Ratso vs Bloodbags – Cupid Bar: April 22, 2023


Tamaki Makaurau dirtbags Ratso and Bloodbags invaded the sleepy suburb of Pt Chevalier with a deluge of punk rock, garage and RnR, on a damp Rātapu/Saturday night, 13th Floor proto-hack, Simon Coffey went on a bender early on, so to better to denigrate them from behind the barricades.

Members from both bands, musical whakapapa/heritage is extensive, having traversed in and out of bands past (and present) Ratso, who I assume take their name from the dirtbag character Rico “Ratso” Rizzo, in ‘Midnight Cowboy” and last I heard, or bothered to check are; Jake Harding (ex The D4 & The Rum Coves) on vocals & guitar, Tomi on also on guitar, Bruno (New Delusion) on bass (whom I sold a live Jesus Lizard 7” to via trademe that very afternoon, Alex on drums, and ringmaster John Baker (ex Psycho Daisies)

Meanwhile, Bloodbags who have been around since 2012, and came together after the demise of two legendary bands; Bloody Souls -Andrew Tolley (guitar/Vox) and The Dirtbags – Matt Rapley (drums) and Sam Ralston (bass) Tonight, as many of us who have visited South East Asia have encountered, the bands may come from a similar musical whakapapa, same-same, but they are also different – different.


Bloodbags are on first, by which time Cupid has filled up nicely with the usual suspects, the three-piece fit nicely onto the virtual stage, and the crowd move forward, respectfully leaving a sensible gap. Bloodbags start off in high energy, and like Andrew Tolley’s other Bloodbagsvessel Warm Leather are guitar/vocals focussed, and loud! But unlike Warm Leather the drumming and bass, the rhythm section has a much more rock n roll feel. Reminiscent more of early Judas Priest (the early albums).

The flow slows halfway through and the sound becomes more complex, more heavy metal than garage punk, creating a definite difference in sound between Andrew Tolley’s vessel’s tonight. The starting bassline gives it all away, included in tonight’s set is a creative interpretation of The Gordons Machine song, which given the last time I saw Bloodbags was a 605 in Kingsland about a year ago, might be a new addition. It’s got hot in Cupid Bar all of a sudden!


The five members of Ratso set up and start demanding the audience’s attention, diva John Baker isn’t shy, as the circus ringleader, in getting in-front of the face of a talker as the intro warms up. Onstage, which is aspirational rather than actual, guitarist Tomi is looking a little like Mink Deville – slick! while bassist (and Jesus Lizard fan) Bruno is sporting a hairstyle reminiscent of Kirk Hammett (hopefully he’s not offended).

RatsoWhile Bloodbags were rooted to the stage, Ratso had no spatial respect and throughout the performance, band members escaped into the audience, invaded each other’s stage position, climbed onto the bar and launched themselves into the audience. Ringmaster John Baker directs from the back, but isn’t scared to be confrontational (in an MC5 kinda style), I made the mistake of trying to get to the loos mid-set, which involved pushing in front of the band (almost) and couldn’t escape having JB plant a sloppy pash on my cheek (I’ll never wash that spot again)

Ratso in all their chaos, and organised anarchy, create an intense energy, full of immediacy and excitement. The vibe is reminiscent of Richard Hell and that early American 70’s punk sound, with some fabulous bass grooves going on, and a self-effacing confrontational thesis. It’s not unexpected that they remind me of the underground and influential 90’s Frisbee Studio sound, and the passion for breaking down the safe-space between audience and band members.

Simon Coffey

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Simon Coffey