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LIVE REVIEW: Dune Rats @ The Fortitude Music Hall

I love the cinema awards season. You get a list of bona fide modern classics. Works of art that push the boundaries of cinema in new and amazing directions.

But sometimes, all I want is schlock.

I just want to see Optimus Prime absolutely wail on some Decepticons for 2 and a half hours in what can at best be described as a ‘CGI-fueled shitshow’.

The Dune Rats are that schlock. That primal desire for something a little obscene, a little low brow and a lot of fun.

The Dune Rats are my cheat meal. But unlike the Big Mac and large fries I just gorged myself on, I don’t hate myself for enjoying them.

The success of Dune Rats has hinged largely on the live experience. Whether it is watching the band jumping off stage to body slide down a huge mud track in Bryon Bay or having someone vomit up a nights worth of drinks on your arm, there is always something that makes a Dune Rats show memorable.

As the show opened, the effort taken in stage production was literally unmissable, a giant print of their latest album artwork hung over the front of the stage. The intro from Hurry Up And Wait played, then the canvas dropped, revealing the band backed by a two storey tall inflatable version of the rat from the album art.

All the fresh slices from Hurry Up And Wait came in rapid succession. Exactly like the album, as the intro ended, the band blasted into ‘Bobby D’, a tasty little nugget of pub rock gold. Following it up was ‘If My Bong Could Talk’, and lead single, ‘Rubber Arm’. It’s hard for to imagine that anyone in the band has ever had to have their arm twisted to have a good time, rubber arm or not.

Then the nostalgia hit hard. ‘Red Light Green Light’ was next, and listening to it now, it is almost like a different band. While the likes of ‘Crazy’ demands you thrash in a mosh pit, ‘Red Light Green Light’ just has such a light, jovial energy to it.

‘6 Pack’ saw the addition of the most unnecessary addition to the live show ever, flame jets. Sure they must go over great in sub-zero Melbourne, but in Brisbane, please no. It was only six songs in, I’d already sweated out all my bodily fluids, and I could feel my eyebrows singe as the jets went off.

Mid-set saw a few of the choice cuts from The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit start to sneak in. ‘Scott Green’, which just made a sneaky appearance in the Hottest 200 of the Decade, and ‘Buzz Kill’ appeared as a double threat. I mean, they were quite literally a double threat; the mosh pit went nuts for ‘Scott Green’ and everything that came after.

There was also a run of songs off the band’s first album, which featured ‘Funny Guy’, ‘Lola’ and the least subtle song of all time, ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’. This 2014 self-titled debut album seems to have been largely forgotten outside the band’s more dedicated fans, and in a lot of ways, I’m not surprised by that. Listening back on the album, it appears to have laid the foundations for the band’s later success, but this earlier record fails to execute those ideas itself.

‘Bad Habits’ was next, and is also the focus of my Fun Fact for this review. American punk rockers FIDLAR also have a track called ‘Bad Habits’, who Dune Rats toured the states with back in 2015. Zac from FIDLAR even produced The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit. Oh, for later reference, K.Flay also featured on a FIDLAR track. Damn, the music industry is incestuous…

‘No Plans’ saw the return of our countries’ leading cause of global warming, the infamous flame jets. The band pulled out sticks with marshmallows to roast over the open flames, as I struggled to remain conscious I was so dehydrated.

‘Stupid Is As Stupid Does’ and ‘Bullshit’ closed out the main set. Unfortunately, the band wasn’t able to fly K.Flay out for ‘Stupid Is As Stupid Does’, but, Kelly Jansch of TOTTY was on hand to provide some feminine vocal melodies.

The encore break was a short and sweet beer run for the band, as they were back out in no time to play ‘Crazy’. It had been a pretty heavy night of moshing already, but this song, just kicked it into overdrive. At one point there were two separate mosh pits in the venue, before we were eventually able to merge them into a single behemoth pit.

The show was finished off with ‘Mountains Come and Go but Aussie Pub Rock Lives On (Forever)’. By this point the crowd was spent, and the bodies only slightly moved to the rhythm of the band’s final song, my hands wrinkled from the sweat and humidity in the room.

Before the show, someone asked me which would last longer, the mountains or Aussie pub rock. It was a rhetorical question, but as I sit here in isolation, music venues across the country in lockdown, I can only hope the Dune Rats are right.

I hope that Aussie pub rock lives on forever.



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