Punters were treated to a uniquely up-close-and-personal vibe with the bands at Capitol on Friday, as High Tension and Private Function took a leaf out of Matt Caughthran’s book of ideal frontperson behaviour, with all the singers hanging out in the pit with the audience at some point during the night – something I’ve never seen in all my years of going to heavy gigs.
Clad in tight jeans with tucked in t-shirts, 80s cop show mo’s and mullets, Private Function kicked things off for the early arrivals with impressive enthusiasm. Whether you like their old school, Sex Pistols-era-sounding punk or not you couldn’t help but be entertained as they thrashed about like their lives depended on it with mic stands getting knocked over and carnage ensuing from the very first song. Their hilariously tongue-in-cheek setlist was tailor-made for an Aussie crowd, with belters like White Lady Funeral, I Wish Australia Had its Guns Again, Dial Before You Dig and a cover of Midnight Oil’s King of the Mountain. A satisfying opening act with tunes you could sing along to after hearing the chorus for the first time.
After the whimsical openers, High Tension was like a portal into a different, far more ominous dimension. Vocalist Karina Utomo instantly evoked the scary creature from that horror movie The Grudge, and when she started screaming jaws dropped all around the room at the sheer brutality of it. Every member of this four-piece are exceptional musicians and they offered up a set that started like a slap in the face wake-up call, then sped up as it evolved into a groovier buzz. Emphatically the chalk to Private Function’s cheese, High Tension did a great job of keeping the crowd on their toes and warming us up for The Bronx.
From the moment The Bronx came out to their usual jungle drum beat to when he was shaking hands with fans after the encore, you couldn’t wipe the smile from vocalist Matt Caughthran’s face. And he sure knew how to endear himself to an already reverent crowd as he started a chant of “East is least, West is best”, building on his claim last year when they came with Pennywise that if the Bronx were Australian, they’d be from Perth.
Celebrating 15 years since dropping their first album The Bronx, the setlist was a sweet compilation of highlights from every album. Getting straight into it with Unholy Hand, the pit exploded with bodies flying all around. Just four songs in during Heart Attack American Matt did a sweet stage dive into the welcoming arms of the already sweaty masses, and shit just kept building up from there. Announcing that they hadn’t included it on their set in a while, the crowd went wild as they laid into Cobra Lucha, and the entire place sang along to White Guilt which Matt dedicated to “all the ladies in the house”, of which there were a few!
With Bronx V dropping a year ago, Sore Throat, Night Drop at the Glue Factory, Two Birds, Side Effects and Broken Arrow were welcome additions to the setlist, and most people seemed to sing along to the new tracks. Side Effects felt particularly impressive with its soulful lyrics, wedged nicely as a palate cleanser in between White Guilt and They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy). By this point there had already been a few stage dives and security were looking pretty antsy when Matt declared that for the next track there’s no rules, encouraging people to “sharpen their swords” and do whatever they wanted before launching into Knifeman and joining the carnage in the pit, staying there for Six Days a Week.
Ending their set with Around the Horn, in an extended outro Matt dropped his mic and just grooved along in a way that fans will recognise by now: eyes closed, smiling, and probably satisfied that The Bronx had delivered, predictably, another incredible show filled with smiles, sweat, stage dives and stressed out security guards. We only got one song for the encore but when the encore is History’s Stranglers, quality vs. quantity applies. All I can say is – hopefully these boys make it four years in a row and come hang out on our shores again next year.
Photos by Adrian Thomson