Tuesday, June 9, 2015
(Photographer: Joshua Pike)

There’s a first time for everything. There’s a first time to visit The Standard Bowl and there’s the first appearance of Sam Rockwell in a motion picture. I only mention Rockwell as his first film appearance was in the original TMNT film and, aesthetically, the Standard Bowl reminded me of a certain set in said film, one which was loaded with skate ramps, arcade machines and chicken wire. A film which saw a young Mr. Rockwell offering stolen cigarettes to a bunch of wayward kids with the casual line, ‘Regular or Menthol?’ The Standard Bowl  tops the film by actually having a two-lane bowling alley (which, as I discovered, offers some auditory punctuation marks during performances). Anyway, speaking of first times, this was my first chance to catch The Cherry Dolls live. All up, three bands. One, in particular, had me at the first power chord.

With a belly full of pork chops and two beers down I watched as The Black Aces took to stage, ears at the ready. Was I expecting an introduction? Some pleasantries? A simple, ‘hey, how’s your night going?’ It’s just good manners, I tell you! I’m kidding, of course. The no mucking around attitude was amped to eleven as The Black Aces unleashed a) an incredibly solid performance and b) a performance that didn’t miss a heavy beat. Hard Rock. This was a performance by a bunch of guys who wore their influence on their sleeves with pure primal pride. AC/DC, man. Sure, yeah, you could hear some familiar riffs (‘Shoot To Thrill’ made an appearance) but it caused not a lick of concern. Some bands are retro-built, like a 2013 Mustang dressed up to look like a 69 Boss 302 (ahem, Jet). Sure, that’s cool for novelty and a momentary nod to the past but these guys are that 69 Boss 302 (okay, yes, I know technically AC/DC  formed in the early 70s… but, please, allow me that analogy). The Black Aces are a perfect musical time machine who somehow manage to own their inspired sound. Judging by the lead singer’s vocals, I’m sure he was coughing up blood post gig (they were off to Frankie's the following night). He sure as hell was giving it his all. The guitar run into the crowd was a nice touch, too (I will stop myself from making a comparison to Angus Young).

So, how do you follow a perfect act? I mean, you’re waiting in the wings and you’ve just witnessed a full blown musical assault… and you’ve got to follow that?! Primed and ready to go, mind now racing with ideas…. what do you do, what-do-you-do? You’re not beat – yet. I don’t know if this rattled The Bitter Sweethearts but they seemed a little out-gunned, their style amplified in contrast to what just was (a lineup can’t be helped). And maybe, just maybe, there really was a noise complaint from the neighbours downstairs (they alluded to this during some $10 T-Shirt banter) as things seemed a little quieter… a little more subdued. It was rock… a different kind of rock, of course. Yep, The Bitter Sweethearts had the unfortunate task of following a sledgehammer.  Armed with dialled down sound, they were the sandwich act… an act that dutifully ushered the ears to the main event (that’s poetry). But, man, I enjoyed it. And speaking of influence, I don’t know if these were intentional… and, please, call me out if I’m way off the mark. But I heard The Angels in some guitar work (‘She Keeps No Secrets’) which is coincidental because The Angels once did a cover of ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ and boy oh boy, I heard just that in the vocal lines of ‘Leaving Home’ (I also heard some ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ in a bass line… but that’s being picky). A big nod of approval goes to ‘This Is Not The End’, an enjoyably infectious signature tune. Oh, before I forget, The Sweethearts threw in their own guitar run, too… it felt a little forced but at least the guitarist conquered the bar. Top that, Black Aces!

So, now there’s some considerable distance between the punchiness of the first act and the Main Event: The Cherry Dolls. Where do I begin? Clangy guitar, straight-up guitar, driving bass, screaming vocals, on-the-level vocals, slow-drive, fast-drive… all accompanied by drumming that kept it all in check. These guys know what they’re doing. The swagger and occasional sloppiness? It’s all a part of the show. Sure, the lead singer announced his weariness before a journey into ‘Crystal Pistol’, but it was said with such effortless cool. And you can forgive him for saying said song was about cocaine, knowing that cocaine would probably knock that weariness on its head (don’t do drugs, kids). The second song they played was a personal favourite… and, call it poor music journalism, but I do-not-know-its- name (although, I’m sure that was somewhere in the lyrics). It was a musical mix, proving that they can move all over the shop (within limits) and still maintain their own sound. The 60s onto the early 70s – a dance between rock and punk-rock.  Towards the end of their set they played their single ‘The Last Time’… it’s the foot lingering on the brakes, a chance to breathe. Honest, raw and nicely placed. The Black Aces were still at the forefront of my mind, their dead on performance still resonating. But you have to appreciate a line-up that offers a varied journey into the back catalogue of rock… and you have to appreciate those of the now who perform it so well.

Written by D. L. Bugeja

Featuring: The Bittersweethearts & Black Aces
Photographer: Joshua Pike 

To Check them out while they are still on tour, 
dates can be found below!