The Exploited + Wolfpack + Bastard Squad + Ganbaru
Max Watts, Melbourne
12 December 2015
Review & Photo by Greg Barnes
An eclectic mix of punk rock splinter groups warmed up the crowd for The Exploited at Max Watt’s on Saturday night. Ganbaru, up first, have a particularly modern hardcore sound and stage presence that did little to move the sparsely populated band room of punters, yet certainly set the mood for the angst ridden looking to top-up their tinnitus for the evening. The band, whose name translates from the Japanese expression ‘to stand firm’, openly thanked the audience for their open minded early arrival to hear a genre that was undoubtedly sparked by anarcho bands of the late 70’s, yet aesthetically and audibly sit quite far apart.
Bastard Squad really utilized the term ‘warm up’ and ignited some fire in the building by kick starting the pit in the center of the room. A row of mohican heads in the front were passed the mic throughout the set and proceeded to sing a good chunk of the lyrics. The original line up played their first set in 1987, needless to say the fans knew the words off by heart. Watching the interaction between stage and audience was akin to a pub show and really altered the vibe of a half filled large scale venue into something quite intimate, which is easier said than done. Jason the front man, would later jump on stage with The Exploited and join in for a song, but we’ll get to that later.
After Bastard Squad had initiated the rambunctious vibes, a majority of the crowd piled outside for smokes. At exactly that moment, the city of Melbourne was displaying xmas projections similar to ‘white night’, on the town hall across the road, with themes of pokies, reindeer & consumerism, all to the tune of ‘partridge in a pear tree’. The look on the faces of the xmas crowd to a mob of crusties, mohawks, skins and rockers with studded jackets was comparable to a Tim Burton skit. With some amazingly discerning faces on the parents & late night shoppers, a nightmare or two may have been planted in the subconscious of some before xmas this year. Ho ho.
Wolfpack were the final support of the night. Their crossover sound, which blends punk, thrash & (dare I say it) glam in a well-executed fashion, did not quite move the crowd in the manner 80’s hardcore would, but that’s not surprising in a building full of old fashioned punks. The band have a solid sound with Tom the drummer wailing on the mic, a shredding guitar section & charismatic bass. The three piece held their own on stage, even with the majority of the audience holding back at the rear of the room.
In essence, Wolfpack have to be holding down one of the most authentic punk rock ethos of any band in Melbourne. Completely non for profit, raising thousands for animal welfare (Victorian dog rescue) & having a righteous approach on and off the stage. Their sound may be a product of cultural evolution but their attitude is as official as it gets.
At last, the bit we’ve all been waiting for, Scottish legends, The Exploited. Hocking up anarcho head-first punk rock since 1980 & still sounding incredible. At this point, the room changed shape entirely, crowded at the front with a furious pit the entire time. The band were as tight as a gnat’s muff, with Wattie, the front man, having as much stage presence now as he did thirty-odd years ago.
The lineup may have changed over the years, but the charisma and skills coming from the entire band made them a sight for sore eyes. From the outset we saw real punk, Wattie dragged fellow hair styling, patch riddled punters up on stage and encouraged the first stage dive of the night. No mumbo jumbo between songs, just the occasional bit of banter. Wattie threw a shoe back to the audience from whence it came, it flew back again, to which he quipped ‘it’s a bloody boomerang’ instigating chuckles from the majority of the room.
For the encore, the band invited anyone & everyone on stage for the song Sex & Violence, an invitation that saw about fifty people pile on up and acoustically fill the room with repetitive chanting of said song title. This was a truly epic spectacle. Once everyone was back down off stage, the band kicked off with a handful more classics that got the onlookers ferociously thrashing for the last part of the set. This show, the band and the lyrics are as relevant now as they were 35 years ago. In their own words; ‘Punk’s not dead’. The Exploited are Punk rock, alive and spitting.