Amyl and the Sniffers @ Forum Theatre

A last-minute ticket purchase turned out to be the best gig of the year so far! It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced a night of such pure unadulterated punk rock energy.

I’ve heard this Aussie band pop up on Triple J now and then, but I haven’t really paid attention until I randomly looked up a couple of their videos on YouTube and fell in love with the feral, unbridled energy of the lead singer Amy Taylor, who struts and punches and dances her way through songs like a female Iggy Pop. A magnetic frontwoman alone doesn’t make for a great band, but luckily Amyl and the Sniffers are very very good at what they do, which is blistering, no-frills punk rock with simple but vivid lyrics and plenty of primal energy. It’s the sound that you’d think is all but played out by now, but it just goes to show that you should never write off a time-honoured genre.

If there was any positive to my recent personal bout of the dreaded spicy cough, it’s that I got infected with COVID-19 in a week where absolutely nothing was planned; a week earlier or a week later and I’d be spewing at having to miss out on things because of the iso. All things considered I got off pretty lightly with just a couple of days in bed, but I was still apprehensive about my energy levels and whether they would be up to a mid-week concert where the main act was onstage close to my regular bedtime.

At around 8.30, I dragged myself out into the dark and freezing Melbourne winter night, and arrived at what must be the worst nightmare of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, a packed indoor venue with barely any mask in sight. At first I parked myself on the top of the stairs, where I could lean against the wall and watch the opening act C.O.F.F.I.N. The crowd at the Forum made for some great people watching, a real mix of older rockers and punks and younger alternative/hipster/arty types.

In the end I decided that experiencing a raw punk rock gig from the distant position of the stairs would be kinda lame. I would have loved to watch Amy and the boys from up close, but I know my limits and there was no way that I would brave the front rows of the general admission, where things were bound to get rough and crazy (and they sure did, with crowd surfing, moshing and even a bit of boob flashing). So I stuck to the more sedate fringes of the floor, and then only moved once, when the lady in front of me got so energetic with her dancing I was worried I’d have my eye poked out by one of her piled-up dreadlocks.

The band were everything I hoped for and more, and Amy I thought was simply phenomenal, dancing, prancing and stalking the stage, jumping, crouching, flexing her biceps and shaking her mop of peroxide blond hair during the scorched-earth guitar solos. She is a bit like an adorable wood pixie crossed with a boxer, rough as guts and singing with an Aussie accent so thick you could bottle it. It’s frankly hard to see anyone else when Amy’s onstage, but the band deserve just as much praise for their musical mayhem of pummeling drums and bass and ripping guitar riffs.

Since Amyl and the Sniffers only have a couple of albums to their name so far, I heard every song I was hoping for, including my personal favourite from their latest – Knifey, a uniquely female howl of frustration and rage at the dangers of walking alone late at night. Guided by Angels, which might as well be Amy’s personal statement (I’ve got plenty of energy / it’s my currency), was another big highlight, along with Hertz, a catchy anthem about wanting to escape to the countryside. It’s an unlikely subject for a punk song, but it’s just one of the reminders how Amy and Co do things just a little bit differently.

Amy prefaced Choices with a rant against the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, the only time the show got a bit political. To be honest I couldn’t decide if their take on Cold Chisel’s Bow River was a rare misstep or not, but other than that the night was just one burst of energy after another; my post-COVID tiredness was all but forgotten. Despite the godforsaken late hour, I stuck around after the show to buy a shamelessly overpriced T-shirt, which for me is a true sign of an unforgettable concert.

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