LIVE REVIEW: ASTOR ROCKS – Featuring Meat Puppets, Brant Bjork, Hard-Ons & more – The Astor Theatre, Perth, 2 June 2014
LIVE REVIEW: ASTOR ROCKS
The Meat Puppets, Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk, Hard-Ons,
The Astor Theatre, Perth, Monday 2 June 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Maree King
Punters are thin on the ground as ASTOR ROCKS kicks off on a gloriously Spring-ish first-long-weekend-of-the-winter Monday, but no-one’s letting that dilute the fun, least of all opening act SUN GODS. Defying categorisation with an excellent set of progish rock that features some of the best drumming we’ve seen in many an age, and as full a sound as any classic power trio, flickers of memories of The Cult, Cream, Muse and Sabbath all combine in their music.
THE COALMINER SECT provide a change of pace: Dylanesque songwriting with Bad Seeds noisescapes, Stooges riffing and all the gratuitous feedback you can eat, it’s a bludgeoning experience that’s strangely enjoyable, though too bloody loud by half.
You can’t really go wrong with THE PAINKILLERS, in all their Stooges and Stones, Dylan and The Velvets glory, WAM Hall Of Famer James Baker leading from the rear as they play great music for love and fun, and the 70 or so music lovers present lapped it all up.
There’s another change of pace over in the small room with DOCTORPUS – an aural acid trip, like The Flaming Lips-meets-Nirvana in a seedy bar as the dawn tries to break down the door. We’re pretty sure the first three rows got passively stoned from their proximity to singer Stephen Bellair as he stumbled through a set of short-sharp-shock songs, checked his phone, and cracked jokes with back-to-the-audience guitarist Jeremy Holmes and the glue that seemed to hold it all (just about) together, drummer John Lekias. Confrontingly, shambolically, cool.
HEARD OF COWS bring rock star ‘tood and tight playing to the big room, but forget catchy songs and singing. It’s all too shouty for us, which is a shame as they’ve got a lot of potential to back up their confidence.
THE SHAKEYS are just back from a successful tour of Japan and it shows as they exude presence and style, rocking hard with AC/DC-Runaways-Ramones classic rock spunk peppered with garage grit. They’re best on field so far, in fact, oozing sweaty, sassy cool as singer Claire prowls the stage and crowd like a hungry jaguar, and bassist Jess bops about, headbangs and pours beer over her head. They finish with Drinking Til Dawn, which is probably what they go off and do.
THE LOVE JUNKIES may sound like hippies on paper, but they hit us with a grunge fix during a lively set involving a lot of jumping and flailing hair. It’s enough to get the blood pumping and win over most of the crowd.
With tunes as catchy as cholera and spiky as the girls’ blonde hair, AXE GIRL deliver another superb set to the chockers smaller room. Bassist Vanessa Thornton never stands still, waving her bass around like a semaphore flag, while singer Addison Axe channels all the angular bounce and sneer of The Slits through a set climaxing with the bubblegum pop of Give Me Your T-Shirt and Diamond Rings.
With a wealth of material to choose from through an extensive solo career, work with Kyuss/Kyuss Lives/Vista Chino and a bunch of other collaborations, the night’s first out-of-town visitor Brant Bjork brings a bottom-end-heavy desert rumble with his new Low Desert Punk outfit. Listening to his uber-authentic Cali-stoner-rock is akin to having an ocean of rock crash over you repeatedly, waves of solid riffage pummelling again and again. BB & The Bros song Let The Truth Be Known was an early highlight, as was Low Desert Punk, a solo song from years ago that has now lent it’s name to his new band. Looking like a young Santana, curly black hair held in place by a wide bandana, and jamming like Steppenwolf on an extended I Miss My Chick and another new tune, Bjork enthralled the slender crowd with a stoner rock masterclass.
HARD-ONS are an institution, and for this 30th anniversary tour they’re playing a set of fan requests from their much-loved first ten years, a time when they defied genre boundaries and played poppy, punky, surfy, metally tunes that were as heavy as they were catchy. Raining, Rejected, Missing You/Missing Me are blistering fireballs of energy, vibrant and engaging as they were all those years ago, and now with singer Keish throwing shapes centre stage rather than being tethered behind his drum kit like in the old days. Made To Love You, She’s A Dish, Sit Beside You are all flashes of thunder – easily remembered cult classics that show why the band racked up seventeen #1’s on the Australian alternative charts in their heyday. Think About You Every Day, All Set To Go, the frenetic thrash of Fuck Society, Dull, stage dives, guitars played behind heads and bounced off walls, shirts ripped off in unison, and playing Girl In The Sweater early at James Baker’s request (“he’s james Baker, he can have anything he wants”) – Hard-Ons are still the same jokey jesters juggling melody and attitude and metal, before the crowd started to thin as they drifted off to see the headliners in the only real line-up clash of the day. Don’t Wanna See You Cry, Busted, There Was A Time – they just kept on coming, overwhelming some audience members who went too hard too early, and edging towards the end with a wild Kill Your Mum.
THE MEAT PUPPETS finished the show with a bang, giving long-term fans and casual onlookers a psych-rocking, trippy, good time all the way from Arizona, finishing an excellent night’s entertainment that was, unfortunately, under-attended.
An excellent line-up of cult acts that mostly put on superb shows, musically ASTOR ROCKS was a wild success, a motion which will be seconded by all who attended. Sadly though, attendees were thin on the ground, Perth music fans once again showing an idleness which has seen promoters skip WA more and more. It’ll only get worse too, when great and influential acts like the headliners here get ignored because it’s a work night, or someone’s having a barbecue that afternoon. Those of us who do shake off the lethargy and get out to see as much as we can will soon be stuck at home with nothing in the gig guide at this rate.
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE