Gig Review: Violent Soho

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Thursday 10th July @ Manning Bar

Me and my best mate arrive at Manning Bar around the time Totally Unicorn’s frontman Drew Gardner is being wheeled around the GA area in a bin, screaming into a microphone. Emblazoned across his chest is the scrawled order to ‘PARTY!’ and besides that, his luscious beard, and a pair of tie-die undies, he’s wearing fuck-all else. The set is made up of indistinct howls, and some of the most guttural metal to adorn the planet. Seriously, in a world populated with shit like I Killed the Prom Queen and In Hearts Wake, its good to have a real fucking metal band that care more about having a good time than squeaky-clean vocals about slitting wrists. Although there weren’t nearly enough people that a band as good as they deserved, Totally Unicorn still fucking killed their set.  Bring on that shirtless brutality boys, I’ll party with ya!

The Smith Street Band graced the stage next, and I do mean ‘graced’. They don’t quite have the stage presence of most punk bands, mostly relying on Wil Wagner’s lyrics and guitar to reel in the audience. Whilst that works when you’re alone in your room on a Saturday night, when the context is a sold-out Manning Bar, and you’re being crushed into a barrier, listening closely to lyrics isn’t quite the Number 1 priority.

Don’t get me wrong, the Smith Street Band had their moments. Their first three tracks were pop-punk done right: ‘Sunshine & Technology, ‘Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams’ and ‘Ducks Fly Together’ are all great songs, and had the crowd losing their voices in an effort to shout back at them. But that energy and enthusiasm was lacking until ‘Sigourney Weaver’ propped itself up again, and until the incinerating ‘…Don’t you ever fucking touch me!’ rang out, the crowd seemed happy to just mill around and watch Wil Wagner and co do their thing.

No such problem was had with Violent Soho. They walk on, crowd goes fucking ballistic, ensuing chaos continues for a solid hour, band walks off to bloodthirsty cries for more. Shit, before Soho even walked on, the sounds of Rage’s ‘Killing in the Name’ caused  a goddamn circle-pit.

‘Love Is A Heavy Word’ is the first track from Soho, and the first track of many to turn the pit of Manning Bar into something that more closely resembles an orgy of limbs. Headbanging, sweat and bodies ziplining across the mosh became standard practice for every song, as the throttling energy of Violent Soho took hold. You think these songs have energy on record? In the live context, these things are pure beasts, audio hurling itself off stage into a crowd of adoring beings.

Its this behaviour that makes it obvious why Violent Soho are the most important rock band in Australia right now. Since roughly 2000, Australia has been mindlessly plugging away at an indie scene, with little to nothing to show for it. Sure, there was Augie March’s ‘One Crowded Hour’, and Sia has become a bonafide success story, but it was at the cost of completely turning our backs on what Australia’s musical identity was built upon. Once The Vines imploded and started releasing shitty albums, the only good place to find decent rock music was in underground venues that had incredibly local audiences.

Violent Soho changed all that with the release of ‘Hungry Ghost’. Although their self-titled had much of the same hysteria and controlled chaos that its successor contained, it came at a point where music fans wanted the next Yves Klein Blue single than something that busted balls as hard as ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’.

But after the release of ‘Hungry Ghost’, and the battle cry of ‘HELL FUCK YEAH!’, Australia was finally united in a couple rock blokes that we could trust. Not since Cosmic Psychos glory days had their existed a unifying underdog rock band, with amazing songs that you could scream and cry to. Violent Soho are that band, and the success they’ve had following that album (14 date capital city sell out tour, ‘Hungry Ghost’ hasn’t fallen out of the charts since release, #14 in Triple J Hottest 100) is proof that Australia is ready for Violent Soho to represent the rock flag for the country.

After 60 minutes of heart-attack inducing rock music, from ‘Neighbour Neighbour’ to ‘Lowbrow’, from ‘Dope Calypso’ to ‘Eightfold’, Violent Soho have cemented their place as Australia’s rock identity. Throw in an absolutely brutal double punch of ‘Covered In Chrome’, with its throat tearing mantra of ‘HELL FUCK YEAH!’ and the speed demon that is ‘In The Aisle’, and you’ve got a scene bordering on mass hysteria.

Violent Soho leave the stage. Sadness ensues. Australia’s best rock band are gone, and they’re never coming back (until tomorrow night, when they play another sold out show). But that was one hell of a fucking concert. Violent Soho, man. Violent fucking Soho…

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