one of the best bands of the day on any stage, and it was at the end of a very long and special summer’s day in Brisbane. But today RedHook sound like a different band, one that just oozes confidence. Taking her sartorial cues today from Alice Cooper, Emmy Mack escapes her strait jacket during the opening “Cure 4 Psycho” allowing her to absolutely dominate the stage during the rest of the Sydney band’s 10 song set.  RedHook live are a different proposition to RedHook on record and probably better for it.  The intricate technical flourishes of their recorded work that give them that modern sheen are superseded by a much heavier-sounding rock band. The debut album may be forthcoming but the band have enough from their previous EPs to fill out the majority of the set (possibly saving the new songs until after the album has been released and the band are back in a few weeks to tour it).

How do you feel about a saxophone circle pit?” Emmy Mack asks before “I Don’t Keep Up”, and somewhat surprisingly her wish is granted as a circle pit does appear out of thin air for the song’s duration. But it’s a slight misstep compared to what they’ve played before it, even if it allows the band to take a bit of an on stage mid set breather. You wouldn’t quite call it Yacht Rock but very MOR 80s sounding songs with sax breaks are best left where they belong, back in the 1980s. It’s then followed up by a quick drum solo because of course it is. Thankfully, with the band able to pull out “Kamikaze” and “Bad Decisions”, the sax solo is soon a distant memory and the band ends its set on a high. 

Amyl & The Sniffers @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Whoever booked Amyl & The Sniffers on the undercard today was making a very brave move. There was always going to be a serious risk of them upstaging any band that has to follow them. As Amy Taylor points out just before the explode into “Guided by Angels”, “The best thing about this is you got some oldies and some young guns and if you’re a young gun you gotta show them what’s what.” And Amyl & The Sniffers do a decent job of doing this. There are no suprises with Amyl & The Sniffers. Short, sharp, snappy three minute songs, songs end and the next starts in a heartbeat, Amy strutting and preening around the front of stage while the rest of the band largely consign themselves to shadows of the back half of the stage. The set is dominated by cuts from their latest Comfort to Me album – “Security, with Amy perched on the very edge of the stage and seranading the security guards in the photo pit, the aformentioned “Guided By Angels”, surely the best song they played, although “Hertz” comes close.  Early songs  “Balaclava Lover Boogie” and “Mole (Sniff Sniff)” haven’t lost any of their potency,  with the set climaxing with the unforgettable “This is our last song. Go fuck yourselves” that introduces “GFY”.

Amyl & The Sniffers are a high draw addition to the billing and yet for all the positives that come from their 60 minutes, there a nagging feeling that by seeing them on a large outdoor festival stage, you’re not seeing them in their best environment.  This is a band built for playing shows in dark and claustrophobic venues, rooms where the sweat drops from the ceiling and down the walls. Golden hour just doesn’t suit them It’s both too late in the day (because you need a band like this playing early, even opening, to set up the rest of the day and too early in the day (because you need a band like this playing late on in the day under lights to end the day with a final burst of energy).

NWA v WAOA @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Between the bands, attention turns away from the main stage to the wrestling ring that’s adjacent to the mixing desk, with wrestlers from the Billy Corgan-owned National Wrestling Alliance taking on counterparts from the Wrestling Alliance of Australia. The wrestling is of course ridiculous. Even if you’re not watching it, its unavoidable, as a commentary that sounds like it’s been lifted from 2004’s “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” is fed through the PA system, and provides an extra level of surrealism to the whole day.  It all means that the warm-up for Jane’s Addiction is essentially a series of unforgettable gems such as “Have you ever been hit in the back of the head like that? Kyle, I think I would be dead.”

Jane's Addiction @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Nothing about today makes my heart sing so much as seeing Eric Avery back on stage with Jane’s Addiction. The band wasn’t the same without him, it missed his onstage presence and it really missed his musical creativity. The big talking point about these shows has been Dave Navarro’s absence due to long COVID but much more of the focus should have been being about Eric A being back in the band he formed.

It would have been special to have the original band back on stage but Josh Klinghoffer does an admirable job of filling in for the missing Navarro. His guitar sound isn’t quite the same though, it feels cleaner and less overdriven than Navarro but, all the same, his playing on the songs doesn’t disappoint.

With Avery back in the fold, the set was clearly going to ignore the last couple of albums and concentrate on the first three records. The largely instrumental “Up The Beach” leads into “Ocean Size”, replicating the starting order of the band’s 1988 Nothings Shocking album. Perry Farrell looks and sound great, often he’s been the weak link when they’ve played live, with his voice  buried in the mix  but there’s no such issues tonight. “Idiots Rule” is the first surprise of the their setlist and even without the horns it impresses. After ‘Ain’t No Right”, the second surprise inclusion is “Ted, Just Admit It”, one of Nothings Shocking standouts. Even without the Ted Bundy samples, it sounds amazing, and gives Stephen Perkins his first real opportunity to show why he was probably the best drummer around in that very broad alternative music scene of the early 1990s. Eric Avery prowls his side of the stage, skipping around in circles, with a face of murderous intent, Perry Farrell howls, Stephen Perkins powerhouses his way through, sat behind his enormous drum kit. This is everything. 

Jane's Addiction @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Things slow down for “Jane Says”, Avery on acoustic guitar and Josh Klinghoffer appearing to somehow be coaxing sounds from his guitar that mimic the steel drum sounds on the original. “Been Caught Stealing” follows before the band unleash their magnum opus Ritual de lo Habitual‘s “Three Days”. “We got time?” Farrell teases at the start. “I’m not going anywhere if you stick with me”. “Three Days” is still the jewel of their setlist, just as it was back in 1991, it’s a complete performance piece, everyone in the band providing a vital piece, Avery’s bass riff introduction, Klinghoffer’s guitar pyrotechnics and song-defining rhythm parts, Perkin’s percussion intricacies and Farrell’s glorious lyrics, melodies and energy throughout.  The set rounds out with “Mountain Song” and “Stop!”, complete with its sampled spoken introduction.   

Tonight, Jane’s Addiction are as good as I’ve ever seen them. No Navarro, but sonically he’s not really missed, although visually it’s not the same. Hopefully next time we get to see the band he’ll be back and Eric Avery will still be over on the other side of the stage. If there is one disappointment about their set, it’s that there’s only an hour of it. Any thought that this might have been to accommodate Josh Klinghoffer stepping in can be quickly diminished by looking at the different setlists the band has been playing. Songs played at other shows but not included in tonight’s set include “…And Then She Did”, “Pigs in Zen” “Summertime Rolls”, “Kettle Whistle”, “Chip Away” and, prior to the Australian dates, new song “True Love”. The band could have had longer, even another 15 minutes would have given them the capacity to change the set around from night-to-night without them having to play every song they’ve rehearsed for this tour.  Something else to hope for the next time we get to see Jane’s Addiction.

Truth be told, me and the Smashing Pumpkins went our separate ways a long time ago. From a band I saw at 500 cap venues and followed to festival headliners, as well as buying all the 12″ and 10″ singles for the extra tracks, to a band I actively loathed. It was a simple reason, and one that had a simple solution; bloated and overlong albums in dire need of some overzealous editing. Someone to point out to Billy Corgan that the best albums have always been under 45 minutes, good double albums are a rarity and there’s no such thing as a great triple album.  Seeing that the band’s latest album, Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts, is a 33 song behemoth, and, if you buy the physical box set you get an 10 additional exclusive songs, proves my point. No one has time for this.

But, and this is a pretty significant but, tonight makes me think that it might be time to end my long-standing personal feud with Billy Corgan. Tonight, the Smashing Pumpkins are a complete revelation.

Looking at the setlist gives the impression that there are a lot of new songs, four from ATUM in the main set, plus the introductory title track the band walk on to but these are cleverly inter-dispersed among much better known songs, the ones that people are here expecting to see played, so there’s no danger of overloading the audience with songs they might be hearing for the very first time. Starting with a new song, “Empires”, is a clever move as the anticipation is so high that you have that immediate good will regardless. Following it up with “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Today” then gives the crowds everything that they were expecting, with “We Only Come Out at Night” fitting in with the whole “World Is A Vampire” theme, even if there are much better songs from the early days that they could have included. A cover of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”, given a full Pumpkins industrial workover is a mistake and another missed opportunity, and surprisingly it takes a couple of less well-known songs, “Eye” from the Lost Highway soundtrack, and “Solara” from 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright to get the set back on an even keel. “Ava Adore” sounds strong, with Jimmy Chamberlain showing that he was serious competition for Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins for the crown of the best drummer around in alt music scene of the early 1990s. Another ATUM cut, “Spellbinding”, being played for the first time tonight, is a classic Pumpkins anthem that fits effortlessly in among the older tracks. They might have been putting out patchy and bloated albums for far too long but all these albums still have their moments and if they’d compile shorter albums with only the very best songs, they wouldn’t be lost in the bloat.

Nine songs in and I don’t think Billy Corgan has said a word, the between song talking left to James Iha, as it always was. The rest of band leave the stage, leaving only Iha and Corgan with their acoustic guitars, James in his white cowboy suit that nods a ten gallon to Gram Parson’s fashion sense, while Billy is in his usual black dress coat, his face adorned with heavy black eye mascara and symbols on his forehead. No one expects light-hearted banter but light-hearted banter is what we get in this Billy and James comedy section of the set. Having been asked how he’s feeling, Corgan retorts, “How am I feeling? I built a life time of miserable music so I’m just really sad. Do you have a problem? Do you have an issue? to which Iha responds, “Nah, I don’t give a fuck.”

The cover of the Church’s “Under the Milky Way”, largely gets by on goodwill. Although obviously worked out prior to the show, it is, to say at the very least, rough around the edges. Maybe, if they keep playing it over the course of these Australian dates, it’ll be in better shape by the end of the tour. “I fucking love the Church, I used to listen to that all the time,” Iha informs us at the song’s end. “They’re from Australia. Who else is from Australia?” with Corgan and Iha managing to list, “Midnight Oil, AC/DC, wombats. I love those wombats, has anyone got one?” At least Iha manages to pronounce Brisbane correctly throughout their set, while Corgan keeps using the always cringeworthy “Bris-Bane”. I can never work out why touring bands use this for apparent comedy effect.

They recover things with a sumptuous acoustic run-through of “Tonight Tonight”, the audience holding their mobile phone aloft to capture the moment,  before the rest of the band rejoin them on stage for Machina’s “Stand Inside Your Love”, and another new ATUM song, “Space Age”, which once again fits seamlessly and effortlessly into the set among the all the classic tracks.

The band introductions culminate with the classic one-liner of “I’m James Iha and this is “Cherub Rock””, the 1993 classic followed up by “Zero”, with a “Whole Lotta Rosie” riff teased into the start and then “1979” as the band appear to be gaining momentum towards the day’s climax.

Smashing Pumpkins @ The World Is A Vampire Festival, Brisbane, Saturday 15 April 2023

Sadly the end of the day turns into a bit of a damp squib, as the Smashing Pumpkins seize defeat from the jaws of victory at the very last. Firstly “Beguiled” suffers from supposed comedic insertion of the two NWA wrestlers on stage. I’m old enough to have seen “Silverfuck” be both the end of the main set and the first song of the encores, the band stopping at the song’s natural break, leaving the stage then starting from the very place they stopped a few minutes later. This doesn’t happen tonight, the band ambling off stage, a few roadies on stage seemingly checking gear but then joined by a few more of the crew as they start to disconnect pedal boards before eventually the lights come on. The set finishes 15 minutes earlier than advertised and the printed setlist someone posted the following day shows there was meant to be another two songs; “Moss” and “Muzzle”. Both of these songs were played at the end of the Mexico City leg of the tour but all the Australian dates have ended with “Silverfuck”. What changed and why? To possibly have been able to finish on one of Mellon Collie’s very high points and then not, is a fairly devastating move and means the day ends with a sense of confused disappointment and anti-climax.

It could have been an absolute triumph and yet even with the issues, it’s still an absolutely fantastic performance. The cover songs are unnecessary, the onstage wrestlers during one song spoil the moment, the end doesn’t feel like it should be the end or was meant to be how the night ended. There are no songs from “Gish”, their debut. But the sound is fantastic, I can’t recall them ever sounding this good, the lighting is impressive and adds to the sense of occasion, the new songs sound like old classics, they’re not an impediment to the flow of the set, anything but. 


I’m keep thinking about The World Is A Vampire because I can’t stop thinking about The World Is A Vampire.  Jane’s Addiction were magnificent, even if we only got an hour. As a a long lost fan, the Smashing Pumpkins reminded me why I used to think this band were so special.  All the other bands played their part in making the day as perfect as it was.  Measured against each other, the bands might not have had much in common with each other but together they worked perfectly. Even the wrestling provided some entertaining nonsense between the bands. 

I don’t know what the plan is for The World Is A Vampire, whether it’ll always be a touring vehicle for the Smashing Pumpkins, or whether it’ll take on a life of its own, similar to the Lollapalooza, founded by Perry Farrell for the 1991 Jane’s Addiction farewell tour but still going strong without the first festival’s headliner. Whatever form it might take in the future, today’s event showed that once again, the best festivals are the most eclectic. It was just a brilliant day outdoors in the autumn sun watching some excellent and entertaining bands play, all of them treated to first-rate sound, a day that built on each act, gathering momentum towards a couple of outstanding sets by the festivals two big-name bands. This is everything you want from a festival.

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