WeedEaterAve Noctum travels far afield for this live one; all the way to my place of birth in fact – Sydney, Australia. Manning Bar at Sydney Uni is a brilliant venue and the perfect place to spend a Friday evening for an assault on the senses and an exploration of all things heavy. Weedeater are tonight’s headliners but there’s plenty in the way of warm ups.

Local band, Thorax lifts off with something that rides the border of drone and claustrophobic doom. Kallie on vocals crouches on stage and at times seems like a coiled serpent waiting to strike with her damning, growled delivery. There’s an ominous air underpinned by pounding rhythm that progressively builds through their set.

Another offering from Sydney is Lo!, who exhibit melodrama and malevolence in equal measure.  The snot nosed aura of enigmatic front man Sam Dillon is mesmerising and he has the growing crowd in the palm of his hand for the entire set. Proclaiming “this is the sludgiest this country’s gonna get”, the band are in full attack mode and there’s plenty of audience interaction with the final songs being performed on the floor amongst the punters. This is a set that seriously threatened to steal the night.

The great irony is that I live in London and have somehow always missed catching Conan live. Some people will go to any lengths, so it’s a pleasure to remedy that in this setting. There’s no disappointment either. This trio just deliver big, weighty slabs of groove. Blasting off with “Hawk As Weapon”, they crash through an intense set that doesn’t hold back. By the closer of “Earthenguard”, their work has been done and the faithful are well oiled and ready for more.

Weedeater are simply cool. A slightly psychotic pre-gig ritual announces the headline before a slab of stoner metal made for the ages. Drummer, Travis “T-Boogie” Owen is hypnotising with his kit set side-on at front and centre stage. Wild, unconventional and utterly compelling, they are pure theatre. With the cool dude, uber laid back charisma of ZZ Top but with riffs that are as organ melting as Sleep, it’s a thunderous beast of a set. “Dixie” Dave Collins on vocals has a seasoned bellow that simmers over the top of an almost voodoo ritual of a show. From the opening salvo of “Hammerhandle” and “Mancoon”, they own the Manning Bar. The set is a well balanced cross section from their 18 year career and covers earlier tracks like “Monkey Junction” through to last year’s “Goliathan”. Dave Shepherd’s huge riffs just keep on exploding right through to an encore of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Back My Bullets”.  More than anything, Weedeater are a band that are very loose, very real and it’s hard not to love them.

This was a good night with four bands each on top of their game. The Manning Bar served up a wholesome slab of heaviness that had enough variation to keep the night pumping away. The local bands more than held their own and it’s great see the faith being so well defended. However, there’s no denying that between Conan and Weedeater, I’m surprised the venue is still in one piece.

(Johnny Zed)