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Live Review: OFF!, Bloody Hammer & Batpiss

29 January 2013 | 9:18 am | Izzy Tolhurst

No encore plays, and no encore is needed. OFF! know how to carry themselves off with dignity.

Many speak of the unabridged talent of those supporting LA punk band OFF! at their Melbourne Big Day Out sideshow, and Batpiss affirm such rumours by inducing similar responses that a bat actually pissing in your eye might. That is, a concentrated, squinted glance, boiled blood, thoroughly improved rage and then overwhelming appreciation at its skill level for having directed the acrid fluid so precisely into your eye. Playing an extremely tight set, the crowd exhibits appreciation, and by 8.45pm there's already enough leather, Black Sabbath merch and flat-brim caps for a punk to feel genuinely at home and to ensure Batpiss are met with rapturous applause. Second to the stage are Bloody Hammer, who, with their mid-pace punk, garner the same enthusiasm and raised fists from the gathered.

OFF! lead man Keith Morris initially addresses the crowd from behind closed curtains, suggesting they could play out their set from behind the drawn cloth, completely naked. Thankfully not a reality, when Morris can be seen in full (clothed) glory, he issues a warning, saying that for his show there will be, “no dipshittery, no violence and no douchbaggery.”

Expecting little in the way of poetic gestures at a hardcore gig, there is definitely a theatrical element to the punk outfit's show, with guitarist Dimitri Coats and bassist Steven Shane McDonald moving like tremendous waves back and forth as if parting for their musical Moses – a shorter-than-imagined Morris.

This leader among mortals, also of Black Flag and Circle Jerks, definitely issues his own sermon on the mount too, insisting that the crowd “stay nice” and look after each other, in order to change a deeply rooted perception that punk fans are “stupid”. Morris also wears with pride his rare and admirable dreadlocked comb over, abbreviated tidily to “dromb over” by surrounding punters.

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Further eavesdropping results in overhearing the idea that good punk should be raw, free and care not for imperfections in sound, volume or reverb. While OFF! sound unified and well balanced, it is not without the spirit, spontaneity and energy that these onlookers speak of. With their 2012 self-titled debut containing 16 songs at only about a minute each, songs play in explosive clusters of four or five at a time. No encore plays, and no encore is needed. OFF! know how to carry themselves off with dignity.