Words by Natalie Blacklock
After wrapping up extensive tours across the United Kingdom and at home in Canada, Cancer Bats are back on Australian soil, following the release of latest record ‘The Spark That Moves’ in 2018. This album was the first to be released on the band’s DIY label, Bat Skull Records, marking a change for the band which allowed for more creative independence and the ability to record and release albums on their own terms; aptly choosing to drop the record on 4/20. With a reputation for putting on in-your-face, no holds barred, punk rock shows, the Canadian outfit have made their way Down Under and are excited to be kicking off ‘The Spark That Moves’ Australian tour presented by Destroy All Lines in Brisbane.
Playing host is Brisbane’s resident ‘Home of The Heavy’, Crowbar. With former The Amity Affliction keyboardist, Trad Nathan and partner Tyla Dombroski at the helm, Crowbar has become a staple in the Metal, Punk and Hardcore scenes as a haven for good beers and friendly faces over the last 7 years. The evening saw Crowbar abuzz with a healthy crowd of black t-shirt clad punters from early on in the night, some of whom were pulling double-duty with Crowbar Brisbane’s fortnightly dose of Trivia hosted by DJ Dan well before the downstairs band room opened for the show.
As Round 1 of Trivia was wrapping up upstairs, Brisbane locals Oldtown were just getting started downstairs. The 4-piece draws influence from classic rock and roll style and combines raw punk energy to create sounds that pays homage to bands like Every Time I Die and headliners Cancer Bats, which is clear right from the outset as their introduction feels like the audience are sitting in on any other Thursday night band practice. Their set, heavy with tracks, from 2018 EP ‘Death Of The Party’ was well received by the respectable crowd filling the front of the mosh pit. King of The Gutter sees frontman Matthew Muscari swinging from the roof pillars above drummer Sean Puxty’s head and screaming at the crowd from his perch atop the stage barrier. For Ego Is A Dirty Word, the band’s friend / photographer Andrew Vaughan downs tools to offer some stellar guest vocals. Muscari again escapes the stage in favour of the front of the mosh pit for Locked Horns before launching into a cover of 1976 Ramones banger Blitzkrieg Bop (cheekily introduced as Alexisonfire’s Young Cardinals). Closing their set with The Swindler, Oldtown really gave it all they had – playing the song out with a Floor Tom in hand and Guitarist Matt Scott’s fretboard being played on his head, Muscari looked comfortable flailing on the barrier, reminiscent of the moves of Stevie Williams from the newly ARIA-nominated Clowns in this very venue not too long ago. Oldtown have delivered on the energy, with a hard-hitting start to a big night.
With the final round of Trivia finishing upstairs (P.S. Sorry I wasn’t a more helpful team member Crowbar Flies!), cold beers flowing and the deliverance of the promised Alexisonfire track blaring through the upstairs bar, Being Jane Lane were just about ready to kick off downstairs. The Brisbane-based 5-piece are quickly becoming a staple in the scene, after picking up some killer support slots in the last few months. Frontwoman Teigan Le Plastrier looked at home on the stage as the band launched into the crux of their set. Tracks including Next Step, with killer backing vocals from both Guitarists PB Chim and Kate McPhee and Sailboat, in which Le Plastrier’s vocals found a life of their own as Bassist Louise Sanders and Guitarist PB Chim ended the song in the ultimate guitar power-poses shredding hard to the end. Quickly Interrupted started as a quieter moment but woke up the room in a hurry; with a person in the front row exclaiming, “This is worth missing (Australian soapie) Home & Away for”. Tracks from their new album ‘Savage Sunday’ including Running, Marathon and Less Is More carried strongly through the crowd as Le Plastrier ripped into an out-of-control signature ‘hairspinner’ move. Closing their set with the very fun and very sexually driven new single, Savage Sunday, it is clear that Being Jane Lane are building themselves a solid and dedicated fan base with their unique brand of all-girl punk.
The growing crowd were primed for a Totally Unicorn takeover downstairs. Totally Unicorn are best described as the sometimes punk / sometimes metalcore party band of your dreams. Now, if you’ve never been to a Totally Unicorn show before, it’s definitely as much about the spectacle that unfolds before your eyes as much as it is about the music. The band are infamous for their highly energetic and unpredictable live shows, often featuring partial or complete nudity and frontman Drew Gardner spending more time in the mosh pit than on the stage – and this show proved to be no different. As Totally Unicorn take the stage, Gardner is already shirtless and sporting Tie Dye shorts. He exclaimed, “We’re Totally Unicorn. Let’s Get Rowdy” and the crowd were more than willing to participate. Gardner was intent on spending more time off the Crowbar stage then on it, as he madly paced the length of Crowbar’s basement with microphone in hand – screaming, clamouring and flailing any way he could to anyone who’d listen. Prized Pig saw him cartwheeling around the venue and climbing onto the sound desk and the bar, before turning the microphone lead into a skipping rope for willing participants at the front of the mosh pit. Following the “fucking pathetic” attempt at a Mexican Wave, the band launched into A Song For The Deadshits – dedicated to openers Being Jane Lane, emphasised by a stellar solo from new Bass player, Dean Podmore. Finishing up their set with a 1-2 punch of Guts and Grub, taken from new album ‘Sorry’ (recorded with Jonathan Boulet at Adelaide’s Ghostnote Recording Studios), which was released in April this year. Totally Unicorn’s set ends in a pool of sweat and a drenched Drew Gardner lying in the middle of the Crowbar dance floor. Totally Unicorn were a non-stop party from start to finish, and that’s exactly what these punters came to see.
Beloved Canadian outfit Cancer Bats are fuelled by a burning desire to rage harder, play louder and have more fun than any other band. Over the years, they have perfected a unique mix of hardcore, southern metal and punk rock into a lethal rock and roll explosion they’ve taken across the world. The Cancer Bats crew have made their way back to Australia to kick off their national tour on the back of the band’s 6th album ‘The Spark That Moves’ and Brisbane could not have been a more perfect place to start – with the love for this Canadian 4-piece now spanning over a decade. The downstairs band room of Crowbar is at capacity, with punters standing shoulder to shoulder with familiar faces waiting in anticipation.
Frontman Liam Cormier emerged, joined by Jaye Schwarzer (Bass) and Mike Peters (Drums) – as well as one unexpected but certainly not unfamiliar face joining the ranks; with Guitarist Scott Middleton on ‘Dad-Duty’, the legend that is Wade MacNeil (of Alexisonfire, Gallows and Black Lungs) and his trusty Gibson Custom Flying V are filling in. Their set opens with a bang, with opening track Gatekeeper from the band’s newest album ‘The Spark That Moves’, quickly followed up by older headbanging tracks Sorceress and Shillelagh. Ever playful Frontman Liam Cormier was primed – holding his microphone like a stand-up comedian, cracking out his best Aussie accent (and a few lines from oddly realistic Damo and Darren series, Ciggy Butt Brain). Cormier expressed his excitement at kicking off their tour in Brisbane, exclaiming “you’re cool but you’re dirty, Brisbane. It’s a vibe”, before launching into the raucous Bricks and Mortar, forcing the crowd off their feet as Bassist Jaye Schwarzer took a sneaky crowd surf. If that wasn’t enough, Cancer Bats dropped their long-standing cover of the Beastie Boys’ seminal anthem Sabotage to a wild response bookended with Hail Destroyer, taken from the 2008 album of the same name. With everyone needing a moment to catch their breath, Cormier commanded the attention of the crowd, expressing that he was “tickled pink” to still be seeing familiar faces in the crowd right back from 2007 when the band “played that upstairs place in Chinatown”. As a dedication to these long-standing fans, the band ripped into clear crowd favourite Butterscotch taken from 2006 record ‘Birthing The Giant’.
Searching For Zero brought out the crowd surfers along Crowbar’s trusty catcher of thrashing bodies, Denis Hogan, who had his work cut out for him. Its end was met with a sombre tone as fill-in Guitarist Wade MacNeil paid an emotional tribute to dear friend and integral member of the Alexisonfire / City and Colour family, producer and engineer Karl Bareham, telling the audience to check-in on your mates and to make every night count – a timely reminder on World Mental Health Day. The last few songs of the set hit fever-pitch as Cancer Bats smashed through Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, Pneumonia Hawk and closing track of ‘The Spark That Moves’, Winterpeg, an ode to the city it was recorded in (which features guest vocals from Chris Hannah of Winnipeg punk legends, Propagandhi).
Shows like this are a place where bands, fans, and unsuspecting bystanders can unite under a banner of raised fists, banging heads and tonight was no different. As the house lights brighten and the room begins to empty, punters are still lingering near the stage – arms outstretched, hoping for a hi-five or a fist-bump (of which all succeeded). Nowhere is the importance of the punk and hardcore community more evident than a Cancer Bats show; the energy Cormier and co. deliver on stage is as undeniably infectious as the music itself and is a huge reason why these Canadians have been a force to be reckoned with for the last 15 years.
Be sure to catch Cancer Bats on the remaining dates of their ‘The Spark That Moves’ Australian tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Friday 11 October – Cambridge Hotel | Newcastle (18+)
Saturday 12 October – Crowbar | Sydney (18+)
Sunday 13 October – The Basement | Canberra (18+)
Wednesday 16 October – Stay Gold | Melbourne (18+)
Thursday 17 October – Pelly Bar | Frankston (18+)
Friday 18 October – Enigma Bar | Adelaide (18+)