Amyl and the Sniffers live in Vancouver, BC

Amyl and the Sniffers live in Vancouver. Martin Alldred reviewes the Australian punk band's March 19th show at the Fox Cabaret
Amyl and the Sniffers live in Vancouver, BC photo by Martin Alldred

Amyl and the Sniffers are a high energy full on Australian punk band, named after sniffing amyl nitrate. The story goes that lead singer, Amy Taylor, with her blonde mullet, always wanted to be in a band, but couldn’t play any instruments, luckily her housemates asked her to be the singer of the ‘house’ band. The three other band members, all posing mullets, add to the retro look, making it no surprise that they are heavily influenced by 70’s Aussie pub rock. Other influences are garage rock and, more surprisingly, a bit of Nancy Sinatra. Amyl and the Sniffers signed to Rough Trade Records last year and their debut album comes out in May.

The crowd was a mix of young folk and middle aged punk rockers, all fixated on the intense and enthusiastically wired singer. Taylor helped inspire a crazy mosh pit, from the first song, a new one, to the last song. With the crowd surfing and stage diving from tune number five, I’m Not a Loser. Based on their appearance, you can imagine some of the more conservative locals looking at them walking down the street thinking they are a bunch of losers, but they are anything but losers tonight. Jumping up and down and going wild was very much on the cards for most of the packed house, the aggression occasionally boiling over, at one point into a fist fight which this reviewer narrowly avoided getting stuck in the middle of. At times Taylor looked possessed, other times she was shadow boxing, much of the time she was head banging, and she stage dived on a few occasions too – at no time did she stand still for more than a few seconds.

Despite being less than an hour long, the set was crammed with songs, which is no surprise considering most of their songs are less than three minutes long, with many less than two minutes in length. Anything over 3 minutes felt almost indulgent. The music is classic 3 chord punk, it is not original, but it is done so, so well. They played all the favourites, including a couple from their first EP, Giddy Up. Giddy Up was written, recorded and released within 12 hours and it feels all the fresher for it. When songs sound that raw on record, they sound similarly raw, but perfect, live.

There was even a funny story from Taylor’s day in Vancouver. She was stood half way down a Vancouver back alley, when a police car slowly drove past. Then a couple of minutes later the car rolls into view again and stops, you expect the story to take a turn for the worse, but it turned out the police officer was a fan and recognized Taylor – very random and it made at least one member of the Vancouver Police Department look pretty cool in the eyes of the band.

Closing with Some Mutts (Can’t be Muzzled), a song that asks an ex ‘do you remember me’, I find it hard to imagine anyone watching tonight’s performance not remembering the lead singer and the other three bandmates. The crowd left, hot and sweaty, maybe a little bruised, but happy at the nights pulsating performance. Amyl and the Sniffers gave it their all and then some, and the crowd fully appreciated it.

review by Martin Alldred