Saturday, February 25: Black Wire, Annandale – SoundDave
Featuring: Chambers, Milhouse, Palisades, Nathan Martin, thedowngoing Vs Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt (Grind Vs Grind), Nick Van Breda, Berkshire Hunting Club, Perspectives, Union Pacific, Surprise Wasp, Epics
I wasn’t too worried about running around 20 minutes late and trying to make the supposed midday kick off for this event. But, much to my surprise,things were on schedule and I missed Chambers. I did notice they were also organised enough to have t-shirts available, though I’m not sure if they sold any. I heard no reports about them either way so can’t really comment.
I’m not sure of the motivation for today’s spectacular — beyond the great timing of the pun — but this mini-fest hosted by Dave Drayton and record store/venue Black Wire was truly an alternative to the huge attraction of the following day’s SoundWave festival. Probably not an alternative option for folks wanting to attend SoundWave but an alternative for folks wanting a fun filled 8 hours or so of interesting variations of punk rock for a fraction of the price.
When considering venues for the show, Black Wire instantly came to mind as a supportive space. Easy to work with and having lower overheads, Dave felt that a regular pub venue wouldn’t want to take a risk on such an event as this. Factoring in that though he seems to have been around for years and years, Dave is still only 22 years old and making this event all-ages was also a major consideration – something which is not always easy to organise in a pub venue where beer sales are the main revenue. (Dave also writes the All Ages column in Drum Media – the local street press).
Not to miss a trick, one of Dave’s bands played next. Milhouse are a three piece that didn’t impress me much last time I saw them, but today their happy bouncy melodic punk was well suited to an early afternoon slot and they got helped rev up those in attendance.
Next up was Melbourne’s Palisades on their second visit to Sydney, having chosen Black Wire to play the first time round too. Bass player Matt (a Sydney ex-pat) loves the open mindedness of the venue and the people who attend in general. He also commented that these things go in cycles but noticed that Sydney is once again going through a flush period of having alternative spaces to play. Palisades brought a little lazy afternoon mosh action with their brand of screamo hardcore with some clean guitar sound that brought to mind old favourites Eucalypt. A great roar that made myself and many others very happy and juxtaposed nicely with what was to follow.
The sun shining and the vegan BBQ on in earnest it was natural for everyone to head out to the backyard but the music didn’t stop as Sweet Teeth guitarist Nathan Martin picked up his acoustic and amused one and all with tales of drunken nights and mistaken identities. Despite his drinking ability he makes note that he loves Black Wire because music is the main reason that people are there, it’s a relaxed environment with a community spirit and people are polite. A statement perhaps born out of too many dud shows with an audience more intent on drinking at the bar than enjoying a night of musical entertainment, a point echoed by many other artists playing today.
Back inside, folks have been busy preparing for Grind Vs Grind — two drum kits and two guitar amps ready for thedowngoing and Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt to trade song for song with the humour of a bad (good) wrestling match. It’s fascinatingly fast entertainment as they each blast out 30 seconds or so before goading the other to better them. Everyone seems to agree on a draw at the end of it all and ideas are bandied around about future 3 way grind to death events. Chris Fat Guy (looking thinner each time) is loving today’s mixed bill and feels like it’s a big egoless house party.
After this intensity the backyard is even more packed as Nick Van Breda plays some quiet noodly acoustic tunes with sad tales of destiny and chance. He has everyone captivated. I missed it but heard there was some banjo action later on too. I was busy talking with Tom, the man behind the venue, behind on rent, rates and bills and generally in debt to quite a few of his friends, most of whom let it slide for now in order to help keep the space operating.
Tom’s mantra is based upon his preference for smaller intimate shows. Stay small, stay local, stay punk. When quizzed to clarify his definition of ‘punk’ he veers away from a musical identity and he laughingly describes a collection of weirdos, misfits and outcasts, but who are highly ethical and supportive of each other. His preference for dealing directly with band members, often denying responses to enquiries from managers and agents, can sometimes lead to problems with disorganised artists, but often an event will pull together with the sheer will power of the community involved. Also most bands wishing to hold an event here are well aware of the working aesthetic of the venue.
Berkshire Hunting Club are another new Sydney band that impressed me with a loud, noisy post hardcore sound that was both subtle and aggressive and made all the more interesting by some post punk guitar effects that reminded me of Siouxsie and the Banshees. A grand discovery, they only suffered a little with their time slot as folks were still soaking up the sun and tofu wraps out the back.
Whilst there isn’t normally a BBQ going on at events at Black Wire there is usually a food option as Elise bakes and supplies vegan pies which people can grab in the kitchen for a few dollars each. Besides her connection with a punk ideal she feels this is another small way to help support Black Wire because she appreciates what Tom and the space offers, investing back into the music community. She’s actually the first person to state that it’s in a good location, which is interesting in relation to some people’s thoughts on the Annandale Hotel, only a couple of blocks away, being in a difficult location.
Another person you’re likely to encounter at most Black Wire shows is Kevin. Still only 17 he’s been involving himself here almost since the beginning, often manning the door or running an errand for someone. I’ve watched him grow from an awkward teenager where he’s talked about having trouble fitting in at school to a confident young man, able to make friends quickly with almost anyone who walks through the door. This is testament to the acceptance into the supportive community around him and he willingly gives back as much as he can.
Talking of youngsters, Perspectives are a 5 piece from the northern beaches all aged around 17 or 18. This is their first time playing at Black Wire though I’m sure a couple of them have been here in attendance previously. They play a typical shout along hardcore that I really shouldn’t like but for some reason these kids do it well and I find it very enjoyable. They’re stoked to be playing here despite constant guitar amp issues, something which many of the other musicians playing today quickly gather together to try and find a fix for — another indicator of the willingness of everyone to pull together to make for a great event.
A tired crowd head back inside to enjoy Melbourne pop punk band The Union Pacific who bang out a constant set of melodies that everyone seems to enjoy though it does little for me and I take a rest in a quieter corner to talk with others for a while. I am interested to check out Surprise Wasp though who play competent high energy punk rock a la the Hives, singer Dean making for some good photo opportunities mid song as he knocks out plenty of dance moves.
Though it’s only early evening this big long day is rounded off by Epics whose chief song writer Jimmy writes a tune to match any catchy early Black Flag material. He also loves to play and it shows in his wild antics on stage. Well, of course, there is no stage but you get my drift. Vocalist Nick does his best to keep up and ventures into the crowd to encourage some participation. It’s definitely part of the community feeling he enjoys about the venue along with it being easy to book without having to worry too much about how big a crowd can be pulled. Epics throw in a Black Flag cover which they could probably do without as their own material is just as good. Then it’s over. Everyone tired and sweaty.
Whilst everything went off without a hitch, 150-or-so people having enjoying a great day of diverse music, at one point during the afternoon 3 cop cars suddenly pulled up across the road and smashed in a car window to rescue a baby locked inside with a 30 degree sun beating down. There was at least a brief moment where we all assumed they were coming to shut the show down. Thankfully, not this time.