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ONE OF US

Addison Axe
Addison Axe

When I was a kid, I wanted to meet a rock star. Such exotic creatures they were, I could hardly even imagine how they could exist in the same world as me. I just wanted to see one up close, maybe say a timid, hello.

To see Axe Girl play live is to witness the true magic of rock and roll, the transformation of (relatively) normal people into rock stars. It happens so rarely, but with Axe Girl it’s what they do every time they get on stage.

Let’s say around 40 years later and that’s what I was about to do, meet a rock star.  A couple of them, actually. As I waited for them to turn up, my instinct was to run. I couldn’t do this. What if I opened my mouth and no words came out? That nervy little kid still lived strong inside me and she was telling me to flee, that I wasn’t good enough to breathe the same air as these people. When that white ute pulled into the car park, two heads of bleached blonde hair in the front seats, I almost got up and walked away…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My first encounter with Axe Girl was at The Bakery a good few years ago now. I’d heard about the show on the radio earlier that day and something told me I should go. I’d never heard of Axe Girl, or the headliners that night, Boys Boys Boys!, but how could you go wrong with band names like that?

I turned to my partner as we watched Axe Girl play their set and said, “That woman is going to be a huge star some day.” I never forgot that night, though in my memory Axe Girl’s front woman was a left hander. It took me a while to get over that one when I saw with my own eyes how wrong I was. But I was right about the rock star bit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I always wanted to be a rock star,” Addison Axe told me, “right from when I was a little girl. That was the only thing I ever wanted to be.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Axe Girl were a three piece when I first saw them. I knew I liked them, so to be putting on a festival celebrating women in music with Addison Axe (guitar and vocals) and Vanessa Thornton (bass) was pretty much a dream come true, if I’d ever been brave enough to dream such a thing.

The Canon Ball arose from that first meeting we had, the one where I nearly upped and ran when they pulled into the car park in Ness’s ute. It was supposed to be about something entirely different, but like a lot of things in life, it turned into this beautiful opportunity. We put it on at the Buffalo Club in Fremantle on International Women’s Day 2018 and, working with these two, I began to see another way of being that helped turn some of the last keys in the puzzle that was me.

Here were two clearsighted, uncompromising women who lived their values all day every day. And there was me tagging along for the ride.

The Canon Ball featured some great bands and artists including This Way North, Simone & Girlfunkle, Lucy Peach and BOOM! BAP! POW!, but for me it was all about Axe Girl.

Somehow, while I wasn’t looking they’d turned into a five-piece power pop outfit with Addison out front playing and singing like tonight was going to be her last night on Earth. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. The songs had turned into these muscular slabs of power pop. The band was tight and more powerful than a nuclear blast. But, somehow, they were still ingenuous and, dare I say it, filled with female energy. And fun.  Seriously good fun!

It took me a while to pick up my jaw off the Buffalo Club’s sticky carpet.

If I’d liked Axe Girl before, I was totally besotted with them now.

Axe Girl - Canon Ball
Axe Girl – Canon Ball

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“It takes it out of me, doing what I do up there on stage,” Addison told me, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing it.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I met with Addison and Ness a few weeks after the first Canon Ball. Ostensibly it was to talk about where to next with the festival, but I managed to slip into the conversation a shy question: “Would you like some help with Axe Girl?”

That’s how I got my first ever management gig. You would not believe the joy in my heart when they said, “Yes.”

So began the wildest of rides.

Axe Girl played a support spot with UK band, The Cribs, at Badlands and we shot some live video, including a take of their upcoming single, ‘1981’.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“No one will ever know what ‘1981’ is really about,” Addison told me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In August we took a trip down south with The Bennies. I wrote about it for Around The Sound and I’m not going to say anything more about it here. To say any more would be to say too much.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In November 2018, Axe Girl played in prime time on at the WAMFest Lot Party, probably the most high exposure gig a band could get in WA at the time.  They absolutely fucking killed it. Every time they played live I’d watch the audience response, listen in on the talk amongst the crowd. They found a lot of new fans that night, the buzz was enormous.

I watched from my usual spot, front and centre at the security barrier, my jaw on the floor where it always was when I watched Axe Girl do their thing. I smiled in amazement when I saw Fraser (Cringle, drummer) turn to the side and let go a little hurl mid song. No one plays their instrument as fiercely and precisely as he does.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I knew we’d done good that night when I saw the look on your face,” Addison told me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I hooked up with Axe Girl they had seven songs recorded for their first album and four to go. They had the opportunity to go to Melbourne to record with a big-name producer so I said, let’s make it happen. And we did. Late November they spent nearly a week at a studio in North Melbourne as the band recorded the last four tracks for Axe Girl’s debut album.

Mid way through their visit, Axe Girl played a headline gig at the Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar, with the crowd response convincing me that they would play just as well on the east coast of Australia as their did in their home town.

I met with the head of a record label while we were in Melbourne, one of the top three the band wanted to target. He said he loved what the band was doing and would be very keen to work with them on the release of their debut.

The ducks were lining up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Axe Girl brought in the New Year back at Badlands playing second on the bill to Gyroscope. It was a packed house and in my mind they stole the show, as they always did. I didn’t even bother to stick around to see Gyroscope, I knew where the future lay.

I headed into 2019 filled with a sense of anticipation like I’d never had before.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2019 saw Axe Girl begin their year in March at the Aardvark, on the line up at an event for International Women’s Day. There was, let’s say, a mix up with the panel members who were invited to speak that night. Addison and I spoke about it afterwards and I also wrote about for Around The Sound.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I always knew you were one of us,” Addison told me, “I just didn’t know how much.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the last half of 2019, three of the members of Axe Girl spent time touring overseas with the Fringe show, Styx. It put the band on hold for much of that year, but they came back with a bang in 2020 supporting Everclear on their WA dates in January.

Far from being rusty, Axe Girl were in fine form. Addison was still putting in death defying performances out front, now sans guitar, as Elle (Walsh, keys and guitar) had taken up her parts. In fact, Elle had become the core of the band in a lot of ways, multi-instrumentalist and watching over the rest of her bandmates from her side of the stage. Brendan (Biddis, guitar) was still doing the best Nile Rodgers south of the equator, standing at his side of the stage knocking out some incredible guitar work, all the time being the most unassuming rock star you’d ever meet. Ness was simply Ness, ever reliable, ever positive and upbeat, and by far one of the best bass players you’d find anywhere. And Fraser, gentlest soul you could ever know and a monstrously good drummer, as well as producer, session musician…the list goes on.

Axe Girl

Everywhere they went, Axe Girl won more fans, front of house and back of house. They were in demand and on the cusp of something, ready to take that elusive next step.

Meanwhile, they were still working on the final tracks for the album, trying to get them just so.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Late in 2020, I had lunch with Addison and told her I needed to move on from my gigs in the music industry. It was a fucking terrible year for reasons we all understand in our different ways and I was under pressure on a lot of fronts, trying to save a lot of things that, in the end, just weren’t worth saving.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I’m not feeling it myself, either,” Addison told me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I don’t think either of us mentioned that conversation to the other band members.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2021 began with an offer to play a Sunday session at Fremantle Arts Centre.

“As long as they don’t swear too much,” the booker told me.

“Who do they think we are?” Addison asked when I told her.

That’s the thing about Axe Girl, they have this reputation, based on the energy they create on stage. The sense of danger is palpable. To see Axe Girl play live is to witness the true magic of rock and roll, the transformation of (relatively) normal people into rock stars. It happens so rarely, but with Axe Girl it’s what they do every time they get on stage.  It’s why they’re one of the best bands Perth has ever produced and always will be.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Yeah, I don’t really know what happens when I get on stage,” Addison told me, “It helps to know you have the safety of the others around you and that’s what I get with Axe Girl. I know I can depend on everyone, so I can just do my thing.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 2020, Addison and her wife, Emma, built a personal fitness and physiotherapy business.  After hanging in as long as she could, Addison decided it was time to quit the music business and concentrate on her new enterprise.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I’ve never felt happier and more at peace in my whole life,” Addison told me, “Everything I do, I do to create change. Not to change the whole world, but to work with people personally, like in a village. My Mum once told me about the ripple effect, and that’s what I’m doing now, creating change in the fitness industry and helping change lives, one person at a time.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I’m glad our last show is for you,” Addison told me, “It’s going to be a big one.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For all that she’s larger than life on stage, Addison Axe is anything but a rock star in real life. She’s shy, wise and funny. She’s determined and complex and lives every moment of her life according to her values and her drive to create a better more sustainable world. She’s a magnet for people, not just because she creates music, but because of who she is.

As for the other members of Axe Girl, I feel blessed that I was able to share their musical journey with them for a while and that I get to call them friends. Each of them is a rare human being and the talent they carry in them is immeasurable.

In the end, I met five rock stars.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I’ll never stop playing music,” Addison told me, “The only thing left to do on those four tracks is for me to record the vocals. One day, I’ll finish them.”

Addison Axe

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I always knew you were one of us,” Addison told me, “and now I know just how much.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Axe Girl play their last ever show at the Rosemount Hotel for Around The Sound’s Winterfest with Old Blood, Ashes of Autumn, Kat Wilson, Trent-Jean and Green Pools.

If you’ve never seen Axe Girl before, you need to see them just once in your life. If you’ve seen them before, you know exactly why you must not miss this show.

Get tickets here.

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