In a run of Wednesday night residencies that just keep building and building, Cherry Bar once again proved to have their fingers well and truly on the pulse of all things up and coming in the world of rock n roll.
A formidable buzz has surrounded Strangers during their eight week stint at Cherry; firstly supporting local two piece King Of The North, and more recently pounding out their headliner residency.
However strong the word of mouth support for Strangers may be, the same cannot be said for opening act The Vagrants. Fronted by the pixie-like Renate Ludwig, they are a band that you desperately want to like but that never quite manage to win you over.
Ludwig’s vocals are adequate but it is impossible to get a real feel for them as they are buried under loud guitars. They are trying hard to engage the sparsely filled room and they are met with an empty dance floor and general indifference.
Guitarist Steve Iorio tries to garner some enthusiasm while introducing “Fanghouse”, a song dedicated to a night on Jager which should have been a lot more fun than it actually turned out to be. The Vagrants’ saving grace is their enthusiasm, which was unwavering.
The clear crowd pullers of the evening are Sydney rockers Strangers. “Let’s get this fuckin’ party started” calls frontman Ben Britton and the suddenly filled floor heeds his call. Guitarists Ben Kinsela and Mark Barnes keep things loud and take turns shooting dirty riffs across the room, making it apparent that they have made this Wednesday night residency their bitch.
“It’s a fuckin’ pleasure to be here tonight Melbourne” says the singer as he introduces “Persona Non Grata”, from their new album of the same name. The grimy, driving track sends the audience into a spin and Britton is supported by most of the front row when the chorus kicks in.
By this stage there is little room to move and the alleyway that was clogged with smokers during The Vagrants’ set is a virtual ghost town. Moving on to the heaviest track from Persona Non Grata, “Heiress”, the band are obviously determined to put on a festival sized set on a Cherry Bar sized stage (i.e. not that big).
This could be construed as a young band rapidly becoming too big for their boots, and at times Britton’s stage banter is a tad condescending, but all rock stars in the making are entitled to a little braggadocio.
A thundering drum intro courtesy of Timmy Hansen heralds the arrival of “The Yearly Drug” as a small group of punters bubble into a sweaty semi-mosh, crushing themselves into the front of the stage. “Bred For Breeding” with its muddy, rumbling bass line is a fitting end to both the set and the Strangers residency.
“Thank you so much guys, that was fuckin’ so much fun,” smiles the breathless vocalist. Thanking the staff, the crowd and just about anyone else they have ever met, the Sydneysiders look set to leave Melbourne with a loyal, not to mention expanded fanbase.
“Let’s get fuckin’ hammered” concludes Britton in a fitting send off. Though this is the end of the residency, one can’t help but feel that this is not the last Melbourne will be seeing of the heavy rockers.