It takes a lot of balls these days to try and start a brand new festival in an already over-saturated market. After a successful event held in Brisbane in 2013 with headliners such as Violent Soho, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and Velociraptor (as well as taking out the award for best named festival), Blurst of Times has expanded to include both Melbourne and Sydney acts too. There seemed to be a strange mix of $10 punk bands and bigger triple j bands such as DZ Deathrays and Velociraptor, so it was going to be intriguing to see how many people would pay the $70 required for entry. However, the inaugural Melbourne Blurst of Times gave anyone who gave the festival a chance real bang for their buck, showcasing some of the better garage and punk music we have to offer. Getting into the festival was a breeze, and the set up of stages meant it was no longer than a 50m walk between all three. Instead of shelling out the standard festival rate of $8 or $9 for mid-strength beer, Blurst of Times trumped all other festivals by selling $5 full strength MB tinnies. Bleeding between stages (a common problem at festivals) was addressed very well with the two outdoor stages, as one band finished on one stage, the other band would begin immediately on the other. The modest turn up of punters also meant little-to-no lines at the toilet or bar (did I mention $5 tinnies?).
Issues on the Metro train lines (insane, right?) meant that we missed a couple of must-sees for the day in Miss Destiny and Heads of Charm. If Miss Destiny’s show a week before at the Curtin, as well as miniature reviews from those inside were anything to go by, they smashed it. Adjacent from both other stages is the Buccaneer’s Bar; a small indoor shanty pub with Pirates of the Caribbean paraphernalia adorning every wall, and in it the room that RRR had broadcasted from just the day before during the Out On The Weekend festival. The Blurst of Times had taken full advantage of the space however, and aside from no drinks bought outside being allowed in to the bar, it would become the perfect room to see many of the bands for the day. We were swept in to see the country’s greatest cover act since BABBA, The Steve Miller Band play to a criminally sparse audience that deservedly grew and grew as the set went on. After storming an Old Bar residency back in June, The SMB remain one of the most entertaining bands in Melbourne, owed to the visceral energy and joy transferred from band to audience. Although they play trash rock n roll covers of reverential musicians such as Wreckless Eric, Memphis Casuals, Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers to name a few, it is the combination of The She-Wolf’s primal 3 piece drumming, The Duchess’ howling guitar and vocals and Handsome Steve’s feedback solos that make the set an early highlight of the day.
The $5 tinnies are going down a treat, and we take a short stroll over to the outdoor stage to catch TV Colours. I’ve yet to witness a TV Colours set I haven’t finished up with a grin from ear to ear, and this was no different. The boys from Canberra sure know how to write damn fine tunes, and gave equal attention to both the punk and shoegaze elements from one of the best LPs from last year, Purple Skies Toxic River. Next up on the same stage came punk stalwarts from Melbourne, Damn Terran. The three-piece hit the stage to tear into one of their infamous sets of relentless, melodic rock’n‘oll. Word spreads that this will be their last ever show, confirmed by lead singer/guitarist Lachlan Ewbank as he announces their “last song, forever”. It’s always bittersweet to see a band as talented as Damn Terran call it a day, but we won’t be forgetting their final set in a hurry.
Back to the Buccaneers Bar to see Blank Realm tear it up with tracks from their fantastic LP Grassed In. One of Australia’s most consistent live bands, drummer/lead singer Daniel Spencer’s Richard Hell-esque vocals cut against the kraut-y psychedelic rock n roll. Comparisons to Television and The Verlaines are inevitable, yet who can complain when they can pull it off this well. Treating the packed room to a few new songs (feat. Keytar), Blank Realm’s set ended prematurely with the sound guy letting them know through the foldbacks that their time was up. Both the crowd and band pleaded for one more song over the sound of the post-show house music, before being granted our wish and experiencing a barn-storming, sped up rendition of ‘Who’s Falling Down The Stairs Tonight?’.
Drunk Mums marked the first band of the day we experienced in the “Hanger” — basically a massive tin shed. The perfect band to up-end whatever dull connotations young kids have with massive tin sheds were Drunk Mums. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the front of the stage looked like the place to be. Their heartfelt tribute to nangs in ‘Nangenator’ was as transcendent as I’m sure it was intended to be; each song a perfect slab of dumb pub rock’n’roll that everyone has room in their heart for. Derivative? Maybe — but who cares when it’s this much fun. The refreshing sea breeze from earlier in the day had by this point turned icy, so we bundled our way back into the Buccaneer Bar with the room heaving with punters keen to check out one of the line-up’s most anticipated acts, The UV Race. Not are they amongst Melbourne’s best bands of recent times, but the combination of sheer quality and potency of their live and recorded output puts them on a tier of Australia’s best punk bands ever. Even when trying to put bias aside, The UV Race absolutely killed it in one of their best performances for the year. The set featured some of their lesser-known tracks, as well as a fair slab of material from their most recent LP Racism. Fan favourites came in the form of ‘Burn That Cat’, ‘Girl In My Head’, ‘Raw Balls’ and ‘I’m A Pig’ before ending their set with a warning of how the world will end in 2012, appropriately titled ‘The UV Know’. Frontman Marcus waded his way through the crowd to climb up a prop ladder on the side of the stage and surveyed the clamouring mass while the rest of the band ended the set with an avalanche of noise. Drummer Dan Stewart grabbed the mic as the band took off their instruments, with repeated shouts of “POWER! POWER! POWER!”, perhaps giving kudos to fellow locals Power who were in attendance. Meanwhile, we still await The UV Race’s second feature film, The UV Race Disgrace Space.
The oldest band on the line up and heroes of the day The Hard Ons were in fine form. It is always a joy to catch a Hard Ons set, from witnessing one of our greatest guitarists in Blackie to losing yourself in blisteringly cheap two-and-a-half-minute blasts of Oz punk. Toward the end of the set, Blackie warned us that the next “seven minutes were going to be the greatest seven minutes of this seven minutes”. Such a profound statement was followed by seven minutes of the finest deranged songs from the Hard Ons’ catalogue; channeling thrash and hardcore and squeezing every last bit of energy from the audience. With whatever leftover energy we had, we migrated to revel in Harmony’s final show for the year at the outdoor stage; a tough choice with Beaches playing at the same time in the Buccaneer’s bar. Perhaps one of the best live bands in Australia, Harmony’s slow burning gospel-punk proved to be a perfect ending for the festival. The voices of Erica Dunn, Amanda Roff and Quinn Veldhuis form the three-piece choir to back up Tom Lyngcoln’s shredded vocals. Mainly choosing songs from another stand out LP of the year, Carpetbombing, you could have heard a pin drop in the quieter moments (a rarity for any festival) and the swell of energy during certain songs’ crescendos. It was truly something to be part of.
Staggering back to Williamstown station, the only thing the festival could’ve needed was a few more people in the gates. Perhaps a festival needs a big headliner to really pull the numbers. However, the moderate number of people around created a nice little community where friends were easy to make and even easier to bump into later in the night. If you missed out this year, let’s hope Blurst of Times will be able to give you that chance next time around.
Did I mention there were $5 tinnies?