If you told someone you were off to catch a covers band they would think nothing of it unless you told them it was a sold out event. Surely that would raise a few eyebrows. Tonight, however, involved the covers band of covers bands.
To get things rolling we had two local acts showing some of the punk Sydney has to offer. There weren’t many on the floor to begin with but that would soon change.
Hailing from Newcastle were noisy three-piece Rort Menace, mainly focusing on their latest effort Reid’s Mistake (2017) tonight, which was recorded and produced by Jay Whalley (Frenzal Rhomb, The Neptune Power Federation) at The Pet Food Factory.
Although it’s hard to understand any words, whilst talking to the crowd and with lyrics, it is easy to understand the tightness of the musicians. Zac Graham goes ballistic behind the kit, barely taking a breath as both Will and Madeleine Mitchell take turns in screams, bouncing off each other with fat riffs sure to rip the roof off the Theatre making for one hell of a way to wake up punters, taking the opening slot.
Next on the bill were Bondi lads, New Trends, showing the punk side of hardcore punk as opposed to Rort Menace before them. The style of punk played seemed an ode to old-school punk, with a Misfits singlet, worn by bassist, G.G.Gallin, surely not a fashion statement.
Elements of Murphy’s Law, H20 and Black Flag spilt from the guitar notes and melodies which were sung in harmony by every member with a mic before them. Frontman, Mike guzzled down a can of bourbon as he ran around the stage, throwing his leather jacket off after a song or two, not wanting to go down from heat exhaustion as the band were on fire tonight.
Gimmie Everything (2015) saw the majority of the set with the likes of “Gimmie Action”, “I Wanna”, “Fall Away”, a song about all being the same at the end of the day with, “I Don’t Care” and “Bloodstains” a song about skating and surfing. Closing a somewhat tight set, with the final track, “Sonic Reducer”, from the aforementioned album, the boys enjoyed themselves tonight as did the crowd.
If anything the set was a bit on the long side for an up and coming punk outfit. Rort Menace was short and sweet just under half an hour, whereas anything over that can tend to drag a tad. Earning many new fans tonight, this writer included, this is not a bad thing as the reason we were all here tonight was surely worth the wait even if the wait seemed an eternity.
The floor filled up with a sea of colours as opposed to a black mass, like at most gigs.
“Authentic Californians”, as described by lead vocalist, Spoke Slawson who rounded the troops of ‘the cover band’, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, another reference as the man wasn’t short of them tonight. Another being that they were ‘a fine line between mockery and tribute.’
The “Authentic Aussie” was pointed out to be none over than Australian rock royalty, Chris Cheney of The Living End, who was in fine form tonight replacing Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters, No Use for a Name) on lead guitar.
Long-time members Joey Cape, who usually fronts punk rock act Lagwagon was on second guitar with bandmate Dave Raun behind the kit.
Another replacement tonight was legendary bassist and co-founder of Bad Religion, Jay Bentley. Hilarious to watch, pulling off awkward moves while remaining full of sarcasm all night. “Fat Mike couldn’t make it as he’s busy bathing in your money”, Spoke informs us.
Opening the set with “Summertime” followed by a Beach Boys cover, “Sloop John B”, the five-piece were surely feeling the heat Down-Under. From Cher to Billie Joel with “Do You Believe?” to the upbeat “Uptown Girl” the crowd were singing along as if they were in a Japanese Karaoke bar.
Paula Abdul’s dance moves were reached on all levels as a cover of “Straight Up” got those legs moving and the blood a ’flowing. Being taken straight to ‘Dollywood’ with a cover Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, it was one of many highlights of the night.
Another quote, excuse Spoke’s ‘French’ or ‘Australian’, as it’s clearly an Australian word, we learn tonight if we didn’t already know, but the “cunt (was) put back in country” with a solid rendition of the Johnny Cash hit, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky”
Spoke brings out his ukulele for the soothing sounds of “Crazy 4 You”, leading into the R.Kelly anthem of “I Believe I Can Fly”. Followed by John Denver’s “Country Road with the drunken choir off punters belting out notes that were in need of a tune. Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” was referred to as ‘a sham’ with the song being about a beard or a beetle? Much like a NOFX show, the onstage banter in between songs, and during was a riot.
We are all taken “Over the Rainbow” to California apparently, bar Cheney and are blasted off to space with another crowd favourite, with Sir Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, the inspiration behind some political name calling, i.e. the Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un debacle.
Returning to the stage for an encore with his ukulele in tow, the crowd are told to shout out two words that being “Uke” and “Hunt”.
Everyone knows what the response is and laugher hurts the bellies one last time, well almost as the comedy show isn’t over just yet. “All My Loving” is punked-up and we are all ‘covered’ with a dance track, “I Will Survive” where all the macho men of the crowd are told to release their inner diva with pink being the new black.
Throw in a thrashy version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” which ends a memorable night. Just to see some of punk rock’s finest musicians make some songs which would in some case be avoided listenable tonight, making each song their own, Me First are truly “the cover band” period!
Additional photos: Jess Miller