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[Review] Udo Dirkschneider @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 08/04/2023

Review By Cassandra Hale

Seventy-One years in the making and finally the man, the myth, the legend Udo Dirkschneider touched down in Australia to unleash the best of Accept. The black t-shirt brigade turned out early to line the footpath outside the Croxton Bandroom ready to rock with their metal hero after years of waiting. The demographic was of the older generation, and I fitted into that slot somewhat perfectly. The excitement was bubbling down the line as we waited for doors, and being a very brisk Melbourne night, it was welcome relief to get inside and nab pole position front and centre on the barrier.

Opening the nights proceeding were thrash five piece Nothing Sacred, a name well known in the scene, these guys have been plugging away for 30 years and their experience showed. They powered through a rapid fire thirty-minute set delivering some tasty tunes and wicked riffs. Singer Chris Stark has a most powerful set of pipes and I was left in awe just watching. With punters up and about early they have a massive audience and the vibes were nothing but positive. Ending the set with Deathwish we were more than warmed up.

Melbourne’s Elm Street were up next, and they certainly blew my hair back, the gravely vocals of Ben Batres set the tone for the neck snapping set. A well-oiled machine, their stage time was seamless and had heads nodding in approval from the opening song. Can I say if there was a drumming Olympics Tomislav Perkovic was taking home gold, fast, furious and freaking insane, his use of the kit was next level. Elm Street were engaging, exciting and kept the thrash lover’s levels peaking. Metal Is The Way and Elm St’s Children were standouts for me, and if you are yet to listen to these guys I suggest you do so without delay!

The bandroom was turning in to a sauna as the latecomers filled any available space, the hoards were pushing up close behind me and anticipation was at bursting point. I was starting the rethink my barrier position, but I decided it was go hard or go home, so I planted my feet and got ready for the onslaught. Sven Dirkschneider entered the stage and took his place behind his impressive kit, arms raised in the air saluting us as the rest of the band launched onto the stage to massive applause, but nothing compared to the ROAR as Udo graced us with his presence. Opening with Starlight and Living For Tonight the show was off and running like clockwork. Udo impressive from his first note, his voice still amazingly fresh, he has lost none of his sharpness and was still hitting the high notes with ease. He did say when we chatted recently that he was thankful that he still was able to sing so well for his age, and I can confirm with a resounding yes, he certainly can!

There were so many highlights to this show, every song on the setlist was a winner, and with such a massive array of songs to choose from I think they knocked it out of the park with their selection. Midnight Mover, Breaker, London Leathberboys and Neon Nights had everyone up and about chanting for Udo singing the well-known lyrics back with gusto. A standout for me was Princess of The Dawn, the crowd taking over with whoa whoa’s happy to share the spotlight. Udo’s enjoyment was paramount, he was loving every minute and it radiated from him tenfold. Guitarists Dee Dammers and Audrey Smirnoff were sensational, their solo interludes were pure perfection, their shredding skills exemplary. Let’s talk bass guitar, Peter Baltes has recently been reunited with Udo and boy what a duo they make. Also hailing from Accept the songs were second nature and he played them with precision, his stage presence was awe inspiring and I was so glad to see him in the flesh. There are drummers and then there is Sven Dirkschneider. His raised drum kit a throne and he played it like a king, he was a slayer of the skins and his timing was that of the finest Swiss timepiece. I can not reiterate the calibre of Udo’s band. They are one tight united front and it shows with the delivery of every song.

A mash up of Restless and Wild and Son of a Bitch followed by Midnight Highway had The Croxton at boiling point, I was still standing strong but I could feel the punters behind me winding up the cogs and I knew that my days were numbered. Screaming For A Lovebite and I’m A Rebel upped the ante, fists punching the air charged by alcohol, driven by the songs of their youth, we wanted more and as the band departed the stage it was time for the chants to start. After thunderous applause and calls for more the band return to deliver an onslaught of three of the finest Accept songs, Metal Heart, Fast as a Shark and of course, Balls To The Wall. I could feel the surge behind me, punters driven on adrenaline and enough alcohol to forget their age. The charge was imminent, and I ducked as boots came over the top, none quite making it over the barrier, but damn they tried. The frenzy these three songs brought was beyond insanity, the singing voices of the punters enough to raise the roof, the Croxton a veritable melting pot and I absolutely loved every bloody minute.

With waves goodbye and throwing of his black leather gloves to the crowd Udo was gone and it was time to survey the damage. As I de-pretzelled myself and made way to the long line to grab some merch the smiles went for miles on the faces of every person I could see. With this tour being such a success, we can only hope that Udo won’t leave it too long to return. The hoards will be waiting our ‘metal hearts’ pumping German music at its heaviest, ready to do it all again.

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[Review] Soccer Mommy @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 18/02/2023

The opener of the night at the Croxton Bandroom are Garage Sale, they are a new Melbourne 4-piece whose new release Shimmer, has put them on the radar. Even though they’re a new band – everything about Garage Sale takes me back in time. Their bassist, wearing a white lace dress with gothic accessories, the guitarists and drummer with floppy hair, all of them bathed in red light. The year was 1993. They sound like this glorious mix between Sunnydale Real Estate, if SRE had released Nirvana’s Marigold, and had the sex-appeal of Hole. Maybe grunge isn’t dead after all? It’s been reborn, in the shape of Garage Sale. I felt like I’d heard these songs before, but they were so fresh and punchy – I couldn’t have. I was clearly not the only one excited about the Melbourne foursome’s homage to the Seattle Scene. Dripping with sex appeal, grit and reverb, Garage Sale have already amassed quite a number of fans, many of whom were in the room headbanging, slamming the table or unable to tear their eyes away.

You know the old expression: It was enough to make a grown man cry? Well, Phoebe Go does.

Coming back from smokers, we were met by the smooth voice of Phoebe Go. The band room was suddenly packed – 2 or 3 times the amount of people than were there 20 minutes ago, came out of nowhere. We were all fighting for a view of the stage, and the woman on it. Phoebe Go was desperate to hide behind her fringe, she would shuffle a little self-consciously between songs, but as soon as she started playing, she was someone else. I was almost shocked to hear her say “Thanks for having me, Soccer Mommy. You guys fucking rule.” It seemed so brash and off-kilter for the same person who wrote Hey, the person who made the grown man next to me well up with tears with her emotional closing ballad We Don’t Talk. How could I possibly have missed Go in my endless late-night searches for the Ultimate Sad Girl Ballad? Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go! Listen to (Phoebe) Go!

Sophia Allison is Soccer Mommy, but tonight she had a four-piece backing band. They were a rag-tag crew, from Rodrigo on keys and guitar, wearing a gaudy 80’s ski-jacket to Mick on the bass, his bald head, big-framed glasses, sea-glass bass all something out of a Spike Jonze video. And boy, were they tight. The songs went from soft, sparkly, wonderfully melancholic folk/pop, and turned into harder rock covers, with shredding solos, lots of echo and so much drum and bass I felt it in my feet.

To me, there has always been something so uniquely feminine about Soccer Mommy, but as I looked around the room, I saw so many young men. Her Spotify repertoire seems to be adjacent to similar artists Phoebe Bridgers and Indigo De Souza, but these are guys with shirts half-unbuttoned, beers in hand, I was intrigued: what did they get out of Soccer Mommy?

Her major hit circle the drain was the second song of the night. I listened to the people around me, slurred voices screaming the words back at her: things feel that low sometimes/even when everything is fine. We were entirely hers, the music flowed out of them, into us. When she asked us “How do you guys feel about the Devil down here?”, no one hesitated, no one questioned the absurdity of the question. Instead, they all cheered and threw up rock-and-roll hands or did their very best Devil-call, or they booed. If she had asked us to jump, we would have said “How high?” If she had asked us to bark, we would have scared off the neighbour’s cat. We were at church, and she was our preacher.

I realised that Soccer Mommy doesn’t just write songs about the feminine experience, she makes music about the youthful experience. She writes songs for our generation, all of us who were given unfettered access to the internet, and far too early exposure to Richard Siken poetry. Her music resonated with me, the drunk men going hard in the middle of the room, the quiet girl sitting alone at a table. She has taken our journals, our Tumblr blogs, our deepest fears, and greatest hopes and is performing them with unbelievable lighting, double-vocal reverb and many (many) guitar changes. Winding through two-albums worth of hits, a heartbreaking solo performance of Still Clean, and finishing with Your Dog, everyone who was at the Croxton that night, will leave with a bit of Soccer Mommy’s joyous, cathartic melancholy with them forever.

She understands every heartbreak I’ve ever had. She’s seen the ugliness I see sometimes when I look at myself a-little-too-late-at-night in the mirror. She’s punched that guy in the nose. She’s thrown up in an uber. She’s seen me, seen us. She takes all of those feelings which we think make us wretched, horrible, unseemly, and says “Do you want a backing band with that?” or “Jump on in! The reverb’s the perfect temperature!” And it is the perfect temperature; her music washes over me like waves on the sand, and I am washed ragged to smooth, right there, on the Croxton’s sticky floor. Seeing Soccer Mommy at such an intimate venue reminded me of why I love music, love being a hopeless romantic, love being a woman, love being a little bit ugly and a little bit messy. Soccer Mommy reminds us that total strangers will wrap their arms around each other to cry, and then, not even a song later, to dance and hold each other up.

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[Review] Geoff Tate @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 08/02/2023

It is a perfect Melbourne night as hundreds of punters stream into The Croxton Bandroom to see the most recognisable voice in progressive metal – Geoff Tate. It has been a few years since Geoff was here performing what is arguably the greatest concept album of all, Operation Mindcrime, in its entirety. Tonight’s offering was, Rage for Order and Empire, back-to-back which would be a sin to miss. The fans certainly voted with their hard earned, coming along for a night that knew no musical boundaries. Melbourne is the first stop for the tour and what a privilege to be the first to get our live music deprived ears acquainted with Mr Tate yet again. I took my spot front and centre and settled in for what would be a mind-blowing assault on the senses and God damn was I ready!  

Opening the nights proceedings were Melbourne four-piece metal outfit, Demonhead. After playing with Geoff in Europe late last year it was a given that they would get the coveted opening slot. I was instantly impressed with their ripping riffs and arse-kicking sound. They gave us a quick fire set of seven songs, each delivered with a new gut punch. It was clear from the moment they started they had fans in the crowd, lots of heads nodding in approval and singing along. Lead singer Dave was engaging with the crowd and certainly held their attention. Their sound is a good mix of thrash and your traditional metal, so if that is your thing go check them out. I picked up the vinyl edition of their latest offering Black Devil Lies on my way home and cannot wait to give it a spin!

The Croxton Bandroom was now buzzing with electricity, the voices were a little louder, the people a little sweatier as we counted the minutes until show time. The stage awash with a huge backdrop baring the name of the man himself Geoff Tate. As the house lights dropped the roar was deafening as the band took to the stage. It was the same line up as the Mindcrime show with only one new addition, Danny Laverde on Drums, who kept the show running like clockwork, never missing a beat. Let’s explore the rest of the band, they may be young, but they are seasoned professionals and have Geoff’s sound down to perfection. James Brown was on lead guitar shredding up a storm, Kieran Robertson, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland was a pocket rocket, he looked like a rock star and worked the stage like one. With funky hair, tattoos, and tight pants he was the epitome of cool and left no corner of the stage uncovered. My goodness, Jack Ross, also from Scotland, lit up the stage with his smile. Thoroughly enjoying every minute of his live time slapping his bass to within an inch of its life.  Nothing was overlooked on this tour, the lighting was top notch, the sound impeccable, kudos to all involved.

Enter the man, the myth, the legend, Geoff Tate, jumping straight into Rage for Order in its entirety. I asked Geoff ‘why Rage?’ in our last interview and his answer was “because I really wanted to” and I cannot think of a better reason. He worked through this dark album with such gusto and feeling, his voice in phenomenal form, never faltering all night, still hitting the high notes as he did in his prime. Stand outs for me from this album were Walk In The Shadows, Gonna Get Close to You, Surgical Strike and Screaming In Digital, but who am I kidding, every song was a stand out! To hear it from start to finish was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad I was a part of making history in Melbourne.  Geoff looked the epitome of cool in his patterned gold jacket, glasses and black Fedora, the hat coming on and off unlike the glasses which stayed tightly affixed all night.

After a short interval Geoff and the band were back, looking refreshed, sporting new threads and a new attitude. You could sense the darkness of Rage for Order had been checked at the door and the uplifting sounds of Empire were coming in hot. Geoff had a spring in his step as he launched into Best I Can, the crowd were lifting, and I could feel them creeping into my space, adrenaline pushing them forward wanting to get closer to their idol. Jet City Woman had the punters raising their voices to greet Geoff with a proper Melbourne sing-a-long and it did not go unnoticed. With no setlists needed Geoff joked when it was time to play Empire that he couldn’t remember the next song and asked us to remind him. We happily obliged as Geoff launched into the title track that set The Croxton alight. The masterpiece that is Silent Lucidity saw phone torches out and fans swaying while they sang, Geoff’s voice absolute perfection. Hand on Heart, One and Only and the amazing Anybody Listening? saw out Empire but still left us wanting more, all hungry for just ‘one more song’.

It didn’t take much chanting to bring the stage back to life and the familiar intro of Eyes of a Stranger had the band room in a frenzy. My singing voice was diminishing more by the second, could there be one more in the tank, we are all hopeful as screams rang out, and after a quick convo with the band they dive into Queen of The Reich almost raising the roof in the process, a definite fan favourite and perfect choice to finish out the night. Geoff’s screams hit with precision, each one delivered with chilling satisfaction, there was no place I would rather be, and I soaked up every second letting the songs of my youth wash over me feeling contentment radiating from within.   

With bows and waves goodbye from all, we were left to contemplate the enormity of what we had just witnessed, and I for one was already contemplating what albums might be next when we see Mr Tate return to our Australian shores.

You can still catch Geoff Tate one more time for this tour in Adelaide.

Thursday 10th Feb 2023 @ The Gov, Adelaide

Tickets available here

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[Review] Mayhem @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 21/01/2023

Even if you’re not into Mayhem or Black Metal, you would have heard stories of this band, they are one of the most notorious acts to play stages around the world. You don’t go to see Mayhem, you go to experience it. The last time I saw these guys they played De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in it’s entirety and THAT was mind blowing! This time around, well… we will get there.

This was my first time heading to the Croxton Bandroom and it’s a pretty decent venue, just a bit smaller in capacity to Max Watts in the city but the layout is great as you can get a good view of the stage anywhere in the room. I stood to the side of the sound desk, as is tradition, cause you know, there is no better place to hear it than standing next to the people mixing it.

Kicking off tonights disorder is Melbourne’s own Werewolves. I have been wanting to see these guys live since hearing their album What a Time to be Alive back in 2021. These guys came out and gave the crowd a complete 30mins of solid machine gun precision blasts, it was incredible, they did not let down my hype or expectations at all! The room was filling up pretty quickly and I did have a bit of a laugh to myself as it was stereotypical black metal fans in the crowd, standing, arms crossed and nodding their heads in time, a couple of people were head banging and getting into but yeah, just a bit funny when people play the stereotypes, in saying that, each song was met with applause and screams of appreciation so everyone was still into it. If you can, go and catch these guys play, Dave Haley is one of the best drummers going around and watching him is always impressive. Ending on their first single of What a Time to be Alive, I Don’t Like You with “Don’t get the shits now, this is out last track” got the reaction they wanted from the crowd with more movement and involvement, Im really keen to go and see these guys play again somewhere.

Next up is Ulcerate from New Zealand. Coming off the back of blistering blasts and thrash guitars these guys had a polar opposite approach, with their Progressive Doomier style of playing, no less impressive though. Their drummer is unbelievable, his fills and playing style had me focusing more on him than anything. Ulcerate had a 45/50min set and played probably the same number of songs as Werewolves had in 30mins, they seemed pretty long and intricate. There were a couple of issues when the guitarist changed to a cleaner tone, I found that it got lost in the mix and unfortunately the room was pretty damn full at this stage so there was no chance of getting closer, what a shame that they played to a 3/4 full room. A quick thank you to the crowd was the only interaction from Ulcerate, they came out and got the crowd in the mood for the instilling anarchy coming up next.

By the end of Ulcerates set, the room is completely full, looking around, people are getting hyped and excited for what we are about to witness. As I watch the stage set up and looking up at Hellhammers drum kit is nuts, its massive! You can’t see him playing it, you just hear it. The stage goes dark, smoke fills the air, then everything goes red and the opening track of Daemon, Falsified and Hated explodes. Atilla takes the stage like a ghoul that has just come out of the grave, the guy is next level. Cloaked, painted and baring a bone cross he moves erratically and with the strobe lights, it even looks puppet or animated, eerie effect but goddamn it just adds to the experience of The One True Mayhem. They play 3 Acts through the set, first 5 or 6 tracks are newer material with the likes of Malum and Bad Blood, then they dissapper and all come back fully cloaked to give us tracks from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The crowd go absolutely nuts for Freezing Moon. I could never get sick of hearing those drums live, the amount of reverb on them is crazy. The Third and final act was the Deathcrush EP, banners showing black and white pictures of the original or line up from the ep, and the band coming back out to Silvester Anfang then kicking into Deathcrush itself! This is the second time I’ve seen Mayhem, the first being De Mysteriis… in it’s entirety, now that was unreal, seeing a classic album played in full but I left being greedy and at least hoping to hear Deathcrush, finally hearing it live was just incredible and to the effect that these guys put in on stage, it definitely hit home.

No one left disappointed that night, full house, all bands played tight and incredibly well and the set had songs from all eras of the band, how could you be disappointed? As I said at the start, seeing Mayhem, one of the greats of the genre is an experience and anyone that is into Black Metal should be trying to see these guys at some stage. Clearly Australia gets it with 2 out of 4 shows sold out.

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