Ammonia; Jebediah; Big Heavy Stuff, Newport, December 14, 1996

Ah, summer in Fremantle, the final destination of yet another ballbreaking national tour by some of Sony Australia’s big hitters and bright prospects. The rumour that Ammonia, Jebediah and Big Heavy Stuff were only hours away from finishing a 26 date/30 day tour was reason enough to expect a little craziness, certainly befitting the extremities of a ‘peep show’ and the Jebs actually looking tired for the first time in their lives.

This was my first look at Big Heavy Stuff, though their dramatics and somewhat dark numbers were a bit of a favourite of mine on last year’s Covered In Bruises EP. Guitarist Carolyn Polley took control of their on-stage banter throughout, her celebration of the large femme population in attendance becoming her stated victory for the evening.

The slowly building crowd only latched on to three or four songs of their set, the Heavy’s new single Bigmouth and their prior calling card Birthday being the big winners. This audience complacency was understandable, the first band is always pumped out of the Newport PA at an excruciating volume sending everyone scuttling. The locals knew the trick – Benedict opened Jebediah’s set at about two-thirds the volume.

It was a set packed full of new numbers, the ancient history of the Twitch EP far behind them. And it was also a mellower set, guitarist Chris Draymond taking front-of-stage as the one designated as having the most energy left of the four. Even if they were a little worn, Jebediah were a writhing, bucking bundle of big riffs, a scene reflected on the dance floor as newly-baptised 18 year old’s went balmy.

With Jerks Of Attention promising to be a big summer single, the ascent of Jebediah is already assured. The question is: where is Ammonia’s path taking them? Satin Only is their new single, the best since Sleepwalking, and following Sunday’s Newport set there is still little reason to worry that Ammonia are losing their way after nearly two years in the major league.

Simon Hensworth is still one of the best bass players on the Australian circuit, his work on White and their new song Killswitch again drove the Ammonia rhythm line unrelentingly. Dave Johnston, forever in what seems to be pyjamas, approached the microphone in single-minded, almost lusting lurches. The absence of those worrying effects on his voice were thankfully gone, his guitar workout a tome for loud three-pieces everywhere.

Ammonia’s set of mainly new material, pre-empting their new album sessions in the next few months, was equally as good as the Mint 400 catalogue. And as the now-threshing crowd took it all in, up and out popped Big Heavy Stuff’s Carolyn Polley with a little salute to end the tour – turn away kids! A memorable, if not mammorial, way to end a probably maniacal Australian tour.

Adam Connors