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Earthless’ return to Melbourne proves rock still lives

The San Diego riff machines return after their last show nearly four years ago.

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Sally Townsend

Nestled firmly near and beneath the glistening tarmac of Swanston Street lies Max Watt's — the ol’ faithful gig-pit which has more than earned its stripes since its change of hands from the Hi-Fi many moons ago. On tonight of all nights, the return of Earthless, few words were sung. Yet as the hours passed by it became painfully apparent that words weren’t required to deliver an awe-inspiring onslaught of technical prowess and passionate delivery – instrumentals were more than enough.

The masterwork expressionism of Isaiah Mitchell’s guitar solos, the swampy tones of Mike Eginton’s bass work and the furious pacing delivered from Mario Rubalcaba’s drumming set the scene for a rock gig to end all rock gigs. If it wasn’t, Earthless at least gave a middle finger to the idea that rock is dead. Every sweaty, glowing faced, denim-clad pit rat present on the eve’ would surely agree.

There’s been more than one occasion where a support act at Max Watt's has, for whatever reason, been sloppily tacked on to a bill. However in saying that, Seedy Jeezus were a glowing exception to the rule – the perfect wine paired to the meaty riffs of Earthless, as it were. Belting out gut-busting riffs with high amounts of speed and energy, the seedy three-piece knew their way around a heavy jam as much as they knew how to work a crowd. Groaning riffs, banging heads and a worked up crowd ready for the headliner — what more could you want?

 
 
 
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A post shared by Barry C. Douglas (@barrycdouglas) on Feb 21, 2019 at 4:07am PST

Earthless’ show was very much polymorphic with their delivery. Starting with their classic track 'Uluru Rock', their performance went on to set a number of scenes — dusty riff-strewn deserts, sweat-drenched punk chops, marathons of shredding and even some heartier takes on the verse-chorus-verse standard. Mitchell’s hands flew over the fretboard with technicality, grace and marathon pace – the man mind-bendingly pulling out 20 minute-long guitar solos with pinpoint accuracy in what was a true spectacle to behold. However, the real meat on the bone was the rhythm section, slowly morphing and changing each song under the cloak of subtlety. In what seemed like a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style manoeuvre, the music would gracefully move in one direction before landing seamlessly in what felt like another song completely. In many instances you could find yourself in earnest surprise that the heady psych jam you were sinking into was, all of a sudden, a hard-punk mosh.

Although ‘few’ words were sung, Mitchell managed to pull out the pipes on two occasions, most notably during the encore as Earthless performed a brilliant rendition of The Groundhogs’ track 'Cherry Red'. Almost as if to remind us of his unquestionable musical ability, Mitchell threw his range into the highest of highs while still keeping his god-tier guitar work in perfect condition as the crowd jumped around in excitement. As just as fast as it had happened, it was gone – the show finally coming to a close as the stage lights blasted a cruel shade of white over a newly deafened crowd.

Highlight: 'Cherry Red'

Lowlight: Since when has Max Watt's had the upstairs bit closed?

Crowd Favourite: 'Uluru Rock'

 
 
 
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A post shared by Earthless (@earthlessrips) on Feb 21, 2019 at 1:54pm PST