Words by Rangi White
All photos by Maddy Kaye // IG : @_deadsimple
Amidst the confusion of Queensland’s latest Covid crisis the bright light of the holy riff still cuts through the darkening clouds, and alights the path for the devout rock ‘n’ roll pilgrim. It’s just as well too, for the rain that was harrowing Burleigh Heads BBQ Bazaar last night stood as no obstacle for the masked crowd that gathered under the corrugated iron shrine, celebrating the album launch of renowned riff writers, the mighty Stoker.
Friday saw the release of ‘Side A’, the first half of their undeniably impressive debut album ‘Sonic Blues and Grooves’.
After I arrived, familiarised myself with the astounding surroundings of the BBQ Bazaar, and consummated my devotion to a fantastic lamb shoulder souvlaki, beverages were obtained, and seats were taken directly up the front in anticipation of openers Couch Wizard
Their introductory piece was a medley of psychedelic/desert rock style segments with some impressive lead guitar-ing, I particularly enjoyed the tone emanating from the lead guitarists hollow body electric. With distinctly Bobby Liebling -like vocals, I picked up a heavy Pentagram-esque vibe which was not at all unenjoyable, if you like your stoner rock then this is the band for you.
Next came local GC guys Tokyo Beef who flew onto stage with considerable energy and fervour. They matched classic rock chord progressions with refreshingly old-school glammy guitar solos and punky drum/bass grooves, I was taken aback by the tenacity with which the bass guitar was attacked, leading to a broken bass string, which is a physically impressive feat to be achieved by anyone. Standout for me was a high octane and ironically named song called Lockdown.
Next on the menu was Chutney a considerably less manic but contemporarily appropriate group that served up a tasteful Indie/Surf rock vibe with a light touch of reggae. Musicianship was solid, with an Arctic Monkeys meets Ocean Alley kind of approach that mellowed everyone in the audience out enough to look on with a sort of focused appreciation. You can tell when watching a band that is properly rehearsed, from the ease with which they deliver their songs, and these guys showed that delivery profusely. The vocal performance was excellent too, with astoundingly consistent pitch accuracy held from the first song all the way to their last.
Main support for the night were 3-piece alt/grunge rockers Plateau who displayed their firey onstage antics amongst a whirlwind of hair. Incorporating influences from Seattle’s finest, they showed off elements of blues and punk in amongst their primarily grunge flavoured set, and I was in particular impressed by the consistency of the rhythm section and their ability to hold space in their songs structurally, allowing for a greater variety of vocal techniques to be utilised. Most notably, both guitarist and bassist swapped the responsibility of lead vocal for certain songs in a way that enhanced the textural value of their overall sound, and as a bit of a Seattle grunge-buff myself, found it highly stimulating.
The clouds parted (probably because god wanted to catch the set) and the crowd tucked in their napkins for the blues groove flavoured delicacy that was to be consumed by all. After having followed Stoker for a few years, I’ve watched this shredalicious conglomerate transform from 3 guys with indomitable chops into a fully-fledged live act with a hell of a lot to offer. Of course, having seen this transformation live, the next thing to expect is of course a record, and finally our wishes have been granted… ‘Sonic Blues and Grooves – Side A’ is the first half of their debut album and their performance last night was a stolid reminder as to why all our playlists are now dominated by said album.
More bass solos to open up performances, was the opinion I took from Stoker’s first song. Gracing us with a newie, the triage of riff-meisters launched into fresh track False Prophets displaying them in all their magnificent rock n roll glory and demonstrated their unparalleled proficiency once again…fingers crossed that this one ends up on the second half of the album, cuz it’s a proper fuckn tune.
Proceeding to grace us with a few tracks off the album, we were treated to Tales of Stoker, Witch Doctor, Wake up the Radio, and Higher which I won’t talk much about as I’d rather you, reader, go and indulge in these tracks yourself – don’t let me bias your opinion, I’m quite sure I won’t need to… as each and every one of these songs are still rattling around in my cranium as I write this…We were given a full frontal assault for 45 ecstatic minutes and the boys showed off all they had. Ethan Smith (Guitar) administered his usual dose of mind boggling lead guitar acrobatics, to be honest it’s lucky there was no dancing allowed as there would have no doubt been a slipping hazard from all the melted faces splattered across the floor of the front row…shredding with teeth, solo behind the head, leg over the neck, you name it he does it…
Easily one of the most cohesive rhythm sections that SE Queensland local music has to offer, Joel Zahner (Vox/Bass) and Jarrah Thornell (Vox/Drums) proved their worth over and over in both performance and songwriting, swapping vocals back and forth while carrying grooves of immaculate curation, and performed both covers and originals with the ease of a band very well practised. As always, they astounded and confounded, and I’d like to give the boys a huge congratulations for their efforts on both the album and last night’s performance. Stoker are lined up for a slew of oncoming shows, their next being at Byron Bay’s The Northern Hotel on April 9, for all ye hungry riff addicts I suggest you make yourselves present.
Thanks to Stoker