It's fair to say that this gig was celebrating a LONG-AWAITED occasion that was anticipated by many. You see, generally speaking, most bands usually like to get a studio recording out there as quick as they possibly can, to allow as many people as possible to hear their band and to increase their chance of scoring some live shows. Not Melbourne's Sheriff. The young but super talented "Southern Horror Psychedelic Blues Rock" trio, formed in 2008, clearly decided early on that they wanted to build up a reputation for blisteringly intense live shows above anything else, and as such have been gigging relentlessly since their inception. It was only at the very beginning of last year when they finally got themselves into a studio to smash out six killer anthems to form the very first Sheriff EP. Though the wait has been a long one, the EP is finally available to the public, and on Easter Saturday 2012, the unrelenting force that it is Jimi Coelli (bass/vocals), Thomas Watson (guitar/vocals) and Callum Routledge (drums/vocals) stormed into Cherry Bar and tore the place apart in a performance well befitting the important occasion.
The band's good friend Simon "SP" Cantwell has had the honour of introducing the band to the stage at several gigs prior to this, and he was certainly ready to do it again tonight. He's also a bit of an up-and-coming stand-up comedian on the side, and that was certainly evident in his passionate intro for his friends; his furious ranting ensured that everyone in Cherry stopped whatever they were doing and paid attention to the stage which was soon to host "the best-dressed band IN THIS BAR!" With the appropriately grandiose Also sprach Zarathustra blaring out of the PA, those well-dressed gentlemen made their way onstage, and then it was off with a bang, as the thunderous riffs of What You Want kicked things off. A solid fan favourite over the years, and a track for which the boys recently released a pretty awesome video, this particular track as an opener meant only one thing - tonight, Sheriff meant FUCKING BUSINESS. It is indeed the sign of a good gig when, less than five minutes after it began, guitarist Thomas Watson has jumped off the stage and is entertaining the entire crowd with some up-close-and-personal demonstrations of his impressive shredding abilities. Boom.
If there's one thing to be said for Sheriff, it is that they know how to entertain a crowd, and they do so, at every show they play, for the entire show. Knowing that tonight was a big night for them, they put in an extra special effort, and it certainly paid off in spades, with the packed Cherry crowd not hesitating to bust out their finest moves on a Saturday night. And yes, it's taken them almost four years of their existence to actually release something, but nobody could say that they can't write a decent song. On this occasion, Sheriff showed us that they've written no less than ten of them - ranging from sinister slow-paced stoner-esque grooves like Pick Yourself Up (featuring Watson showing us yet another talent of his, this time on the theremin) to uptempo rockabilly party-starters such as You're Not Too Cool (So Baby Dance With Me). Bass player and main lead vocalist Jimi Coelli has developed a reputation for his witty between-song banter and tonight he was in fine form as usual, declaring "Happy Zombie Jesus Day" on several occasions, and cheekily using it to introduce the band's own song Zombie.
No gig this special would be complete without special guests, and so it was a few songs in that Sheriff introduced to the stage their occasional two-piece horn section, who go by the amusing name of the Horny Bastards. With a trombone and horn backing them up, the middle portion of Sheriff's set featured a much more full sound, and it also certainly helped to accentuate their psychedelic leanings. Though Cherry's not a venue with the best PA in the world, the horns were perfectly audible in the mix, yet certainly not dominant over the stomping swamp-rock of the band they were backing up.
For a band with no released material until now, Sheriff have managed to inspire an extremely devoted following over the years of their existence, and the songs have become extremely familiar to many, which certainly showed in the crowd, where many singing voices other than those coming from the stage could be heard. Coelli's usual request for dancing during favourite You're Not Too Cool (So Baby Dance With Me) (which is aptly written on the setlist as simply "ROCKABILLY") is obeyed with great enthusiasm by a group of people up the front, as they get their boogie on to a tune that certainly takes its cues from the likes of the Stray Cats (a known influence of Sheriff). Meanwhile, the band's heavier numbers such as Simon Young and Gunshot Rodeo inspire plenty of headbanging and fist-pumping. It's a beautiful thing to watch, and the smiles on the faces of the three members onstage say it all. Coelli and Watson give back to the crowd in spades too, with Watson entering the crowd several times throughout the set to shred whenever he so feels like it (where audience members gladly offer him the opportunity to scull a beer or two); being the vocalist Coelli finds such manoeuvres a little harder to pull off, but he does roam around the stage plenty and his movements and passion see him work up an obvious sweat during the course of the set. Rock and roll, baby.
All good things must come to an end, and it was the blistering EP closer On the Floor that rounded out tonight's set on a high note. There weren't really any calls for an encore, but that wasn't surprising, as in one solid hour, Sheriff had delivered an absolutely smashing set which had really left the entire audience pretty much spent of energy, breathless and very very sweaty. Now they've finally got an EP out there, we can only expect Sheriff to be playing some even bigger and better shows in the future.
What You Want
Pick Yourself Up
Your Mothers Daughter, Your Fathers Son
Creep and the Sicko*
You're Not Too Cool (So Baby Dance With Me)*
Take My Hand*
On the Floor
* With the Horny Bastards