It’s been a long time since I’ve been to anything resembling a show like Westfest. At 13, I was a dedicated pop-punk fan who pretty much blacklisted anything that wasn’t Fueled by Ramen or Decaydance Records. I briefly dabbled in scream/hardcore when I frequented Stickam as jailbait, convinced I would go to the Bring Me The Horizon concert and Oli Sykes would fall in love with me. This was an embarrassing period of my life where I spent most of my time attempting to tease my hair to Kiki Kannibal levels and frequenting Friends Or Enemies. As I progressed further into my teen years, I traded out loud guitars and frontmen with huge fringes for hip-hop, rap and stalking DJs online. Despite this, one thing I’ve held onto from my 13-year-old self is my unabashed love for Fall Out Boy. So, when I got the chance to attend Westfest, I jumped at it – even if it was just for the 9:30-10:40 Fall Out Boy set closing out the night at the Ding Dong Lounge stage. So, me and our roving reporter Avigail (pictured above) spent our Tuesday at Mt Smart Stadium to share the experience with you.
JAYDEN: Before I left the house I asked myself if I looked bogan enough to blend in with the crowd I assumed would be at Westfest (no offence meant here, but it’s been a while since I’ve hung out with hardcore fans). I went for a relatively plain ensemble, figuring as long as there was black in it I’d probably be fine. Upon arrival, there were hordes of people proudly wearing merch from their favourite bands, more Manic Panic-dyed hair than I’ve seen in one place before and a lot of tattoos (accompanied by a surprising amount of septum piercings). Unless you listen to rock/metal/hardcore, I don’t think you realise how huge the community of fans is – but Westfest showed that these genres of music are in no way dead. Walking past the Monster Main Stage to catch the end of Escape The Fate’s set was enough to show the variety of people involved in this community – from seasoned veterans to girls in their early teens, and even parents bringing their kids along to see Judas Priest.
AVIGAIL: Walking into Mt Smart I almost turned on my heels and left. I was always a bit of a wimp in the punk scene, avoiding the circle pits and screaming and serious hard shit. Faced with a wall of black band shirts and long wispy bangs I felt as if I didn’t belong now more than ever. Until my companion informed me that we could still make the Escape the Fate set and suddenly I was 14 again. From the age of 13 to 17 I was a thriving emo. I was committed; trawling MySpace for the obscurest and saddest bands, mooching around train stations waiting to go to the angriest gigs I could find. Unfortunately New Zealand doesn’t get the big punk and alternative rock festivals like Soundwave and Warped Tour. We had No Sleep Til Auckland in 2010, catering for the grittiest metal heads but Westfest is the first overarching festival to appeal to the rock genre in its diversity.
Fall Out Boy
SET-UP + ATMOSPHERE
J: There were three stages set up with acts playing on all of them throughout the day. The Monster Main Stage was amazingly set up for the headlining acts, with a good standing area and plenty of grass for those who wanted to sit down and chill out, while watching the stage on massive screens. My one criticism with the stage set-up was that when we ventured from the Ding Dong Lounge Stage to the Boom Brothers Stage, the heavy noise of Falling in Reverse could definitely be heard, threatening to drown out the beginning of Lagwagon’s performance. Aside from this, scheduling was done really well to minimize clashes and group together similar acts. One thing I always forget, and that a lot of people probably don’t know, is that hardcore shows always have the most pleasant atmosphere. For music that can sound angry and almost hateful, the fans of it are the most respectful towards other concertgoers of any genre I’ve seen. If anyone falls, they’re getting helped up. If anyone needs help, they’ll be given it. Things get far more violent at a Katy Perry concert than during anything at Westfest.
A: I enjoyed getting back into this scene but I was really missing the old Escape the Fate cum Ronnie-Radke-pre-prison-stint. However, next up was his new project, Falling in Reverse and there he was in all his sweaty glory, onstage where I’d always dreamed of seeing him before he’d sweep me off my feet to live out our dark and sensitive lives together. His boyish charm has gone, he’s put on a little bit of weight and lost the fringe that won me over but his vocals still pulled at my angry heart strings even though he had to compete with the sound from another stage. This also helped me overcome the heartbreak of arriving too late for The Devil Wears Prada (with that being the hardest stuff I was into, I apologise for the absence of an in-depth exposéon Lamb of God’s set).
A: A highlight was waiting for Faith No More among fans young, old and in an array of dress. The organizers did well with the notoriously problematic venue, placing foamy mats where the mosh pit would materialize while leaving plenty of grassy areas for older and less energetic fans to stretch out and relax. Elevator music tinkled away in the early evening sun while the band members and sound technicians carried flowers onstage in all white and surprisingly the hardliners loved it! Irony is not lost on hardcore fans so it was only appropriate that their opening track amid the idyllic scene was “Motherfucker.” Papa Roach I would definitely see again, full of energy and unlike Escape the Fate and Falling in Reverse they didn’t face trouble with their sound and weren’t drowned out by the other stages. Then the much-anticipated All Time Low in all their sugary greatness! Alex Gaskarth with side fringe still intact! Of course I melted into a squealy, jumping, yelling mess. I would have reached for my hair straighteners if I could. All the band members jumped around the stage in their tightest jeans, hugged each other a few times, gave a lecture about friendship and even invited their most diehard fans onstage to perform with them. It was a pop punk dream. The only hiccup was singer Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat’s many requests for blowjobs from their mostly preteen female audience. I took a sobering moment to ponder the gender disparity in representation and respect at Westfest and the punk scene in general. Despite this I still lost my shit when they played Dear Maria Count Me In. I was long overdue to hear that live. The big kahuna for me was Fall Out Boy. They dished out the perfect balance of classics from Take This to Your Grave, Believers Never Die and Folie à Deuxfor the dedicated fans as well as newer hits for the emerging dark youths. Everyone went crazy and threw their fists in the air and sang along to every word and for a moment relived the high school dream of breaking out of their shell and leaving all the nasty kids behind.
J: We spent the majority of our time at the Ding Dong Lounge Stage to catch snippets Escape the Fate, Falling In Reverse, Papa Roach, All Time Low and Fall Out Boy. We ventured briefly over to the Boom Brothers stage, and spent a large chunk of time at the Monster Main Stage waiting to see Faith No More (surprisingly one of my favourite acts of the day). I also figured out that I really like Papa Roach when we caught the second half of their set. (If I’m being honest, I think I never listened to them because I picture a giant cockroach whenever I hear their name and then I just laugh to myself.) They got the crowd going more than any acts I’d seen earlier and I’ve decided if they ever come back I will push thoughts of cockroaches out of my head and go see them. The biggest highlight for me wasn’t actually any of the acts themselves, but getting to revisit the time when I started really caring about music and being interested in finding new artists to listen to. We met a 15-year-old girl who let us grab a pic with her after All Time Low’s set who was nearly-in-tears-happy due to catching their drummer’s drumstick. (She also filmed multiple bands sets using a GoPro attached to a selfie stick – dedication). Seeing her reminded me of how much I used to love these bands, and even though my music taste has definitely changed since I was her age, I still remember what it was like to care so much about these people and their music. It was nice seeing the next generation start caring about music, especially when coupled with the generation before us enjoying the very same music.
Faith No More
A: I’m not ashamed to say I had the time of my life – why would I even mention shame? Fall Out Boy is cool and emo music is cool. Bogans, punks, emos, hardcore kids and everyone else in this massive community - who I’m not articulate enough to name – your scene is cool and I was wrong to feel insecure and ‘past it’ because WestFest is for self expression and catharsis. Life does really suck when you’re a raging teen but I had my music and my scene and my angry gigs and I know now that I can go back in a heartbeat. I left Westfest dead on my feet that hadn’t moshed in five years but feeling somewhat spiritually refreshed.
J: Westfest was an amazing nostalgic trip for me, returning to a strange place of pre-teen feelings and songs I hadn’t heard in years. I ended up discovering that I actually enjoyed some of the heavier bands that I really didn’t know if I’d like. I think that Westfest filled up a definite gap in the market for hardcore fans in New Zealand, especially with the loss of Big Day Out this year. Even if you only knew a few acts present, I think you’d find yourself having way more fun than you expected, and I for one hope that we’ll see a return of this festival next year.