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Poison City Weekender @ John Curtin, Corner Hotel & Reverence Hotel

For a select portion of Melbourne’s music scene, Poison City Weekender is the ultimate bro-fest, where those who used to frequent The Arthouse (and now its younger sister, The Reverence) congregate to slap each other on the back for flying the ‘true’ flag of punk high over the rest of our heads. It’s a music scene that, if you’re in it – it feels like the whole world. Once you leave it – you realise there’s a much, much, bigger world out there.

 

There’s no doubt that Andy Hayden (Poison City Records founder) has done wonders for this particular ilk of music. He’s a devoted music fan and an extremely hardworking gentleman who’s given rise to bands like The Smith Street Band who would have otherwise had little hope of reaching commercial ears. Needless to say, in all the positivity and hugs floating around, I was troubled by a harrowing truth: not a single person seemed to notice, care or mention, that in a three-day line-up of over twenty booked bands (over sixty individuals), only five were women.

 

In a scene that prides itself on punk ideals: progressiveness… equality… voting Green (more on that later) - that’s not, well, ideal. That said, it was the female-driven Deep Heat whose performance on Friday at The Curtin was easily the best of the evening. Their Stooges-styled chugging guitars and fringe-over-face headbangs made a rather impassive band room feel like a mate’s garage.

 

The usual antics from Tom Lyngcoln of Poison City royals The Nation Blue ensued (he pitches his guitar into the ceiling almost every show. Guy must have a lot of money to burn) and the always effortless Hoodlum Shouts blitzed their way through a searing harmonica-laden set, fulfilling a musical diversity quota on this bill.

 

At Saturday’s show at The Corner I felt the oldest I’ve ever felt amongst a crowd of what appeared to be exclusively teenage triple J listeners wearing five panel hats.

 

Standouts by far - and by all accounts - were Sydney posi-punks, Milhouse, playing their final show. Though they experienced a myriad of complications on-stage by the sound of things, the crowd were singing along to every word; sending them off by parading bass player Dave Drayton over their heads in the most awkward crowd surf I think I’ve ever witnessed. Crowd boogie boarding. Not quite surfing, but almost.

 

By the time Tassie’s Luca Brasi took to the main stage the room was almost too packed for the stragglers who were smoking upstairs to get back in. Luca Brasi never disappoints, powering through a set full of favourites playing to a crowd who already worship them because that’s what this scene has told them to do.

 

Before The Smith Street Band launched into their first blistering riff, I bet the person standing next to me a negligible amount of money that we’d be graced with a soapbox speech from front-man Wil Wagner concerning the recent election result. He did not disappoint. Only two songs in and he whipped up his crowd of 18-year-old triple J fans (who probably voted for The Coalition) into a lefty frenzy with some clichéd rant about Abbott. It’s hard to say much on this band beyond the fact that if this is what the kids are into, then it could be a hell of a lot worse.

 

Sunday afternoon at The Reverence saw more of the aforementioned bro-festing. The entire venue was closed off to the public, so the insularity of it all was palpable. I almost didn’t care about the music because they’d opened up the outside kitchen and were serving breakfast burrito and bloody mary combos - which I was able to chug whilst enjoying the pleasantly demure banjo twiddling of Sydney’s Pinch Hitter and Newcastle’s Jen Buxton, playing on a make-shift, sun-drenched stage in the beer garden.

 

Infinite Void and Apart From This held down the 90s grunge component of the line-up – these are bands that garner a bit of attention from those outside the immediate Poison City sphere and they’re welcome additions to this line-up.

 

The much talked-about reunion of Like…Alaska was deserved of the hype and will be talked about for a while to come. They were flawless. A punter made some prolific comment that I wish I could remember about each of them going off to pursue other musical things and thus coming back more capable than ever. It was on-point, and in that sardine-packed back room during that set, watching from side-stage alongside punk royalty Fear Like Us, it felt like home.

 

Tasmanian-soon-to-be-Melburnian Lincoln Le Fevre never fails to nail his brand of cleverly-crafted and countrified storytelling live, though I think this may have been the first time he’s ever enjoyed a ‘Linc-oln! Linc-oln!’ crowd chant.

 

And that’s what Poison City fans are particularly good at: making musicians feel like demi-Gods. It’s how The Bennies’ frontman, Anty Horgan, must have felt when he managed to crowd surf standing upright mid-set: like a reggae Jesus walking on water (or, a sea of supportive hands). The Bennies are without a doubt the ultimate party band, and crowd favourite, My Bike, ended in stage invasion and what I imagine were a lot of reeeeeally hiiiigh high fives.

 

Finally, headliners Blueline Medic were there to remind every thirty-something year old in the audience that they still belong: a fittingly mature end to a manic weekend of shenanigans and solid tunes (even if they were mostly sung through the curtain of a beard).

 

Now, everyone: you may exit the bubble, and rejoin the outside world.

 

BY JESS SHULMAN
Photo by Tony Proudfoot 

 

LOVED: Milhouse

HATED: Punters with exploding egos and the overall sausage fest

DRANK: Everything