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Amyl And The Sniffers With Diode And C.O.F.F.I.N. At The Teragram Ballroom, Wednesday, May 4th 2022

Amyl and the Sniffers.
Amyl and the Sniffers.

Australians took over the Teragram Ballroom last night, they slayed the place with such ease that it looked completely ridiculous in retrospect. Some bands would have to work the crowd for a good hour before rising such hell, but not Amyl and the Sniffers. The hurricane coming from Oz country may well be the hottest punk band of the moment. They sold out 2 nights in a row at the Teragram Ballroom and when I checked the reselling sites, tickets were up to $100 from an original price of $20.

As a photographer, I always want to stand in the front, and this is what I did for maybe 3 songs, but I soon realized I would not survive such rage and joyful abandon coming from the crowd for very long. I watched the rest of the show from upstairs, in the VIP lounge and the vision was insane. There’s no doubt in my mind that a few people must be very sore today… I also have a sharp pain in my left side from being crushed against the stage…

But before Amy Taylor and her band, two groups opened the night. First, Diode played a very short set, but in less than 20 minutes they gave us a taste of their female-fronted mechanical synth punk. They had this familiar type of aggressive dissonance that could have been made any time during the last 4 decades, channeling Devo or maybe the B-52s with a fresh take on dislocated punk tempo. Frontwoman KT Green was screaming her lines with a touch of sardonic paranoia and high-pitched intonations while the band was vibrating with anxiety and fun. The Los Angeles band features members of the Freakees, Shark Toys, Vaguess, and Wild Wing.

The rest of the night belonged to wild Australians, and C.O.F.F.I.N. didn’t disappoint. With no less than three guitarists, a bass player, and a drummer who was shouting most of the vocals, they played a devilish set of mad, fast, riff-heavy hard rock. They were brutal and euphoric at the same time and didn’t waste any time: loud-mouth drummer barked the lyrics while pounding on his drums with ferocity and the rest was a giant mosh pit of guitar riffs, stage diving, fist-pumping, loud sing-along, and bodies smashed against the stage. I barely survive their set but there was something truly exhilarating about their destructive and upbeat energy fueling the crowd’s craziness. They did a headbanging cover of AC/DC’s “Riff Raff” and this totally made sense… it was difficult to top this stage energy but we should never underestimate the power of a tiny woman.

C.O.F.F.I.N. Setlist: Plans for You, Out on Bail, Drug BaBy, Done by the Dogs, Dead Land, Cum in the Street, Riff Raff, City Sun, Fast Love, White Dog.

As expected, frontwoman Amy Taylor was all the rage. On stage, she erupts like a volcano at each song, with a defiant and combative attitude, and like the rest of the band (they all were shirtless after a few songs), she doesn’t wear much: an extra mini black vinyl boxer short, a metallic bra completed with hot boots, she could not have looked sexier or slutter. All set long, she paraded on stage with a huge swagger, flexing her muscles, holding her crotch, rallying the mosh pit with fist pumps, taking WWF poses, and violently shaking her blonde mullet during guitarist Dec Mehrtens’ guitar solos. She probably approaches her performances more like a wrestling competition than a regular concert: she means business, and people know it. During the hour or so she was on stage, the ballet of stage diving didn’t stop, and the mosh pit grew bigger at each minute, constantly fueled by the fury of the music.

They opened the show with “Cup of Destiny” and then oscillated between other songs from their 2019 self-titled album and tracks from their 2021 “Comfort to Me.” At the first riffs of the second song, the very appropriate “Freaks to the Front,” the scene was pure nonsense. The crowd went nuts at the sound of charging guitars and pummeling drums combined with Amy’s vocals shouted in the most tough-girl tone you could imagine. She didn’t even try to sing these songs, she slammed the lyrics on a belligerent and monochord tone as if a much more aggressive Courtney Barnett had decided to front Motörhead – the name of the UK band has surfaced in several reviews (and I could not agree more) while the Sniffers’s last album was produced by Courtney Barnett’s collaborator Dan Luscombe … “Get on my level/Or get out my way/Don’t bloody touch me/Give me some space” Amy screamed at a moment when space was ridiculously lacking in my neighborhood.

Aggressivity and violence were all over the songs, aggressivity coming from frustration and resentment, and violence as a sign of our times…There was “Don’t Need a Cunt Like You to Love Me,” which doesn’t need more explanation, “Knifey” which is about going armed in self-defense as a woman whereas you just wanted to go for a walk in the park, and ”GFY,” which of course stands for “Go Fuck Yourself.” There are many reasons to be frustrated, angry, and resentful in 2022, and so little explanation is needed to comprehend the crowd’s energetic embrace of the songs. But if the intensity of the performance was real, there was also a very enjoyable playfulness on display all along. Fearless Amy often looked possessed by the demon of punk rock when she was not fighting against some invisible threat, but she was still in plain control of her surrounding. As expected, she jumped into the crowd several times, and at this point, she had all the confidence and charisma of a female Iggy Pop. She dedicated “Choices” to the “bloody, fucking…” Supreme court’s vote to overturn abortion rights, and you could not have asked for a better fit: “My Choice is My Own/My Body, my own/Opinion is my own/I own it, I own it…” she screamed. Nobody would have even tried to mess with her.

The music, played on a blistering level, was packed with the primal scream of rock and roll. The songs were delivered without any pause, straight to the end of the show without an encore, and the entire set ended up being an incendiary, scorching, headbanging monster with punk-metal energy, but also charged with political lines: “It’s just for capital/Am I an animal?/And do I care at all?/Capital, capital/I’m just an animal/Freedom don’t exist/Humans don’t exist”…she howled during “Capital.

With glorious guitar riffs delivered at a frenetic pace, and shredded sonic assaults played in short succession, Amyl and the Sniffers had some electrifying energy. The quartet delivered a bulldozer of a show, and they may be the ultimate live punk band. But what could possibly differentiate them from any other punk band? Probably the killer combination of magnificent riffs, an unapologetic punk attitude, and Amy’s fierce and nagging posture. She is a force of nature expressing rare independence and confidence, but she also brings nuances. If she conquered the stage in a blink of an eye with short and sharp songs, she also brings a vulnerability to her performance. “I turn around and backtrack/Because I ain’t that tough,” she sang during “Knifey,” “I wanna help out the people on the street/But how can I help them when I can’t afford to eat?” she screamed during “Gacked On Anger.” However, the overall impression was her incredibly communicative energy, “I’ve got plenty of energy/It’s my currency,” she shrieked during “Guided by Angels” and there was not one person in the room who had any doubt about it.

setlist
Cup of Destiny
Freaks to The Front
Starfire 500
No More Tears
Gacked On Anger
Choices
Capital
Security
Maggot
Got You
Guided By Angels
Knifey
Don’t Fence Me In
GFY
Don’t Need A Cunt (Like You To Love Me)
Bow River (Cold Chisel cover)
Hertz
Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)

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