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CULTURAL RELEVANCE?

Primrose Path - photo by Dark Spirit Photography
Primrose Path - photo by Dark Spirit Photography

PRIMROSE PATH
BADLANDS, 21 DECEMBER 2023

In Perth, actually writing about music has never been a thing as far as I can ascertain. Arriving here in the very early 80s was like being transported to a place where satire and irony had never existed. The lanes were clearly marked — say something gushingly positive or don’t bother saying anything at all. And, the bigger the star, the more gush. If it was someone who may threaten the airwaves at some point, you might be forgiven for some questioning of their musical pedigree. If they were nobodies, you wouldn’t touch them at all, unless they were your mates. Then you were usually back to the gush.

By the time Primrose Path had finished their set, the Batcave was half full of appreciative punters digging on what they were doing.

Of course, as we approach the end of the first quarter of the 21st Century, we’re bullied into being unremittingly positive because to do otherwise would be to invoke a social media pile on. It’s a neat trick that one, policing politeness with outright bastardry. This is the reason why Gary Gibraltar’s satire was initially met with almost uniform condemnation on the Perth Music Network Facebook page. No one is allowed to poke fun anymore. Also, if it’s written down, it must be true.

Whereas, music journalism used to be about freewheeling fun. The likes of Hunter S Thompson (yes, he was a cousin of mine several times removed) bringing gonzo to the likes of Rolling Stone. Or Charles Shaar Murray’s review of The Clash, the one where he wrote that they’re the sort of band that should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running. Those things couldn’t happen these days. We’re all too busy being polite to each other’s faces while talking endlessly behind each other’s backs. Bleuch!

Last Thursday I went to Badlands for the last time intending to have some fun. Truth be told, I was so bone achingly tired that I was home by 21.00 and missed seeing Chaos Divine and headliners Karnivool, which I was disappointed about, but you can’t help being old and addled, especially at Christmas time. I did get to see Perth prog metallers, Primrose Path before I expired and, now I’m almost back on my feet again, here I am writing them a little Christmas present. A review. A real one. Maybe.

Earlier this year I spoke to Primrose Path frontwoman, Lindsay Rose. I asked her who’d want to be a woman fronting a prog metal band in Perth? She answered, “I love my day job. I studied long and worked hard to get to where I am and I know what I do makes a difference, but my absolute heart is with making and playing music. Getting on stage is such a difficult task for me, it pushes all my buttons, my anxiety, my asthma, everything, but once I’m up there, there’s nothing like it. It’s where I belong.”

Finally, I would get to see if there was any truth to those words. Interestingly, in the intervening period, I’d happened to see Rose at her day job, and you only have to tap into her multiple social media channels for a few short moments to see the fullness and complexity of her anxieties. Tonight, the level of difficulty was increased by Primrose Path having to do the junior band thing on the senior band’s stage, perched in a line along the edge of the Badlands boards in front of Karnivool’s gear. And, when they kicked off their set, the room was mostly empty.

The recipe for musical disaster goes like this:

  1. Overhype.
  2. Open for someone massive.
  3. Play to an empty room.

I should really have gone home straight after I ate my chips, but something made me stay. I’ll admit it, there’s a part of me that likes to see things come apart.

By the time Primrose Path had finished their set, the Batcave was half full of appreciative punters digging on what they were doing. By this time, I was one of them. You see, Lindsay Rose, despite all the hushed gravitas of her day job (don’t ask, I’m not allowed to say), her heart-on-sleeve social media presence, the festival bookers and government grant blockers who tell her that being a woman in a prog metal band has no cultural currency, is the quintessential rock and roll animal. Once she got going, she owned the Badlands stage and played it like she was in front of a sell-out crowd at Perth Arena. It helps that Rose has a voice that can go from a high C to a guttural growl with the flick of a switch, but it’s more than that. Here is a performer who has presence and, if she can come to terms with how to reconcile her intellect with her instinct, could be quite something.

The music is certainly good enough, driving, intricate and nicely filigreed, and the band play it with workmanlike skill and tenacity, even if they’re not quite performers just yet. But Rose herself, once she lets go, is a force to be reckoned with, working the stage and her audience, sharing all manner of energy and fluids with her adoring fans and inviting those towards the back, those not quite sold yet, to come closer. Yes, by the time Primrose Path had finished their set there was a tight knot of punters ten deep at the front of the stage. Rose and her band had proven they’ve got what it takes. As for cultural relevance, I think the technical term is, fuck yeah! They’ve got that, too.

What do they need now? Self-belief, mostly. A little bit of stagecraft. Maybe a producer rather than a studio engineer, someone who can push their songs to the next level and sprinkle the fairy dust. But what would I know? I wasn’t meant to ever write for Around The Sound and now that I have been for a few years, you have to know that I am a deliberately unreliable witness.

BTW, it was nice to meet you, Luke. Lucky we both wore black 😊

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