Monday, May 07, 2012

Another tale of punk-rock-pounding down under, this one from David Swift in "The Melbourne". Note - it's not the Cavern Club...

THE SONICS at the Caravan Club
Oakleigh RSL, suburban SE Melbourne Australia

Friday April 27

So you spend 30 years listening to 'em, thinking you will never EVER get to see 'em, and then The Sonics turn up locally and smash you in the lugs twice in three days!

There is an inescapable law of diminishing returns about rock'n'roll reunions and they are (almost) always best avoided.'s The Sonics. How could you not go-see? Even ''older and wiser' at 50, I could not resist. And did not. And these guys are all pushing 70 now.

They package-toured Australia for two weeks this April as part of the Hoodoo Gurus' ''Dig It Up!'' travelling carnival of excellence also starring The Fleshtones, The's, Redd Kross, and some other home-grown luminaries. The Gurus flew in their best foreign friends to celebrate three decades in the biz. Their bill represented remarkable value and awesome good taste, and what a terrific day out it was at the Palace Theatre in Melbourne on April 25, Anzac Day (our veterans day).

Steve Wynn and Redd Kross were exceptional - but it took The Sonics to really outgun the hosts and the high-expectation reception they received led to the Gurus cutting their headline set short, believing the audience had been strafed and slaughtered Gallipoli-style by those old bastards from Tacoma, Washington to such an extent, that the crowd had zero energy or excitement left in them. Quite possibly true - the reception the hosts got was comparatively flat.

But then, two days later, attention turned - keeping it Anzac-esque - to a veterans' club in suburban southeast Melbourne which occasionally doubles as a gig venue. (As Returned Services League clubs, equivalent to British Legion bars, have done for several decades here.) The Caravan Club, a hipster co-op who regularly book the RSL's dance hall and occasionally land some great acts including the Celibate Rifles 3 months ago, somehow obtained the services of The Sonics for their only Australian side-show. The one time here they appeared solo separate from ''Dig It Up''.

Tickets went even faster than their Sub-Pop compilation CD of some years back and the ''sold out" sign was on the website within a matter of days. Capacity about 300, it's about the same size as King Tut's in Glasgow but doesn't hold as many people because there's a tables-and-chairs section for the older punters. Not that, on this night, there were many older than the band... The Sonics took to the stage to rapturous applause and it was clear by the air of excitement that a great many people had chosen this small event instead of the package-deal two days earlier to witness history being made. Age shall not weary them!

They tore it up with every selection you would expect, right down to filling the set with Little Richard covers. Just like they would have done nearly 50 years ago at sock-hops in greater Tacoma. Remember, these guys started out when American Graffiti was modern living. It is joyous to note that nearly five decades down the line, guitarist Lary Parypa can still wring maximum menace with minimal effort from his strings. He barely breaks a sweat while busting out the few chords of fame that frame ''Strychnine'', 'Have Love Will Travel'', ''Psycho'', etc.....

On the other hand, band leader Gerry Roslie - while still pumping the keyboards fiercely - has clearly lost his formidable growl at the microphone, and expecting to hear him wail and holler just like he did in those first sessions for Etiquette is just too much optimistic. Which is where new-era ring-in Freddie Dennis on bass really shows his worth - he might well be of a near-pensionable age himself but he screams just like Mr Roslie did in 1965 and when he takes over the lead vocals on several numbers, things get real primitive.

When drinking in the honk and squawk of Rob Lind's sax above the tumult on both sides of him, you do wonder how many other former Vietnam fighter pilots (yup) are still delivering a SONIC BOOM in 2012.....

The Sonics blasted through the set you would wish for with a couple of new additions and it has to be said that one fresh romp entitled ''Bad Attitude'' is a thunderbolt from the original DNA. Live at least, it stands right up there with their platinum punk and more than makes up for one or two inevitably weaker new offerings. It was a privilege and a blast to see and hear The Sonics in the flesh.

And they do their legend full justice.

Photos by David Swift

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