Bringing it back home

Guitarist and backup vocalist Ben Rohy put his guitar to work, with riffs that electrified the crowd. Picture: PJ PANTELIS.

By Ethan Benedicto

The strums of acoustic and electric strings and the bellows of the bass drum blended with a harmony of voices as rock band SOTV performed their first local show in the heart of Berwick.

Held on the night of 10 May, the cold Friday air had locals seeking refuge at live music venue Pokerface, where they were greeted by dancing lights and music loud enough to rattle windows and echo through Enterprise Ave.

Ben Rohy, one of the band’s guitarists and singers said that “it’s great to be back”.

“We were all raised down this way and even formed the band in this area,” he said.

The band graced the audience with not just the crowd favourite tune Picture Frames – which was played at least three times – but also pieces from their new EP Oblivion and some unreleased songs as a sneak peek of future projects.

“We’re so used to bringing our audience out from the suburbs into the city for a show, but for this show, it was very easy on everyone from Berwick,” Ben said.

Packing the venue with over 150 people, the night began at 8.30pm, with opening acts from indie rock band Waliens and funk, soul and rock artist Zachary Leo before SOTV entered the stage at 10.30pm.

While Melbourne is no stranger to the ever-changing scene of music and a myriad of artists, the night’s performance had an air not too dissimilar from garage band rock in the 1960s, with raw hard-hitting melodies fuelled by camaraderie and an intimacy difficult to replicate at big, open venues.

“I’m just hoping events like this inspire the support of live music, especially in the southeast suburbs, there’s a lot of bands and artists brewing here and we need more places like Pokerface to facilitate and highlight that,” Ben said.

Formed in 2017, this marks their first performance in roughly six years, with previous events seeing them as supporting acts for major artists such as We The Kings, Make Them Suffer and British India.

Headlining their own show was a big step forward.

“For us to realise that we’re actually as good as we think we are,” bassist Michael Cowled said.

Speaking for everyone Ben said, “it was all love either way”.

“Those shows with We The Kings were great for bringing our music to a new audience, the headliner is special though – we can really curate a good night out to our vision,” he said.

Bringing the performance back home wasn’t just an ode to the band members’ roots, but also an effort that they, and for many of their local listeners, to bring the energy and aura that can be found around bands like them in the inner-city, into the southeast.

“The inner suburbs and city have so many venues to reach out to while here it’s limited, [and] playing original music is celebrated in those [places].

“But sometimes it feels quite difficult to make that excitement happen in the southeast when we aren’t doing pub covers.

“I hope nights like this one make an example that people still show up, pay and have a ripper time at a night exclusively full of original music,” Ben said.

Live performances will always have their moments of panic, and while there were instances of sound-tech difficulties and a slipped guitar string, it did nothing but emphasise the band’s ability to bring out that intimacy with their listeners, filling that slot with improv music, banter and chants.

Ben said that “to be honest hiccups happen all the time [and] we go through the same process either way, which comes down to that the show must go on”.

“For example, if a guitar rig dies on stage, we either keep the music going without the one guitar or swap the guitar out and chat to the audience in the meantime.

“At the end of the day, it’s all fun, the worst we could have done in that situation is to freak and declare it a huge technical fault,” he said.

Bringing it all home also proved to have some other challenges besides fostering the growth of live, original music, with guitarist and lead singer Conor Bermingham saying that “logistically, this one was very different to [the] usual”.

“The biggest hurdle about putting on a gig like this in the southeast over a place lie Fitzroy or similar is there aren’t any venues down here with a sound or lighting system perpetually installed while at the same time being a size that non-touring level bands can still work with and make it feasible,” he said.

The organisation involved the band working around the clock, having to organise the production for the whole night as well as constant back-and-forth emails and phone calls.

The band members agreed that “both Pokerface – the venue – and Diverse Audio Visual Events – the production company – were great to work with and between us all we managed to put together a system that was ideal for the space”.

The event also featured the band’s merchandise stand, which had free stubby holders for the first 50 ticket buyers and also band shirts which were going for $30 apiece.

With the band’s noise continuing just after midnight, they couldn’t agree more that from their peers and supporting acts Waliens and Zachary Leo, to the audience that the night was a huge success.

New projects are underway, with 2024 gearing up to be a big year for the band and their listeners.

In the meantime, SOTV is scheduled to perform again on 31 May, at Hotel Esplanade in St Kilda performing alongside Noasis.

Tickets are available online and can be viewed through their Instagram page at