Content Warning: Please be advised that this article contains explicit content, including strong language and mature themes. Reader discretion is advised.
Aussie pub-punkers – The Chats – achieved small-scale virality years ago after the sudden success of their song “Smoko.” The video currently sits at just under 20 million views, and the song was covered by Wet Leg on the popular Australian radio station “triple j” last year (watch the video here). The ability to pack a mid-sized venue as an Australian punk act is not only a testament to The Chats’ talent, but also proof of their fervent fans.
The show opened with Rhode Island punkers GYMSHORTS. I arrived ten minutes late (an unfortunate consequence of the 7 p.m. start time), but it gave me an opportunity to experience what a show at Brooklyn Bowl looks and sounds like across the venue. Walking up, I could hear GYMSHORTS already underway inside. As I entered the venue, screens in the restaurant and on the patio displayed the stage while sounds pumped throughout (speakers even in the bathroom made sure you never missed a moment). If there’s one thing I came away with from the night, it’s that Brooklyn Bowl’s sound engineer needs a raise.
It was clear that I was not the only one running behind, as the admittedly small crowd slowly built throughout GYMSHORTS’s set. However, the size of the audience did nothing to deter GYMSHORTS from putting on a killer show. The band’s lead singer, Sarah Greenwell, quipped with the crowd throughout their performance, keeping everyone in the audience engaged. She encouraged us to look PMDD “the fuck up,” and announced the breakdown of “Ding Dong Ditch” with, “This is the part of the song where that bitch rats you out!” In the later half of the show, Greenwell switched to her “rainbow warrior” – a blue guitar featuring painted flames – for the set highlight “I’m The Jeff Gordon of Our Generation.” As they closed the show with “0 THANKS GIVEN,” Greenwell jumped into the crowd and yelled, “We’re gym shorts from fuck you Rhode Island. See ya!”
The Schizophonics followed GYMSHORTS, promptly taking the stage with an energy unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I guess I should clarify, lead singer Pat Beers came out with an energy unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. He began the set by running from one end of the stage to the other and didn’t stop until the set concluded. By halfway through, he was drenched in sweat. By the end, his black flared jeans had a hole in the left knee that was not there at the start. Despite their punk antics, there was a noticeable 60s and 70s rock influence in not only their sound, but their dress and stage presence. Beers’ heavily fuzzed-out guitar explained the Vox amp from earlier and allowed him to perform one-handed solos without picking. Interestingly enough, Beers actually had the most pedals of any player that night: a resounding three, including a tuning pedal. This show may go down as having the least pedals I’ve ever seen in my life.
Beers’ energy inspired the audience, with small mosh pits breaking out during songs. However, at the close of each song, the crowd would return to normal, reorganizing itself into the earlier friend groups. It was exciting to watch from above – an uncommon vantage point for punk shows – as characters began to emerge from the crowd. There was one man I like to refer to as “Crutches”, due to the fact that he was actively in a boot and on crutches. Another, let’s call her Mosh Mom, was a middle-aged white woman who, at one point, dragged Crutches out of the pit despite appearing to have never met him before. She also took it upon herself to hold the mic cable above the crowd when Beers ran out for The Schizophonics’ last song, and I was left wondering what exactly he’s like at rehearsal.
The transition between The Schizophonics and Cosmic Psychos was noticeably longer, as the stage crew rolled the amps used by the earlier bands off the stage and began hooking up a Fender stack for the next two bassists and a Marshall stack for the guitarists. Noticeably, the same base drum kit was used throughout the gig with each drummer simply changing out their cymbals. At this point, it became apparent how friendly the crowd truly was; groups began talking with each other and surprisingly few phones were brought out.
Local booking company Sweet Time Booking DJ-ed in between sets, playing a perfect mix of classics and local favorites that kept the crowd singing and dancing along. A personal favorite was “Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls” by local band Stef & The Sleeveens. A song I truly never thought I’d hear in public, and one I almost missed as I was enraptured by the on-stage sound-guy. Dressed in all black with a long beard, black facemask, and headlamp, he looked as though he was ripped straight from a game of Fallout. The Cosmic Psychos’ tech came out for a prompt mic-check to say “G’day” into each before the show continued.
Cosmic Psychos is Australian pub-punk royalty, and you could tell. They walked out in full house lighting with no pomp-and-circumstances before starting their first song. Lead singer and bassist Ross Knight looked like he’d just gotten off work in rubber boots, a baseball hat, and sunglasses on his head, while guitarist John McKeering walked out in a ripped undershirt. The small mosh pits from before quickly grew, as older audience members anxiously refrained from jumping in along the sides. People were doing push-ups, crab walking, and challenging each other to wheel barrel races. It was like watching an adult field day soundtracked by hits such as “Nice Day to Go to the Pub” and “Fuckwit City.” Calling attention to their age, Knight reminded the audience, “This old song just turned 40, but it sounds just like the new ones.” And guess what? He was right. It did sound exactly the same, but that didn’t matter because everyone was having so much fun.
Returning to just how nice the crowd was, there were multiple times when glasses, wallets, and phones fell to the ground due to the chaotic moshing. Each time, without fail, someone would walk around with their hand far above the crowd until the owner was found. As another wallet was lofted above the pit, I noticed someone with a wrist brace thrashing along nearby. A friend for Crutches, I hoped.
Cosmic Psychos closed their set by thanking each of the earlier bands for putting up with them and thanking The Chats for having them before playing the very family-friendly “David Lee Roth.” True to their nature, the band met center stage, mooned the audience, and quietly walked off.
Although the only apparent stage prep before The Chats was a “Pride of Queensland” flag hung on the Fender amp, it took a while for them to start their set. However, this gave me plenty of time to relocate Crutches (his shirt had been ripped in half). As the crowd anxiously awaited the final performance, venue staff brought trays of water to the dedicated fans who had been at the barricade since 7 p.m. (it was now 9:30 p.m.).
At around 9:50 p.m., The Chats walked out to a glam-rock song proclaiming “Are you ready to rock?” Before starting, bassist and vocalist Eamon Sandwith announced, “We’re going to play some songs for you tonight. The first of which is about a shithole back home called Nambour.” Their early hit “Nambored” quickly followed. The title is a play on the city’s name and the Australian slang word for “pissed off.” Soon, the floor erupted into an almost venue-sized pit, but it wasn’t long before Sandwith was speaking again. He quickly yelled in an almost staccato, “This next one is about the residents of Nambour and what they get up to on a regular basis.” This rapid-fire structure would be repeated throughout the night. “The Kids Need Guns” was introduced with, “This next song is about the youth of America. The kids need guns.” “Stinker” immediately followed with an equally brief introduction: “This next one is about the youth of Australia.” This clever formatting showed off their wit and allowed them to chug through a 26-song set in roughly 45 minutes, a highly impressive feat.
Early in the set, a cigarette was thrown on stage, which quickly turned into at least a pack’s worth by show’s end. Sandwith addressed the cigarettes, at one point saying, “Look at all these tripping hazards. How am I supposed to do my jumps?” The crowd’s enthusiasm never faltered during the non-stop set. Security ping-ponged the front of the crowd catching crowd surfers as they were let down (one of which suspiciously looked like Jacob Corenflos of Nashville’s To Go Records, but maybe my eyes deceived me). After each riff, Sandwich would dramatically point to guitarist Josh Hardy as the crowd erupted in cheers. After a run of some of The Chats’ most popular songs, Sarah Greenwell joined them on the stage for a cover of a GYMSHORTS song while she mimicked Sandwith’s pointing. She also returned a singular boot that had somehow ended up on stage three songs earlier. Was it Crutches’? We’ll never know.
After Greenwell left the stage, Sandwith yelled, “This next one’s in Spanish,” before counting in their hit “Smoko” in French. Surprisingly, “Smoko” did not receive nearly as much reaction from the crowd as more recent hits “6L GTR” and “Struck by Lightning.” They closed the night with “Pub Feed,” as the crowd thrashed around to one last song.
Seeing The Chats live is nothing short of an adventure. It’s rare to experience punk shows at venues as large as Brooklyn Bowl, and The Chats possess an impressive power to command a large crowd with very little. Their ability to remain locked in, despite the racing tempo and deceiving difficulty of their songs, further solidifies their immense talent regardless of their goofy demeanor. I just need to remember to bring some smokes next time as a token of my appreciation.
Listen to the new album from The Chats, Get Fucked, here: