Melbourne in the dead of winter is a cold and rainy place, the air chills your bones and the rain hammers down relentlessly. One can easily be consumed by this bleak, urban landscape and drawn towards feelings of loneliness and despair. Yet amongst the dreary darkness there lies the soul of a city thriving with music, culture and inspiration. It is a matter of navigation, of exploring the hundreds of laneways scattered throughout this urban metropolis to discover the beating heart of Australia’s creative capital. Shuddering and wet, I venture forward down AC/DC lane; the walls are littered with torn and decaying posters. With an adventurer’s spirit I head towards Cherry Bar, an alcove of rebellion and what is arguably the living embodiment of rock n roll in this country. Amongst the haze of cigarette smoke and leather jackets, there lies a beacon of hope, a magnetic atmosphere that offers a brief respite from the unrelenting cold.
Surrounded by familiar faces whose names I can’t quite recall I bump my way through the crowd towards the front. The room grows quiet with anticipation and suddenly the thunderous tones of Child erupt and wash over me in a seismic wave. It is difficult to describe the unnamed feeling and power derived from a band on the cusp of great things, but there is a connection and everyone in the room can feel it.
My sentiment this evening is echoed by singer/guitarist Mathias, as he roars with raspy passion “All I want to sing is the truth, I’m looking for trouble, All dried up, red is all I see”. I can’t help but draw the connection between his lyrics what is currently happening in this country. A nation whose political ideology fosters little connection with the common man and a leader whose allegiances lie in big business, corporate development and the destruction of free healthcare and education. There is a palpable sense of tension and growing dissent amongst the youth. “They don’t do the right thing, I said this to you before” he warns with reckless abandon. The crowd surges and throbs in line with the droning grooves of bass player Jayden and drummer Michael as Mathias breaks off into Jimmy page-esque licks rife with attitude and rebellion. This is the true soul of rock n roll, raw emotion and expression. In an music industry dominated by money, publicists and radio friendly rock it is refreshing to hear something visceral which steps beyond the all too common themes of narcissism, partying and idealized love. By the end of the set, the crowd is mesmerized, eyes rolling back, completely in tune with the bands hypnotic energy. I down my third whiskey as the music builds to one final crescendo, like a steam train pulling in, the smoke clears and we are left with a moment of silence.
It is in this silence that one can finally reflect on an experience, the awesome power of rock n roll to unite, heal, and share a message. Having purchased and listened to Child’s self titled debut album, the message is clear, rising out from the noise. It is a rich tapestry of sludgy grooves, soulful licks and impassioned musings. Mathias’ voice is raw and honest. There is no lying here. Now over a hundred years since the birth of the blues, the music is as powerful as ever and for those who say rock is dead, one only needs to navigate the underground in places like Cherry Bar to realize that as long as there is hardship and inequality in the world, the spirit of rock n roll will never die.
It seems we’ve come a long way since African American slaves first rebelled from their owners and started singing the blues. But I cant help but draw a parallel between the past and the present and while times may have changed it is clear that in many ways we are still oppressed by the powers that be, whether political, social or within the music industry itself. However within this landscape there will always be those willing to tear down the walls and tell it like it is; blazing a new trail for generations to come.
Written by Martin Kawaler