I gotta say, the Bald Faced Stag has really stepped up to the plate of being Sydney’s premier music pub. Going head first into supporting live acts by providing an excellent live room and sending the pokies away, the Stag, as they call it, is fast becoming the big local venue, much needed after the loss of many, many live venues such as the infamous Annandale and Sandringham Hotels.

Adding to their own list of “gigs you should have bloody well been to,” Canadian hyper-energised old school Metal maniacs Anvil grace the modest stage tonight, riding from strength to strength since their miraculous explosion in much-deserved popularity from a well-earned documentary in their name some years back.

The proceedings kicked off with the punching metallic vanguard of western suburbs animals Tensions Arise. Standing out decked in white against a slew of black shirts and denim, the boys fired off their heavy brand of party fuel to an early bird crowd ready for action.

Blending both classic and modern styles of Metal, Tensions Arise have been causing a stir since they hit the scene and have enjoyed some great support slots. It won’t be long until they are headlining.

South Sydney’s Metraya are self-described as, “Here to drink beer and wreck people’s necks!” and true to their word, they exploded off the stage with power. Digging deep from the masters’ guide to Thrash Metal and adding an enviable collection of killer riffs, Metraya taught the uninitiated how they got their revered live reputation even though they still only have a single EP as a testament to their skill as writers and players. It seems it’s the live circuit where they have made their name and rightly so.

Halfway through the acts and the Stag is packed out! Thrashers from miles around have come for this night. You could always easily tell the far-out-of-towners as they still remained enraptured by the planes flying low out of Kingsford Smith, staring and even waving.

Beers were quickly emptied as the loose parts about the Stag’s outer framework began to rattle from the opening onslaught of local heroes Hazmat as they mercilessly fought for Metal supremacy. The Thrash is strong here, Hazmat put their own spin on it without any loss of integrity. Heavy as Hell riffs relentlessly delivered with splashings of catchy licks to keep them in your head. Hazmat had half the pub headbanging without issue. Somewhere between the generous servings of Metal and quickly depleting beer kegs, the crowd was still growing and consuming every note, riff, hit and shout.

The highlight of the evening was never not going to be Anvil, from the other side of the world and a household Metal name known for their second-to-none live shows and instrumental tenacity and on-stage energy. It still amazes many that, at 61, Steve “Lips” Kudlow is still as dexterous and excitable as a 19-year old on stage, running rings around many of his contemporaries in both ability and energy. It’s a remarkable sight.

Flanked by longtime friend, associate and Anvil co-founder and goddamn drumming extraordinaire Robb Reiner behind a kit that took up half the stage as well as current bassist Chris Robertson, these three men alone can blow most bands back out the fire door in the first few bars of a song. Welcomed by a wall-bulging crowd, the smiles never left the band’s faces throughout the whole set which covered bits and pieces across their 35+ years of existence. Kudlow would regale the crowd with short stories about each song or the time they wrote it or who they knew at the time between thanking everyone profusely for their attendance and dedication, one would think some Canadian stereotypes ring true.

Numerous were the highlights, I haven’t the time or the word limit to list them all, from anecdotes to antics onstage. Between yelling at the crowd through guitar pickups and manic slide guitar improv, Kudlow helmed a mighty force, dedicating ‘Free as the Wind’ to the late Lemmy Kilmister after a heartfelt speech, the full-on assault and unifying stomp of ‘Metal on Metal’ bridging the gap between band and crowd.

But I couldn’t go on without mentioning the spectacle of Robb Reiner showcasing his incredible skill behind the kit for an astounding five (or so) minutes of jaw-dropping stickwork without losing momentum for its duration or the rest of the gig itself. I was sure he might just explode at any second at one point, a near inhuman effort and worth the price of admission alone.

But this is how it used to be done, the way we miss out on these now as the days of pure talent and showmanship made way for lighting cues and guest appearances: big riffs, dizzying solos and impossible drum runs to ensure no one forgets that night they saw Anvil in a modest Sydney pub play like a bunch of young upstarts at a legendary Metal festival.


Anvil tour poster