A sea of black T-shirts, jeans and leather jackets welcomed punters at Auckland's second Westfest festival. Chris Schulz and Rachel Bache take in the darkness.

"First in Hell," said one. "Free Range Hard Core," read another. "Will you be my sacrifice to Satan?" asked a third. Then, just to nail the point home, was this one: "Heavy F****** Metal."

The sea of sloganeering - and mostly black - T-shirts that greeted punters at Mt Smart Stadium spoke volumes: this was Westfest, and if you didn't like your music loud, heavy and angry, you were in the wrong place.

Catelin Win, Kasia Kostiuk and Frankie Tocker enjoy Westfest. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald
Catelin Win, Kasia Kostiuk and Frankie Tocker enjoy Westfest. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald

A nirvana of punk, rock and various forms of metal was promised at the festival's second Auckland event, with more than 20 acts - most here on the back of Australia's Soundwave festival - spread across three stages.

Crowds were sparse early on for a bruising set by heavyweights Fear Factory, but Virginia quintet Lamb of God pulled the first sizeable crowd with a set full of chunky metal riffs and surprisingly melodic grooves.


"Look at all you people out here in the middle of the day. I want to see you all jumping ... Righteous," exclaimed singer Randy Blythe.

While Judas Priest delivered throwback '80s metal anthems and lengthy guitar solos to older Westfest fans mid-afternoon, screamo act Falling in Reverse pleased younger fans on the smaller Ding Dong Lounge stage, including several punters who moshed to their youthful angst while wearing banana onesies.

The afternoon's most erratic set came from Antemasque, the Mars Volta spin-off act that delivered a short but fiery burst on Westfest's main stage that ended with singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala kicking a speaker over and warbling the Dawson's Creek theme song. One fan celebrated in the moshpit by waving a kettle in the air.

Crowds built in the evening as punters finished work for a powerful set by Faith No More, who performed on a stage decorated in thousands of dollars worth of flowers. New songs, like Motherf*****, showed they haven't passed their use-by date just yet, but it was brooding, funk-tinged classics Epic and Last Cup of Sorrow that really bought back the '90s.

Fans rock out to metal band Lamb of God at Westfest. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald
Fans rock out to metal band Lamb of God at Westfest. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald

Afterwards, Soundgarden delivered a two-hour headlining set that delved deep into their back catalogue, as well as spanning songs from King Animal, their 2013 comeback album. But it was songs from Superunknown that got the best response, with front man Chris Cornell proving to be in fine voice as he hollered his way through memorable versions of The Day I Tried to Live and Like Suicide.

Over at the Ding Dong Lounge stage, once Papa Roach fans were left satisfied with the nu-metal band's big hits Scars and Last Resort, a small crowd gathered to hear skate-brats All Time Low. Fans chanted the band on stage, jumping and cheering to songs Lost In Stereo, Stella and A Love Like War.

"It feels nice to have a sweat with you guys" lead singer Alex Gaskarth told the audience as they continued their onslaught of distorted pop-punk power chords.
Between the nasally sung harmonies, spin-jumps and a lot of music that featured lyrics like "whoa whoa" and "nah nah nah," lead guitarist Jack Barakat made crude jokes while Gaskarth playfully told him to "shut up".

Later, emo kids-turned-modern-pop-punk-chart-toppers Fall Out Boy closed out proceedings, showing off the best front man of the day in Patrick Stump as they belted their way through new songs Centuries and Uma Thurman, frequently being drowned out by screams from their younger fans.

Depths perform at Westfest at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald
Depths perform at Westfest at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo: Nick Reed/NZ Herald

Sugar, We're Goin Down

was followed by

This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

and had the crowd singing their loudest and dancing their hardest, reminding everyone what they love about these seasoned pros, currently showing off their really-quite-good new album

American Beauty/American Psycho

. Even though the band was playing a festival set, their performance made it feel like a solo show.

The darkest, and most upsetting, act of the day was Mayhem, the Norwegian black metal band whose singer, named Attila Csihar, performed while waving a rope noose at the crowd. One guitarist wore a black hood completely covering his head, and the band's gloomy glares and grinding sludge sent shivers down the spine - and not in a good way. It felt at times less like music and more like an exorcism.

Despite lengthy queues for food and drink, toilets that bordered on unusable by dinner time, and the mostly angsty music offerings, punters seemed to be in good spirits, enjoying a rare Tuesday afternoon in the sun listening to their favourite genre of music.

Perhaps Frenzal Rhomb's extremely hungover singer Jason Whalley said it best when he told the crowd: "This is actually getting pretty good."

- Additional reporting: Rachel Bache
Where: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
When: Tuesday, March 3