Thursday, August 29, 2013

Show Time!

HARD ONS - SHUT THE HELL UP - GRIPPER - GENERATION DEAD - Rhythm, New Plymouth, New Zealand - 9th August 2013
The HARD ONS can now claim the honour of being the first band I have seen in four different countries. What makes that even more confounding is that the band has never really been one of my most favoured; I suppose the fact I have seen them so often is more a testament to the band’s dogged touring spirit rather than any ardent fandom on my behalf. Easily the best gig I’ve ever seen the band do was in a smallish bar in Sydney. It was loud but clear, songs got played and they basically rocked in a huge manner. Unfortunately, this New Plymouth gig - which like the rest of the tour was put on by those wonderful people at Punk Rock Road Trips - was probably the worst I have seen them.
The venue was actually quite smart. It used to be a gay club apparently and this was still evident via a neon blue room at the back and one of those illuminated dance floors akin to Saturday Night Fever’s 70s disco scenes. While The Roxy may have once been a gay bar, I am sure it was never quite like this and it made a slightly surreal setting for four Punk Rock bands.
First to plug in and fire up was GENERATION DEAD, a trio from Napier on New Zealand’s East Coast. The band’s recent CDEP really impressed, mixing Anarcho politics with noxious and rocking Hardcore Punk sounds. All the tracks on the EP got an airing and the stand out was, again, ‘In Fear Of Fear’ although the sing-a-long HARD SKINisms of ‘Hospital Hill Hooligans’ worked really well live. The sound was pretty good, the guys looked confident and certainly appeared to be into it. Special mention should be made of Matt who was not only a stellar fella but a shit hot bassist. He had a great DISCHARGEian distortion about his sound but played it more like Matt Freeman on speed!!
Next up we had GRIPPER, a four piece from Nelson - a city at the top of the South Island. The band feature Neil Singleton, who was the original singer in UK Punks THE DESTRUCTORS back in the 80s. It was a solid set of fast, well played Street Punk gear too, featuring tracks from the band’s split with VICIOUS RUMOUR and a few new tunes too. Highlights that come to mind included ‘Public Executions’ and ‘Stalker’. The band has a great sense of humour about it, which is mixed with an uncompromising, out-spoken attitude and delivered with a tight, razor-sharp sound. Guitarist Scott certainly impressed with some frantic riffs that would put many metal guitarists to shame. As good as all the Kiwi bands were, I think GRIPPER may just have been the best band of the night.
The tiny stage suddenly looked even smaller as New Plymouth locals SHUT THE HELL UP launched into their turbo charged, garage-land core. As a five piece, the band made a massive, convulsive sound with the imposing figure of Craig Gunn (formerly the drummer of NZ horror Punks HORROR STORY) on vocals, who spent much of the set on the dance floor giving the band a few more, much-needed, stage inches. Songs? ‘I Need A Drink’ and ‘I Gotta Go’ come to mind, along with the band’s own self-titled anthem. The closing trio of covers pretty much defined the band’s sound - two TURBONEGRO tunes and an incendiary burn through BLACK FLAG’s classic ‘Nervous Breakdown’. Say no more - maximum rock ‘n’ roll indeed.
So, three excellent New Zealand bands set the night up for Australia’s HARD ONS to dazzle us at 1am - except they didn’t. As always, the band was as loud as can be but in the small confines of Rhythm, it really came out as a bluster of punishing drums, a fuzz of nondescript guitar noise, the odd shout of vocals and, thankfully, Ray’s bass holding things together. There has always been two HARD ONS: the one with Keish that wrote classic songs like ‘There Was A Time’, ‘Where Did She Come From?’ and ‘The Girl In The Sweater’; then there’s the one minus Keish that sees Blackie’s guitar histrionics take over with a bile-laced vocal, unrelenting noise and a general sound that would appeal more to a Black Metal freak than a RAMONES nut. Needless to say I favour the former and this was, distinctly, the latter. I recognised a couple of songs amidst the radio static-esque blur - ‘Watch Your Step Boy’ being one - but ultimately, I got pretty fucking bored. After about 20 minutes I moved toward the back to see if the sound was any better. It wasn’t - but at least I could get a beer.
There’s no doubting HARD ONS rocked, and rocked hard - they always do - but some songs would’ve been nice amidst the noise. So, this trans-Tasman battle saw a resounding 3-0 victory for New Zealand. One the strength of this, I won’t be seeing the HARD ONS in a fifth country - but I would not rule out our paths crossing again.

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