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Live Review + Photos: Violent Soho, Sydney 2016

Tired Lion / Luca Brasi / The Bronx / Violent Soho
The Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 29/10/2016
Review & Photos: Peter Zaluzny

“Putting police at the gates of a Violent Soho show is just wrong.” This may have been the most accurate half-conversation overhead while shuffling through the gates before a gig. See, when Soho came to Sydney, with mates Tired Lion, Luca Brasi and The Bronx in tow, the authorities probably should have stepped aside for one evening. There’s just something about the Mansfield boys that brings out the weird side in people, and no amount of control, including an attempted crackdown on copious marijuana consumption, could change that.

Maybe it was the all ages thing? Maybe that’s just the way their fans are. In any case, the signs were all there from the start. When you walk into a 5000 capacity venue that’s close to selling out, playing host to one of the hottest Australian acts around, you can feel the positive tension. The throng of dedicated fans just, waiting for the chance to rip their shirt off, scream at the sky and mosh themselves into the ground. It’s like a balloon that’s still stretching, well-beyond the bursting point. No disrespectful behaviour of course, but when energy and excitement build up and overflow, things can get, well, weird.

Not long into Tired Lion’s opening set, the strangeness started to unfold. A few hundred hardcores flocked in to sing along with the old-school inspired indie alt-rockers, who blend fuzz and light sludge with frontwoman Sophie Hopes’ grunge-punk vocals into some heavy, harmonized shit you can dance to. Calm and confident on stage, Tired Lion eased everyone into the evening, without overdoing it on the stage antics – exactly what you want in an opener. The crowd showed their gratitude by screaming requests, getting “their nips out,” and throwing shoes, socks and a shirt on stage. “One of my favourite things to get thrown is a bra,” Hopes joked. People laughed, but no one delivered. She didn’t seem to mind.

At least the Luca Brasi crowd behaved the way you’d expect them to. Hard, fast (except for the slower songs), brutally honest punk cuts performed by a band who couldn’t wipe the stupidly excited grins off their faces, was met with a hard, fast, feel-good mosh. A taster of the night’s impending anarchy. Watching the fans enthusiastically lap up the tight set, as well as front man Tyler Richardson’s tendon popping performance and twitchy “dance moves,” really drove home just how hard these guys have worked since coming together. “Thank you for making four very hung over guys from Tasmania very happy,” Richardson said at the end of the set, with barely a puff of air left in his lungs. That’s okay Luca Brasi, you’ve earned it.

But things hadn’t hit full crazy, oh no, because next, ladies and gentlemen, were the god damn Bronx out of L.A., California. Five hardcore punks with an insanely charismatic singer, and a shameless love for Sydney walked on stage to a mighty roar. The pit was teetering on the edge of an explosion, just waiting for the fuse to ignite. When the first chords struck, and Matty Caughthran let out a raw, piercing scream, the bubbling anticipation blew through the roof. When a band doesn’t stop, the crowd doesn’t stop, and they end up in a war of energetic enthusiasm that goes up and up and up until one of them has to give. Over the course of the 50-minute set, neither side was willing to back down.

“Come on Sydney! Get up. Get up! Get on your feet!” Caughthran constantly demanded participation from the men and women of Sydney, at one point requesting that the ladies show the boys how to crowd surf after beers flew from the stage into the pit. “All the motherfuckers in the house say yeah!” he shouted, one of many feel-good tomes straight from the gospel according to Bronx, delivered between the likes of “Six Days A Week,” “White Guilt” and wild-mosh favourite “Knifeman.”

Then, towards the end of the set, Caughthran turned to the crowd and asked “where the punk rockers at? Where the punks at?” All of a sudden, he was climbing into the heart of punter land. “Make way for the king,” he quipped, before running around singing and screaming, 100-metre mic cable in tow. What followed was an army of sweaty, limping Bronx soldiers emerging from the venue, with at least one bearing a cracked and bloody elbow, and another looking after a broken hand. Honestly, by the time Soho came on, the side just below the pinkie finger had swollen to the size of a water bomb.

Watching The Bronx was as much a celebration of life as it was an act of pure party punk pit survival, that made a Category 5 cyclone look like a sunny day at the park. And yet somehow, the best, and strangest, was yet to come. It made sense though, after all, when you see a young man in a Smith Street shirt, slamming a shoey on someone’s shoulders while “You’re The Voice” blasts over the P.A., you can’t expect anything less than utter bedlam.

It held off for a moment. The opening notes to “Dope Calypso” reverberated through the hall, while thousands leaned forward in preparation for the simultaneous call to action. Then, as the band came to life and distorted guitars tore speakers to shreds, a huge banner fell revealing the Soho logo beneath a blast of hot light. Religious? No, but when the pent up excitement on stage and off, finally broke away from its leash, the night turned into one of those legendary “you had to be there” shows.

As Soho dug deeper and deeper into the two-pronged attack that is 2013’s Hungry Ghost and its follow-up, WACO, circle-pits spun three at a time, clothes, caps and cups of beer frequently flew into the sky, and shoeys went down left, right and centre. Early respite came when the crowd stopped jumping, just so they could spare their energy to sing along with “Like Soda.” But once that gnarly riff cut through the vocals, the chaos kicked-off again, bringing a new wave of crowd-surfers along for the ride. One particularly determined young lad went over at least 15 times in nothing but a pair of underwear. Credit where credit is due, however – he managed to recover his pants later that night.

Outsiders may bat eyelids, but this manic participation is the kind of thing you get with Soho fans. A crazy dedication that demands you know all the words to “In The Aisle,” that you know to slow it down and sway when the shoegazey tones of “Fur Eyes” ripple by, and that you know exactly what the band means when they dedicate “Love is a Heavy Word” to those that were there before Hungry Ghost. For these kids, the terms are reasonable, no matter how hard it is to push through a hot, sweaty mosh, just so they can get to the front during “Viceroy.”

Soho encouraged the insanity. You got the sense that they would have been right down there in the pit at any other show, beers in both hands, thrashing up a storm. But even though Soho had a legion of fans hanging on every riff, they acted like a bunch of boys having fun at the pub. Sure, they knew how to work a massive room, but where other bands may have let the fame rush to their head, Soho wore their excitement on their sleeves. Excitement, and honesty, as they later confessed that the “encore” was nothing more than a chance “to take a piss.”

That’s what fuels the weird. There’s no shame at a Soho show, unless you’re the guy that pretended to drop his pants atop his mates’ shoulders. “Well go on, take your pants off mate,” said one of the band members. Turns out its hard to say no to a request backed up by almost 5000 people, and even harder to climb into a mosh with your junk on display and jeans around your ankles. Unfazed, and amused, Soho rolled into “Tinderbox” before closing with the song adopted by young rockers, skaters and stoners who’s only goal in life is to tear shit to shreds and party hard – “Covered in Chrome.”

The anthemic nature of the “yeah, yeah, yeahs” (the words, not the art-rock band), the columns of smoke that blasted into the air every time Soho roared back into the chorus, this is the point where you generally think “they’ve made it.” Yeah, they’re on their way, well and truly, but The Hordern Pavilion show was not an example of the band at their peak. It was a watershed moment for Soho, one that will go down as a turning point for an extremely talented band, that’s only halfway through their inevitable climb to the top.

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