Tactical Attack, Axilism & More – Whammy! November 3, 2017

It was a frenetic and relentless night at Whammy last night, and not just in the pace the punk and hardcore bands brought to the stage. Organisers Worn Out Collective packed an ambitious lineup of eight total bands across two stages, including headliners Tactical Attack and Axilism.

Spread out over less than four hours, there wasn’t much leeway for buying drinks or taking notes as often one band was kicking off exactly as another finished. The crowd certainly got their value for money, but I felt it would have been better to start the gig earlier and schedule even five or ten minutes more between acts. As it was, punters often sacrificed portions of sets to smoke, drink or chat. I also owe Auckland retail themed punks Markdown an apology, as I got my wires crossed thinking the gig ended with Tactical Attack and entirely missed their set. Shame on me.

It was my third time this year seeing openers Bridge Burner, and I’m really running out of things to say about them. Stop playing all the coolest underground shows, guys. You’re making me look like a fanboy. Thankfully there was a major point of difference from previous shows I have seen, in new bassist Gary Brown. Bridge Burner may have wanted to show him off out the gate, opening with a slow, sinister dirge that gave the bottom line plenty of space to rumble in the gut. If you haven’t caught my previous reviews, Bridge Burner play a sinister and bile-fuelled blend of death metal and crust punk, and they performed with their usual tightly controlled violence. The bass added a lot to these songs, emphasising the grime and ugliness of the riffs, and rounding out nicely the more dissonant guitar moments. If rage and disgust are you thing, you still owe it to yourself to get along to a Bridge Burner gig.

Next up were Sick Old Man who hit the stage with a simple and raw impact that got the crowd riled even this early in the piece. They were noisy and raw with to my ear a strong grindcore influence, a genre which, full disclosure, I’m more familiar with than a lot of these pure punk subgenres. I loved the speed and aggression, and lead singer Dylan Luke had great frontman charisma. They obviously have a popular local following, as the crowd filled out quickly and showed great enthusiasm.

Next it was over to the Back Room for the first time, with Slughugger. This trio played simple and noisy garage punk, with some poppier moments. The drummer (unfortunately the internet has failed to provide me with any of the band’s names) impressed me by also handling lead vocal duties, something that always gains a nod of respect. The group opened with newer songs, and there were moments of imperfection compared to the “old stuff” which was noticeably tighter. I was hot and cold with the songs themselves. I liked Slughugger most when they were at their fastest and most raucous, or when they took the time to jam out a bit. The mid-pace poppier moments left me cold, though that may just be my personal taste prejudicing me. Overall they were good simple fun.

Back to Whammy proper for Dateless, probably the most trad-style punk outift of the evening, at least to my ear. Apologies again for leaving him nameless, but I particularly enjoyed the singer’s sneering old school bark and holler. The rhythm section had a pleasing rollick to it, with moments of atmosphere such as bulding up the intro to one song with a single phrase repeated with ever increasing temp until the main riff broke out.

Hedge Fund Trader were a frontrunner for my favourite local act of the night, their sheer aggression and nastiness pleased me so. With riffs that cut at you sharp and jagged, and a frenetic tempo, these guys hit me where I live. Special mention goes to Adam Fulton’s beserk drumming, and Kelly Taylor’s wonderfully ugly vocals. Unfortunately I had to strain to hear the vocals a lot througout the performance, but a friend who was up the back said it was much clearer.

First Australian visitors of the night Axilism immediately established their crust credentials introducing their song Staf Cunt, the closing lines of which may be my favourite lyric of the year: “My cunt is way more brutal / Than your shit as goregrind band.” The rebellious grossness of that lyric appropriately matches the dirty downtuned guitars and phlegmy rasp of the vocals. But all that laudable ugliness isn’t just shock value; Axilism make sure the crowd knows they’re using their music to call out people’s bullshit, from colonial racism to misogyny. Easily the most dynamic band of the evening, I appreciated their mastery over fast, slow and mid-tempo sections, and the songwriting that balanced and switched between them.

Love Mess share a member with Bridge Burner in guitarist Josh Hughes, and I could hear echoes of the familiar sinister dissonance, albeit without the death metal patterns. I only caught some of their set after recovering from Axilism, but I liked it a lot. Not a lot of detail stands out to me about their set, but it was technically performed hardcore that was pleasingly harsh and angry.

Tactical Attack saw a crowd that had been holding back a bit since Sick Old Man get proper rowdy again, bopping heads and jumping about and throwing elbows and shoves about in the front rows. Rollicking out their tunes with a real sense of showmanship, it was a performace that wasn’t just heavy or raucus but, dare I say it, slick. Rattling drums lay over breakneck  but catchy hardcore riffs. The singer veered between a shy stage presence in between songs and a dancing, headbanging show-woman while actually performing. Fantastic stuff.

Now. There’s an important aspect to this gig that I haven’t yet touched upon, and that is gender. Women were well-represented at this gig. Half the acts I saw were fronted by women, and two of them were all women. Women getting a platform in music, and especially heavy music, is incredibly important. I could give you my opinion as to why, but far better you hear it from a friend who attended with me, and whom this representation actually affects.

“There are only a handful of shows I’ve ever been to where I haven’t felt bothered or conspicuously female, especially at punk or hardcore shows. I didn’t even realise it because it felt normal, until I went to see Sleater Kinney…where girls largely outnumbered guys and the mosh pit was women. It’s fucking rad to see females on stage performing the sort of music I’m into and to see myself in that and be surrounded by other women. I can feel like because the music is written and performed by women that it is something aimed at me and my view of the world. Culture has been shaped by men  and most of the genres I enjoy the most are dominated by a male view of the world. I have been to thousands of shows but will remember that one last night because I was the rule not the exception.”

Cameron Miller