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Opinion

THE STATE OF THE PERTH HARD ROCK SCENE

The Babes
The Babes

It was many moons ago that I first entered the Perth Hard Rock scene as a patron. Visiting establishments like the Amplifier Bar and the Rocket Room, managing to find myself a part of a music scene that I had always wanted to be more close to, albeit on the outskirts. I remember the first  true night I was really in the centre of it all. It was at the Amplifier Bar. That night I believe the bill had Emerald City, Ragdoll and Legs Electric. I  have to tell you the place was absolutely jam-packed wall to wall. I’d have to say at least 300 people were there. I was keen to be apart of it in some way and get to know everybody.

I was in the middle of attempting to get back in the game as it pertains to being a vocalist. I hadn’t done it in a few years. I felt by getting closer  to the scene that perhaps I could network and find myself some like minded musicians. 

The night was an absolute cracker. It was around this time that all the rockers of Perth would spend their Saturday Nights hanging out at the  Rocket Room. It was always such a great vibe. Cover bands playing the rock tunes you’d want to hear, original bands playing their hearts out, and a DJ that would play all the hits all night long till the early morn. 

Just as I was getting my feet wet and trying to build friendships with the people within this community, all of sudden one day it just wasn’t the  same. I recall a gig at The former Beat Nightclub where it was another of these great lineups of Hard Rock bands. Ragdoll were there, as were Emerald City. Something was different though. It went from a 300+ packed Amplifier Bar to maybe not even 40 people at The Beat. I thought to myself that perhaps it was an off night. But I feel in my heart of hearts it was the start of a decline for the Perth Hard Rock scene.

It wouldn’t be long after this until the Rocket Room started to change their philosophy. I remember being in there and it was packed! Then I would be there with my mate Nicholas on a Saturday Night and there would be 6 people in there. They tried to even have a Coyote Ugly type thing with the strippers from upstairs coming down and dancing on the bar at different times. It just seemed that no matter what happened, the venue lost its previous patronage. I was always there. Nobody else seemed to be. It wouldn’t be long before the place became a male strip club, and the rest is history. Long live the Rocket Room.

I was dumbfounded. Here I was in Perth, a complete rock n’ roller, and I had no place to call home. We had no rock bars! I even tried my hand at running a monthly Rock Night at Wolfe Lane, YaYa’s, The CauseWay, and The Velvet Lounge. Wolfe Lane is the only one of those venues still going. It just didn’t work. That in itself is a long story. All I was trying to do was inject some life back into the rock scene, and give it some kind of HQ. A place for those who were likeminded to network, share ideas, communicate and have a good time. When you’re only given a weeknight from a venue it’s difficult to get people out. Or when you deal with promoters that want to take a big chunk of the money you make on the night but put no effort into helping the thing get off the ground. Except Tom Mantle from Big Tommo Presents. He was the only one that ever tried to truly help me out. Anyway, I digress…

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“This is the return and reignition of the Perth Rock Scene. And I say that because I believe.”

Karlifornia Infirri

The Hard Rock scene soon went on life support. You would go to one of these spot shows throughout the year and the support just wasn’t there. The only time it felt like there was some solidarity was when L.A Xmas took place (an annual showing of tribute bands that suit the Sunset Strip sound) but even that eventually went away for reasons beyond the promoter’s control.

During this time period I formed my own band; Jackson Koke. This is what I learned through the process of being in this band for 4 years. The first two years are okay because you can rely on that ‘Rent-A-Crowd’. Your friends and family. That well soon dries up though. People can’t be expected to come every single time.

Once that well dries up, you hope to be able to support a bigger band on their shows to get exposed to their audience and gain some fans. It happens sometimes. But other times those fans are outside having a smoke as you’re playing your heart out. They’re not there to buy into a new product, they only just paid for the one product they’re here to see!

I learned something this past December. Us great, tremendous rock bands are going in damn circles. Year after year, gig after gig. Nothing is being gained. I have a perfect example for you. We put on a big show in December 2018 at the Boston in Northbridge. We were being supported by our friends Band of Missfits, The Midnight Revolver and a new band known as Nylon Stroke.

As I walked into the venue that night, Nylon Stroke were mere moments from playing their first show. The place was packed, and my eyes widened in excitement. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “It’s already this packed this early on, imagine what it will be like when we’re about to play later on?”

Nylon played their set, to a great response from the patrons. As Band of Missfits started setting up to play; that’s when I noticed it and everything became crystal clear to me. The room was now half empty. Nylon had convinced their friends and family to come see them play. Those friends did that. They weren’t there to buy into a new product or look for new bands to follow. They were there to support their friends! It was their one night out a month, they had probably already had dinner and were off for a night cap elsewhere or they went home.

Did we get their money? Oh hell yeah we did. It was a good night, but nothing was gained other than cash. We all play these spot shows every few months – whether it’s somebody’s album launch, single launch, video launch, etc and rely on the other bands to bring their friends, but it doesn’t do anything for anybody. You get the rare fan here and there, but momentum cannot be gained when it’s the same thing over and over; just with a different mix of a lineup. Even the bigger bands can’t say they’re a massive draw in the market because they don’t play that often because it doesn’t draw for them anymore and it’s better to save it for when it matters. It’s not their fault. It’s just the climate we’re in with social 

media and how you’re getting pelted with event invites left right and centre. People’s attention spans are getting worse and worse. There’s always an excuse. Drink prices are inflated, people prefer to just spend the night at home because a night out will end with you hating yourself the next morning. It’s a tiring thing to witness and even more tiring to have been a part of.

It’s nobody’s fault. Even International touring bands have been skipping our city over the last few years because nobody wants to spend the money on a ticket till the very last minute because nobody can commit to something ahead of time as they’re trying to budget and keep their head above water.

Instead of sitting here and being a sook about it, whinging and complaining about how it used to be… I decided to take it upon myself to be a part of a change in direction for it.

The Perth Rocks Festival in my mind is the perfect starting point for a return to previous glory. Recently on a Silverback Touring post I argued with some bloke who said there were no good rock bands anymore. I challenged him on that. I said to myself I could name 15 bands that are worth your bottom dollar to see, just in my city. 

This festival is my baby. It’s a platform that has been sorely needed for a long time. A platform that can resurrect what was once a brilliant thing. This is a showcase of 13 of the best original rock bands in Perth today. 1 Tribute act (Ballbreaker – Girls Who Play AC/DC), and a band from South Oz called ‘The Babes’ as a treat to everybody. All of these bands are tremendous at what they do. This is their chance at momentum and a chance to be seen by eager eyes and ears wanting to buy into a new product and see what it’s all about. Us bands are selling our product; our songs and performance. We are trying to sell these things to the patrons for one thing – their CONTINUED support and their passion. Gaining passion and belief is a hard thing to attain in the world we are in today. Before you know it, this could be the spark that turns the Perth Rock Scene back into a raging inferno. The pieces of the puzzle are all there and all it needs is for the people to come and for the bands to believe.

The Perth Rocks Festival is on July 27th at the Civic Hotel in Inglewood. That’s 15 bands on 2 stages, only $25 through Moshtix. This is the return and reignition of the Perth Rock Scene. And I say that because I believe.

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