“How long till Ballarat? I need to pee… 20 minutes!? shit.” Brenda Kay Salamon — 2016

You know… It may shock you to hear that I wasn’t always the well-spoken together person you know today. (Sorry, I had to laugh at that.) But for real, I am a lot more together than I used to be. I used to be such an out of control dumbass that one of my best friends Simon coined the phrase “That’s the Guiton way” so when I decided to start reviewing local shows it wasn’t at all surprising to those that know me that my first review was an hour and a half away in Ballarat. I always wanted to punch Simon for that but the jingle that came with it was actually catchy.

And so my review crew and I made our way to Ballarat to watch The Decline (WA) Foxtrot, Foley, Agent 37 and The Shorts play on a bitterly cold Thursday night in July at the Eastern Hotel. The Eastern is a great venue. It has the charm of an ageing derro that got his shit together and now runs a Sandwich shop — nothing too special but it’s comforting. And the guys behind the bar remembered me from a gig I played a while back and just flat out refused to take my money for beers, which is just swell.

The Shorts were first up and, well, didn’t sound great. I couldn’t hear the bass and the vocals were muddy but that has nothing to do with the band or the sound at The Eastern. It was Lance’s stereo because in true fashion of all of my friends and myself we were late and missed them… our bad, But they are a great band and worth checking out, especially when singer and drummer Brodie Glen makes everyone in the room feel like a shit musician when he decides to bring out the harmonica.

We arrived just after Ballarats own Ramones-core legends Agent 37 took stage to once again try to set the record of playing 1000 songs in 30 minutes. I think they once did 18 in 20… crazy bastards. Its always a great time seeing them ripping through songs such as 88, Here come the Russians and of course Liam Neeson. We don’t get to see them that much anymore because 2 members of the band went and fucked it up by becoming dads so its always an awesome time.

After a quick ciggie and yet another failed attempt to buy beer (this time upgraded to a pint glass which annoyed the hell out of my girlfriend who had been told there were no pint glasses) Foley took the stage smashing out the hits from their debut album “Ascot Vale” and gave everyone a taste of songs from the new album due out soon. The new songs are slower and dare I say a more mature brand of songwriting and I have a suspicion that Foley are gonna be pretty huge soon.

After taking a small break to talk to Zach and Dave from Agent 37 about whips and floggers it was time for Foxtrot. My friend Ivan had told me about these guys years ago and he brought me to Ballarat to see them support The Smith Street Band while they were touring “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams” so It was pretty cool to see them them kick off their own national tour in the same town. Their new album “Habitats” is a huge step forward for them and I encourage everyone I know to get a copy. They smashed through songs old and new and although they never take any of my suggestions on the set list the crowd loved the set. Mario from the band Northwood had his mouth hanging out during the epic “Time Irrelevant”. Way to be cool Mario… After their set I finally got to pay for a drink and have a ciggie to get back inside just in time for the headliners: Western Australia’s The Decline.

For some reason there seems to be a bit of a divide in Melbourne when it comes to The Decline. Much like the epic Smith Street Band wars I witnessed on social media a couple of years ago people seem to either love them or hate them. One thing about the Melbourne punk scene is that there is no shortage of opinions, Everyone has plenty and everyone has no problem voicing them including myself… I have heard that The Decline are great and I’ve heard that the Decline are bad so I must confess I got bored with the argument and never listened to them… I will now say that they are a band on top of their game and there is no surprise that they are frequently touring the world. I have their albums in a shopping cart and will totally buy them when I have money. Whenever that may be.

We left Ballarat cold and drunk which is probably why Lance and I missed our flights to Adelaide the next morning but hell — it was a fucking great show.

Best bit: Foxtrot/only spending 10 bucks at the bar.

Worst bit: Missing The Shorts/The weather