The Sword / Clowns / American Sharks
Max Watt’s, Sydney 24/02/2016
Review: Chris Neill | Photos: Pauly Vella
The crowd in the Entertainment Quarter on Wednesday night was a weird mix. On the one side, you had snap-back wearing Wu Tang Clan fans preparing to protect their necks and bring the ruckus over at the Hordern Pavilion. On the other side you had long-haired metalheads heads preparing to throw horns and head bang until whiplash set in over at Max Watt’s. The only thing the two crowds really had in common were their love of black T-shirts and the faint smell of weed wafting through the air.
Hailing from Austin, Texas American Sharks have come a long way to blast us with their huge riffs. The crowd was kind of sparse, which was a bit disappointing as the band unleashed some high-octane energy into the room. In-between songs bassist/vocalist Mike Hardin – who looks like a heavy metal Hagrid– dropped some self-deprecating banter (“We’re just goofin’ around, y’all!”). On their penultimate song they took an audience poll as to whether they should continue playing or get off. The sea of thumbs up was a pretty good indication that they were more than welcome here.
Had you wandered in with no prior knowledge, you would’ve sworn that Clowns were the headliners for the night. An unlikely choice for a support act here, the Melbourne punks took to the stage and ignited it. The crowd was still a bit small, but the handful of fans head-banging and moshing throughout the set brought enough energy for the rest of us, with frontman Stevie Williams jumping into the mosh on the second song and throwing down with them. Look, we’ll come right out and say it: Clowns are one of the best punk acts coming out of Australia at the moment. In the studio they sound great; live they sound like someone dropped a neutron bomb. Stevie invited the crowd to help him to break into Wu Tang later, so he can prove that the rappers are something to fuck with. When they finished I heard some old mate behind me say, “They were way too loud”. Fuck that guy.
Taking to the stage off the back of a Steely Dan track, The Sword stood before a mountain backdrop. They didn’t have much to say inbetween songs, offering nothing more than a “Hello” and “Thanks for having us”. That just meant they had more time to rock, smashing out a solid hour-and-a-half show. Their setlist was understandably dominated by tracks from their latest release High Country, but they dropped plenty of fan favourites from their back catalogue. Guitarist Kyle Shutt smashed out some fantastic solos throughout the night with the crowd loving every second of it. The stage was bathed in a foreboding red lighting as they busted out the killer “Cloak Of Feathers”, while the opening notes of all-time classic “Freya” were enough to make everyone collectively lose their shit. Heads were banged and air was guitared. The Sword are a band who’ve always fallen short of getting the recognition they deserve, and after experiencing their dedication to their craft live and uncut, it’s proper criminal.