Words and Pics: Ben Hosking – www.hoskingindustries.com.au
To say that we were a little concerned about Monster Magnet’s set upon reaching the HiFi Bar just as the doors were opening would be an understatement. Simply put, there was very little sign of life. Granted, it was a dismal evening with some drizzle and cold Autumn winds blowing through, but there was hot night of raucous rock and roll to be enjoyed inside.
Regardless, Sydney band Arrowhead opened the night’s festivities to an almost empty room, rocking out with an energetic mix of mid-paced stoner/desert/Sabbath vibes. The three-piece made a beautiful racket and the small crowd clearly appreciated their driving, grooving slabs of riffage.
In terms of small outfits making a grand noise, King of the North won’t find many contemporaries coming close to their sonic footprint. The Aussie two-piece (made up of singer/guitarist Andrew Higgs and drummer Danny Leo) utilises a clever guitar rig that channels low frequencies to a bass amp via an octave pedal, creating a thick grind that’s fish-arse tight. It’s a technique put to great use by earlier two-piece groups like Local H, but don’t think for a moment that King of the North are simple clones.
A combination of catchy grooves, soaring choruses and tight vocal harmonies make for an enthralling live experience that has the expanding audience moving. They’ve got an excellent grasp of dynamic song structure and are definitely worth checking out.
Monster Magnet has had a storied career, beginning in the late 1980s in a largely full-formed state. The band’s psychedelic space rock found a large and loyal fan base with the 1990s ‘Dopes to Infinity’ and ‘Powertrip’ albums probably representing the high watermark of the band’s success.
Things got a little off track in the mid-2000s. Some personnel changes and singer Dave Wyndorf’s overdose in 2006 signalled a brief hiatus for the band, but they came back stronger and have spent the last several years building a new momentum. It’s no wonder then, that despite the slow start, by the time Dave and company take to the HiFi stage, the room has seemingly filled up as if my magic – their fans turning out in droves to revel in a night of grooving, moving rock and roll.
Starting with the nine-minute-plus ‘Last Patrol’, Monster Magnet show no signs of slowing down with age. They tear into the set list with the energy of a group half their age, performing all the classics, including ‘Dopes to Infinity’, ‘Spine of God’, ‘Powertrip’ and ‘Space Lord’. The vibe is chilled and rockin’ all at the same time, with thick clouds of pot smoke wafting over the mosh barrier from the audience.
You’d never know that some of the guys on stage are well into their 50s from the racket they create and the vitality with which they create it. The crowd – largely made up of 30-somethings who were no doubt there in the band’s heyday – lap up every moment of this glorious space rock extravaganza. Awesome.