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Live Review + Gallery: Violent Soho, Sydney 2016

Violent Soho / DZ Deathrays / Dune Rats / The Gooch Palms
Enmore Theatre, Sydney 26/05/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Billy Zammit

Shaky legalities be damned, marijuana is one of Earth’s most invaluable resources. Since as early as 2700 BC, the little shrub that could has been used for an effectively infinite list of incentives: to aide with the treatment of cancers and serious illness, as a carbon-friendly resource to produce textiles such as fabric and paper, and to get fucking ripped at Violent Soho gigs. At 6:30pm on a Thursday evening, Newtown was awash in the welcoming smell synonymous with Mansfield’s finest. We settled into the warm embrace of a sold-out Enmore Theatre, and for the next five hours, this was our sticky, sweaty and smoke-infused home.

The night kicked off to a loose start with Novocastrian duo The Gooch Palms. Channeling equal parts TISM and early Ramones, the two-piece revelled in bright, shiny guitar pop lacquered in the shamelessly thick bogan accents that haven’t been properly realised since the mid-’80s. Nauseatingly simple and repetitive structures meant that a majority of their songs would quickly run stale, but that hardly proved a barrier when it came to losing our shit – those who weren’t frozen in a polarised state were busting dance moves that could make Grease look like a primary school play. Cuts from the forthcoming Introverted Extroverts stood out amidst the setlist, “Trackside Daze” and “Ask Me Why” especially drilling in the ‘fired members of Hi-5 make a rock band’ vibe.

Dune Rats had a headliner-worthy turnout of their own, the Brissy garage punks storming out guns (and blunts) blazing in “Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana” to an audience splashing tinnies and spraining ankles with unapologetic passion. Vicariously was that carefree ardour reflected in the trio themselves – it was only four songs in that frontman Danny Beausa smashed down the night’s first shoey, his tenor otherwise white hot with a raspy pseudo-slur. BC Michaels – or ‘Big Schnitty’, according to bassist Brett Jansch – was at the top of his game on drums, snares popping harder than 75% of those pinging out amongst us. A grubby skate punk cover of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun” reeled even the most lifeless of 9-to-5ers into a theatre-wide circle pit, only falling second in its scuzzy, amped up and all-over rapturous energy to closing banger “Bullshit”.

Rounding out the pre-show program were the fellow maroons in DZ Deathrays. Where previous bands shimmered in viscous buoyancy and scrappy punk liveliness, theirs is a darker, less merciful tint of caustic yell and chainsaw riffage. Opening cut “Less Out Of Sync” barrelled through the theatre as a sonic blast of cannon fire, an unrestrained mosh breaking out as vocalist Shane Parsons chugged away on its sour chorus. What they lack in energy, the outfit (a duo by trade, rounded out with touring axeman Lachlan Ewbank) made up for with grungy minute-long guitar solos and scorching bouts of kick-drum mayhem, all erupted in a flurry of hair that just screamed “\m/”. Recent single “Blood On My Leather” was a highlight with its punchy mid-section, but it’s the concert classic “Gina Works At Hearts” and a thus-untitled new jam that truly had the Enmore sweating.

There was never a doubt that Violent Soho‘s grand induction to the stage would be anything short of spectacular. The first few notes of “How To Taste” gently trickled out from behind a curtain – which flickered blood red in the band’s near-iconic emblem – before Luke Boerdam’s legendary “YEAAAAAH!!” made it piercing loud and crystal clear: this is the real fucking deal. It’s been a while since the Brisbane boys were rolling through house shows and PCYC bills, but in the time that’s passed, not much has changed of their raw, easygoing artistry – all of the earnest thrashing and visible love for their art was duly intact, only enhanced in its poignancy by the full-scale strobe display and mammoth stage setup.

Still, the transition from mouldy basement to sold-out theatre is one that Soho have made with potent strength. “Evergreen” ricocheted off the walls in all of its Fooeys-esque fervency, along with other WACO cuts “Like Soda” and “So Sentimental”, while old favourites like “Neighbour Neighbour”, “Dope Calypso” and “Son Of Sam” felt cathartically marvellous in a larger-than-life setting. One particularly arena-level moment came when – four songs in, no less – Boerdam’s scratchy yells were switched out with the pensive hum found nestled only in a Smithies scorcher. A fluster of double-takes from a naturally startled crowd led to a single lime-green spotlight homing in on Wil Wagner, the faithfully acidic opening of “In The Aisle” traded for his dulcet one-guitar cover version. Soho jammed out as a quintet from there in a moment that will doubtlessly cement itself in both bands’ histories.

Gentler moments got their time in the spotlight too – though it didn’t quite reach the highs of the effortlessly chantable “Viceroy” before it, “Saramona Said” was unforgettable in its simply hypnotic lighter-sway melancholy. “Fur Eyes” and “OK Cathedral” built upon it in a sort of somber triple un-threat, before waking those of us that’d dozed away with a reminder of why we were here in the first place: for life-affirmingly epic mosh jams like “Blanket” and “Covered In Chrome” – and yes, we all screamed that line at the top of our lungs. Stage banter was all but nonexistent – as was an encore – but that felt more refreshing than disappointing (lack of “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” aside). They let a single 70-minute set do the talking, and oh, did it have some stories.

When all is said and done, we can’t help but feel that Violent Soho are a decade or two late to the party – if this were 2001, we’d have just stumbled out of a 30,000-strong stadium crowd. They do ‘90s grunge better than most ‘90s grunge bands, and the slick of modern punk only throws fuel onto the fire. They sound like a Pepsi in one hand and a stout in the other; like the questionable trampolines and tire swings of our youth, except we jumped on them as adults and totally obliterated them – but had a fucking great time nonetheless. Pair that with DZ Deathrays (who sound like a punch to the dick from Satan himself), Dune Rats (who sound like a shoey) and The Gooch Palms (who sound like a lifetime ban from ABC Kids HQ) and yeah, nah, the WACO tour was a pretty decent success.

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