I’m writing this review with one of the worst hangovers of my life.
The hundreds of empty beer and cider cans lining the gutters of Melbourne’s AC/DC Lane have been washed up for another year, much like the 800 odd punters who – like myself – partied at Cherry Rock 2016.
The 10th annual riff-a-thon spilled out of its home inside Melbourne’s favourite rock den, Cherry Bar, as always, taking over the entire street outside, with the open-air stage tastefully emblazoned with a red lightning bolt from the iconic Acca Dacca logo that burned so bright you’d swear Lord Voldemort was in town.
It was here that the day began, just after the stroke of midday, with noise from local dirty garage punk ratbags Mesa Cosa reverberating through the CBD, soundtracking our slightly tardy arrival to the rockfest and everyone else’s liquid breakfast.
I was part of a lucky delegation from what I guess you’d call the Sydney rock scene, just a bunch of scrapper rock & roll bands and their mates who’d made the pilgrimage south of the border to see how the other half lives.
And while smashing tinnies with our Victorian neighbourinos made for one kickass mixer, having such a huge hometown crew also made Cherry Rock 2016 feel like some kind of rock and roll summer camp.
Except, you know, it was Melbourne so it was cold AF.
Indonesia’s 70’s inspired rockers The SIGIT, local rock three-piece Dallas Frasca and the Karina Utomo-fronted High Tension made for a pulverising triple-whammy of groove, attitude and brutality early in the piece, keeping the energy as high as the sporadically fart-laced marijuana cloud hovering over AC/DC Lane was keeping the crowd.
Hoping for some fresh oxygen but instead just trading up the dank weed fumes for air composed of 75% human sweat, we pushed our way inside during a killer set from Polish Club to get a good spot in the mosh to see Power, who it turns out more than live up to their name.
This ratty punk threesome emerged onstage to blow our collective minds with one of the most memorable sets of Cherry Rock 2016. Looking like they’d just crawled out of a 70’s basement but sounding like an ultra-modern heavy monster, these local boys cranked the energy to 11 and mercilessly pelted the crowd with a song after song assault of hard rock, boogie, punk, thrash and psych.
To boot, singer Nathan Williams oozed that cheeky, maniacal, endearingly bogan frontman charisma, bringing to mind visions of a banshee-wailing, guitar-slinging Bon Scott. Then again, maybe that was just his spectacular mullet.
Either way, watch out for these guys, they’re gonna be big.
And speaking of big, up next was one of the biggest bands on the lineup as far as fans were concerned, American rock veterans The Supersuckers. These dudes have a massive cult following. They’re a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll, with the cowboy hat to non-cowboy hat ratio onstage sitting at a respectable 50%. Their bluesy tunes about hangovers, odes to wacky tobacky and OTT use of the words “Cha Cha Cha” made for a hootin’ tootin’ good time when combined with a crowd who were at least six beers deep and going strong.
Meanwhile, the marijuana cloud got even thicker.
Nek minnit fellow Sydneysiders Gay Paris hit the stage with such fearsome turntness that they triggered a blackout one song in. During the brief gap while we waited for the electricity to get its shit together, one of our crew unfurled one of those little bottles of eyewash that people with contact lenses use, which it turns out happened to be filled with Absolut Vodka instead. With a few devious squirts, our Smirnoff Double Blacks became Triple Blacks.
“Sorry God, Satan wins again!” Gay Paris frontman Luke ‘Wailin H’ Monks proclaimed as the power returned and the self-styled “metal hipsters” launched into a crushing set of tectonic stagecraft and sludgy southern riffage powered by their trademark three-pronged assault of growly bearded-man vocals.
As always, Ash Wednesday Boudoir Party went off.
Richie Ramone and his band of motley punks won the award for biggest crowd of the night, with punters having to elbow their way through the fan sandwich squished all the way to the back of Acca Dacca lane. Serving up a raw, balls-to-the-wall rock show, the former Ramones drummer showed off his musical tekkers both in front of the mic and behind the kit.
Melbourne rock sons Dead City Ruins – fresh from playing Sydney’s Frankies Pizza with Black Sabbath support act Rival Sons the week before – never fail to make eyeballs pop out of heads. Years of touring Europe and beyond have turned these local boys into world class pros, and their watertight musicianship was made all the more mind-blowing by their intense live show, mesmerising dual guitar attacks and frontman Jake Wiffen’s fuck-off-there’s-no-way-he’s-actually-hitting-those-notes-oh-fuck-he-actually-is-get-fucked! high vocals.
And I’ll be honest here. By the time German imported headliners Kadavar took the stage, I – like many others – was magnificently shitwankered. But by all accounts, they carved it up.
And even though they were the final band of the festival, the party didn’t stop there. Far from it.
The Cherry faithful stuck around til at least 5 in the morning, some smashing Melbourne Bitters, others singing along to Hendrix and The Stooges but all of them basking in each others’ fine company and having a dope ass time.
There was no violence, no drug overdoses, no negative vibes whatsoever. People were allowed to go outside the venue after 2am, snack on a kebab, do a shot at the club round the corner then come back for more at 3am and keep the good times a-rollin’.
CC: NSW Government.
Finally, it’s important to point out that – apart from the finger-full of triple j-sanctioned bands on the Cherry Rock 2016 lineup – pretty much none of these artists get played on the radio or anywhere else for that matter. They’re the property of a subculture that’s been shunned by the mainstream and hipster media tastemakers but still continues to thrive in pockets around local dive bars and alternative music hubs across Australia.
Which I guess makes Cherry Rock sort of like Australian rock & roll’s own gathering of the clans. And being involved in its 10th annual blowout this year was nothing short of an honour.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and nap off this hangover before I hop a plane back to the nanny state.
Photos: Nikki Williams