From The Black Sorrows to Boom Crash Opera and beyond, we unpack this year’s Wanstock bill.
The Shoppingtown Hotel has become an unlikely leader in the pub rock revival in recent years. Located in Doncaster, the hotel’s Cabaret Room not only hosts regular tributes to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and ABBA, but has fast become a favoured tour-stop for many Australian guitar bands of yesteryear.
In the last few years, The Shoppingtown has welcomed everyone from The Angels, Dragon and Rose Tattoo to You Am I and Jebediah. Given the venue’s budding reputation as a bulwark of Oz rock worship, the calibre of acts at the 2021 Wanstock festival makes perfect sense.
Joe Camilleri’s Black Sorrows and ‘80s pop-rockers Boom Crash Opera will headline the event, which takes place at the Shoppingtown Hotel on Saturday July 17.
Before the main event, punters will get a pub rock history lesson from the Kings of Oz and a taste of contemporary rock mayhem from Melbourne acts Stonetrip and Day Dreamers. We’ve put together this festival guide to get you pumped for a big night of riffs and singalongs.
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The Black Sorrows
Find me a Best Aussie Songs compilation that doesn’t include The Black Sorrows’ ‘Chained to the Wheel’ or ‘Never Let Me Go’. Released in 1988 and 1990 respectively, these songs not only launched the careers of Vika and Linda Bull, but cemented bandleader Joe Camilleri as one of the finest Australian songwriters of his era.
Camilleri is, in many ways, a Dylanite – working in partnership with lyricist Nick Smith, he has a penchant for richly detailed, verse-heavy compositions. But he’s not averse to theatrics, either. Along with providing lead vocals and guitar, Camilleri’s an accomplished saxophonist; an instrument that played a particularly focal role in his pre-Sorrows project, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons.
Now 73 years old, Camilleri’s also a rock’n’roll lifer. Despite the enduring status of Black Sorrows albums Hold on to Me (1988) and Harley & Rose (1990), he’s never been inclined to hang up his boots. In 2019, Camilleri presided over The Black Sorrows’ 18th studio album, Citizen John.
“To me, it’s always about moving forward,” he said at the time of the album’s release. With the band’s Wanstock headline performance, Camilleri will prove how capable he is of doing just that.
Boom Crash Opera
In 2009, the original lineup of Boom Crash Opera reunited to work on the acoustic album, Dancing in the Storm. Although the band was still a going concern on the live front, they hadn’t released a studio record since 1997’s Gizmo Mantra. Meanwhile, BCO co-founder, songwriter and bass player Richard Pleasance had been MIA ever since the band’s seminal 1989 record, These Here Are Crazy Times.
Dancing in the Storm, of course, takes its name from that record’s best-known song, which is a reflection of the album’s retrospective nature. With Pleasance back in the fold as producer and guitarist Peter Farnan and vocalist Dale Ryder as engaged as ever, the album comprises 13 acoustic reimaginings of songs from the Boom Crash Opera back catalogue.
But despite the textural shake-up, Dancing in the Storm confirmed BCO’s run of hit singles maintain their integrity without the splashy reverb and ‘80s sheen of the original recordings.
With Farnan and Ryder still at the helm in 2021, the undeniable pop hooks of songs like ‘Onion Skin’ and ‘Dancing in the Storm’ ensure that every Boom Crash Opera performance is an occasion to be savoured.
Kings of Oz
Kings of Oz don’t hesitate to describe themselves as Melbourne’s number one Aussie rock tribute band. This crew of old-timers specialise in a certain vintage of Australian rock music, which coheres nicely with the Wanstock headliners.
You can expect to hear such classics as Cold Chisel’s ‘Khe Sanh’ (1978), INXS’ ‘Don’t Change’ (1982), Dragon’s ‘Rain’ (1983) and Noiseworks’ ‘Take Me Back’ (1987).
But while the Kings of Oz give special attention to the much-vaunted era of pub rock and new wave, they’re also partial to pioneering 1960s acts The Easybeats, Master’s Apprentices and Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and bastions of hard rock, AC/DC and The Angels.
Second cab off the rank, Stonetrip, are a Melbourne five-piece who split the difference between the sludgy proto-grunge of Alice in Chains and the classic rock sounds of Aerosmith and Alice Cooper. Led by vocalist Mark Ritchie and the duelling guitars of Mick Malusa and Bruce Mountjoy,
Stonetrip’s songs go hard and feature some dazzling soloing, but they’re also crammed with big vocal hooks. Stonetrip’s latest single, ‘Runaway’, is a prime example of the band’s dynamism and is certain to get punters moving ahead of the Wanstock headliners.
Wanstock promises to put the spotlight on classic guitar music from the 1960s and ‘70s through to the present day. The festival’s opening act, Day Dreamers, have especial fondness for the grunge and pop-punk sounds of the 1990s, specifically alt-rock titans Nirvana and Green Day.
But the Melbourne foursome – who’ve been at it since 2015 – also cite The Beatles, ‘80s punks Hüsker Dü and Descendents, radio favourites Foo Fighters and Blink 182, and Australian contemporaries Gang of Youths and DZ Deathrays as major influences.
On stage, Day Dreamers have one overarching goal: to have a damn good time. They’ll kick off proceedings at Wanstock with a one-hour set at 5pm.
Wanstock comes to The Shoppingtown Hotel on Saturday July 17. Grab your tickets here.
Keen to score a ticket to Land of Plenty Festival happening in Shepparton on Saturday October 30? Head here for more info.