GUITAR GODS WEST COAST PRESENT GENERATIONS II
FEAT. TRIPLE ENGINE, ASHES OF AUTUMN, INTERFLOW AND HIGH ALTITUDE HEBREWS
THE STIRLING ARMS, GUILDFORD
Apologies for my crappy iPhone photos
The Strokes won their first ever Grammy this year, picking up the Best Rock Album gong for The New Abnormal. There’s something wrong with that sentence, I can’t quite figure out what. Is it that it’s taken The Strokes this long to win a Grammy? Or is it that they won it for Best Rock Album? No matter, we can resolve that one later, perhaps. My point in raising this is that, making their acceptance speech, the eternally cool Julian Casablancas (that name, be still my beating heart!), bucketed blues rock, saying, “…please, no more of that.” Well, Julian, there’s a little band right here in Perth that could just prove you wrong.
[Triple Engine are] hot. So hot, in fact, that the only way they could be hotter is if they set their instruments on fire and still kept playing.
Guitar Gods’ Generations events are all about passing the torch and keeping alive the flame of guitar rock. And so it was this evening with a line up featuring highly fancied newcomers, High Altitude Hebrews; Interflow, who’ve been around for a couple of years now and are beginning to make waves; Ashes of Autumn, a band currently sitting at the pinnacle of the Perth hard rock scene; and Triple Engine, a relatively new outfit fronted by two old white dudes (their words, not mine, please send all complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Entering the Stirling Arms and getting acquainted with friends and colleagues already in the room, it was evident that not too many, if any, of us had been here before to see live music. Not sure why, it’s a good sized, inviting space with a roomy stage and, look, Guildford’s really not that far — from anywhere. But, if they’re going to do this sort of thing more often, they might want to up spec the PA. Anywhere but front of stage and it struggled to carry sound into the venue with any integrity, especially the vocals.
Opening the evening were High Altitude Hebrews. Having reviewed them at one of their very first outings, I have to say I was on the fence about this band. My first impression was that they could be anything once they got over trying to be everyone else except themselves. I was hoping for some progression tonight, but I didn’t see it. Maybe it was because their regular bass player and sometime lead vocalist had been called away to other duties? Maybe it was because the vocals just sounded like a sludgy mess? Maybe it was the drummer who hasn’t learned yet that he doesn’t have to play every drum in every song? I’m not sure, but after tonight, I remain on the fence. I still think there’s loads of potential in this band, but I’m yet to see any progress.
Interflow feature, in Jacob Willis-Fullford, one of the most intriguing and promising vocalists I’ve heard in a long time. His vocals are vulnerable, kind of reedy — in a good way — and have power behind them that allows him to project when he needs to. I hadn’t seen them before, or heard their music, so this was one of those lovely surprises that you so regularly get when you’re willing to risk $10 to see some music you’ve never seen before. Willis-Fulford’s vocals were worth the price of entry alone. (Just lay off the shorts on stage, though, please.) Couple that with some highly accomplished and beautifully nuanced guitar work from Will Gibbs, and you have quite a band!
Despite the Nirvana t-shirt, Interflow play a brand of modern, proggy rock. It’s almost like a blues rock band listened to The Strokes and decided, You know what, we can do both! Yep, screw you, Julian, there’s still plenty of life left in blues rock. Their songs have complex arrangements and innovative instrumentation, Gibbs’ guitar work is nuanced, going full tilt when required but leaving plenty of space for the songs to breathe and for Willis-Fullford’s voice to come through. Oh, that voice!
I can’t wait to hear more from Interflow.
As I said in the intro, Ashes Of Autumn currently sit at the pinnacle of Perth’s hard rock scene and tonight, despite some illness in the camp, they confirmed why. Fronted by Melanie Flynn, this is a band that, when they’re on form (which is always) has a live sound big enough to punch a hole in the sky. They have mastered the art of light and shade and deliver songs that ride high (and low) on emotion. There’s really not much that this band can’t do.
Given this was a Guitar Gods event, it’s probably incumbent on me to mention Ashes Of Autumn’s lead guitarist, Mat Kenworthy. Here’s a man who knows how to wear a shirt and play a guitar. Standing in the venue, he looks like some nerdy nine-to-fiver but get him on the stage and he’s got all the moves and chops he needs to light a fire under audiences big and small. He’s the Perth hard rock scene’s Johnny Marr and long may he reign.
Triple Engine have been in existence for around a year, most of which was during the COVID lockdown, so they’ve only started gigging fairly recently. Then why are they headlining a Guitar Gods event instead of opening? The reason is that two-thirds of their personnel is made up of Perth rock royalty with Chris Gibbs on guitar and vocals, and Craig Skelton on bass and vocals. The drum stool is ably held down by Dan Skelton, the aforementioned Craig’s son and the only member of the band with hair (again, their words, not mine, so you know…), and a glorious mane it is, too. Held down is an apt description for what Skelton Jnr does in Triple Engine. He’s the rock to which Gibbs and Skelton Snr anchor their bubbles. Without him, this band wouldn’t work quite so well as it does.
When they invited me to come review the show I said I would only if they really cut loose this time and showed me everything they’ve got, which was rather cheeky of me, because this band never holds back. But they indulged me, opening their set with a monstrous bass solo and then stepping things up a notch with every successive song.
Triple Engine is the Gibbs-Skelton playground. These two make their living playing music which, in Perth, means doing a lot of cover and tribute shows. Nothing at all wrong with that, but it means you have to colour inside the lines a lot. Triple Engine is this pair’s opportunity to colour outside the lines and, sometimes, erase the lines all together. So, we get songs with lyrics that are massively self-referential and filled with humour and all the guitar and bass wizardry we can cope with in one sitting.
Gibbs and Skelton play with, off and, sometimes, against each other. At times it’s like they’re competing to see who can pull off the biggest solo or the most outrageous run, but their playing never comes at the expense of the songs. I’ve seen guitar players before who are dazzlingly good, but after a while it becomes boring because it’s all about them. Triple Engine is all about the songs, they just happen to have two of the best musicians you’d find anywhere pushing those songs to the limit with their virtuosity.
So, yeah, Julian, Triple Engine play blues rock. They even likened themselves to Cream tonight. And they’re hot. So hot, in fact, that the only way they could be hotter is if they set their instruments on fire and still kept playing. So, kablammo, take that Julian.