I am welcomed to Cherry Rock 2017 by a river of black shirts and leather jackets cascading down AC/DC lane. “I haven’t smoked a cigarette and watched a band in a long time,” one punter enthused to another, rolling himself a dart.
Opening today’s festivities are Totally Unicorn, a band I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing several times previously. Their sound is eclectic rock and metal and their live show is definitely not one to be missed. Entertaining as always, the Aussie four-piece sufficiently wake us up and set an energetic tone for the rest of the day.
A punk double-whammy of Australian band, Stiff Richards and American act, Dwarves, continue to warm punter’s ears and build upon an already great atmosphere in one of Melbourne’s most iconic music venues.
It’s early afternoon and the crowd of varying ages seems relaxed, bopping along. The walls from the buildings either side of AC/DC lane produce great acoustics unlike that you sometimes get at other outdoor festivals. The tattered posters that line them peel and sway in the cold Melbourne breeze.
Barely a soul remains indoors once Nashville Pussy hit the outdoor stage. Everyone is crammed out into the alleyway with either a Melbourne or Victoria Bitters in hand. Nashville Pussy’s set is the perfect soundtrack to Cherry Rock; Dirty, gritty, southern rock n’ roll performed full pelt, complimented by an old trucker cap and handlebar moustache.
“I’ve never broken 2 strings in my life,” announces vocalist, Blaine Cartwrite, emphasising the energy on stage and beyond.
Guitarist Ruyter Suys and bassist Bonnie Buitrago swing their hair around the stage playing the crap out of their instruments. The simple, yet effective tune, “I’m so high” has some awesome backing vocals from both women and almost on queue, the smell of weed begins filtering through the already thick air.
Mid-set, Cartwright changes from the trucker cap to a cowboy hat, ensuring all bases of “redneck” are covered. A solid drum solo and Cartwright lights a cigarette and introduces the band. This is not before sculling a beer from his hat and mouthing off with an audience member.
We head indoors directly after Nashville Pussy to catch young Indonesian rockers Mooner. The four-piece’s set is captivating and tight. Their vocalist sings in Indonesian but her haunting melodies sit so beautifully amongst the sludgy and psychedelic riffs, they have everyone transfixed. Mooner’s songs are well-crafted and their guitarist and bassist harmonise lines here and there. Every note is spot on and their songs soar.
As the sun begins to sink lower in the sky Brant Bjork lulls us with some sweet tunes and pretty rad dance moves. But I couldn’t contain my excitement to catch Melbourne locals, Amyl and the Sniffers. With three-quarters of the band sporting sharpie haircuts and thick bogan accents, I fell in love with this young band straight up.
As soon as vocalist Amy Taylor opens her mouth I am hooked. “I can’t fuck ya and I can’t kiss ya” she sings endearingly as a dude in front of me offered his neighbouring audience members actual amyl. A pogo pit soon erupts and Taylor shakes her mullet so violently it could cut a man. But if her glorious mullet doesn’t cut, her words surely do.
“This song is called blow job but youse would know nothin’ about that!”
I was never fortunate enough to catch Chrissy Amphlett in her heydey, yet I can’t help but feel that Taylor’s performance is a glimpse into some of that same raw and outrageous energy…but obviously far less demure.
Cherry Rock has now become a shit fight and everyone is standing on tables, chairs or each other just to get a glimpse of this peculiar band that cocktails young, fresh energy with a hint of nostalgia. Amyl and the Sniffers end with an extended cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” before telling the audience to “all get fucked now.”
That we did, heading back outside to find night finally upon us. Sweden’s Bottlecap perform a solid set of grungy tunes under Cherry Rock’s trademark neon lightning bolt. Their songs are full of energy and the guitarist climbs over whatever structure he can find. Despite the temperature, things are definitely heating up.
I can’t seem to catch a glimpse of Child; there are just too many people and absolutely no chance of getting remotely close to the stage. I take the opportunity to have a brief sit down and enjoy the sounds of Child’s bluesy Sabbath rock from afar.
Bala are another band I’m keen to catch and I’m definitely not disappointed. The explosive outfit comprising of two females from Spain rip into their set and tear AC/DC Lane a new one. It’s now drizzling with rain but Bala makes us forget all about that. Both girls deliver twin demonic vocals, playing loud and fast combining various sub-genres such as thrash metal, stoner rock and grunge. Their sound is fairly undefinable but unique and badass.
Vocalist, Anx talks to the audience in between songs thanking Cherry Bar owner, James Young, for the opportunity to finally come to Australia. It is a nice moment. Bala’s songs are short but powerful and their monster drumming needs a special mention.
In true Cherry Rock tradition, James Young introduces the headliners of the night, Shihad. They play out a killer set which appears to be was very nostalgic for some. Tunes such as “The General Electric” have everyone singing and nodding along in united fashion.
It was a brilliant end to a great day. Not only did we get to relive some memories with more established bands, but we also got an insight into a new generation of talent from Australia and all over the world. Cherry Rock, you’ve done it again.
Photography by Bree Wallace