Frenzal Rhomb & The Bennies
Max Watts, Melbourne VIC
December 31st, 2017
Supports: Cosmic Kahuna, Antonia and The Lazy Susans and Hightime
A ripping quintet of bands ranging between solid and spectacular rampaged across two years at Max Watts the other night for the BEST NEW YEARS PARTY THAT EVER FUCKING EXISTED; successfully ringing in 2018 with unbridled joy, positivity, and an exceptional concoction of punk rock and unmatched musicianship.
The night kicked off with Cosmic Kahuna blasting a mostly empty bar with their really, very ballsy brand of shouty hard rock like the good dudes they are. Having personally been one of the people who weren’t yet at The Hi Fi – sorry – Max Watt’s, it’s still safe to attest they did a great job because a) I saw them open for Frenzal last September and it was great, and b) Jay from Frenzal said they were great later on too. So, great job Cosmic Kahuna; sorry everyone was still at home putting their faces on. I hope you still got really pissed and high and had a big fun night all the same.
Antonia and The Lazy Susans followed in prompt and accurate time thanks to an impeccable stage crew that did from far from fuck around all night while seamlessly sorting the tech and equipment between sets in a manner of swiftness not previously observed by your humble veteran reviewer. The backstage certainly brought it as hard as the popular folks up front did throughout the show; no small feat considering everyone all everywhere in the joint was getting good and fucked up. ATLS’ sound is adequately described under the influences headline on their Triple J Unearthed page; Camp Cope, Smith Street Band, The Hard Aches, and Avril Lavigne (possibly ironically). Tongues in cheek or otherwise, these Sydney-siders more than assuredly bashed out a string of engaging and emotive anthems across their set. An increasingly larger crowd took notice, and all folks present continued having a night where fun was arriving in perpetually increasing returns.
After a 15-ish month hiatus, Adelaide’s underrated workhorses Hightime got sorted and played the shit out of a gig their photographer informed me was populated by a large contingent of their central coast mates, despite being a fair while from their crow eating home ground. Their friends’ mosh energy was clearly infectious, as was the bands ripping capacity to shout, dance, and generally raise the roof. No small feat on their unenviable awkward-middle-spot-where-everyone-gets-a-beer-or-fucks-off-outside-for-a-dart slot on the bill. The pairing of energy between band and punters set Max Watts off with headbanging aplomb, and as folks began to see 2018 on the horizon over the tops of their beer, wine, and soft drinks, the night got funner and funner.*
Front lady Nina is a pocket rocket of incredible, and wholly capable of deeply shouting the ears of her audience with a deftness usually reserved for burly-dude veterans and their bloated paychecks spurring them on back when Soundwave was still churning. Guitarist Reuben is lithe and hilarious in equal measure, his musical straps only matched by his capacity for drawing a laugh while discussing subjects like how it’s cool to quit your job. Flawless rhythm section Jay (bass) and Dave (drums) go round for round at breakneck speed, making positive comparisons to their veteran headliner band inevitable. Truly, Frenzal’s legacy will live on with all the bands that supported them at this gig and into the New Year, even long after they all die of weird brain infections, blindness, shattered bones, or whatever the fuck God throws at them next. Anyway, listen to Hightime, everyone. They’re fucking great.
Almost inarguably the co-headliners despite their relative infancy to the aged, surgically repaired, and weathered Rhomb, The Bennies took to the stage with literal fireworks, promptly exploded, stole the shit out of the whole show, tore the fucking house down, exuded more positivity in an hour than previously thought humanly possible, and did it all while squeezing in a New Year countdown with confetti cannons, weed breaks, and several jovial stage invasions. What else is there to say? Singer/ MicroKorg molester Anty is kinetic energy hyperactively personified; rollicking around the stage like an immolating hummingbird. He was quick to note that the entire audience was chock-a-block with huge smiles not long after first gracing the stage, and a quick look around proved the dude wasn’t wrong. It was easy to see not a person in the joint wasn’t having a really good, warm, fun-as-all-get-out kind of time.
Guitarist Jules wears all the funnest shirts going while shredding across reggae, metal, punk, and hard rock riffs easier than, like… heaps of easy shit. Hot damn. Craig on vocals and bass has found himself singing an increasing amount as The Bennies have ploughed victoriously through the last decade-ish. Dual vocals in any band is a big plus as long as the other dude, lady, or parrot (google it) isn’t shit (obviously). Luckily, Jules has a lovely coarse wail that makes The – mother fucking – Bennies’ arsenal all that much more engaging and formidable. The recent acquisition of full time vinyl spinning DJ SNESMEGA is the icing on the cake for these dudes’ live gig. The veteran deck diddler interjects electronic elements, samples, drops, and duelling breaks with the seamless bucket skills of David the drummer into the set like he’s never not been there. The result, coupled with a two-piece live horn section is a collectively fucking great live show that’s absolutely impossible not to enjoy. The Bennies are consistently establishing themselves as the new benchmark for Australian rock and roll, and live music in general. Find a crowd having more fun anywhere this NYE and I’ll eat my bloody hat. Immortality awaits The Bennies Worldwide™, in 2018 and beyond.
With all that young blood swishing about gleefully amongst laser beams and smoke machines before their top spot on the bill, Frenzal Rhomb had a nearly impossible task to follow what the crowd had already seen. They kind of didn’t, but they knew they weren’t going to, and were very open about it anyway. In fact, they implored the whole crowd to never follow The Bennies on a line up if possible, and tried in vain to make things just as exciting by jamming a few sparklers from the supermarket in and around the drum deck. It didn’t work, but it was a solid public service announcement and DIY pyro effort that set the self-deprecating tone us old, fat, jaded Melbournian punk rockers have come to expect from what was most likely the 19th-ish heaps of cunts on the audience had seen Jay and the gang play. It got to the point where the general consensus on stage was that – due to their superior showing – The Bennies had in fact cost Frenzal Rhomb much of their remaining career. Don’t worry Jay, Lindsay, Gordy, and Tom, we’ll always love you and your breakneck socio-political comic brand of iconic punk rock, the relationship is just polygamous now. No hard feelings?
Back-handed compliments aside, Frenzal were actually fucking brilliant. The biggest misconception your Mum has about punk bands like Frenzal is that they play fast, talentless, and messy noise for the fucking sake of it. Had your bitterly judgemental Mother been in attendance NYE 2017/18, she’d have done it on one leg with a massive foot in her slack-jawed gob. These guys are completely elite, professional, staggeringly brilliant musicians. Their pace and tightness is an awe-inspiring spectacle. Hyper-quickened riffs and beats are thrashed out over Jay’s iconic lightning-sputtered cadence with professionalism and technicality that can only come from a lifetime of relentless touring and skill expansion. It’s awe-inspiring to behold, even if the main point of it all is really to bang your head and crash in to teach other throughout.
The boys played heaps of old and new shit impeccably between lengthy soliloquys and good-natured stage banter, all the while reiterating the positivity of the evening, and how nice it was that everyone was there having a blast. These dudes have been a band for a quarter of a century-ish. Tom came later, hence his pretty young face, but still… the guys are a national icon. They’ve gone to musical war with our lunatic first world lives and all their wasteful, selfish ridiculousness since 99% of today’s AFL players were in Utero, never forgot to have fun in the process, and literally brushed death with a consistency one could mistake for intentional.
Jay said they’re playing some ridiculous Download Fest sideshow thing with Korn and Limp Bizkit soon for, like, fifteen grand. That’s no easy invite unless you’re Australia’s best punk band, but it’s also good to hear these dudes are making cash after a career road that wound far past those of their 90’s contemporaries. Never change, dear Frenzal. You’re very great and the world needs you now more than ever.
In closing, go to a fun-ass fucking gig for New Years from now until forever, team. It’s unpretentious, loud, exciting, and blisteringly good fun.
*Funner is a word, fuck you.
Review and Photo Gallery by the legendary Todd Gingell
Please credit Wall of Sound and Todd Gingell if you repost.