Amyl And The Sniffers at The Vermont Hollywood, 6/2/2023 | photo by Charlotte Pinkerson

Amyl And The Sniffers, 2/6/23, The Vermont Hollywood By Charlotte Pinkerson

Mar 09, 2023

It’s one thing to have a solid sound as a musical artist, but it’s another to give a performance captivating enough to keep audiences listening so they can appreciate that sound. Amyl And The Sniffers are doing that better than almost anyone right now. At their show at The Vermont Hollywood on February 6, 2023, the Australian punk ensemble (made up of frontperson Amy Taylor, guitarist Dec Martens, bassist Gus Romer, and drummer Bryce Wilson) put on an incredible show filled with enough crowd surfing and beer spitting to please old and new punks alike.

As a devout fan of the band and an avid devourer of their live performances posted on YouTube, I figured I knew pretty much exactly what to expect from a group that remains relatively consistent in set structure and spot-on in energy. What I didn’t expect was how much it would end up impacting me once I was actually there. Watching a performer’s electric stage presence via a screen is completely different from the world-shattering feeling of watching it from about three feet in front of you. One thing is for certain—if you think you’ve seen the real Amyl And The Sniffers just by watching recordings of their shows, you’re very wrong.

The ritual of going to shows is about more than just seeing a band play music. The environment and context is part of the experience. Many in the crowd shamelessly jumped up and down the entire time. The band created a space where letting go was encouraged and celebrated. Many spaces, especially with all-ages shows, fall victim to security concerns when it comes to so-called “moshing” or getting rough, causing the overall experience to lack energy. This is not the case at Amyl shows.

Amyl And The Sniffers at The Vermont Hollywood, 6/2/2023 | photo by Charlotte Pinkerson

The band incorporates many aspects of old school ’70s American punk aesthetics with ’80s/’90s Aussie punk sounds, which helps them appeal to a large variety of people. The grab bag of concert goers included everyone from older dad punk types to the Tiktok teens in false eyelashes.

The night started off with opening band Die Spitz from Austin, Texas serving high energy femme hardcore punk. They amped up the crowd playing mostly from their newest album Teeth. With vocals channeling Brody Dalle and an aesthetic similar to the current day riot grrrl resurgence, they displayed a slight shift in genre from the main act, but warmed up the crowd the right way nonetheless.

Amyl opened with “Control” off of their first studio album, not necessarily their most popular, but the choice was arguably for the best. I anticipated the show to start with their hit “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” as I’ve seen them do in the past on video, but it was refreshing to see them start with something that goes back to their roots. The infectious guitar riff and ever-present contrarian lyrics coupled with Taylor bursting out in a sparkly gold two-piece roaring into the crowd, set the tone for the night.

I had the pleasure of viewing the beginning of the show from the photo pit in front of the stage. I saw the rest from the middle of the pit, and later, off to the side towards the back, giving me the ability to see how the performance fared and how the crowd reacted from many angles. There really is no right way to watch this band’s show. All I can say is there are different ways to do it depending on what’s most important to you. Being up close means you get to soak up every aspect of the band—their movements and vibrations—but you miss out on the sense of community and crowd-pit energy. Being in the midst of the aggression and bouncing—or even near it—creates that group feel but you may get so wrapped up in the movement and you have less time to pay attention to the band.

A prime moment showing the band’s dynamic and power at its best was the warm up to previously mentioned “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled).” Gus initiated an elementary school-style call and response of “Oi oi” to hype up the crowd and get everyone on the same page. All of this while Taylor bounced back and forth like a boxer warming up for a match.

“Knifey,” one of their most popular songs, was played towards the mid end of the show and it visibly struck a nerve for a large portion of the audience, mainly the girls and femme-presenting people. As sad as it is to have to say, it’s grounding in relatability to acknowledge that Taylor is a woman who has experienced the same things we in the crowd have. The song is about a woman’s need for self-defense on a mere walk home and it’s one of the few mid-tempo numbers they play. Seeing straight edge, normal-looking guys in the crowd sing along to this song of female frustration and disappointment provided a certain sense of comfort, especially considering how—as always—there were a few token drunk guys acting obnoxious and getting too close at times.

So many bands feel the need to exude a hardcore, mysterious, edgy exterior. It’s become a tiresome cliché and a clear disingenuous expression of the music. Yet, a band like Amyl that performs so happily and excitedly can’t help but reflect that energy onto the crowd. They may be singing about things that upset them, but they do it to release the negativity and enjoy themselves. Amyl And The Sniffers’ ethos is about empowerment. They’re here to show you that you maybe care too much about being cool at concerts and in life. When you’re at their shows, you’re in their world, and in their world punk is presented with a smile and a metaphorical punch in the face.

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