Padre Punk: Amyl and the Sniffers at The Observatory
Words and Photos by: Dickslaughter.com
San Diego saw Amyl and the Sniffers play the last show of their American tour to a sold-out audience at The Observatory North Park. The venue has been completely restored to the beauty of its original opening in 1939, painted an opulent red inside with large chandeliers and elaborate gold moldings on the walls and ceiling.
It’s a pretty fancy place for a punk show. But Melbourne’s Amyl and the Sniffers are not just any punk band: they have a hard-rocking, no bullshit style that’s earned them a very large and loyal fanbase. Singer Amy Taylor has collaborated with other punk heavyweights such as the Sleaford Mods and the Viagra Boys, and the band’s latest album, Comfort to Me, recorded during the pandemic, has received acclaim from both critics and fans alike. It’s a little harder and tighter than their previous offerings, but they didn’t mess with what works, and if you ask me, that’s a perfect formula for success.
The audience was a wide mix of ages–from your 20-something Instagram influencer types to geezer punks like myself. The opening act was the LA-based Indie rock band the Illuminati Hotties, created and fronted by music producer and audio engineer Sarah Tudzin. That night’s incarnation was a four piece with the ladies on guitar and vocals and gentleman on the drums and bass. Their style reminded me of My Bloody Valentine or maybe a bit of Sonic Youth. They were very well received by the Sniffers crowd and had a lot of their own fans in attendance. Not much crowd surfing during the set but it was a great way to start the evening.
Now with the Observatory filled to the brim, it was time for Amyl and the Sniffers. The boys, or I guess we can say the Sniffers– took to the stage first. Drummer Bryce Wilson, guitarist Dec Martens, and bassist Fergus Romer wasted no time belting out the beginning of the first song as Amy blasted onto the stage like she was shot from a cannon, darting back and forth across the stage dressed in shiny silver gray shorts and vest, sporting her famous mullet, screaming out the lyrics and leading the band with more confidence and bravado than most frontmen in the business. She does it with a style and finesse that is all her own with just the right amount of spitting and snot rockets to remain classy. If Iggy Pop and Wendy O. Williams had a baby, that baby would be Amy Taylor.
Before the end of the first song, Amy was off the stage onto the rail. She jumped off the rail, ran through the photo pit to a side entrance, then jumped back on stage all while slapping hands and singing in fans’ faces. The band did not slow down, hitting us with all the favorites: “Snakes,” “Freaks to the Front,” “Choices,” and “Guided by Angels.” The audience was in a constant state of near-mayhem, with crowd-surfers flooding over the barrier. There wasn’t much in-between-song band banter ( at least not that I could understand–that Aussie Accent is heavy). Amy of course thanked San Diego and made sure to introduce the band. But it was all about the music. They just kept blasting them out, with “Knifey” and “Hertz” blaring through the auditorium. During the song “Security,” the whole place erupted in movement; it felt like the whole building was shaking. When Amy announced this was the last song and they broke into “Some Mutts can’t be Muscled,” fans began to throw gifts onto the stage: flowers, shirts, and the like. But one gift caught Amy’s attention: a pink hand-knitted sweater with the word “CUNT” across the front. Her eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas and she immediately took off her vest and put on the thoughtful gift, much to the delight of the gift giver on the rail. It was a pretty touching moment. As the set ended, the gentlemen just walked off stage as a sort of bluegrass hillbilly-style song came over the PA. Amy favored us with a bit of a square dance and simultaneously pulled up the set lists and tossed them to fans on the rail, then danced off into the night.