Review: Punks come screaming back

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Hell Yes, photo by  'pling
Hell Yes, photo by ‘pling
A GROUNDSWELL has been building for the past few years as Canberra’s punk community from the ’70s and ’80s reconnects. Bands reform, gigs are staged, stories exchanged, old wounds are opened and healed and, though everyone looks older, the music still sounds and feels the same.

Early punk was all about doing it yourself, so it’s fitting that the 1980s event for the Centenary of Canberra’s “Kick up Your Heels – 100 years of social dance” program was all about local Canberra music.  Three reformed bands from “back in the day” played sets that spanned the range of British, Detroit and psychedelic influences that spawned Canberra’s punk scene.

First up was Vacant Lot (formed 1978) who played a fast set of simple and direct British-style punk.

Next band was Hell Yes (formed 1983).  While the other two bands on the bill play predominantly original material, Hell Yes intersperse their own songs with faithful and authentic covers of Detroit and Sydney bands such as Radio Birdman, The Stooges and MC5.  Having previously seen most of the bands they were covering, it was great to see the locals doing justice to some of my favourite songs.

Headliners, Crow were a late scratching so the last band to play was the legendary Young Docteurs (formed 1978).  Canberra’s answer to British bands such as The Damned and Magazine, Young Docteurs have an epic psychedelic element in the songwriting and their sound.  Their instrumentation is one guitar, bass and drums, the simplest of rock line-ups, but their sound is dynamic, warm and full.  The set was their longest in Canberra for decades and devoted punters were clearly enjoying the journey back in time.

The Vacant Lot,  George Howson [vox] and Nick Ketley photo by  'pling
The Vacant Lot, George Howson [vox] and Nick Ketley photo by ‘pling
I’m less familiar with Canberra’s DJing scene from the late ’80s.  Even so, it was clear from the crew with their turntables in the upstairs bar that, just as with punk, when it came to turntables, Canberra was right on the money.  Original VOODOO DJs: LD Glove, Roger Ramjet, Jon Wicks and Goldfinger mixed beautiful, warm vinyl beats that just made you move.

The Croatian Australian Club was the perfect venue for this event, not just because of the great amenity but also because its style and decor added to the feeling of an event staged by community.  This is not some slick, state-of-the-art, designer venue, but a space where people with a vision can do their own thing.  In the ’80s, Australia produced many fantastic bands because almost every club and every pub was a venue where they could hone their craft and build their audience. Kudos goes to the Canberra Musicians Club and the licensed clubs they work with to bring this style of show back in the 21st century.

The Young Docteurs, singer Chris Shakallis & guitarist Paul Hayward photo by 'pling
The Young Docteurs, singer Chris Shakallis & guitarist Paul Hayward photo by ‘pling


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