Posted 18 September 2017 by Adz Carter
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The Passport To Airlie Battle Of The Bands Competition has been one hell of an epic road trip, except with no instances of anyone saying “Are we there yet?” Yesterday was our second Semi Final, and five brilliant bands were fortunate enough to make it this far down the rock n’ roll road to Airlie Beach, rockin’ the Stag & Hunter in one hell of a stellar Semi Final.

The Pits opened their set with very justified fanfare, courtesy of a short trumpet solo, before blasting out their opening number ‘Salty’, driven by great guitar and bass, and punctuated by the drums and trumpet, which served well putting their stamps on the song at the same time. ‘Horrors’ gave us a hint of what it would sound like if the Moulin Rouge ever played host to The Living End, and had the lead singer exhibit vocal styling similar to My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way, over the top of plenty of great guitar noodling and a dancey drum beat. Meanwhile, the emo sound of ‘Grit’ saw the singer exhibiting his vocal chops once again as he hit both the high notes and low guttural ones two, sounding angelic and demonic in the short space of one song. Bossa nova beats followed over the top of more modern rhythms, before ‘A Place To Hide’, with its Panic! At The Disco/post emo style, displayed very unique harmonies from the singer and the guitarist. To anyone who has not been lucky enough to see these five tremendously talented men, the best way I could think of to sum them up would be to describe the set’s closer ‘Killers’, which sounded like it could’ve been the last song someone heard just before being murdered in the days of prohibition.
With popular and iconic Sydney ska/blues band The Snowdroppers unfortunately about to call it a day soon, The Pits could easily be the band to have the torch passed to them to continue with these vintage ways.

Viagro kicked their set off like a boot to the teeth with the heavy as hell original ‘Sucker For A Licker’, then kept the momentum alive and kicking with a
 really rhythmic and rousing version of ‘Good Thing’ by Fine Young Cannibals. It seemed that this was just a warm up though for a manic medley including hard rock takes on Rod Stewart’s ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy?’, Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump It Up’, and The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’, before a ball-tearing version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. The bouncy heavy Faith No More-esque original ‘Girls Germs, No Returns’ was another awesome warm up to another awesome medley, which this time was a heavy yet faithful tribute to assorted Oz rock, including ‘Just Keep Walking’ by INXS, ‘Rock N’ Roll Outlaw’ by Rose Tattoo, ‘Power and the Passion’ by Midnight Oil, ‘Baby I’ve Got You On Mind’ by Powderfinger, ‘Walls’ by Flowers/Icehouse, and ‘Prisoner Of Society’ by The Living End. After a seemingly brief but blistering set, it was all over, leaving listeners with both bleeding ears and toothy grins. The set may’ve seemed short, but that was only because of the break neck speed of Viagro’s playing. Plus, time fly’s when you’re having fun, and this was fast paced fun raucous rock at its finest. To the uninitiated who don’t know what Viagro are all about, the brothers Diver play traditional hard rock originals and untraditional hard rock covers in an untraditional duo. Adam Diver plays guitar while playing drums with his feet, while Paul plays bass and takes on cymbal duties with his feet. This is all while their captive audience looks on in awe wondering how the f*ck they do it!

The day’s tradition of magnificent musicianship continued with Jackson’s brand of anthemic rock, which included Yngwie Malmsteen riffs and killer solos from guitarist Danny Jackson, as well as lots of wailing vocals, in the first song alone. Familiar themes of heroes quests and alike soon followed in an Iron Maiden-esque/dark hard rock number, before another straight up fist in the air, balls to the wall original. This then blended seamlessly into an up tempo version of the iconic Max Merritt & The Meteors track ‘Slipping Away From Me’, that absolutely bought the house down. Jackson made the song their own, before blowing everyone away with an uncannily faithful rendition of the modern classic ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ by The Darkness. Riding high on a hell of a lot of momentum, Jackson went out on a high note, with the catchy original ‘It’s Over Now’, letting everyone know that it was indeed all over. This was unfortunate, as personally, I could’ve listened to these four talented men all afternoon. Jackson are comprised of one hell of a hard rock singer, and an extremely tight rhythm section. It’s no secret though that with bands of this nature, the emphasis is on the guitar, and just like Santana and Van Halen, Jackson are named after the guitarist. This seemed appropriate, as there were plenty of similarities to Eddie Van Halen when it came to guitar technique. Overall, there was a vast improvement sonically from the entire bands Heat One performance, and all in all, this set was an amazing celebration of the 80s and 90s, without ever being generic.

The 80s celebration continued when Wysper hit the stage, ready to party and ready to rock n’ roll. There seemed to be a brief trip back to the 70s first though, as ‘You’ll Soon See’ was reminisant of The Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ only with a funky fat bass line, booming drums, and a jaw droppingly good guitar solo. The second song had the singer backed up brilliantly with harmonies from guitarist Matt Bekk and bass player David Abbott, before pulling at the heart strings with an all too relatable song about depression, which had an amazingly dank early Soundgarden and Silverchair tone to it, complimented by an Ugly Kid Joe vocal style. After rockin’ the house with a trio of stunning originals, Wysper then blew the roof off with some classic rock covers: Whitesnake’s ‘Crying In The Rain’, and a show stopping finale in the form of ‘Poundcake’ by Van Hagar (yes, I am one of the stubborn purists who doesn’t acknowledge the band as being “Van Halen” in any era that doesn’t include David Lee Roth on vocals), which, in my humble opinion, is the only truly great Van Hagar song, and was done justice here big time in a version that would’ve made Sammy Hagar and co very proud. This tight and talented rock n’ roll troupe also did the entire rock n’ roll genre proud, and while many bands exclusively pay tribute to the glam metal bands of the 80s and early 90s, Wysper dedicate themselves to the other side of the coin, i.e., focusing more on hard rock/heavy metal, which arguably has more depth to it than most of the entire glam scene.

Wildcard entrants Red City stepped up to the plate once again, and this time around stepped it up right from the get go with the Pearl Jam style ‘As Good As It Gets’, proving immediately that they were a force to be reckoned with. By the second song, the lead singer also proved to have an incredibly giant voice, then on ‘Cloudy Day Dreams’ displayed vocals like that of a young Daniel Johns. This song also provided the mellowest melodies of the night, before bursting out a pleasant surprise in the form of a shredding guitar solo. Red City then treaded early 90s Pearl Jam territory again in their fourth song, before paving their own path on a funky hard rocker. This also paved the way for a song with the same funk swing of Living Colour and alike, helped along by the oh so groovy rhythm section. 
Six songs in and these four skilled versatile young men showed no signs of slowing down. At no point did they get tired, or have the audience get tired of them, especially if the loud applause was anything to go by. By the roots and rock closing number, Red City showed what a difference two weeks can make, as they went from strength to strength right throughout this highly entertaining all original set.

Originally, only two bands from this Semi Final were meant to go through to next week’s Grand Final, but as they say, rules are meant to be broken, and it is of course very rock n’ roll to break the rules. This is why it is so fitting that not two, but three bands are now going through to the Grand Final. The judges had the unenviable task of deciding on two winners, and as usual, the gap of points between all five bands was smaller than a bee’s preverbial. This time around though, the points were tighter than ever before, hence why The Pits, Viagro, and Red City will all be battling it out next week. At the Grand Final, all three bands will meet The Thomas Macokatic Band and Diplazar in what will be an extremely fierce battle for the top spot. So, who will it be? Who knows, as with five bands of such a high caliber, it well and truly is anyone’s game. So make sure you get yourself along to the Stag & Hunter next Sunday between 4pm and 8pm for what promises to be the pinnacle of entertainment. No matter who the winner, as usual you can be a winner too, as there is still one more $50 bar voucher up for grabs. Oh, and just a reminder, the Grand Final is when we draw the brand new Fender Strat! 
So this Sunday, why would you want to be anywhere else?!

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