I Met My Favourite Band Killing Heidi – and it was Glorious

WARNING: Unabashed fanboying ahead.

It’s an old maxim delivered to the young and starry-eyed with regularity: never meet your heroes.

The implication is, of course, that the idols you cherish for their sporting prowess, acting talent or musical genius may not necessarily be the nicest people. In fact, they could be rampant arseholes. The Internet is replete with stories of fans who’ve met with their heroes only to have their perceptions shattered with cold indifference or blatant rudeness; or, on the other hand, fans who get starstruck and embarrass themselves.

I am so glad I never listened to this old axiom, because I met my heroes a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of the best moments of my life.

These particular heroes of mine aren’t my literary idols, by the way. They are an Aussie alternative rock band – my favourite band – and they are called Killing Heidi.

I should probably back up.

I grew up in a country town and as a kid I felt quite isolated and alone. I don’t mean geographically isolated – although my hometown Geraldton is four hundred k’s from the state capital, and close to nothing else except the Indian Ocean. I don’t mean literally alone, either, because I grew up in a family of eight and with truckloads of Italian cousins, so people weren’t exactly hard to come by.

No, I grew up feeling isolated and alone in the sense that I had a creative, artistic, sensitive, ponderous, powerful element to my personality, and I didn’t know what it was or what to do with it or where it belonged. I knew I wanted to become a writer from this young age, but I had no concept of how to get there: from country boy to published writer seemed an impossible step. From where I started, actually crafting a career as a fair dinkum author seemed about as likely as making it as a rockstar.

Enter Killing Heidi.

This angsty teenage rock band from country Victoria formed the soundtrack to my teenage years. I can’t remember the first time I heard their debut hit Weir (1999) – a massive teen anthem – but I can recall the first time I heard their number 1 track Mascara. It was early in the year 2000 – February or March – and I was eleven years old. We were in Perth to pick my sister up from the airport, and while we waited around the hotel room in Belmont, this super cool music video was on TV with this awesome, melodic song thumping over the top, all giant riffs and bouncy synths.

I was entranced. Mascara became my favourite song. It was all about being different, not conforming, being yourself … self-empowerment and individuality. I identified. Even though I didn’t have the words for it at that age, I knew I was a bit of a weirdo. It was nice to know someone on the radio knew what that was like. There was a wordless understanding.

I had an obsession for a few months – I did a school project on Killing Heidi and their first album, despite not yet owning it. Then my twelfth birthday came around, and my brother gave me a CD for my present.

“It’s that song from that band you like,” he grunted.

I opened it with excitement, to find an unfamiliar CD single. It was Beauty Queen by Perth rock band Lash. Ohh, I thought, my heart plummetting. Lash. Mascara. I can see how my brother got confused. I was crushed, but just said thanks and went on with playing Pokemon: Yellow. (Incidentally, Lash totally wailed.)

I guess, being that age, I moved on to the next obsession, never got Reflector, and trundled along for a few years – until I hit a snag.

I was about sixteen when I got mired in a massive pit of depression. I knew what normal awkward teenagehood felt like, and this shit was worse. Impenetrable black. I eventually didn’t want to be on this planet anymore.

Around that time, Killing Heidi released their self-titled third album (2004). Recalling how much I’d loved their music as a younger kid, I begged for their new album for Christmas, and got it (the right CD this time). That album introduced me, properly, to the world of rock music. Moreover, the lyrics spoke of pain, anger, hurt, reflection, fear, freedom and self-determination … and it struck a chord.

I quickly got myself copies of Reflector and Present, their second album, and Killing Heidi became my favourite band. The music and lyrics on their three albums got me through the worst and darkest years of my life, and have stayed with me ever since – inspiring me, pumping me up, spurring me on.

In 2006, the band broke up, and though I caught them live a few times over the years (2006, as an acoustic duo, and 2009, as The Verses), I was hanging out to see the real-deal plugged-in Killing Heidi I grew up with.

Seeing the band at the Astor Theatre in Perth on June 2nd as part of their national reunion tour was a total trip. I went along with my partner and one of my best mates. Neither of them had seen me quite so hyperactive before: I felt transported back to my youth, so excited for the meet-and-greet session before the show.

About thirty or forty fans lined up for the meet and greet. The first pair went through the rippling black curtain to meet the band. I figured it would be like when you meet actors at Supanova or ComicCon: you say g’day, maybe a couple of sentences, they take your photo and whisk you away.

This wasn’t like that.

The first pair were with the band for a good five minutes. So were the second pair.

“This band are so nice,” the security guard told us as we waited to go in next. “You work with a lot of different bands over the years, but these guys are nice to everyone – the crew, all the staff, the fans – everyone.”

He wasn’t wrong. The members of Killing Heidi were the nicest people I’ve ever met at a meet and greet – and I’ve been to quite a few. I met Perth-born drummer Adam Pedretti, guitarist Jesse Hooper, and his sister, lead singer Ella Hooper. We chatted. We hugged. We got to talk about the band, their music, how much it meant to me growing up. I suggested they release a Greatest Hits already (which they totally should). We talked some more, about their other projects. We got a few photos. They signed my copy of Reflector. It was ace.

I left the room on a cloud.

Then we saw the band live, and they were everything I’d hoped for. This was a full electric show, and Killing Heidi rocked out hard, and I was front row. Reflector songs got heavy play – unexpectedly, even deep cuts like Real People and Astral Boy which I was so glad to hear live – and Ella nailed all the notes. They also played all the singles from the other two albums, and even a Verses song and an Ella Hooper solo number (Monkey Mind, which was rockier and incredible live).

But for me, the most poignant moment was when they played their 1996 song, Kettle.

Ella and Jesse Hooper were 13 and 16 respectively when their first song Kettle won radio station Triple J’s Unearthed competition in 1996. They were an acoustic duo from Violet Town in Victoria – a place much smaller than Geraldton, if not quite as remote. A few years later, their debut album Reflector (2000) became a massive sensation across Australia. Reflector became the fastest-selling album in Australian history, going four times platinum, and making them massive rock stars.

Their success story is so well-known, and their triumph over the pop charts seemed so instantaneous, that it never seemed like there had been any hard yards for the band in reaching their zenith.

But that night at the Astor gig, Ella reflected on their humble beginnings. How they were two no-name teenagers from a little country town with a single song. How Ella thought it was big-headed of her brother Jesse to submit the song to Triple J, because how would they ever make it, really?

“I don’t wanna get all ‘footprints in the sand’ on you guys,” Ella told the crowd at the Astor. “But if you have a big dream, go for it. You might just make it.”

I’m paraphrasing, because I was transfixed at that moment and forget her exact words, which were probably more poetic. But her words felt, to me, like motivation. And confluence.

If two ambitious kids from Violet Town can make in the end (through all the twists and bends …), maybe I can, too.

I am so glad I met my heroes, because they gave me the same joy and strength in real life that their music and lyrics have given me for years. And the inspiration to keep going.

I’m going to make it.

Holden

</fanboy>

Wonder Woman is the Best DCEU Film So Far. Here’s Why. [SPOILERS]

The weight of expectation on the release of this month’s Wonder Woman film was enough to buckle the shoulders of even the sturdiest Amazon warrior.

The overlords of the DC Extended Universe would have been holding their breath for this release. After the lukewarm reception to 2012’s Man of Steel, the critical and fan backlash to the abysmal (and dull) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and that same year’s hot mess of reshoots, rewrites and re-cuts, Suicide Squad, they needed a genuine win.

It wasn’t just a case of turning a juicy profit for the studio fat cats, either. Like the eponymous heroine, Wonder Woman had to be nimble and agile, walking a number of tightrope acts. The film couldn’t be too dark, or it risked being lumped in the BvS basket of boredom; too light and fluffy, and fans looking for gritty superhero realism wouldn’t want to see it.

Even Wonder Woman’s costume reflects that tension: though much darker, armour-like and practical than Lynda Carter’s 1970s spandex, her gear is still significantly brighter and reflective of hope than her appearance in BvS.

There were also aggro Twitter politics to be danced around: Wonder Woman had to somehow placate both feminist and anti-feminist audiences. Feminsts were already concerned about issues ranging from female agency through to the more trivial matter of the protagonist’s underarm hair (or lack thereof). In the red corner, anti-feminists were waiting in the wings to deride any female-led film that played into cloying social-justice sensibilities, as with the notorious kerfuffles around the critically-panned 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.

Somehow, perhaps as only a princess of Themyscira could, Wonder Woman ducks and weaves the hail of bullets from awaiting critics, impresses them all, and emerges stronger than ever.

Wonder Woman is a superb film.

More importantly, this film is actually really fun – and that isn’t true for any DCEU film thus far.

The movie opens in modern-day Paris, where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), now working at the Louvre, receives an aging photograph from Bruce Wayne. Diana recalls her past: specifically, the events that led to the photograph in question. Born on the mystical Greek island of Themyscira, an island populated solely by females – and female warriors, at that – Diana is trained to become the strongest warrior of them all.

Trained by her aunt, Antiope (an impressive Robin Wright), and guided by a protective mother (Connie Nielsen), Diana masters the ways of the Amazon. She learns the mythology of her people, too: that the wars of the past were caused by the Greek god of war, Ares, and that his return may be inevitable.

Cue the unexpected arrival of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a captain from the United States Army Air Service, who crash-lands a plane near the protected island, opening Diana’s eyes to the world beyond. Learning that the entire world is in the throes of the fourth year of World War I, and believing Ares to be at the core of it, Diana enters wartime Europe to help end the war; Steve, needing her help, allows her to join him.

What follows is one of the more memorable superhero tales in recent memory. Transposing the story to the 1918 setting is a stroke of genius by the film’s writer Allan Heinberg: the curious mix of power and innocence that radiates from Diana is juxtaposed perfectly with the era’s suffragette politics. Gal Gadot is not just radiant, but convincing: she deftly runs the gamut of charming, likeable protagonist and unyielding Amazon warrior powerhouse.

In fact, her heroic qualities reverberate in the sky-shattering guitar riff that has become rapidly well-known as Wonder Woman’s new theme music. Several powerful scenes in this film – both the high-octane and the poignant – gave me shivers, and this leads to the film’s biggest power.

Wonder Woman is an earnest film that actually gives the audience hope; the heroine inspires the viewers. The film doesn’t deflate its meaningful moments with poorly-timed comic relief; nor does it pretend, as BvS did, that it’s too cool and aloof to deal with genuine emotion. Certain moments hit you squarely in the feels: this superhero talks about her belief in love, and in an era of rapid-fire quips and dark broodiness, this resonates.

Gadot isn’t the only stellar actor in the cast. Pine is brilliant as her love interest, Steve, making the most of his playful, perfectly-pitched comic moments. He also enjoyed a fairly drawn-out “nude” scene in which he which boosted his credentials as bona fide beefcake and delivered some top-shelf innuendo (“I’m above average …” he tells Diana – with just enough boyish charm to avoid being crass).

Supporting actor David Thewlis (AKA Professor Remus Lupin) does an impressive job as Sir Patrick Morgan, while Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) is a delight for audiences. Sameer (Saïd Tachmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) round out the good guys as a trio of likeable rogues – though all three characters feel like they could’ve been explored more had the story not been as tight.

Only the villains seem to be reading from a different script: Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his mad-scientist sidekick Dr Maru (Elena Anaya) come off a little cartoonish. The dilapidated lab with beakers everywhere is a little cliché, and given the two are cooking up mustard gas to wipe out civilians, those scenes surely could have been taken a little more seriously? It clashes with how soberly we are invited to view the scene of the village actually being bombed with the gas.

And as good as this film was, I can’t have been the only one who walked out of the cinema wondering why the evil Germans didn’t speak bloody German among themselves? Given that director Patty Jenkins wasn’t afraid to expose subtitle-averse audiences to a multilingual exchange between Diana and Sameer, why avoid the subtitles with Ludendorff and his cronies? Please explain.

That said, Jenkins’ direction is exquisite. I wouldn’t be surprised to see fan campaigns to oust Zack Snyder as director of any further DC films and replace him with Jenkins. Hell, I might join them. Jenkins is talented, and her interviews show that she isn’t just pandering to the fandom; rather, she has her own vision and it is aligned with the audience – something Snyder has failed to master.

The only thing missing from this movie? Nobody actually called Diana “Wonder Woman”. A deliberate decision, perhaps, but at least a wink to the name would’ve felt appropriate.

Wonder Woman is a triumph, and it may be the turning point DC desperately needed. Roll on, Justice League.