Pioneers of the industry, Frenzal Rhomb, took over the Cambridge Hotel on Friday night, reminding us all that long, eloquent songs are overrated and that punk rock is alive and well here in Newcastle. Well, alive at least.
First to take the stage on Friday night was local three-piece, RORT MENACE. Armed with their debut album, Reid’s Mistake, the trio definitely woke the crowd from their working week stupor. While the smokers’ area posed as a worthy competitor for the crowd’s attention, Rort Menace kicked on regardless, giving the punters a taste of what Newcastle’s punk rock scene has to offer. Tracks like Alfs Pog and Hypocrite went down well with the crowd, with Madeline Mitchell putting every male, self-confessed ‘shredder’ in the room to shame. It’s very refreshing to see a fellow femme up on stage showing us how it’s done.
While the trio were (without a doubt) a worthy support for Frenzal, I think that their sound still needs a little time to mature. I understand that punk shouldn’t be as polished and schmick as your uncle’s balding scalp, but a little cohesion goes a long way. I’m expecting big things from this trio when Sick Times come to town in early September.
Now, for anyone who has yet to catch Totally Unicorn, I’m urging you to track them down and buy a ticket to their next show. I don’t care if you froth on T-swift or that guy who writes songs that make your ears bleed (looking at you Lucas Graham), this is a live show that will rock those H&M socks right off your feet. While the rest of band emerged sans shirts, lead singer Drew Gardner appeared donning a head-to-toe tracksuit ensemble. Any preconceived notions that I had about Totally Unicorn were quickly dispelled as the lead singer dove into the crowd and promptly removed his hoodie.
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While the Cambridge was steadily filling, the majority of the room was taken up by the circle pit that formed, front and centre. Gardner spent (almost) the entirety of the set amongst the crowd, snaking his outrageously long mic cord through the pit and beyond. While everyone’s focus was on the lead singer, the band seemed to go a little unnoticed as they absolutely shredded up on stage. After eliciting a mic cord skip-off in the crowd, the band closed out their set with F**cking Guts, which saw bass guitarist Lee Neilson jump off stage to join the pit, continuing to smash out the final track. This was a set filled with charisma, handstands and tie dyed underwear; Totally Unicorn are undisputedly the life of the party.
My biggest regret in regards to Frenzal Rhomb, is that I hadn’t delved into their back catalogue earlier. I guess I should probably blame my parents love of country music and Daddy Cool for this, but really it’s just taken me 22 years to realise that punk rock is good for the soul; for your ears though, not so much. The band take to the stage and after a short rendezvous with The Choirboys Run To Paradise, they burst into their opening track Classic Pervert. While they verge on the heavier side of the industry, I find Frenzals’ music to very accessible; as well as the face melting riffs and drum solos, their sets are also filled with noteworthy harmonics and rhythm. It’s incredibly impressive to see a band who, after 25 years together, consistently manage to unite their fans and produce one of the most dynamic live shows on the scene.
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Tracks like Never Had So Much Fun and I Love Everyone But You really amped up the crowd, and it was great to see the audience appreciate some of their slower tracks as well. While it was blindingly obvious [to the band] that the majority of the crowd had turned up for their older hits, Jay said, ‘F**k it, we’re going to play our new tracks anyway’. Hi-Vis High Tea is Frenzal’s raucous follow up from A Man’s Not A Camel, and the Cambridge crowd (for the most part) reacted to the fresh tracks accordingly. Even through the mellow moments of the gig, the punters still managed to surf their way to the front.
Regardless of how great their set was, it was the continuous banter between front man Jay and guitarist Lindsay (The Doctor) that seemed to really steal the show. It was the kind of chat that made you want physically laugh out loud, or sink a cold tin… then maybe throw it at the lead singer (who even drinks Smirnoff Ice anymore, seriously?). For such an energetic gig, the entire set felt very personal and intimate, and not just because there were people surfing over your head. If you haven’t got your hands around a copy of Hi-Vis High Tea yet, then crack a tin and chuck on your brightest tradies vest, you’re in for a treat.
Words: Bree Smith
Bree is a Newcastle import who survives off British television and hummus. She spends the majority of her time chasing bands up and down the east coast. Never without a set of headphones, you’ll often find her lost in a wormhole of related artists on Spotify. One day she hopes to impress people by being able to play more than one song on guitar.
Photos: Sam Reay
Sam is a Newcastle based Graphic Designer, Photographer and Tea Enthusiast (@samreay_mmedia)