Storm The Gates – Trusts Arena March 17, 2018

Storm the Gates festival had the air in Trusts Arena thick with machismo and downtuning, as an odd patchwork of yesteryear’s international hard rock acts delivered performances ranging from superb to abysmal.
Hailing from Huntington Beach California circa 1994, Hed PE were the first on our to-see list. Over  ten studio albums, the band has made a name for themselves by being conspiracy nutjobs and  optimistically described as having an “eclectic genre-crossing style fusing gangsta rap, reggae and punk.” They have been regularly touted as one of the forefathers of nu-metal, a charge they vhenemently deny, preferring to labeled as G-Punk.

But everyone wants what they can’t have. Barely three songs in, their sonic culpability for acts like headliners Limp Bizkit or Korn was crystal clear. The problem with Hed PE was that they were a band that did not equate to the sum of their parts. Like cereal and tuna, they’ve created music that when seperated is mildly enjoyable but fucking atrocious when put together. While they can’t be faulted on their technical abilty as individual musicians- heck, drummer ‘Trauma’ even put on a semblance of a performance thanks to his flamboyant playing style- the issue was every other compositional aspect of their music.

Reggae and Punk have been riffing off each other since 1977, as The Clash, Bob Marley and Basement 5 can attest to, while Hed PE’s contemporaries Rage Against the Machine proved that political rock rap can be done well. The thing is, each of the artists I’ve just mentioned had an understanding of how to merge seemingly conflicting styles with some nuance and skill, an ability that has completely bypassed Hed PE. They were as subtle as a punch to the face, with each song switching tone and tempo so suddenly I was confused as to whether or not it was a new one.

Their most popular song Raise Hell captures everything wrong with Hed PE for me. It’s got the lyrics of a Reddit edgelord and the vocal style of Scary Terry meets Lil Jon. It actively cements Head PE as a comedic pastiche of better bands both before and of their time. But the crowd didn’t seem to care and it was almost impressive to watch lead singer Jared Gomes lead them in the chant “I need some Hed.” A guy standing next to me wearing a mullet, Faith No More tee and sucking on a badly rolled joint roared his approval.  What they lacked in compositional ability they made up for in energy, I guess.

Suicidal Tendencies followed and they were the only bright spot on an otherwise dark day. They managed to showcase the trifecta of energy, ability and fantastic songs in their hour long set.  Specialising in vicious hardcore and pioneering skate punk and crossover thrash, Suicidal are undisputed legends and were so much fun to watch.

Lead singer Mike Muir was a manic stage prescence, headbanging with his entire body for opener You Can’t Bring Me Down.  Cuts such as ‘Institutionalised, Possessed to Skate and Freedom were tossed out like strips of meat to hungry dogs with a ferociousness that never wavered. In between songs, Muir becomes something of a motivational speaker, offering diatribes on being doubted, discarded, mistreated but never giving up.

The rapturous crowd showed their approval by opening up two circle pits that rarely let up. One circle crackled with youthful wilfulness of having something to prove but often lacked a basic understanding of pit ettiquite. The other was a slightly older crowd (Suicidal have been around since 1980) who where just there for a good time and were much more female friendly. In our section there was a positive, excitable vibe amongst everyone for a band whose set was over all too soon.

Whoever made the decision to bill Sublime with Rome after Hed PE and Sucidal Tendencies made the right decision. Their inoffensive, honeyed reggae pop calmed the crowd down with their hits Summertime (Doin’ Time), What I Got and Santeria. They played this cheerful, well known material with laid back confidence and camaraderie. It was a perfectly pleasant performance ahead of the band of the hour, Limp Bizkit.

Oh God, where do I even begin. It’s important to note that Limp Bizkit came up in 1999, a time when you discovered music as a pack rather than via individualised subgenres in the depths of Bandcamp. It’s important to note that the Limp Bizkit sound was effectively manufactured by record labels to capture the angsty teenage boy discovering their masculinity market. I wanted to express my vague admiration for Limp Bizkit always marching to the sound of their own repetitive drum, their style, sound and misogynistic attitude perpetually stuck in the early 2000s where it belongs. Few bands or sub-genres became as rapidly outdated, and these days mocking Limp Bizkit is the most lazily fashionable thing a music crtic could do. I didn’t want to be lazy. I went in actively looking for excuses to praise. I wanted to be able to at least say that it was an energetic performance of dumb nostalgia, where you hear a track, smile and say “I remember when I thought that song was terrible but it still made me dance.” But even irony could not save this flaming trash heap of hamfisted musical appropriation, peurile humour and a bafflingly bad performance.

After a rambling intro cumulating in Fred Durst screaming “Auckland, y’all ready to get this bitch lit?” they opened with Rollin‘ and for a brief moment, everyone seemed on the same page and having a good time, with Durst leaping round the stage with vigour. Unfortunately, his virility only lasted those three minutes, and for the remainder of the set his energy levels oscillated wildly. Durst attempted to excuse himself by saying “We don’t like concerts so much, we prefer to describe this as a party.” Much like a party band, it was like they jumped up, grabbed some instruments and just started playing with little or no thought to what they were actually doing. Musically they went from acceptable to downright sloppy as the set staggered on, the dead air stretching for uncomfortably long periods of time as Durst attempted to turn the show into a kareoke/request evening. He would ignore crowd requests until they hit upon something the band knew.  Screaming “I fucking love Nirvana!” before launching into Smells Like Teen Spirit, Durst hardly did the grunge heroes justice with his appalling rendition of the classic tune, lasting only through the first verse and chorus before seemingly to abruptly give up. Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of didn’t fare much better. Although props must be given to Durst for coming up with the name Rage Against the Bizkit. It was the only intentional laugh I had all night.

To their credit, the band attempted to fill the empty spaces with some semblance of noise that could be described more as a one-note noodle than a bonafide jam. When they did play their admittedly huge songs (My Generation, Hot Dog) the sound and lighting were disorientatingly bad, with the turntableist completely drowning everyone out save for the thin, flat guitar.

But it was perhaps Limp Bizkit’s biggest hit Nookie that saw the show go from bad to worse. Durst invited audience member Josh onstage to complete the song “because he couldn’t remember it.” Josh took the opportunity to not only plug his own (as yet unnamed) band releasing an album next year before launching into a badly timed, barely sung screamo rendition of the song. Durst proved himself to be a nice guy, stopping the band and reminding them to follow Josh in an attempt to make him sound as good as possible. On that note, Durst’s demeanor was the one surprising saving grace of Limp Bizkit’s set, with the infamously arrogant butt of the music industry’s jokes coming off as a genuinely kind and appreciative guy to his fanbase. Battered and bruised, the band followed up with Break Stuff, a crowd favourite that saw the jumping energy briefly re-peak, before a mass exodus upon it’s completion. With just 9 ½ songs in 90 minutes, it was a long meandering set that lacked purpose or punch.

Suicidal Tendencies deserved the headline.

Kate Powell

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