Quokkas deserve to be heard

22 May 2023

With the release of their new album, Last Quokka are ready to take the mantle of Perth’s best punk band. All the more reason to ensure their lacerating lyrics aren’t lost live, writes Harvey Rae. 

Red Dirt album launch, Last Quokka 
Buffalo Club, 19 May 2023 

The best bands are often great tastemakers. Last Quokka, the Walyalup punks behind travelling backyard fest Yardstock, exemplify this. 

Even before they hit the stage to formally launch new record Red Dirt, the Quokkas are wowing us with a two stage mini-fest celebrating fresh talent and signings to their label Stock Records.  

Early it’s New Nausea/Shit Narnia alum Albert Pritchard in his solo East Mount Barren guise. More lo-fi, less emo and just as quietly affecting as his day bands, ambient synths rise out of songs built around gentle acoustic guitar.  

This quieter ‘second stage’ is a reminder of the old Hyde Park Hotel, with no stage and simply a floor rug carpeting the area. Later we are treated to the phenomenal voice of Ruby Pettit, who wows the room with a mix of Joni Mitchell holler and Celtic charm, highlighted by a song she’s written just for the occasion. Quokkas frontman Trent Rojahn says he first heard Pettit on RTRFM. Using Shazam, he found out she was local and booked her. 

Between East Mount Barren and Pettit we’ve been catching feels for Grub at the raised ‘main stage’. Despite supergroup vibes courtesy of Peter Bibby, Carla Geneve and Duncan Strachan on stage, the star is singer Matilda Beales. With potty-mouthed tales like What the Fuck, Grub’s set culminates in a beautiful mess of three guitars freaking out in unison. 

None of which prepares us for the main support. Dressed in white from head to toe, Mood Punch might just be everyone’s favourite new Freo band. Five men getting intimate with their feelings via violent post-hardcore, sounds like an emo disaster waiting to happen. And in the best possible way, it’s just that.  

“This is a dancing song and it’s about getting stabbed in the face,” singer Sam Bloor advises ahead of a Smile (No Comment), song that’s surely about Collingwood supporters. Charismatic and unconventional, Bloor uses spoken word on Useless Passion (after Simone de Beauvoir). Musically sophisticated and brilliantly avant-garde, Mood Punch presents exciting, relevant and fully formed.  

Much like Yardstock and the Last Quokka ethos as a whole, the choice of venue is community minded. With cheap drink prices and friendly staff reflecting a local sporto vibe (think your nearest bowls club), there’s nothing flashy about Friday. 

Last Quokka frontman Trent Rojahn and Alex Bogle combine on ‘Punks in the Palace’. Photo: Owen Lowie

This proves a blessing and a curse when it comes to Last Quokka’s set. Chaotic and anarchic, there are speaker stands falling into the audience, crowd surfing, and a PA that freaks out, meaning vocals and special guest performances go unheard. 

The band plays new album Red Dirt in full, a record that ups the stakes production-wise to be their best sounding yet. The same can’t be said of the night’s performance. Perhaps the Quokkas have outgrown their favourite venue: their popularity has recently seen them on an east coast tour and the new album has quickly taken off on Spotify. 

It matters little for the best refrains, as the crowd chants What school did you go to? during Eat the Rich, and Geeeenaaaa! over and over during the hilarious Gina/Rupert. Rojahn dons one unlucky punter’s crooked spectacles from the d-floor, helping My Girl‘s much-loved refrain, He can’t see without his glasses/ He can’t see without his specs, to connect. 

But beyond the targeted laughs is a band with genuine political messaging, and not being able to hear Rojahn’s words for most of the set clearly dampens the experience. Why the sound engineers don’t stop the show to find the one working microphone becomes a mystery, as it is clear enough that one is working from the crowd.  

When it’s finally figured out in time for Ningaloo, it ensures the night ends on a high. Punks in the Palace and Colony round out a raucous set with guest singer Alex Bogle now able to make an impression and it’s a good one, her voice and energy a highlight. 

I emerge sweaty and with sizable Doc Martin-shaped bruises on my shins to show for time spent on the outskirts of the pit, and no doubt I’m not alone. Part speeding trainwreck, part politicising punk spectacle, and part education piece, the ingredients are all there for Last Quokka to take the mantle as WA’s best punk band.  

They’ve got the taste, the cult following and a knack for songs you’ll want to put on repeat. Now they just need the live production to keep up pace. 

Pictured top: Last Quokka have plenty to say but sound problems made it difficult to hear lyrics on the night. Photo: Owen Lawie

Red Dirt is out now and can be bought through the band’s website.

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Author —
Harvey Rae

Harvey is a familiar face in the Perth arts scene, having been a journalist, promoter, events manager, artistic planner, songwriter, radio host, marketer, publicist, label owner and more. Music may be his first love, but you'll regularly find him at anything comedy, theatre or food related. Harvey gravitates towards the swings but sometimes forgets he’s too big for a playground flying fox, too.

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    In a double act worthy of an arena, Living Colour and Extreme have the crowd on their feet from start to finish. Harvey Rae can’t help but join them. 

  • Who’s who elevate Timmy’s Tommy

    You Am I revisit The Who’s classic Tommy, with two of Australia’s finest rock vocalists. Harvey Rae goes on an amazing journey.

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