The King Street Crawl is an annual event that celebrates the Sydney music scene. Last Father’s Day, over 30 venues along King St, Erskineville Rd and Enmore Rd played host to a massive 130+ artists. With no entry fees and hours of live music, it was a testimony to the volume of talent that Newtown houses. The following is part five of five in Backyard Opera’s King Street Crawl series. For more, stay tuned HERE.
The first of September was a monumental day. The festivities of the King Street Crawl had started to take its toll on the patrons. Every kebab, pizza and pie shop in Newtown now played sanctuary the lost souls of a big Sunday session. However, for those still kicking, the night was beginning to peak. One of the most popular late night venues in Sydney is the Marlborough Hotel. On the King Street Crawl, Marly Bar, as it’s known, had four lots of acts, including upstairs and downstairs line-ups, side bar DJ sets and slew of artists in the basement venue, Toyko Sing Song. In the one pub, 28 artists performed. By 9PM, it was as packed as ever, with an entry line stretching down King Street. For most artists, this would be an exciting sight, but for punk rock band Johnny Hunter, this was a sign that the rules and regulations would get in the way of their stick-it-to-the-man performance.
“I love the Marly Bar, but they get real strict on people being intoxicated so people might not even be allowed in,” feared lead singer Nick Hutt. “King Street Crawl allows packs out, so we’ll see what happens. There should be a couple of people in there, so we’ll see if it goes off.”
Suffice to say, there were a couple of people in there and it went off. The four-piece punk band are at their best when the mosh is tightly packed and drunk on music, like it was September 1st. With their influences ranging from David Bowie and Lorde to Joy Division and Sonic Youth, they combine catchy pop melodies with fierce lyrics and intense performance. The result is a distinct sound that can only really be appreciated live. The word they have used in the past to describe the unique aspects of performance is “cabaret”. With lead singer Nick, sporting eyeliner, lipstick and a tuxedo, reliant on the crowd’s engagement, a typical Johnny Hunter gig is, above all else, there to entertain you. Having played the King Street Crawl in 2017, the group were excited to be back again this year.
“I’ve got this terrible lipstick and I’m pissed off with it,” said Nick, as he stood on the street, receiving an emergency touch up from a passing friend who instructed him to relax and pout. “There you go, I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life.”
Nick in his millennial Stardust costume, bassist Nick Cerone in his iconic Bonds singlet, guitarist Ben and Xander in their suit pants and work shoes, and drummer Gez with a misplaced shirt and a freshly shaved head, they were Johnny Hunter. Basked in a cool violet light, the thunderous set started. As a punk band, they were heavy, with scathing songs like “Ashamed” blasting the audience with all the group’s aggression and anger. However, they played a few songs that broke away from the expected post-punk rage and gave the crazed mosh some moments to stop and appreciate the group’s talent. Songs like “Endless Days”, released as a demo on Soundcloud but perfected over the years, and the concert exclusive, and objectively best song in the band’s repertoire, “Dreams” gave the mosh a breather without ever boring them. Eyes closed, hips swaying and hands in the air, Nick danced across the velvet set, firing up the girls and seducing the boys. However, these pop influenced songs only serve to heighten the madness of their heavier tracks. The crowd went nothing short of insane during their hit single “1995”, where Nick walked out into the crowd to proclaim “I’m a millennial”. The whole mosh chanted “1-9-9-5” in unison with him, like a twister version of the Our Father. The music exploded and so did the audience, crowd surfing and charging into one another with no regard for their own safety. With such rock fuelled sensations infecting every nerve in their body, how could they feel something as normal as pain?
“We are Johnny Hunter and we are here to entertain you,” Nick shouted at the audience. “Are you entertained?” he asked to a universal “Yes!”
It is sets like these, where the hypnotic rowdiness enthrals the entire crowd, that highlight not only the fun of the King Street Crawl, but also the unforgettable exposure that each punter has to a potentially unknown band. As no strangers to the audience’s side of the Crawl, Nick stated that their most beneficial gig ever was their 2017 King Street Crawl set, because of the exposure they received. The next year, they helped organised the festivities at the Botany View Hotel on 2018’s King Street Crawl. It is an event by the locals, for the locals, regardless of whether they are performing or not.
“It gives a platform to so many bands. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done and I think it’s one of the coolest things that’s happening in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s incredible.”
Johnny Hunter return to Sydney for Press Club’s national tour on November 1st at the Lansdowne Hotel.