St Jerome's Laneway Festival, Sydney 7th February 2016
There’s a certain essence so essentially Australian about Violent Soho, born out of (suburban) Mansfield, Queensland, as patriotically referenced during the show. Incorporating elements of punk rock and heavy metal did so much for the broader rock music scene during the 80’s and 90’s. Violent Soho has, to a degree, observed this fundamental spirit since their incarnation in 2004. However, as always, Violent Soho remain very much conscious of doing it their way all the way. Lyrical tales of borderline suburban weariness and discontent are superbly spun into bewitching boisterous rock anthems, which clearly still sets Violent Soho apart from their contemporaries.
You should know that Violent Soho sold out every date of their last (most extensive) national headlining ‘No Sleep Til Mansfield’ tour. You should also know Violent Soho’s third studio album, Hungry Ghost, was certified gold here in Australia in 2014. So, you should now therefore know why Violent Soho emerged as my obvious must see act this year at Laneway.
The explosively reactive band literally jumped onto the Garden Stage at 6.20pm sharp. We absorbed the sharp onslaught of high-powered sound and energy, devoid of any preparedness, as Violent Soho opened downright ferociously with first track off the new album, Dope Calypso. As I shot a gaze back at the tremendous wall of fans gathered behind me, (yes I was first in best dressed, again), I just knew they too were appreciating the cleverly cocky and audacious nature of Violent Soho’s delivery, as they frenziedly screamed every single lyric back at the band from beginning to end. That which resulted was a positively jerky, clammy, lively mass of ecstatic fans all craving the very same one thing – more. An ensemble of simplicity and serious swagger is that which properly defines Violent Soho’s overall trademark quality, and was strongly reflected through their Laneway performance. Luke’s biting vocals bombarded the distortion of guitars beautifully; the perfect marriage, you know, like coffee and cognac - and a cigar.
Very much a focused band, Violent Soho remained in possession and control of a crystalline outlook on stage, and all the while commanding their instruments accordingly with good old fashioned know how. Guitarists Tidswell and Henery in particular did their very best to work their prized rock god mane of hair into the show, with significant impact. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guitarist roll their head quite so furiously before. Rather talented if you ask me, to take pause without incident during a self induced revolutionary head spasm routine, to further fuel the fans by screaming your own lyrics right back at them. Personally, I don’t know how either band member walked away without concussion or whiplash, or both. Don’t try this at home guys, but I sort of did out of sheer curiosity in front of a full length mirror, (overly ambitious), and found myself desperately reaching for a mega box of Panadol no sooner had I begun. So a massive props to you (expert) gentlemen. I give up. You win.
With seasoned crowd surfers and stage divers alike, and all other matters of music festival antics imaginable in between, Violent Soho strongly forged ahead without distraction, punching out the first beats to Neighbour Neighbour. There was a lot of severe body bouncing to this inspired song, basically a snigger dedicated to an actual neighbor of questionable disposition. Yet another fine example of a relevant suburban anecdote drenched in rock.
Admittedly, toward the end of Neighbour Neighbour, my very best friend and I felt like we’d been thrown around like a couple of rag dolls in a heavy spin laundry cycle. Therefore, heavy hearts in tow, we set about executing our imminent plan of escape from ground zero up the front. A saintly fan rapidly identifying our state of peril, demonstrative by the look of sheer panic piercing our eyes, appeared angelically and literally out of nowhere, (in fact I think she wore a pure white long flow type garment, I’m not even kidding). She proceeded to kindly extend her slight hand to assist the final leg of our journey to a safer sideline position. I did gesture a genuinely heartfelt ‘thank you’ toward her direction, as I heavily exhaled a sigh of sincere relief from our new location of deposition - but the elusive figure had just as instantly disappeared, (again, I’m not even kidding). So whoever you are, may the Laneway Music Festival gods always protect you child. You should know, that whilst getting stitched up some time later, I did reveal to my treating doctor that the harrowing experience was well worth it, although short-lived, and that of course I’d do it all over again, in a heartbeat.
A little further down the set list, the familiar chords to Saramona Said introduced somewhat of a slower pace to begin with, as opposed to the vast majority of other material performed. The characteristic expansiveness of rhythm guitar accents here in particular was layered nicely. Delectable deep toned shadowing bass lines only further prepared the giant hungry ghost of a crowd for that which they were longing to devour. They weren’t kept waiting long at all, as the ultimate epic charge of three almighty powerful guitars, mirrored and matched only by the relentless pummeling of Richards’ drums, altogether peaked at a full thundering throttle. This is the customary manner in which Violent Soho prefer to stage a song’s finale.
In the spirit of Violent Soho’s winning formula, we were no doubt treated to intermittent moments of (lovely and loud) melodic harmonies. As an effective counter-balance to real rock, I found this symmetry no more enchanting as when exampled especially fantastically toward the end of Fur Eyes. The addition of the holy hum of crackle behind all the string bending heaven did prove simply mind blowing.
Much respect to Violent Soho for paying tribute to 80’s Australian rock band God, by covering independent classic My Pal - a very special interpretation, nice touch gentlemen.
Covered In Chrome, a true Hungry Ghost standout, revealed a real inconsolable quality, accompanied by vulnerable vocals excellently juxtaposed by those pulverising guitars. This track was voted in at number fourteen in the 2013 Triple J Top 100. It should have taken out the number one spot. That was my vote. On this day, it again stood out as a clear favourite, especially when the crowd collectively reaffirmed, en masse, (typically crazy primal-like and with unprecedented gusto), each and every HELL F*** YEAH! along with their heroes for the day. A pulsating fever pitch permeated from start to finish, which in my humble opinion was a pretty darned perfect end to an electrifying set. The crowd’s ongoing roar of support was testament enough.
The band Violent Soho is antsy and adept, bonded by an almost adolescent thirst for their own continued signature combination of multi dimensional proper rock. This band is armed with boundless potential and an aptitude to realise it. Following Laneway I am of the strong conviction that Violent Soho are on their way to dotting the Australian musical landscape even more so, whilst diligently and deservedly morphing into one of our more prominent rock bands of this generation. Thank you Laneway for inviting Violent Soho along to do what they do best.
Oh, and here’s a little something you should know gentlemen, you had me at Pigs & T.V. So just one request, continue to go your hardest. I will again be waiting patiently front row centre at your next gig. I’ll be the one wearing the helmet.
Mary Di Matteo
see more photos here