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Words – Tracey Moyle Music Maven

Photography by Elizabeth Sharpe | @ummagummamumma


Old school music fans were out in numbers to catch some of the most renowned artists the world has seen when Pandemonium Festival hit the Gold Coast at Broadwater Parklands this weekend. 

Alice Cooper led the charge, bringing his epic live theatrical stage performance to thousands of excited fans. He was joined by the iconic in every way, Debbie Harry’s Blondie, equally as celebrated in the world of musical influences. Covering a wide base of fan favourites from the ‘80s, British post-punk rockers Psychedelic Furs brought back flooding memories for many and American alt-rockers Wheatus brought the crowd alive with one of the country’s most adored songs. Filling in the local component rock luminaries Wolfmother and Cosmic Psychos made us all feel right at home, with Gold Coast heavy rockers The Silencio filling in the local opening spot, revving up the crowd from kick-off. The day unfolded in the best possible way. 

The crowd slowly poured through the gates from 1pm, finding their piece of grass early, up back with their rugs and chairs or up front, their feet firmly in position for the day’s outstanding line-up. Food trucks were busy, the bar was well stock with drinks and staff, everyone was happy. The music lovers spanned across the decades in age proving that music is timeless. I saw fans in their very early 20’s singing along to every word of every Blondie song and the older crowd standing up and taking a good note of locals, The Silencio. It was a day that was treading the waters of high expectations and it, without doubt, rose up and smashed this session of Pandemonium Fest 2024 right out of the ballpark. 

With enough time for the early punters to get drinks and find their ground, Gold Coast’s own, The Silenco, opened the show with a massive dose of hard rock. With ten years of hitting the local scene and creating a dedicated fanbase of their own the band had an extensive playlist to choose from. Their music is diverse and ever-changing, with tracks on the setlist from the ascending rock track Once And For All, building up a charge through the crowd. Heavy hitter Apology brought progressive vibes to the set with the head-banger, Under Lock and Key from their latest album ‘Foreign Frequencies’, bursting through the speakers.  The Silencio were a perfect fit for Pandemonium Gold Coast openers, no doubt taking away some new fans from the day. 

The crowd was swelling to festival-ready size, with more streaming through the gates. The Cosmic Psychos were next to entertain us, and as always, that is exactly what they did. The epitome of Aussie punk rock culture, this band have been playing festivals, headliners and supports since 1982 for a reason. They are celebrated by fans as quintessential blue collar Aussie pub rock. Their fans love their good dose of larrikinism. Opening with a punch in the face they tore through their classic track, Pub, following the theme with the smash hit, Nice Day To Go To The Pub. Fans were walking in the gates, skipping the bar, (ironically) and heading straight to stage to listen to these locals, smash through their set. The on-stage antics were entertaining with Dean Muller bouncing a drumstick in the air to be caught by guitarist ‘Mad Macka’ McKeering. Dead In A Ditch, Fuckwit City and the classic party track David Lee Roth brought the true essence of old-school Australian rock to the festival. And it wouldn’t be a Psychos show without Mad Macka’s belly dance. Younger fans seeing Cosmic Psychos, probably for the first time, would have discovered one of the likely influences that birthed The Chats.

The day progressed with its homegrown line-up in the best way a rock show could with arguably one of the most phenomenal rock acts in the country, Wolfmother taking to the stage with a roar from the fans. Andrew Stockdale and his remarkable vocal chords, always draw a crowd, young and old, more than eager to drink in his raw and powerful voice. 

Bringing the set alive Stockdale and his new band members James Wassenaar (Rhino) on bass and Christian “Ronnie” Condon, (Rhino, Baltimore Gun Club) drums, kicked off with brilliant opener Dimension. The new additions proving worthy of the Wolfmother epic sound. The crowd gushed in like a raging torrent from the back of the venue to the stagefront. Stockdale took fans through classic tracks, his vocals hit massive notes with the ease of Robert Plant in his heyday. The frontman announces Victorious. This is what you get when Wolfmother try to write an Iron Maiden song. As Stockdale makes his vocal acrobatics look easy, Ronnie belts the drums with rhythmic perfection. Woman is a merger of sonic perfection and rock ‘n’ roll showmanship with the guitarist playing Hendrix style behind his head. The hits keep coming, Apple Tree and Colossal are obvious standouts, showcasing the skill of each musician on the stage. Stockdale’s electrifying guitar skills are on par with his dynamic vocals. Wassenaar follows the guitarist’s lead with perfect timing and Condon belting out every timing change with seasoned skill. It’s like some form of symbiotic musical unison, the band musically feeding of each other.  

Fitting in as much as they can in their short (for Wolfmother) set, the band ends with the ultimate closing track, Joker And The Theif. This performance leaves no doubt that Andrew Stockdale is a rock star in the purest context of the word. Catchy af hooks, massive and crisp riffs, thundering drums, and booming bass bring together this mammoth track. Stockdale takes out his phone, filming the crowd. The fans are left on a high. The festival has definitely begun.

New York alt-rockers, Wheatus were next. I think to Australian fans, Wheatus are like your American cousin that you love to catch up with when they visit. Frontman Brendan B. Brown pays homage to the ‘90s wearing an Everclear shirt as he takes the stage, not front and centre but to the left of the fans, giving the audience the full scope of the band, keys, backing singers, guitars, drums; it’s all there. Brown shares fond memories of the Gold Coast and Australia in general as he takes us into Temporary Song from ‘Wheatus 2020’, bringing us a new track that captures a past era of grungy rock. As so many international bands love to do, they pay homage to Aussie rock, belting out an AC/DC cover, getting the crowd jumping to Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation. The stage is full, with Brown on vocals and guitar, with keys, two backing vocalists, bassist and drummer spanning one side to the other. They played Through written by backing vocalist Joey Slater, Fourteen and Lemonade came next, the latter brining up more memories from Australia, although not happy ones with Brown writing the song about a broken engagement that happened after they returned from a tour down under. 

The crowd were engaged eagerly awaiting that ‘famous’ track. The oldies are the favourites for sure with, Leroy sparking a sing along from the crowd. He tells how they filmed the video for the track at the HiFi Bar in Melbourne and adds another cheeky ode to Australia into the lyrics singing laugh, kookaburra laugh, gay your life must be”

Finally the closing moment and the crowd got what they were waiting for. Brown took a moment to praise to crew working hard setting up the stage between acts.  He said thanks to fans for loving Teenage Dirtbag, “Nobody cared until you did”, referring to the track being an absolutely mammoth hit here before it broke in the US. As you can imagine everybody in the Parklands sung along. We got the full lyrics, the US found too controversial and scratched out, “Her boyfriends a dick, And he brings a gun to school”. This song is iconic for many. When we reach ‘Noelle’s’ part Brown stops, “you sound like you want to sing this part yourself Gold Coast”? Of course they do! The massive crowd sings, “I’ve got two tickets to Iron Maiden baby…….” playing their role, with a round of applause from the band. Fun moment for the fans. Brown sings the part again, the bassist goes to rock out on the keys, one of the backing singers picks up the bass, they finish the track and the set. Wheatus are a band that will likely continue to tour Australia and fans will almost definitely keep showing up. 

Next up fans of Psychedelic Furs were in for a treat with the ‘80s alternative rockers took over the stage. I have to say it was a walk down memory lane for me. I was a fan in the ‘80s but honesty hadn’t heard their music for decades. Butler brothers, Richard (vocals) and Tim (bass) founded the band in the late ‘70s and after taking a decade off through the ‘90s the band have been releasing music and touring ever since. Tonight fans were treated with all the best bits of the Psychedelic Furs.  Opening with Richards undeniably unique gravelly vocals, its good to hear has hasn’t lost that signature sound. They opened the show with Mr Jones from their classic 1981 release ‘Talk Talk Talk’. Not ever doing things like everyone else, they took the crowd into their smash hit Love My Way next up, not making us wait til the end. Richard voice has aged beautifully, staying true to his fingerprint sound of that era. They brought the fans some new music with Wrong Train from 2020. The song could have come off any of their original releases with as much angst and passion as the early days. Back to the origins with Only You And I and special guest guitarist Richard Fortus (Guns n Roses) absolutely blew the crowd away with an electric cello, moving with ease between this fascinating instrument and his guitar. It created an ethereal atmosphere as the song required, building to the track’s final crescendo. 

Back to ‘Talk Talk Talk’ and many in the crowd were transported back to the 80s’ in song and cinema with Pretty In Pink. Apparently the track was the actual inspiration for the movie. The frontman, worked the stage, singing to the fans in the front row. A guy a few rows forward from me yells out a request, that gets lost in the noise, while an overexciting woman next to me is reliving her lost youth screaming to a friend “the last time I saw them was at The Playroom”. Every band in this lineup have their fans in the crowd. 

The music continues for a few more songs, finishing off with Heartbreak Beat bringing the ‘80s flooding back with synthesized keys and an outstanding guitar solo. With so many tracks to end on they play the set out, back in 1984, with Heaven. Butler puts in a burst of energy with the last track and thanks Pandemonium and the crowd, grateful for the fans that are still supporting them after all their years in the business.

There were so many Blondie fans there it was like the whole place was squeezing into the section in front of the stage. The anticipation for this punked-up goddess of new wave, pop and rock was electric. Known as a fashion icon and trendsetter throughout all of her years in the scene, tonight was no different. Debbie Harry walks onto the stage like the star she is; bright yellow suit, layered with black, then yellow, collared shirts over another black shimmering top. Her once blonde hair now a long, gorgeous silver. Stunning. One of the original style influencers. 

The back screen flicks through comic spreads with Blondie as the main character. With such an exceptional and vast catalogue, we were wondering, ‘what will she open with’? And it was perfect, taking us back to where it all began with Blondie’s 1976 debut single X Offender. She is cool, calm and dazzling. 

The sound of an old phone call connecting rings out and she goes into Hanging On The Telephone (which was actually a cover of a song by NY band The Nerves). The crowd I think, are singing louder than Ms Harry.

One Way or Another comes next. The guy next to me says, “Isn’t she a legend?” with adoration on his face. She plays through all her eras in music. Her jacket comes off for Call Me, her biggest hit, and the crowd literally jumps as they sing along. There’s a guy playing a keytar on stage, and the drummer is wearing a CBGB t-shirt. I feel like we’ve jumped timelines to a long-gone decade. 

Back to the ‘70s with Will Anything Happen? And that absolutely iconic opening to Atomic, keeps us in that magical era of music. Music is a powerful tool and anyone over 50, maybe, will have all of their memories, of a long lost youth, stored in their subconscious, come flooding back just with this single track. As the band rocks the track, Debbie stands to the side and allows them their moment. She introduces her band, which includes UK punk legend Glen Matlock. Harry talks about how they are here because of the fans. She thanked everyone for coming to see them and reminisced about a time long ago they played on Great Keppel Island. The band flow into In The Flesh, then the song that could possibly have made her the first white female rapper, Rapture. The band were as good as it gets with so much talent on the stage and Harry giving the band space to perform at the right times. The synthesizer capturing everything ‘80s. 

The hits kept coming with reggae-infused smash The Tide Is High, newer song Long Time still had that Blondie signature sound. Debbie Harry still has the vitality and more charisma than people more than half her age. 

She disappeared for a brief moment, returning wearing a mirror-encrusted half poncho singing Heart of Glass. She finished the set with Dreaming, leaving fans feeling elevated and alive, and so grateful they had seen such a legend ‘in the flesh’.

It was a race to the bar/porta loos/food trucks (or all three) before the headliner came on. As the crowd scurried around setting themselves up for the main act the stagehands were busy creating a spectacular set, worthy of a Broadway play. Not long afterwards a black curtain fell across the stage ready for the show. 

A wanted sign is projected onto the curtain with Coopers face in the centre, words claiming, Banned in Australia for deeds against humanity”. It was evident we were in for a spectacular performance. As the crowd found their spot to see out the show, the pounding opening of Lock Me Up screamed out in all of its electric fury. The curtain raises and the band are on stage looking like the rock stars they are. I feel the band deserve an introduction. We have Chuck Garric  on bass, Ryan Roxie guitars and vocals, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen on guitars and backing vocals, and Glen Sobal on Drums. The band are dressed in line with the show’s rock ‘n’ roll theatrical fanfare. Alice Cooper struts on stage in his black suit and top hat, cane in hand ready to keep everyone in line. The crowd roars their approval as Cooper belts out a new track completely fitting the current moment, Welcome To The Show. The new track rocking as hard as any other, proving he is nowhere near retirement from the music world. 

Cooper is like a dominant band conductor from the underworld, jumping around with more vigour than a man half his age, a familiar hook taking us into No More Mr Nice Guy. The band are playing their part on stage along with the performer himself. We head way back to 1971 with I’m Eighteen. Cooper has his coat off, dominating the stage carrying a bandaged crutch, he loves his props. A part of the brilliance of Cooper’s show is his ability to choose outstanding musicians to support him. These brilliant rock artists are a part of the show in every way. We stay in that magical time of theatrical rock with Under My Wheels, from the ‘Killer’ album. His voice is husky but still incredibly strong. He interacts with the band members like they are performing on stage in a bizarre horror show. 

Nita Strauss is a performer in every sense of the word. Stunning, theatrical, a killer guitarist in her own right, (she’s the first female rock solo artist to hit number one on the Billboard Rock chart in 32 years). This live show has so much happening, it will take all night to describe the performance so I will do my best to keep it a decent length. 

Cooper changes his persona for every track, Billion Dollar Babes, see him in a Black and gold long tailed coat, a band leader or maybe a mad Admiral of sorts. He’s carrying a rapier in his hand tormenting the band. One song falls into the next. He appears jacketless with crowd favourite Hey Stoopid, jumping up and down on stage. I want this man’s energy when I am 78. Now even. 

The stage performance plays out with a ‘photographer’ on stage getting in Coopers face. He sings directly to the guy “hey stoopid” and proceeds to ‘stab’ him with his mic stand. The theatrics are pure entertainment. He sings the song with the amount of disdain it deserves. 

Department of Youth brings out a roar in the crowd, Cooper appearing in a black vest singing with a force that pushes his point. Known for his love of snakes, he would always travel with his pet snake. When Snakebite booms out through the speakers Alice appears with a giant yellow python wrapped around his body. His shirt is now blood spattered, the snake looked like he knew exactly how to play his role in the stagecraft. A graveyard appears on the screen at the back as this legendary rocker performs Feed My Frankenstein, his black eyes looking the part. The guitar solo is epic, all three guitarists are epic to watch, Cooper walks around tormenting the band as they perform. 

A familiar riff rings out and the master of mayhem appears in a long-tailed redcoat and a whip, the chosen props for Poison. A fan favourite, the crowd sing themselves hoarse. 

‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ is a vinyl I have owned since pre-teens and still one of my all-time favourites, no doubt the same as many. When horror-master Vincent Price’s words spilled out across the crowd. “The words he speaks are true, we’re all humanary stew” the fans engage with a roar. Strauss prowling the stage with the camera following every step as she parades her skills as a master guitarist. The next three songs all fall into one another, the story acted out on stage. The Black Widow kicks off a cascade of songs and theatrics, falling into Killer and Ballad of Dwight Fry. The performance has the rock star in a straitjacket, a dark figure lurking behind him. A performance worthy of any stage, a woman in a 1700’s ball gown appears, a guillotine is wheeled on stage, and the executioner appears taking Cooper’s head. The woman picks it up in a macabre performance, dancing with it and kissing the decapitated Cooper as the band plays, I Love The Dead. 

The show is almost over but not quite. The giant steps are turned into a polital campaigning podium with ‘Cooper for President’ draped across the top. Not a bad option, I say. He represents the ‘Wild Party’. Yes he does. They perform Elected. 

The show is almost done, the band leave the stage ready to return for the encore. 

He’s changed into a White long coat and white top hat with his white cane, ending the performance fittingly with Schools Out. He introduces his stellar band during the bridge of the song, and send out half a dozen giant balloons full of confetti bouncing into the crowd, Cooper bursting them with his knife on their return sending confetti everywhere. 

What a show! Unbelievably rock ‘n’ roll. Alice Cooper and Blondie are two of the most influential and adored artists to exist in our time and anyone present would have been grateful to see them perform. With the Psychedelic Furs and Wheatus adding their fans to the mix, and top quality Aussie rock from Wolfmother, Cosmic Psychos and The Silencio it was a night with something for everyone present and accounted for. 

Thanks to Maric Media

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