When someone like USA Punk Legends, Unwritten Law, who have toured Australia many times over the last twenty years, label a band as one of the best Australian bands they’ve ever seen, and back it up by making that band their main support on their 2018 Australian tour, you can bet your hard earned that this particular band will be a sight and sound to behold.
And so my ticket to Airey’s Inlet Festival to see Melbourne Punks, The Drop Bears, was booked.
Getting to the festival a little early I managed to speak to a few people there, one of which had seen The Drop Bears the year before when they played on one of the smaller stages. He told me that they had torn the place to shreds the year before, even getting a bigger reaction than superstar Tash Sultana, who headlined in 2017.
Off the strength of that performance, The Drop Bears were invited back as 2018 Friday night Festival headliners, and were all set to make the most of what would be their first festival headline since forming in 2014.
From the locals that had seen them the year before, and people who had travelled there especially for them, there was an air of expectation as the stage lights dimmed for the intro tape to The Drop Bears.
Subtle sounds of the Aussie Bush permeated through the front-of-house speakers as the faint glow of a drop bear appeared on the bands guitar amps. The intro tape suddenly gave more menacing presence as the sound of a Drop Bear’s growl (yes they exist) and the subsequent scream of its prey permeated through a warbled and distorted version of Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Suddenly the stage exploded with four members of the band smashing the double kick and building up with a sound that made the whole venue shake. They built to a crescendo and out came their lead singer and frontman, exclaiming ‘Hello Airey’s! Let’s get this party started!’, the punters who had by now moved forward and were pushed up against the stage, responded with roars, the rhythm kicked in and the whole place erupted. Right from the start you could see that this band, knew better than most, how to work a large crowd.
The band looked spectacular in all black with shirts and checkered ties, skinny leg chinos and chucks, and for the first few minutes with the energy that they gave off I didn’t know where to look.
The first three songs reminded me of a cross between early Australian ’60s rock and modern English punk, but somehow nothing like it at the same time. This was a band, that somehow, just when you think that everything had been done, had a very distinct sound of their own and it worked, the girls in the audience could dance, the boys could rock, and somehow I don’t think that this was by accident.
The first song, from their latest EP, titled NPD was as good as any song on radio. The next two songs, showed us that these boys can not only rock, but also that somehow, they’ve managed to weave in three and four part harmonies to fast paced punk songs, and the formula was well rehearsed.
Then, just when I thought they were going to continue to sprint to the finish, lead singer Pete addressed the audience and told the story of friend and founding member of the band Johnny Healy, who had tragically passed away in November of a brain tumour. Pointing at the sky, he asked people to leave a legacy of kindness and beauty as Johnny had done, reminding them that what they were witnessing was a bit of Johnny, and dedicated their next song ‘Never Held On To Anything’ to their fallen friend and bass player.
The song finished with Pete pointing to the sky and the crowd doing it with him. And an enormous cheer.
The boys then returned to their trademark energy with their song ‘Yeah Nah’, a crowd favourite, and very cleverly written to involve the audience, and the audience responded with aplomb.
Lead guitarist Mark is one of the most competent shredders you’ll ever see. His licks alone were worth the journey. They boys finished with their first three singles, from their newly released EP and, acknowledging the fact that some people there were uninitiated, pleased them by ending with a cover of ‘More than you Are’ from Grinspoon.
The Drop Bears deliver high energy groove based chord riffs and rhythms, that definitely have you stomping your feet, rocking or dancing. The choice is yours with shredding melodic guitar, something very rare in punk. The lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies are so infectious that you usually find yourself singing along somewhere in the first chorus of any song, and their stage presence, production and audience involvement were amazing and comes from the obvious experience of the band having toured with the likes of Everclear and Unwritten Law.
After the show, I got to meet the band and they tell me that they have recently been contacted by some big name festivals and promoters, so go see them in the smaller venues while you get the chance.
It’s so great to see an Australian rock band being so proud to be an Australian rock band and doing it so well and with their very own unique sound and style, something I hope they can take to the world. Check them out soon, wherever and whenever you get the chance – you will not be disappointed.
When: Friday 16 March, 2018
Reviewed by Dean Lloyd