The Bellrays


Fly By Night
Thursday, November 22, 2013

Welcome to the church of rock n’ roll, presided over by the Rev. Lisa Kekaula – a rock n’ roll preacher part Tina, part Aretha, part James Brown and all soul – and her Bellrays.

First up though, were The Plastic Bags, who delivered a razor-wire-raw blast of garage punk (in the most literal sense) to a near-empty Fly By Night. There was an odd naïve charm to their abrasive and repetitive shouty-ness, despite a near total lack of melody or sophistication, with their take on obscure Aussie punks Suicide Squad’s I Hate School being their catchiest number.

By contrast, Legs Electric’s only concession to ‘garage’ is that that’s where they rehearsed enough until they were ready to play on a stage this size. A four-piece rock unit formed from the ashes of Sure Fire Midnights, they perfectly balance melody and power, and just happen to all be girls. This is a band who could really go places based on their stage presence and songs like Black Magic, Trigger and She’s Like A Saint.

The Bellrays are a ferocious live beast: garage cool, hard rock riffs and the sort of soulful vocals that graced Stax and Motown hits a-plenty.

Driven by the propulsive power of Stefan Litrownik and Justin Andres’s rhythm section, their secret weapon is Bob Vennum’s full throttle guitar. As he duckwalks and squat jumps around the stage, throwing down riffs like a Wrestlemania smackdown, evoking power and feel in equal measure from his black Gibson SG like a six-string alchemist, we’re almost tempted to drag our eyes off the main attraction.

That attraction of course is frontwoman and vocal powerhouse Kekaula herself, a unique and dynamic performer who exhorts us – her congregation – to treat this Thursday as another Friday night – after all, ‘wouldn’t your week be better with two Fridays in it?’

The Californian outfit bring the hard rockin’ soul train to Fremantle – and a respectable crowd by this point – through On Top, Power To Burn, Hard Sweet & Sticky, Black Lightning and the Ramones-meets-the-Acid-Queen Pinball City, so dynamic and fiery that even a couple of cheesy Christmas songs can be forgiven.

Kekaula, arm held aloft like a Southern cleric dispensing the fire and brimstone of Baptist rock n’ soul, has a unique voice – an untamed beast, a force of nature, a throaty purr that thunders up from her depths as if to say, ‘fuck you, popstars, this is how it’s done!’

As the afro-ed singer prowls her stage like a hungry panther outrunning a magnesium flare, so self-assured it’s intimidating, she delivers an encore of Revolution Get Down and Blues For Godzilla that proves beyond any doubt that this is what our kids should be listening to rather than generic pop dross.

This, was our Friday night, after all. This was rock n’ roll.

Pic: Lisa Kekaula, The Bellrays Photo by: Rachael Barrett

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