It was with excitement and some trepidation I headed to the Red Skulls’ Big Night Out at the Gov on Friday night. The Red Skulls, already a popular party band around town with their Guns ‘n’ Roses tribute band, were planning to put on a show celebrating the Big Day Out, the iconic series of music festivals which kicked off the whole festival scene in Australia from the first one in 1992. Would they be able to pull it off, revive fond memories of hot summer days, muddy mosh pits and the grunge phenomenon of the 1990s?
There was a lively crowd and an air of expectancy when I arrived, and the dance floor started to fill up with punters grooving to the support act, the Maverick Experience, playing a boiler room set. DJ Pedro Moshman Machado served up classics from New Order, Groove Armada, Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. A saxophonist and bongo drummer playing accompaniment added a great live dimension to the show.
I bumped into Red Skulls Drummer, Mark Montgomery in the lead up and asked what to expect of the show. He was coy on the set list but said there would be plenty for everyone to sing along to. The crowd had started push forward when the Maverick Experience wound up, and the Red Skulls didn’t keep the crowd waiting long. The stage was bedecked with black banners with baleful yet cheeky red skulls leering at the crowd.
When they came on stage they launched into Smells Like a Teen Spirit whipping the crowd up into a frenzy as they all sang along to teenage angst anthem of the 90s. Jason Sym Choon, front man and man about town, had a great stage presence and connected well with the crowd as he belted out hit after hit. The songs were chosen with care featuring plenty of Australian festival favourites such as Powder Finger, Grinspoon, Spiderbait and 28 Days which had the crowd singing along and getting a mosh pit going down the front. The band was tight and polished, with thumping bass lines being served up by Tony Coppola, sublime guitar riffs coming from the magic hands of Jason Higgs, underscored by Mark’s explosive drumming. The crowd was grinning from ear to ear as they jumped, sang, danced and even got some crowd surfing going.
The Red Skulls kept this up for two hours, clearly in the “zone” as the performance was highlighted by their passion, energy and love of the music. However, all good things had to come to end. For the last song Jason teased the crowd saying he was lamenting the fact that he’d missed the Cold Chisel gig and as consolation the band launched into a rendition of Khe Sanh. The crowd good naturedly sang along for while, however this was revealed as a ruse as they cut Khe Sanh short and topped the night off with an absolute thumping rendition of Killing in the Name Of by Rage Against the Machine. As they left the stage I felt slightly breathless, happy and buoyant. Hanging around the merch desk, the punters showed their appreciation by snapping up t-shirts and enthusiastically congratulating the band on their performance.
If you ever fancy a “Big Night Out”, I would heartily recommend the Red Skulls. The band said there was a bit of interest in the show, so watch your gig guides to check if there will be a repeat performance.
Review by Jeremy Watkinson