GIG REVIEW: Sunset Junkies + Sabrina Lawrie + The Automaton + The Aunties, The Zoo, Brisbane, 05/02/2021

sunset junkies
Sunset Junkies

Words by – Music Maven Tracey Moyle

All Photos by Elizabeth Sharpe // IG :  @ummagummamumma


Friday night at The Zoo saw four of the country’s most inspiring rock artists come together combining universal musical energies to blow the roof of the venue.  But it was more than just a night out; the night was about the healing power of music.

Sunset Junkies were hosting their rescheduled launch of the vinyl release of their 2019 album ‘Cosmos’, cancelled last month due to our most recent, inconvenient but short, lockdown. Luckily the planets aligned perfectly for all four bands involved. The same line up only a few weeks later, back at The Zoo for take two.

The post-Covid vibe amongst the crowd had a contrasting feeling around the room.  The energy was a buzz of excitement but with a calmer more intense force behind it – gratefulness. After the last 12 months, to have live music back to an almost normal state was one thing, but having this calibre of bands playing together on one bill, was incredibly special. And the crowd knew it. There was a kinship amongst strangers connected by music.

Joining Sunset Junkies on the bill were local rock goddess Sabrina Lawrie Band, psych-rock powerhouse The Automaton and heavy rockers The Aunties.


Opening the night were Gold Coast trio The Aunties, aka Jarad Birt, Jai Watkins and Michael Birt. No doubt ready to rock a hole in the roof they opened with heavy riffs and a brilliantly dominant bass, belting out  track Lonely Prison. It was potently pure rock! Three young guys, playing with skill defying their years, heavy bass, belting drums, and killer riffs there was no way my mind wasn’t going straight to early days of Silverchair. It was like finding a sequal to Pure Massacre 20 years on. The Aunties wear their influences on their sleeves with tracks like Black Light , Smokin‘ and Say To Me and heavy as fuck. Insomnia full of big meaty riffs, soul reaching bass lines and gunfire rapid drums nod toward heavy late ‘80s, early ‘90s Metallica. This combined with the intense mayhem that epitomised the birth of grunge and you get The Aunties. Jarads’ vocals capture aggression and desperation. Each of the bandmates playing like they are the only one on stage, yet all three come together creating the perfect pure rock n roll storm.Ending the night with a cover of Nirvana’s Drain You was a brilliant and popular choice. The openers could easily be headlining their own shows very soon.

The Aunties
The Aunties

I have to mention, at this point, how awesome it was to see a swirling psychedelic visual background projected onto the wall behind the bands. It set a great atmosphere for the music and was just simply very cool. When the meditative chakra figure appeared you suspected next band weren’t far away.

It wasn’t long before The Automaton took to the stage. Opening with Undertow, the band set the atmosphere ready for the dynamic vocals of lead lady Deja Solomona to take control of the room. And that’s exactly what she did, taking the stage in all her beautiful rock n roll glory. The Automaton capture the pure essence of psychedelic rock, opening big, musically and vocally. The band are as tight as they are heavy, with Deja’s vocals holding the crowd through the entire set. Receiver followed on with the frontwoman so in tune with the music it was as if she was a messenger, spreading the message to the gathered crowd. Fully supported by James Lavel on bass, Fiona Rappa on drums and Peter McAnelly on lead guitar, the band composed a progressively psychedelic picture, translated by Deja’s mesmerising vocals.

The automaton
Deja Solomona

Their set took us through tracks including their new dual single releases Highway On the Ceiling, a song that captures the essence of Zepplin, and the heavy, slow paced grunge feel of Infinite. Taking it next level, Throat Bones unveiled the true ethereal power in the frontwoman’s vocals. The 8 song set through took you on a pshychotropic musical journey down a rabbit hole of blues, grunge, psychodelic rock, their sound captures a time when music was finding it’s freedom. Maybe that time has returned. The Automaton don’t perform, they channel the music, interpreting the songs through their connection with each number, sharing this musical energy with everyone within auditory range. They finished their set with Heartquake, showing their versatility with a sound I can only describe as a ‘70’s interpretation of RATM or Fever 333 , this followed by the track Automaton, again showing off Deja’s brilliant range.

james Lavel
James Lavel

The Automaton fully shine on stage. Their performance, sound, depth and connection to their music is something that undeniably needs to be experienced live.

In between sets I notice so many local musicians in the crowd. It’s great to see artists out supporting their local music peers.  Its’ been a tough few months for the industry but tonight shows the strength and courage that music not only has but inspires in people.

Sabrina Lawrie took to the stage looking like the magical rock goddess that she is, thanking everyone for their support after Covid19 hit the collective hard. She drew in the crowd starting the set with the spiritually grounding hum of her massive crystal singing bowl. Creating an energetic resonance with everyone present, she continues tonight’s overall vibe of what I’m going to baptize ‘zen rock’. The energy on stage was amplified with the biggest piece of rose quartz I think I’ve ever seen and the calm steady ethereal pace of High Time To Fly opens Sabrina’s set.

Sabrina Lawrie
Sabrina Lawrie Band

Her vocals drew you in with divine harmony only to peak with an energetic power punch that carries you to the edge of musical ecstacy. The band follow suit leading a magical ride with Live and Die. The songs hypnotic cadence, a mesmerising journey. Guitars and keys built the heart of the musical tale. The music finds its ‘funk’ with Fine. With the crowd taking in the full essence of the music, Lawrie talks about next number Stampede Earthquake. A song reminding us that we have more power than we think, that so many ancient cultures have embraced the importance of experiencing the power of music, movement and dance. It’s feels like Sabrina draws her energy straight from the ground beneath her feet releasing it through vocal power. 

Sabrina Lawrie
Sabrina Lawrie

The set continues on with big rock vocals and the crowd is carried away by the danceable grooves taking us into Another Language and System Collapse. The band connected through the music and this generated out to the crowd. The atmosphere was the essence of rock from decades ago. That perception supported by the two dancing fans in front, one in a flared jumpsuit and another in a classical crochet dress befitting the mood. Coming to the end of the set the band were going out on a high taking us into fan favourite No Rules, a bluesy belter showcasing Lawrie’s vocals, more than reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane’s powerhouse frontwoman Grace Slick. They rocked the show to a close with new single Dreamstate. A big grungy rock finish to a set that had the band and the crowd all completely connected through the alchemy of music.

Soon after, with beverages replenished and bodies hydrated Sunset Junkies took over the stage ready to embrace the crowd with their groove infused prog rock. With the dual vocals of Byron Short and Ellie Jane the pair bring a whole new dimension to the progressive music. The crowd were pumped and ready for the powerhouse that stood before us.

Sunset Junkies

Playing the ‘Cosmos’ album in full they opened with Inertia, an epic rock song, taking the current energy buzzing around the venue and expanding on it. Big rock riffs and vocals opened the show with power and depth. The WOW! factor was evident on the faces of the crowd. Apollo and Dionysis created a kaildescope of sounds. Heavy riffs, funky hooks, Short’s dynamic vocals combined with Ellie’s harmonic power took you on the journey through the song. They belted out It at a pace with the bass dominating. The vocal narrative on the track draws you in, hammering it home through the chorus. The power continues with the Ozymandias. Heavy rock infused with a funky cadence, again a classic prog rock feel coming through the music. All bands tonight have embraced influences stretching decades. The anthemic Give Her To The River has a Rush-like feel with Ellies’ power embracing the room and holding the crowd in her vocal grasp. The elation of live music’s return was evident on the faces of everyone present. They followed on with the flow of the album with the ardent narrative of Cosmos. Byron performing with earnest vocals, Ellie joining in adding beautiful resonance to this soaring track.

Byron Short
Sunset Junkies

Breaking from ‘Cosmos’ they introduce new single Pentagram, a track that again weaving the music together like a symphonic tapestry. They had fun with the crowd playing classic Black Sabbaths, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and embracing their inner rock gods and goddess, belting out Soundgarden’s Outshined. Ending with their namesake track Sunset Junkies they took the night out on a high.

It was a night of musically emotive power tracks that Brisbane truly needed to restore our rock n roll souls after a time of depletion.

Follow/Listen To Sunset Junkies

Follow/Listen To Sabrina Lawrie

Follow/Listen To The Automaton

Follow/Listen To The Aunties

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