We live in an exciting time. Perth’s local music scene is flourishing like a citrus tree in spring and dropping its fruit all over town. This is owing in no small part to the support of great little venues around the city, but for a while now Fremantle has been lacking somewhat in options. Mojo’s of course springs to mind, but it may have to make some room for another contender as new self described dive bar The Aardvark throws its hat into the ring. Formerly known as The Odd Fellow, the Norfolk’s lowest level is no stranger to reinvention, having had a rich history of hosting local acts in its former incarnations. The brainchild of Greg Sanders (Gun Fever) and Mark Spillane (Bespoke Touring), the focus has now been aligned more closely with presenting regular gigs and showcasing local talent.
The Aardvark threw its doors open on Thursday night, and I was lucky enough to be invited down to check it out. As I took my drink passes and eagerly headed down the basement steps toward the bar, I was struck by the dank and groovy atmosphere reminiscent of infamous Liverpool venue The Cavern Club. It may not be a large venue but the space is used well, with plenty of room on the stage and on the floor for the crowds to gather. The bar is well staffed and stocked with a good range of spirits, wine and a couple of decent tap beers in Coopers Pale Ale and Furphy Ale. They are no strangers to the cocktail either, with all the essentials at the ready. With my beer in hand, I walked around and soaked up the vibes. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the launch, with DJ Billy Black’s slick selection of tunes keeping the heads nodding as the night kicked into gear.
The first band to take the stage at the new look venue was Big Orange. Hailing from Harvey (the town known for well...oranges), these guys established their songwriting chops early in the piece and traversed from section to section, fusing all the best of their 90’s influences with layers of guitar, piano and synth swelling over time to build into epic ballads.
Next up, debonair lads Young Robin took the stage. These guys seem to be building a solid young fan base and even had a few people in the crowd singing along to their catchy blend of cleanly struck indie pop chords and lead hooks. The band weaved rhythm and melody together seamlessly creating danceable, boppy anthems and a vibe that just made you want to smile.
Local electronic songstress Kopano was up next, bringing an altogether different feel to the night with her emotion driven pieces of “freedom + heartache”. Pulsating, minimalist electronic beats drove the rhythm backed by melodic synths reminding me of Thom Yorke’s solo work, however when Kopano’s gutsy vocals began it felt like something totally different was happening. Jemma Bradford has created a monster of talent and intrigue, and I hope for the sake of diversity within the local music scene we get to see more of her.
Finishing up the night was a monster slab of grunge from two piece outfit Black Stone From the Sun. Taking the stage barefoot and with his face obscured by a mop of hair, guitarist/vocalist Sean Mackay dished out crunching riffs propelled by a fat fuzzed up octaver guitar tone, while drummer Jack Nelson flailed around with the accuracy and power playing of a young Dave Grohl. Both blended perfectly to create grungy anthems reminiscent of Violent Soho with a crustier edge. Sean’s vocals sounded like the snarls of a youth misspent with cigarettes and whisky, but in every way complementary to their sound. Unfortunately these vocals were lost a bit in the mix with octave/fuzz driven guitar overtaking pretty much everything else, but nonetheless the crowd were still nodding their heads along to their anthems of angst and alienation.
After all was said and done, the launch night finished off strongly. The friendly and attentive bar staff, good tunes and pleasing aesthetic managed to woo their new patrons with ease.
With live music scheduled regularly four nights a week, The Aardvark has shown the potential to become not just the frontrunner for Fremantle’s excellent live music scene, but one of Perth’s premier spots to catch a band, soak up the dank and let the good times roll. I look forward to heading down the basement steps again soon.
Written by Liam Lynch
Photography by Matt Puccinelli from Capturaobscura
Thanks to Greg Sanders, Mark Spillane, Matt Puccinelli, and Karen Sainsbury.
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