"A few short years ago, selling out The Zoo would have been an achievement for these kids, but these days it's like an intimate thank-you to fans"
For the unacquainted, tonight's nominal openers Budd are no boring first-cab-off-the-rank show starters, this being the reformed original line-up of one of Brisbane's most prominent heavy bands from the '90s. Their sludgy music is still piercingly loud — volume long being one of their stock weapons — and there are touches of proto-stoner rock, swampy grunge and even metal amidst the unrelentingly brutal maelstrom. At one point someone onstage quips, "Is it loud enough?" so they're fully cognisant of the aural assault they're unleashing, probably the loudest set witnessed at The Zoo since the last time Budd set up shop here. They've just re-released 1993's seminal Yakfat EP, so tracks from it such as Cheesecake, Chopsumfuckinwood and Fuckhead all get jubilant airings, and it's great to see these seasoned campaigners back in action and giving the growing throng of suburban youngsters a much-needed ear massage.
Next up, Sydney four-piece Palms offer a far less scabrous but equally palatable offering of catchy garage nuggets, the songs vaguely punky but always imbued with an infectious warmth. Affable frontman Al Grigg (often seen around these parts playing axe with Straight Arrows) commands centre stage, flanked on his right by a guitarist who looks suspiciously like Charles Sale from Babaganouj (who does a sterling job of filling in), and they pound through a slew of catchy tracks from their impending second album, Crazy Rack. A couple of early numbers (including This Summer Is Done With Us) and newie In My Mind find Grigg channeling his inner Rivers Cuomo (we all have one), but for the most part songs like Beatdown, Sleep Too Much (which is far too catchy to support that premise) and Dinosaur Jr-gone-pop closer Bad Apple are blink-and-you'll-miss-it thrash garage gems rife with hooks, melody and a tangible laid-back charm.
There's a barely concealed sense of excitement and anticipation for the return of Mansfield's finest Violent Soho, who have been busy squirreled away of late working on the follow-up to their 2014 breakthrough opus Hungry Ghost. A few short years ago, selling out The Zoo would have been an achievement for these kids, but these days it's like an intimate thank-you to fans lucky enough to get their mitts on a precious ticket, which disappeared in no time flat upon release. They recently dropped the first taste from this impending offering — catchy earworm Like Soda — and they waste no time with pleasantries before bursting into that very song, the floor in front of them seeming to instantaneously transform into a sweaty, writhing mass of pulsing skin, sweat and hair like some grotesquely ecstatic living entity.
One can only assume that the four-piece are welcomed warmly everywhere they set foot these days, but there's a special sense of parochial hometown pride on display tonight that just couldn't be replicated elsewhere, like this bunch of down-to-earth rockers are representing the punters of Brisbane at their every pursuit. The response when they kick into Neighbour Neighbour — a standalone single not even on one of their albums — is overwhelming and you quickly start to get a handle on the devotion we're dealing with here. The prominent 'no crowd surfing' signs on display around the venue are routinely ignored from the get-go (although there's no fight dancing to be seen so at least that warning was absorbed), and there's mass singalongs and even some rad air guitar on offer as they move onto the crowd-unifying Lowbrow. Frontman Luke Boerdam is in fine fettle - his voice piercing the packed room's confines with ease - and the band's massive stoner skull logo overlooks proceedings from behind the stage as guitarist James Tidswell and bassist Luke Henery thrash around with complete abandon, the way they seem to love these songs as much as anyone in the room completely endearing and adding to the band's massive appeal.
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At this juncture they choose to throw another new song into the mix, How To Taste, and it's epic and engrossing from the very first listen as Boerdam pleads and cajoles and bares his soul in the most convincing of fashions. In The Aisle is next to be uncaged and as ever it's driving and upbeat with its inherently positive message and impossibly catchy chorus, Tidswell giving mad props to Budd in an extended shout-out before they drop the pace but not the intensity, highlighting some nuance with the cruisy double of Saramona Said and Fur Eyes, in the process showcasing this band's brilliant duality and ability to switch from brute force to velvet caress without skipping a beat. Skinsman Michael Richards flails away with his usual soulful precision and enthusiasm behind his bandmates, another potent new track, Evergreen, being unveiled to the throng of fervent acolytes below them before a furious rendition of Love Is A Heavy Word returns us to more familiar propulsive parallels.
Suddenly, the familiar intro to Covered In Chrome kicks in and every conversation in the room halts simultaneously as all eyes and minds turn to the tsunami of flailing hair and wall of mountainous rock'n'roll pouring from the stage, the 'Hell fuck yeah!' refrain belted with fervent gusto by hundreds of people at once like some strange human art installation. The Soho boys have become so adulated yet remain so unaffected, like some perfect rock'n'roll fantasy of the little band that could, and they finish a brilliant hometown showing with the lazily anthemic Dope Calypso, the perfect end to the triumphant set proper.
For a brief moment recorded music comes over the PA and it seems the unthinkable might happen and there will be no encore, but soon enough the crowd whips itself into a frenzy which can't be ignored and four familiar figures re-enter the fray, Boerdam offering a choice of Tinderbox or Jesus Stole My Girlfriend before deigning to play both when unable to split the crowd's ecstatic reaction to each proffered option. They tear Jesus... a new one despite their protestations of not having played it in ages, then demolish Tinderbox as well (despite some guitar troubles which Tidswell rectifies while leading the crowd in the '4122' chant that's become this band's calling card). All in all, it's just one of those nights where the ludicrous amount of love in the room is only surpassed by the brilliant rock'n'roll thrown forth to fan the flames of desire, a heady mix of pride and passion. Hell fuck yeah indeed.