Being a massive nerd, I arrived early to the glorious chalky white Princess Theatre, which stood out like a beacon on a tranquil Brisbane night. I grabbed some merch, got a beer and talked to the staff about their sister venue to the Tivoli, that’s been re-opened for over a year.
I kept hearing these perfect pitch voices, chanting, and shouting in support, “Go Matildas!”. The entire crew for all three bands is having a private viewing on a big screen inside the theatre of the FIFA World Cup Semi-Final win over France, being played just around the corner at Suncorp Stadium / Lang Park / Brisbane Stadium. Almost as soon as the last glorious shootout is struck, a wave of cheering prompts the main doors to creek open in glee with a Matilda victory emanating from inside. Shane Parsons darts out of the green room to the media desk to meet and greet everyone, smiling and amped after the Matildas win; how good is that?
Dust was the first band to hit the stage opening the night. Lewis Hobba (R.I.P Hobba and Hing on Drive –Triple J) quotes “Newcastle, the greatest city in the world”. The talent oozing out of Newcastle is evident with this young 5 piece post-punk bundle. Hanging around the Sound desk like a barfly, I meet Lachlan Ewbank, and Luke Henery from DZ Deathrays; the boys loved watching Dust, celebrating the win with a flute of champagne and, as always, admiring the support acts. Luke says that Lachy was the one to bring Dust into the growing DZ family, you could see the pride in his eyes. That’s what these lads do. The first track was an unreleased hectic spectacle of melting saxophone and synth wave. Our faithful GCL photographer’s partner towering over me in a King Gizz T-shirt and futuristic leather jacket, leaning over with a beaming bearded grin – “Man, this has a Tropical Fuck Storm sound to it, I love it!” Ward 52 had a legit fuzzy smell like a vintage Smiths Touring shirt from 1983, soured in all the right places and hard where it should be “., no one’s got the truth, my seat is stone cold, pledging for the juice, dripping right down in my canular…”
Grinding into Alternator with the exploding fury of a whaling ambulance bottlenecked in a steaming hot riot of a monsoon. A humming vibrato that rips into your chest cavity, moving upwards, gradually melting away the innards of your skull to exit in a hazy lucid pulse…a false sense of security though, with the next track, waiting to tear you down… Can you tell that was my favourite? The Gutter – you can’t be a punk band if you don’t throw stones at the high-high class, and throwing shade, these lads can. False Narrative is the undercoat of the Dust sound; delicate and tender, with the anticipation that it could become an unabated unhinged volatile muscular spasm at any moment. The anticipation brings a wall of humidity into the princess theatre. Wait… what? They do a vocalist swap; I wasn’t expecting that. Luke loved hearing the saxophone sound, shaking and moving his head; it was hauntingly beautiful.
Joy (Guilt) had the crowd swaying, triple j listeners would be familiar with it gaining frequent airplay. The inflective lyrics are complimented by the endearing warmth of slight melancholy, inviting percussions both in the rhythm section and lyrically. Stop. Panic. Stop. Drive. Crash. Die. Stop. Start…. A poetic song that leaves you pondering the tragedy of the lyrics and entranced by the honest voice presenting it. Dust is a surprise; it’s a monster and a romantic in one entity. It might curl up and whisper sweet poetry in your ear late at night or knock your teeth out in rebellious glory when your back is turned. What’s not to love about that?
Press Club are up next to an already hyped crowd. First impression – Holy Shit! Can Natalie Foster sing! She has the pumped-up stage energy of a Matilda player herself as she tells the crowd, “It’s a God damned pleasure to be in the Princess Theatre tonight” at the end of Eugene, the perfect start to the set with its leaning into it. Being a bass player at heart, the bass drive and drum work of Coward Street had me on this track, of course, Natalie snaps your attention back with “You should keep to yourself and just shut the fuck up mate…”
The guitarist is a familiar face, Greig Rietwyk, a charming bloke I greeted him on the sound desk before the set, remembering seeing him at the ‘R.I.F.F.’ album launch in Sydney. On Separate Houses, he has a crystal-clear sound with a piercing and harmonising sound surrounding him, in unison with Natalie’s distinctly strong voice. Headwreck has the short, fast, loud feel of any Garage Punk sound, but Natalie’s stage presence, and the hand-whittled lyrics “Don’t be that guy!” is indicative of the direction Press Club are taking the audience.
Endless Motion got the crowd all going “ahahahahahaahhhhhaahhaaa” with a punchy track like the name’s sake, picture limitless energy, a tight rhythm section, and complimenting guitar to Natalie’s voice that keeps pushing with powerful conviction. Natalie was out in the crowd swimming in the audience, doing cartwheels on stage (literally) in a Melvins T-shirt, geeing the crowd up something fierce with crowd participation of “How ya fucking goin”!! Cancelled is a subtle start-up with jarring lyrics Natalie showing her fury about the perils and reality of adulting. The balance of gentle and “But dumb shit don’t land like it used to.”
Suburbia. It’s beautiful. I was hoping to say more, but I’m transfixed by the sincerity of the lyrics and heart on her sleeve delivery of this crafted gem, it swells, and you swim amongst it. You feel as vulnerable as the song tares at you. I’m a punk enthusiast; why am I feeling like this?
Watching Press Club and meeting up with some wonderful life-long friends of Simon and Shane from Bundaberg days. Simon’s wife, Quintern, the PR intern and partner, and the lead singer from Total Pace walking past, introducing them to my musician friends cemented the fact that everywhere I look, I see friendship in this fraternity of music. That’s the part of live music that doesn’t have a price. Press Club, no doubt, draw reference to bands cut from a similar cloth, such as WAAX, and that is both a dual compliment and a warning because they aren’t. Natalie’s voice is something to hear, the lyrics are raw, relatable, and real. The stage presence is supported by the skill of the band you will want to see Press Club again I guarantee it.
The main act finally arrive. DZ Deathrays 6th studio Album ‘R.I.F.F’ is an acronym; “Remember it’s for fun.” It is a frantic rifftastic fun-loving tribute to the progression of the band’s sound and dedication to live touring for fans. It’s fitting that these Queensland electro-punk rock party jammers, celebrate it with gusto with fans, each track devised to explode live. It’s hard to delineate who celebrates these moments more the four lads on stage (yes, four, and isn’t that a good news story?) or the crowd going ape shit at front of stage, sweating, thrashing, and free falling from crowd surfing.
The crowd is building, chanting “Riff, RIFF, RIFF, RIFF, RIFF!!!” Shirts are coming off, and it’s getting squishy. I am routinely perplexed how on earth DZ chose a set list with an apocalyptic back catalogue of pure liquid platinum tracks. Let’s find out…
“Swung around with my eyes wide, you’ve got a feeling that you want to… Flip me over, let my insides show themselves, that’s the real truth…” And we’re off. The Princess Theatre foundations just moved at the set, launching into Hope for the Best. “Go Matildas!!!” Shane can’t help but exclaim how happy he is about it. Tuff Luck is next up, and I can’t help but reminisce as I am a blurred figure in that film clip, come to think of it…so was half the room in the Princess Theatre tonight! That’s DZ, though, always giving to their fans, inviting them in to be a part of the journey.
A couple of throwbacks with Into It Simon Ridley thrashing out his drums in absolute glory. Total Meltdown and then the thrash punk Shadow Walk, a song about a force that seemingly follows DZ everywhere and won’t leave them alone…is this about me? Mwahaha…hmm. This track is a fine balance of pauses, timing, and pushing Shane’s voice to the limit. “Yeah, these are the days of Love and destruction, knock you off your feet, it’s gonna kick you in the guts, it’s like woah….” This is a passionate ode of tribute to being a touring musician in Australia. The reciprocal love of craft, and the fans, the experiences, pitted against the gruelling travel commitments and fighting for survival in a post covid race in the aptly named track Love and Destruction.
Out of the bag comes the 2014 emotional masterpiece that is Northern Lights. Shane once stated this is the song that sends the crowd into a peak of hyperactivity, that symmetry of melody sandwiched against the furry of harder songs that seems to trigger a release of energy in the calm…Hang on a minute…the pit has all got down on the floor and rowing in synch like a well-choreographed Viking vessel! I’ve not seen this before. I guess that’s the majesty of the Northern Lights.
The throwback Less Out of Sync is stretching me back into that more familiar DZ Drum/riff parallel explosion. Shane’s voice should be torn apart as he throws himself into it with reckless abandonment for the crowd’s merriment. Voices don’t come with a spare string, and he only knows how to do it at 100%. The back-and-forth duelling between Shane and Simon can be seen.
Reflective Skull – Oooooooooofffffff! That sexy snare drum intro just grabs you and draws you in, followed up by the flurry of all amps turned to 11. Simon continues to bang on the skins like he is beating Beelzebub’s Butt black and blue, a fan on the drum platform gently suspending his blonde hair in constant animation. This track hits us all in our little black punk hearts.
Ocean Exploder seemed to be written with a futuristic vision of a bass maestro; enter Luke Henery. Luke is just ripping up the stage as the guest touring bass player, devilishly smiling and thriving through his draping curtains of hair, smashing his bass strings into a vulcanising state. He didn’t even let the dust settle from the Violent Soho farewell concert in September 2022 at Fortitude Music Hall, joining his mates at camp DZ to tour with Regurgitator. Luke looks and sounds completely at home with DZ, after years of mateship from the early days touring with Violent Soho, to now, enjoying the side project with Simon in Total Pace…that’s another great story!
Simon adds a Bundaberg Rum flavour of dark and storm furry of cymbal crashes in the party starting track Paranoid with this…truly punk hymn. Lachlan’s progressive shredding in the funk, punk swinging anthemic groove of My Mind is Eating Me Alive is a wonderful creature of the R.I.F.F. Lords invention, a track designed to enter the room too and bask in a cool luminescent aura with it playing behind you. (If this doesn’t make it high in the hottest 100, I have lost faith in humanity).
Ahh Shred for Summer! I came late to the DZ Party, and this was the backing track of a painful rehab. It’s a pure adrenalin fizz to the core. The crowd was screaming back at the Band “Yeah…. Listen to metal, you let your hair whip ‘round in circles…” I wasn’t alone in feeling that fizz, like 600 beer cans put in a paint shaker, the crowd was exploding in a thrill-seeking sweaty mess of heads convulsing, hair getting whipped from every which way. And the band loved it. With quite possibly the best demonic shred by Lachy I have seen.
The independent label mainstay of DZ Worldwide has continued to evolve from the early days of grinding house parties as a two piece, with uncut gems Cops/Capacity. Shane entered the pit with mic in hand, and this triggered shoe flying through the air, Quintin as usual was crowd surfing, a circle pit was enveloping the floor. This was home turf DZ, a different beast to other shows I’d seen. Bunny Man did a quick guitar swap, and the edgy belter No Sleep from 2012’s ‘Bloodstreams’ erupts.
The consistency of this band defies logic. This is heavily noted with the track King B as the lyrics state, “waves among the oceans”. A somewhat challenge between fan and band, each line of the song building in waves or a countdown of a plunger about to ignite an explosive depth charge… “I’m sure your more than happy to set off a reaction…AYY HERES TO KING B!!!!!” Boooom… the crowd loses it; there’s debris everywhere, with sweaty, happy screaming faces attached. Lachy sacrifices his vocal cords to do the scream component, a friendly gesture to preserve Shane’s voice that has a smooth-sounding reminiscence to the other Queensland great, Chris Bailey of The Saints (RIP).
We all needed a moment… This was the opportunity for the audience members that didn’t stampede into the grand Princess Theatre with the R.I.F.F. army devotees to feel at home with the ignite a widely popular Like People from 2018 ‘Bloody Lovely’ album and film clip burnt into the retina of every Wiggles fan. The night come to a conclusion with the ever more crowd favourite Gina Works At Hearts. from the 2014 ‘Black Rat’ Album. Lachy dangles his Guitar into the crowd, and manages to regain it after its covered in sweaty hands, clamouring it like a religious artefact.
The question I ask every time is how in the flying fuck are DZ Deathrays, not a global sensation. They bloody lovely well should be. Every song on each album is an expertly crafted punk-rock in its finest form. If this were an American band, they would be outselling venues globally.
DZ is the must-see hard-touring punk-rock Royalty, they give and give with; regional touring, mentoring the next wave of musicians, enhancing the sweet musical fabric in Australia on their journey. They do it with sheer determination, enjoyment, intestinal fortitude, friendship, love and respect of the audience…an ample supply of multivitamins and Guinness… Remembering It’s For Fun.
Live music in Australia is a sapphire gemstone in our community, supporting freedom of ideas, emotions, and rich, diverse talent, with poetic effect. The commitment we as an audience must contribute is unwavering support to artists and venues to enable this precious art to thrive.
Footnote: On leaving the venue, I walked with a fellow punter that told me it was the first time he’d seen DZ since he broke his leg at the Violent Soho farewell gig. He told me he broke it in the pit in the first 20 minutes of the show. The venue gave him first aid and said the ambulance was 90 minutes away. He said, “fuck it” and went back out to watch Soho. To quote “It was both the dumbest decision I’d ever made at and the best decision I’d ever made at once”. I asked if you were to do it over again would you, he replied… “Absolutely!”
Thanks to Twnty Three