RED ENGINE CAVES
Photos by Damien Crocker (@damien_crocker)
It is the purpose of the rock band to create chaos of nuclear meltdown proportions and then to bring that to the stage, all white heat and spitting atoms, and hold it just on the edge of explosion for an hour or so.
Based on their most recent live outing, Red Engine Caves deserve their own genre, let’s call it nuclear rock.
It is the purpose of the rock audience to bring all of their troubles, successes, sorrows, joys, accidents, adventures, misdemeanours, triumphs — the whole of their lives — and throw them into the furnace, so that, for that hour or so, they can be just existence, nothing worldly troubling their minds.
This is a complex equation and, for that reason, it’s rare that it ever comes off.
Too little and you’re just playing music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but just about anyone who’s learned their instrument can play music on stage. It’s unremarkable. Too much and, inevitably, somewhere along the line you’ll fuck it up. The drummer gets out of time, the guitar player solos out of key, the bass player thinks they’re an important part of the live show — something along those lines.
Either way, the audience is left with that litany of things — good and bad — plaguing their minds. Flow does not happen. Thrall is not held. People go home unrequited.
But when it all happens, it is a dangerously beautiful thing to behold. And that was what Around The Sound beheld at Freo.Social a little while ago when we popped along to witness the return of legendary Perth band, Red Engine Caves. Take a Geiger counter to the venue now and the radioactivity readings will still be high. Talk to someone who was in the audience and so will they.
Starting their set behind a curtain of red silk, the silhouetted outlines of the band’s three members, vocalist and guitarist, Ricky Mandozzi, bass player, Ralf Sunbird and drummer, Callum Kramer, were larger than life, obviously some sort of trick of the light. The sound they made was industrial in its force and brutality and the movement on stage was frenetic. When the curtain dropped, part way through their opening number, the three forgers of music remained larger than life (no trick of the light then, just rock sorcery), the crowd roared and a titanic struggle began.
Would they be able to hold it together? Would they explode into a million pieces or spontaneously combust right there in front of our eyes? It felt dangerous! It was joyous! In some respects it was silly in a vaudevillian way — the very best kind of silly, of course. It was gobsmackingly entertaining and it was like worship, in that everyone in the room had a shared purpose, to live for an hour or so as pure existence, pushed and pulled only by the ebb and flow of the music and the audience’s response to it, rather than by the vicissitudes of life.
Red Engine Caves are that rare band that can pull out the cooling rods just far enough and then hold it together just long enough to ride the chaos on stage and take their audience with them. They play rock music, but it defies classification. Yes, there are influences, but they’re irrelevant when this band plays together. Based on their most recent live outing, Red Engine Caves deserve their own genre, let’s call it nuclear rock.
And, what’s with having three front men in a three-piece band? Yes, yes, yes, we know it’s Mandozzi who does all the bellowing and guitar histrionics, but don’t try to tell us that Sunbird and Kramer aren’t equally delightful to watch. Somehow, it seems unfair, but there is it, Red Engine Caves set a bar that only they could ever reach.
Let’s hope they have more cooking in that nuclear testing ground of theirs.
Red Engine Caves were supported on the night by Moth, Marmalade Mama and The Wilds. Unfortunately an aversion to rain and loud noises kept Around The Sound away from the venue during their performances.