Words Dave Mullins.
Photos Kim Anderson – Shoot The Wicked Witch.
Crossover legends Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (D.R.I.) have a career that spans about four decades. Which for folks at home means that they starting playing music about 5 or 6 Star Wars films ago. While the band never really broke into the mainstream, they have had a strong ‘underground’ following throughout their career, and their influence has been felt all across the genres of metal, punk and hardcore. This was D.R.I’s first time in Perth and it was bound to be an interesting night.
Right before Scalphunter took to the stage I overheard a punter mention that it had been forever since they’d seen Scalphunter open for another band. But, holy fuck, do they know how to open – with an explosion of screaming and blaring guitars. Even though he barely takes a moment to breathe between each song, frontman Steve Knoth somehow manages to keep things at an insane level of intensity. Seriously, the guy has some fucking stamina. But the same could be said for any member of the band. The crowd was a little small, given how early in the night it was, but it didn’t stop Knoth from stirring up the audience, walking through the crowd and taunting them to show even just a little more energy. They played a short set compared to what fans might have been used to, but it was pitch-perfect and punk-as-fuck and a perfect way to start off a big night.
TRS hit the stage next, and much like their great white sharks, bands from Margaret River don’t fuck around. And if you couldn’t judge it by their sound, you could judge it by their set list which was written out on what looked like a ten-foot long sheet of butcher’s paper – because apparently TRS just plain old ran out of fucks to give. Their mix of bratty street punk and thrash metal has a bluster that is familiar, but very much their own – a sort of nihilistic aggression that inspires everyone in the immediate vicinity to go a little nuts. TRS had big shoes to fill, sandwiched between Scalphunter and Battletruk, but they brought it fucking hard. Each song seeming to be faster and more aggressive than the last. It’s a tough thing to get a crowd going when they’re waiting for a big international band to hit the stage, but with each song, the crowd became just a little bit more nuts. Frontman Karl Heussenstamm has a sort of staunch swagger that almost feels like it would be more befitting of a pro-wrestler but between his erratic performance and razor sharp delivery it comes together into something boundlessly enjoyable. This might be the first time I’ve seen TRS playing on a stage with decent sound, and it’s something I’d like to see more of – these guys have a big sound that just comes alive in a room like Amplifier.
To say that people were excited about Battletruk playing a show might be an understatement. Some fans actually came specifically to watch them play (Dirty Rotten who?). But what can you say? The Perth scene wants what it wants. The fans showed their appreciation by wasting as little time as possible in losing their minds and spilling over the front of the stage – which is about as good a compliment as you’ll get for a hardcore band. The room was starting to fill to the brim, and a solid portion of those people were moshing, stage diving and singing along to every word – sometimes all of this simultaneously. With a set full of fan-favourite songs and a crowd that was enthusiastically dangerous you could be forgiven for thinking Battletruk were the headline act. Taking time off hasn’t made these boys stale, it’s made them sharper than ever. I’ve heard a few people say it, but I’ll say it for good measure – welcome back Battletruk.
D.R.I. hit the stage to a full room. The crowd overflowing into the beer garden but with a tight group of fans forming a circle at the front of the room. After kicking through a few songs the band took the time to introduce themselves (like they needed to) and thanked the crowd for showing up (and the promoter for bringing them out). You could accuse D.R.I. of having a lot of songs which kind of sound the same, but if the crowd cared they certainly weren’t showing it. Between the overly drawn out stage dives and the poorly screamed lyrics, this was a crowd who couldn’t be having more fun. And isn’t that the whole point?
Of course, there’s always that one guy who doesn’t understand how stage dives work, and despite getting onstage more times than most band members, still can’t figure it out. Tonight’s version thought that jumping on stage for the 50th time might earn him the right to stay up there and cheer into the crowd, but it doesn’t. Still, the band took it in their stride, joking that he ‘should start his own band’ and explaining the basics of stage diving (you know, the getting the fuck off the stage part). Of course, none of this stopped him from getting up there again. At any rate, it all makes for an interesting crowd and if they weren’t acting like idiots it wouldn’t be a real punk rock show.
For a band that’s been going as long as D.R.I. it would have been easy for them to get up and play a ‘greatest hits’ set list, but they didn’t. They touched on a number of releases including their 2016 EP But Wait… There’s More, and their iconic 1987 album, Crossover. It was their first ever show in Perth, and I think fans were expecting a lot, but it’s safe to say that D.R.I. delivered it.