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Gig Review: Cherry Rock Festival, Melbourne, 1 May 2016

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By Daniel Tucceri

Make no mistake about it. The Cherry Bar is a Melbourne institution. Of the infamous Rock and Roll Bermuda Triangle that defined Melbourne, only the Cherry Bar still stands in its original form. On the other hand, Pony and the Ding Dong Lounge got a haircut, took a shower and got rid of the dank. Sure, numbers on any given night have been down these days, but it’s nonetheless still standing. It is the ultimate middle finger to the recently constructed colourful apartments looming ominously behind the Cherry Rock stage.

First up to the crease are enfant terrible rockers Mesa Cosa. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, they made the most of the dreaded opening slot on the outdoor stage. Whilst they’re best seen on a Friday night inside the bar, with or without tree branches and instrument destruction, they eventually warmed up as singer Pablo Andres stripped the guitar of its strings barehanded.

Devil Electric kick off proceedings indoors, and like the preceding act, take a little while to warm up. Before long, the momentum of the crowd is amplified and the Devil Electric hits full flight. The heavy chug and masculinity of the rhythms are perfectly counterbalanced by Pierina O’Brien’s Joplin-esque vocals. There is power in both its masculine and feminine forms on full display and it is perfectly congruous.

Mikey Tucker of Mammoth Mammoth doesn’t quite possess the same set of pipes as Pierina, but he is a hell of a showman. He’ll spit and snarl at you one minute, then hug and shower you with beer the next. Full credit must be given to drummer Frank Trobbiani for dealing with the stage curtain furling around his arms thanks to the threatening wind. Perhaps it was that frustration that made him hit all the harder during their barnstorming rendition of the MC5 classic, Kick out the Jams.

Like mythical men from the forests of their native Indonesia, The Sigit are a collective of young long haired men who picked the right mushrooms and nailed what it means to be psychedelic. In front of a forest of beards and long hair, their music borrows from the heavier parts of The Beatles, throws in the quirkier elements of Alice Cooper and has sheer weight of The Who. Although they are accustomed to audiences of tens of thousands in their home continent, they admittedly seem somewhat awestruck by the reality of performing at the Cherry Bar.

The first time this reviewer ever witnessed the one-woman force that is Dallas Frasca was nearly a decade ago at the Espy (RIP?). Back then, she was dreadlocked and playing a brand of slide guitar blues that was a little boring. These days, she’s playing a brand of hard rock that sounds like the Baby Animals on steroids. The sound is muscular, intimidating and importantly, has heart. Her voice has the battle scars of a life on the road and in smoky bars, but it’s as powerful as ever.

Where Dallas is powerful, Karina Utomo is flat out intimidating and she pulls no punches with High Tension. Since her days with The Young and the Restless, she’s gotten more ferocious and employs melody sparingly. Within the confines of the Cherry Bar, there isn’t a man or woman alive who could take her on and live to tell the tale.

Things get a little sweeter once the Polish Club see everyone dragging themselves outside. It’s fitting that the sun comes out as they play, with parts of their set sounding like a real throwback to The Four Seasons and old Motown ballads. They’re at their best when they stick with that style, although their cover of I’m Stranded by The Saints is an unexpectedly nice end to their set.

Power are a complete throwback to the seventies in the best possible way. While it’s a dumbed down Coloured Balls, this isn’t a bad thing. If you can imagine the sharpie style with a hint of the punk attitude, this is Power. Where countless other bands are obsessed with replicating the past as seen through American eyes, Power are fair dinkum old school like spitting on the walls at Flinders St. Station.

Since the disappointment of last year’s cancelled tour, The Supersuckers are a welcome sight for the punters. With frontman Eddie Spaghetti delivering their self-described ‘f*cked up version of country’, songs like Double Wide and Must’ve Been High have the audience eating out of their hands.

Gay Paris hit the stage just as the tenth schooner is beginning to sink in for most of the crowd. It’s perfect timing, given their raucous brand of hard rock is best viewed with a BAC of 0.666. Sure, you’d be dead, but that’s the price you pay when you’re having that much fun.

On that note, three quarters of the Ramones may be that way but the party’s still alive with Richie Ramone. As far as most of the audience is concerned, seeing him belt and howl his way through the Ramones classics is the closest most of us will have ever gotten to the real thing. He doesn’t put a foot wrong and damn well doesn’t disappoint, with Blitzkrieg Bop leading into a thousand strong chorus of ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Go!’

Fresh from their European sojourn, Dead City Ruins round out the indoor stage with their formidable twin guitar attack. Whilst they’ve invested heavily into their craft, all that matters at the end of the day is the primal energy of a sweat drenched rock show. They deliver just that, and then some.

Teutonic throwbacks Kadavar cap off what has been a hard day’s work of rock and roll. They put in the overtime and deliver a solid set featuring cuts throughout their discography. Sure, it’s as derivative as seventies rock will ever get, but these guys are nonetheless the real deal. By the time they stomp their way through Come Back Life, the sun has well and truly set on another excellent Cherry Rock. Here’s to the next decade!


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