Melbourne’s iconic Cherry Rock festival was held again this year, for the 11th year. Held at Cherry Bar in AC/DC lane, it’s a seething mess of bodies, booze and bloody good times. Held in May each year, the weather is always unpredictable and this year offered more of the same. The rain mostly held off, but the high concrete horizons don’t let in much sun so the cold and damp sets in pretty easily. Being an inside/outside festival has its pluses though – if the cold is biting you can head inside for the next set in not too long. And by the time the indoor set is finished, you’re almost gagging for that cool air again.

This year the festival was headlined by NZ stalwarts Shihad as well as Brant Bjork, Dwarves and Nashville Pussy from the US. Ably supported by Indonesian stoner rockers Mooner and Kelompok Penerbang Roket as well as Sweden’s Bottlecap and Spain’s Bala and a swag of Aussies that are well known to the Cherry crowd.

It was a bit of a buzz for me personally to see Nick Oliveri with Dwarves – as a fan of Queens of the Stone Age, it was the first time I’d had a chance to see Oliveri perform in the flesh. He was thrilling on bass, if a little daunting. And his bandmate in Blag Dahlia was so in your face it was verging on uncomfortable to be shooting so close to the stage.

Brant Bjork and his fuzzy desert rock tunes were welcome refuge in the middle of the day. It was nice to bliss out a little before the senses were assaulted with the addition of fellow desert rock icon Sean Wheeler. He was a showman from the first, and brought some real energy to a cruisy set from Bjork.

But my highlights for the day were the chicks. Amyl and the Sniffers are a local Melbourne outfit with a mullety/sharpie/bogan vibe that gives no fucks at all what you think of their VB t-shirts. Frontwoman Amy is shouty and loud and brash and totally commandeering. She held the familiar Cherry crowd in the palm of her hand while simultaneously spitting them out with a spray of her beer. 

My other highlight was Bala from Spain. A two piece, all female wall of sound. Flinging hair, shouting lyrics, freaking loud guitar and smashing drums. It was a killer set and I was quite blown away by how much noise came out of just two people.

Cherry Rock, I salute you and all your messy glory. You’re a Melbourne institution and while I was pretty crook this year and it was a little harder to enjoy you, I was thrilled to be able to witness your shenanigans once more.


* gallery shot for AMNplify and you can see the full gallery here: Cherry Rock 2017

Is there anything as quintessentially Melbourne as Cherry Bar? Situated in ACDC Lane, a laneway off a laneway, everything from its grungy interior to its notice at the door proclaiming, “No suits. No sporting apparel”, just screams Melbourne. Cherry Bar is pure Melbourne and pure rock. Everything about it grabs you by the throat and blasts rock music straight into your ears. And the best part about it? It’s usually free entry. Cherry Bar hosts free live music so often that it feels like a betrayal when you show up and find there’s a cover charge.

Cherry Bar is exactly the type of venue where you would expect to hear a band called Diva Demolition, and certainly the band looks the part. Diva Demolition are carefully crafted to let you know they’re a rock band before they even hit the stage. They look like an angry female-centric rock band (my absolute favourite kind), so it surprised me that they frequently play Mt Isa, because I have some pretty strong ideas, that are in no way based on ever having been there, of what Mt Isa is like and the kind of people that frequent the pubs up that way. Hint: not the kind of people that favour angry female-centric rock bands.

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Once they hit the stage though, things became a little clearer. Diva Demolition are pure Aussie Rock.   A little bland for my taste (Aussie Rock not really being my thing), it was clear why Mt Isa has embraced them, and why the rest of Australia could very easily do the same. With the sparse crowd and playing a free gig on a Sunday night, you could be forgiven for expecting a band that’s decent, but not quite ‘there’ yet. Diva Demolition, by contrast, are polished and professional, sounding more like a band that should be playing Festival Hall, or at the very least, The Corner Hotel.

Kylie Cowling has a great voice, and easily holds her own onstage, but it’s impossible not to look at Sherree Newton. The woman fairly oozes charisma. She is a showwoman (totally not a word, but absolutely should be) who looks like she was born to be onstage. She is over-the-top and completely entertaining without being even the slightest bit unnatural. The two women are the core of the band, with two men (or ‘toy boys’, as Sherree and Kylie call them) fading into the background, seemlessly filling out the band’s sound without really drawing attention to themselves.

Their new single, Rock the Zombie, is out now and you can find their full length album on iTunes and Spotify, or actual real-life retailers if you prefer actual CDs.

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words: Claire Watt
photos: Mandy Campbell