The Cavemen – Whammy Bar, December 12, 2019: Concert Review

London-based New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll maniacs, The Cavemen, gave a ferocious, feral performance at Whammy Bar last night, returning to New Zealand to deliver the musical equivalent of a sledgehammer to the face.

Whammy Bar isn’t somewhere you’d expect to see someone crowd-surfing, but with booze and ice flying over the crowd like confetti last night, the small-but-mighty audience refused to let the confined space hold them back, welcoming ex-pat Auckland band, The Cavemen, with as much ferocity as the performance itself.

If there’s a hindrance to Whammy Bar as a venue beyond its minimal floor space, it’s that multi-set gigs dip in energy from the spread-out performances. Last night, The Cavemen were supported by two opening acts, RATSO and Bloodbags, with barely 15 minutes of breathing room between acts – perfectly placed to build and maintain an explosive level of energy from start to finish.


RATSO burned through their opening number, Shut Your Face, with thumping bass lines and chest-pounding tambourine, transitioning from one heavy guitar riff to the next in Arseholes and Bullshit and Never Say. Their lead singer was phenomenal at eliciting the eye-contact intensity of 60s punk bands, as the rest of the group poured slow, nasty guitar over thick drumming and distorted, scratchy guitar riffs.  Dialling up the intensity just a notch or two might have made the final moments of the perfectly timed build in closing number, Lurker, a high-point of the set, and made a clearer distinction between their otherwise raucous and consistently catchy setlist.


Following shortly afterward were Bloodbags, which saw the group make excellent use of the space on stage in matching their hard, fast, and heavy performance with equal physicality. The restrained, growling vocals in their second number made me wish there was a touch more volume on the mic – fortunately, the lead singer addressed this shortly afterward, and their remaining set was a whirlwind of distorted guitar, pounding drums and guttural vocals reminiscent of The Cramps.

With the air of Whammy Bar a thick soup of sweat and alcohol, The Cavemen soon arrived on stage and delivered one ferocious, hard-hitting number after another. Opening with Mentally Ill Criminal Love and Stand by Your Ghoul, the 4-piece showed an immediate and intensely manic level of energy; blisteringly paced songs that some bands would find impossible to maintain throughout an entire set were poured over the crowd without hesitation, mixing harsh, almost-indecipherable lyrics with a continual chorus of anthemic punk madness.

This was a group with phenomenal crowd-control, connection, and stage presence; moving across the stage and into the crowd with possessed contortion through Boyfriend and Dead to Me, before hitting a high-point in that combined rock ‘n’ roll intensity with the scream-along Snakeskin. The Cavemen capture the relentless, raw garage energy of Circle Jerks and the screaming vocal intensity of The Sonics – I once heard them described as a mixture of The Misfits and The Damned, with a maximum-energy Iggy Pop and The Stooges tossed into the blend, and this felt remarkably fitting last night.

There’s a common theme of destructive excess in both their lyrics and performance and, while at times this might border on manufactured hysteria, it’s impossible not to feel drawn in and hooked on their special brand of moral abandonment. The same carries through into their sound and delivery as a whole; it’s by no means perfect, it’s rarely clean, and less than a handful of their lyrics break through the obscuring waves of thrash guitar and sweat-drenched drums, but this all adds to their irresistible charm – it’s a sound that makes you want to smash everything in sight, including your body and your brain, with reckless abandon.

Janey, Why Won’t You, and Too High to Die were impressively filtered into the latter part of their set, and when considering the pace of their numbers and the overclocked vitality of their performance, I was amazed that they stayed standing by the end of it. With drinks and bodies alike flying through the air at the front of the stage, I can understand why they’re referred to as ‘New Zealand’s Most Dangerous Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ – while I can’t necessarily endorse that as a label, they are, as we saw last night, a dangerously addictive and damn good time.

~Oxford Lamoureaux

Click any image to view a gallery of each band. All photos thanks to Todd Buchanan

The Cavemen



The Cavemen Setlist
Mentally Ill
Criminal Love
Stand by Your Ghoul
Lust For Evil
Don’t Know Why
Dead to Me
Juvenile Delinquent
I Hate Art
Elvis Is Alive
Fuck For Hate
Why Won’t You (Take Drugs With Me)
Death Row
At the Pub
Too High to Die

Ratso Setlist
Shut Your Face
Never Say
Living For Nothing
Mystery Case
Living Dead