Live Review: Dig It Up! - Sydney

23 April 2012 | 3:12 pm | Danielle O'Donohue

The Sonics. Co-ordinated garage dance routines from The Fleshtones. The Sonics. Spencer P Jones does Kanye. The Sonics. Hoodoo Gurus do Stone Age Romeos. The Sonics. Sunnyboys reformed.

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The old adage is you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But the bands that made up the line-up of the weekend's Dig It Up! festival didn't need new tricks. They remembered plenty from back in the day.

The Enmore was venue ground zero for this novel approach to a festival with Notes, The Green Room and The Sly Fox serving as the three other stages for the day. And even early when a festival crowd is usually pretty sparse, The Fleshtones had the Enmore floor packed. It didn't take long to see why. The New Yorkers high-kicked their way through a very energetic set of garage rock. Garage and power-pop were the over-riding genres of the day, but they took on a wide variety of forms. The brand The Fleshtones played was wonderfully flashy – the guitarist and bass player kept disappearing into the crowd and at one stage were doing circles around the stage, locked together playing the left hand of each other's instruments.

Secret band Kids In Dust, really Sunnyboys, were almost the polar opposite of flashy. Looking like they had just come from a suburban BBQ – and with a rock'n'roll crèche side of stage – these local lads were treated by the Enmore crowd like heroes, with their beautifully melodic power-pop getting the biggest cheers all day. Though the band themselves were making jokes about their lack of rehearsal, songs such as Happy Man and Australian classic Alone With You still sounded great.

Tek & Younger plugged into a much more sonically aggressive vibe, but after the thrill of seeing Sunnyboys it seemed a lot of the crowd decided to use this time to check out other venues. Over in The Green Room – the home of the comedy – Damien Lovelock was giving the crowd a spoken word treat, regaling the story of his 1968 under-15 Rugby League victory and how he spent it a vivid shade of orange thanks to his naiveté and a bottle of Tan Man, while Spencer P Jones was packing them into the Sly Fox with his sharp electric guitar-based songwriting.

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Back at the Enmore, Redd Kross proved why they've recently spent time back in the studio recording an album. Their set bristled with an electricity that hasn't diminished in the more than 30 years since they formed. With those McDonald brothers harmonies, plus Steve McDonald firing off those killer basslines, songs such as Lady In The Front Row, Jimmy's Fantasy and Follow The Leader were the highlights of a ripper set.

Dig It Up! wasn't just a look back at the past, though. Royal Headache are a young Sydney band that are generating a lot of buzz and even watching a few songs of their electrifying set was enough to see why. Singer Shogun stalked around the stage with the intensity of a boxer, while his band played furiously around him. When he opened his mouth, though the words were delivered like he was a hardcore vocalist or a rapper, the melodies and timbre were deceptively sweet, like the Buzzcocks by way of The Beatles.

It was an odd moment to walk into the Sly Fox to hear Kanye West's Runaway being somewhat sardonically dropped by Kim Salmon with Spencer P Jones backing him up on guitar, but it was one of those days.

Japanese ladies The's left Notes patrons wishing they were as cool and smooth as characters in Quentin Tarantino films. The rhythm section hit the spot, but singer/guitarist Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama was far too tentative and uncertain for their set to catch fire.

There was nothing tentative about The Sonics. American contemporaries of The Beatles, The Sonics took a little while to completely lock into their groove, but once they did, their vintage rock'n'roll delighted the crowd. Saxophone and keys drenched everything in warm, soulful tones, while bassist Freddie Dennis had a great, straight-up, rock'n'roll voice. He shared vocal duties with original frontman Gerry Roslie on classics such as The Witch, Louie Louie, Have Love Will Travel and Lucille.

Playing Stoneage Romeos – possibly the best ever Australian debut – Hoodoo Gurus had pulled the original guitars out of their cases and frontman Dave Faulkner was even wearing his Le Hoodoo Gurus furry fringe jacket. Mixing up the order of the album, but beginning with album opener (Let's All) Turn On, the 'Gurus proved that a great album will always be a great album. These songs still sparkled with the right mix of rock grunt and glistening hooks. The kitsch over-the-top beat of Leilani balanced out the retro swing of Arthur, while the four-to-the-floor rev of Tojo complemented the mellow lounge of Zanzibar.

For a band as self-aware as the 'Gurus though, even Faulkner was happy to acknowledge that In The Echo Chamber is the weakest link on Stoneage Romeos, telling people to get a breath of fresh air while they gave it a run. For completists though, the album just wouldn't be the same without this tale of being a human experiment for an unsound engineer.

It was a day to celebrate fuzzy power-pop and bristling garage rock. Sure, the audience reflected back the white hair and paunches that dominated the stage, but there were still glimpses of the same kind of energy and passion for the genres from the young bands that littered the stages.