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Festival Review: Pandemonium Rocks, Melbourne 20 April 2024

It was hard not go into this festival without hearing all of the issues that it has had since its public inception months before. From the line up whittling away from 13 to seven, issues with refunds and poor attempts at compromise for the said headline failures to even data breaches just a mere hours before gates opened. This saw many of us waiting for the last minute expected cancellation, but thank god it wasn’t. I truly believe that even though issues were abound with this festival, the Australian music industry needed this to go ahead; for the sake of our industry.

I managed to secure a free park close to the venue since it was buried in an industrial estate miles from the Melbourne CBD. With buses and train lines pretty scarce, I didn’t think parking would be as easy as it was, which was great for me scoring a king park early on.

Waiting patiently for our first act, people were flooding with picnic blankets and chairs reminiscent of a Day on the Green or a Red Hot Summer festival. What was common with these though was the demographic . When Alice Cooper, Blondie and Psychedelic Furs were the drawcards, so were us Gen X’ers in attendance.

First on stage was Aimee Francis, who played to a growing crowd which seemed to embrace her country rock punk aesthetic and tunes. Whilst a short 30 minutes set, Francis helped get the party started and clearly gained new followers after her great set.

Local Punk legends, Cosmic Pyschos didn’t disappoint their loyal fans who made their way to the front barriers screaming out their tunes. Filling the 3pm spot for their 40 minute set, ending with “Fuckwit City” and a signature Moon Flash for all their fans to witness.

Wolfmother are a band to never disappoint and their set was right on target. Sounding as fresh as ever, saw frontman Andrew Stockdale try to get the growing crowd revved up to what seemed a hard job. Surprising as this set was truly entertaining. It maybe was the 4pm time slot that was afternoon tea time to the picnic rug basking punters. But even saying that, this was for me the an amazing set which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Wheatus‘ sound check on stage was met with a short 30 second teaser of Dirt Bag which got the crowd going. Ingenious to say the least as the crowd ran to the front barriers and remained until they heard the full version of it. Engaging with the crowd, lead singer and guitarist Brendan B Brown told of stories about their set list and I must say, this was great to watch and a great segway into what was up next.

The Psychedelic Furs were encased in a glow of red lighting when sauntering on stage. I remember listening to them in my ‘gothic’ years and matching them with the likes of The Cure and The Smiths Listing to Love My Way and Pretty in Pink live was definitely a highlight and seeing touring rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus (Guns’n’Roses, Dead Daisies) on what seemed a cello/electric guitar was pretty awesome. The Butler brothers (Richard on lead vocals and Tim on Bass) still have a chemistry on stage and the die hard Fur fans in the audience seemed to really appreciate their set.

Blondie were definitely a drawcard to this festival and quite possibly the last time they will visit our shores. Whilst Deborah Harry is far from a vocal genius, she still managers to front band like it was still the 80’s. Playing as many as their greatest hits in their hour time slot, and whilst Harry struggled to reach those high notes, she still had her the rest of her band supporting her and a crowd that was willing to sing the lyrics for her. It still amazes me how she can rock a green corporate suit and still make it as punk rock as ever. There is something to be noted with Harry and her band members, and that is they are musical legends and I will not stand for any dissing about her bad vocals or slower than normal antics on stage. All hail the queen of rock!

Alice Cooper was welcomed to the stage with all the crowd standing to attention and waiting for the theatre performance of delicious rock n roll that Cooper is renowned for. And he doesn’t disappoint. The string heavy band played along and are at the Commander’s helm. Throwing out hits such as Schools Out, Poison, and No More Mr Nice Guy, the devilish antics of Cooper is what was needed to end this festival and blow away the issues that this festival has had. What a fitting way to end the day with such an enjoyable set.

Pandemonium Rock Festival, whilst wrought with issues, it did entertain, delight and satisfy the my craving for one last festival before winter takes hold. It was a great way to end concert season here in Melbourne.

Tickets can be purchased for Pandemonium Festival at www.pandemonium.rocks

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