Posted 28 August 2017 by Adz Carter
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This Sunday may’ve been fight day because of Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, but after the bout came the battle, with that battle being Heat Three of the Passport To Airlie Battle Of The Bands Competition. Yesterday four acts stepped into the ring, and not one of them pulled any punches.

Viagro came out ready to rumble, and boy did they know how to throw left and right combos! This pair of brothers were not your standard duo, in appearance or playing style. Sporting matching striped shirts and pants, shaved heads and rather out there facial hair, Adam and Paul Diver closely resembled how the Bananas In Pyjamas would look if they formed a hard rock band. Opening with a heavy as hell original, many people who didn’t have a good vantage point of the stage may’ve been asking “Where’s the drummer?”, as guitarist Adam also played the drums, and bass player Paul also played the cymbals. I know right! As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Viagro followed up their original with a rockin’ and rousing version of ‘Bad Romance’ (and Lady Gaga has arguably never sounded so good!) which had a few dancers up immediately. No mean feat for the first band up playing their second song! After the punk fury of the original ‘Girls Germs, No Returns’, the brothers Diver busted out an aggressive version of ‘I See Red’ by Split Enz, where Adam demonstrated he could do more than just growl, as he hit the high notes and nailed them each time. Closing with the wild and raucous original ‘Use Your Imagination’, Viagro proved themselves to be great songwriters as well as great performers. Oh, but what performers they were, as it’s one thing to have a one man band be in sync with themselves, but to play any instrument, then play drums and be in sync with another person’s drumming, wow! It was also amazing how note after note and song after song, they continued to make it all look so damn easy.

Wysper may not be the most appropriate name for the second band of the afternoon, as there was nothing quiet about this classic rock four piece. The welcome sound of a cowbell solo hinted that this was to be a set of 80s style hard rock, then the vocals, reminisant of Ian Astabury from The Cult, confirmed this. Further confirmation of this fact came in the form of the rockin’ opener’s smooth bass lines, powerhouse drumming, and real raunchy riffs. 
Another original ‘Matter of Time’ showed a softer melody, with guitarist Matt Bekk providing some great harmonies. Wysper showed a softer side again with a Def Leppard-esque power ballad, then entered Skid Row territory with the somewhat heavier ‘Justified’.
Showing even more diversity, Wysper honoured the 80s even further with an unlikely but unbelievable and up tempo version of the Christopher Cross classic ‘Ride like the Wind’.
Just like every song in their set, Wysper performed this set closing cover with such an incredible amount of passion, and from start to finish they looked like they were loving every minute of their time on the stage. Wysper also looked like rock stars, not just honouring the music of an almost bygone era in sound, but in style as well.

Another band to tread the waters of yesteryear was the afternoon’s third band, The Grounds. This punk four piece didn’t so much take to the stage as take it over, and didn’t so much capture the audience’s attention, but more took the audience’s attention hostage. The hard and heavy ‘For My Way’ hailed back to the late 70s, early 80s punk rock sound of the likes of Dead Kennedys, while ‘Desperate Living’ had an even shorter, faster and louder machine gun like attack. ‘Danger’ contained a killer solo by the lead guitarist, which would usually seem out of place in the world of punk, but it worked nonetheless. ‘Convince’ started with a deceptively mellow intro, before asserting itself as another aggressive punk gem, then ‘It’s Happening’ had a bass line that had this master of the four string show off his chunky chops. A song about sex followed, then just like sex can sometimes be, it was all over very quickly (although this has never ever happened to me, I swear...), before the band didn’t so much bust out, but blurt out the fast as f*ck ‘Take It Back’ (which served as a reminder of just how short true punk songs are).
With so much brutality, intensity and raw aggression, The Grounds were no doubt the heaviest band that the Newcastle chapter of Passport To Airlie has ever seen in the past four years. They were also undoubtedly the fastest too, as during their set I wager that each member of the band probably lost their entire body weight in sweat. The term “punk” is thrown around a lot these days, and while bands such as Blink 182 would probably have someone like Darby Crash from The Germs rolling in his grave, I’d say that he’d be very proud of a band like The Grounds.

While The Grounds were the heaviest act of the afternoon, solo artist Sid Berry did a complete 180, totally turning the competition on its head... With nothing in between to cleanse the palate, Berry had to make do and do his best to make sure that the transition from punk rock to roots rock was a smooth one. And make do he did, as this one man band gave it his all right from the get go. The instrumental opening instantly provided the softest melodies of Heat Three, as Berry provided his own percussion over electric guitar and extremely clean crisp vocals on a loop.

A unique take on Bob Marley’s iconic ‘Stir It Up’ had Berry juxtapose the classic with a modern mash up of Oz hip-hop style vocals. More rapping was delivered by Berry over a song about a long distance relationship, and also featured keyboards, and beat boxing (a-la Ben Harper in ‘Steal My Kisses’), brilliantly displaying this young man’s knack for multi-instrumentation. The last number harnessed more passion and more laid back roots/reggae vibes (seemingly straight from Jamaica), summing up a set of all originals and all-round good vibes and good times (and the troop of dancers throughout Sid’s set provided further testimony to this fact).

Unfortunately, just like the afternoon’s Mayweather and McGregor fight, only half of the competitors in this Battle could win. In this Heat, Viagro and Wysper were the two acts to make it through to next month’s Semi Finals, so congrats guys, I look forward to seeing you both duke it out again. In the Semi Finals, both bands will go up against Arcades and Lions, Bravo Victor, Reo Fenders, Diplazar, and the two winners from next week’s Heat. Hard to believe, but next week we’re already up to Heat Four, which is our final Heat, so you won’t want to miss this one! As usual, the next Heat takes place between 4pm and 8pm at The Stag & Hunter Hotel, where just by purchasing a drink you can go into the draw to win a $50 voucher to use in the bar or bistro, or a 3 day pass to the Airlie Beach Festival of Music, worth $300! Also, make any purchase of $5 or more in the bar or bistro, and you’ll be in the running to win a brand new Fender Stratocaster drawn at the Grand Final! Oh, and did I happen to mention that entry to the comp is free?!

So what’s your excuse for not going? That’s right, you have none!

See you at The Stag!

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