sonic garage 3Pete Bourke, Phil Van Rooyen and Pete Trifunovic from Sonic Garage.

Sonic Garage
Bayley and the Liquid Squid
Marrickville Bowling Club, NSW
Friday, 11 March 2022

You can say “Boring Old Fart” but it’s good to stare rheumy-eyed into the middle distance, drool into a beer and recall much less complicated times in hushed tones. Times like the early 1980s, when the biggest challenge on a Friday night was to decide which two or three rock and roll shows you were going to attend, all of them within a short distance of each other.  

If they were local bands, the door charge was free or modest, and if the headliner was on the national touring treadmill, entry might set you back a ten spot. At least one of the supports was a band you’d never heard of, but paying your money and taking your chances was all part of the ritual. You got to conduct a post-mortem as soon as their set was over or over a hair of the dog at your local the next day. 

Last Friday at Marrickville Bowling Club was just like one of those nights. A “name” band withdrew and somebody never got the memo. Long story short: an unexpected vacancy needed to be filled at short notice - and in times of too few venues, nobody needs that shit.

Northern Beaches band Sonic Garage stepped into the breach to headline and undertook to fill out the undercard. They had their work cut out. The Bowlo is in Sydney’s inner-west and, given The Garage's geographical origins and the fact that even the most ardent rock and roll fans from the city’s northern and southern reaches tend not to travel this, and a short notice period, would make things hard.

Just to add another level of complication, the show was on the eve of the King Street Crawl, a weekend where venues in adjoning Newtown where venues open their doors to scores of bands without an admission charge.

The bill was assembled with a band the headliner stumbled across at a rehearsal studio and another that a member had seen at a Bowlo matinee gig. A week of furious promo followed, setting up the evening as an arm wrestle between veterans and their (much) younger supports. 

Enter opener Bayley and The Liquid Squid, a trio of youngsters aged in their 20s playing progressive jazz rock. Apparently two of them work in the same music store on the north side – and you can tell because there are more effects pedals on the Bowlo stage than at a Steve Vai garage sale.

Guitarist Bayley Dunn and mates play complex, funky, and prog-ish jazz rock of many chords, and are relentless. Even a busted kick drum pedal doesn’t stop them as the bassist and Bayley leap into some improvised noodling. It’s not my bag but gets a warm reception from a respectably sized crowd that’s obviously here to see them. And they are technically blessed. 

Young bands who promote themselves to their following get a thumbs up. Extra marks to the drummer who stayed right until the end of the night and danced – hard - to every band.

pocketwatch back

Next, PocketwatchI’ll declare an interest in knowing Angus Ross, the 18-year-old guitarist-vocalist, and his support crew/family, frequent I-94 Bar photographer Shona and Peter, aka The Celebrity Roadie. With parents like that, and being named after some bloke who dresses as a guitar playing schoolboy, Angus was born to rock. He’s the band leader, guitarist and songwriter. With Jamie Woodward on bass and Sam McInerney-Wand on drums, the ‘Watch is playing only its second show.

There’s a clue to the band’s sound in their name being derived from the name of a post-Nirvana demo by Dave Grohl. It’s grungey guitar rock with melody and abundant energy. The lads also bring plenty of support and there’s even a bit of moshing in the Bowlo’s pit.  

Watch The 'Watch. They’re already monstrous players. And even more remarkably, the rhythm section members are only aged 15…

jamie1Jamie on bass.

gus1Angus on guitar and voice.

These old blokes Sonic Garage are a follow on from well-regarded Beaches garage outfit The Circus Chaplains, and their late 2021 debut album “Space Travels” was one of last year’s most critically lauded Aussie releases around these parts. The members are Phil Van Rooyen (guitar and vocals) from The Panadolls, ex-Circus Chaplain Peter Bourke, Pete Trifunovic (guitar or bass) from Mushroom Planet, drummer Ronny Welsh and keyboardist Russell Parkhouse (The Riptides.) 

That’s a bit of history under the collective belt and Sonic Garage doesn’t disappoint with a set of Detroit-influenced, high energy rock and roll. Album tracks like “Asteroid” (a heartfelt tribute to their late friend and Chaplains bandmate Luke Lovelock), the spikey “Psycho Lover” and the sonic reducer “Rossi” are played with spirit and volume.

phil and petePhil and Pete Trifunovic.

Bourke and Van Rooyen share vocals, the former's having a striking similarity to the droll delivery of the late Damien Lovelock. Trifunovic is, er, terrific on guitar with keening and economical lead breaks snaking therough the songs. 

A cover of Birdman’s “Crying Sun” is a welcome surprise with Parkhouse’s organ swirl working a treat, but it’s the even braver move of playing the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” that’s the jaw-dropper. It’s nowhere near as dangerous as the dark, percussive original but nevertheless comes across with its own swaggering charm.

Sonic Garage is a Sydney-via-Woodward-Avenue-in-the-Motor-City delight and must get out and play more often; tonight was only (I think) their third show. The 10 buck door charge well spent. Pity they didn’t bring more T-shirts to sell.  

So was it a win to the Young Guns or did the Old Dogs reign supreme? The debates rage well into the early hours. Just like in the old days.

jamie2 pocketwatch