At a time when people are bemoaning both the fact Adelaide often misses out on touring artists and the demise of the music festival, South Australia is actually doing some pretty interesting niche events. Next weekend lovers of Americana get the second instalment of the innovative and exciting Silver Raven Festival taking place at Turkey Flats Winery in the Barossa. And this long weekend saw SLEAZE BALL 2017.

Not to be confused with the legendary LGBQI rave parties of the past, but the ‘sleaze’ in Sleaze Ball’ is all about the kind of 1980’s LA Strip, metal and rock, that gave the world Motley Crue, LA Guns, Guns’n’Roses and so many more. It is a pretty specific style for a pretty specific audience, and one that doesn’t get too many events catering for them too often. In the USA that scene is still healthy and in Europe and Japan it is a way of life with massive festivals with ‘hair metal’ bands new and old playing to big crowds of people who love what some have dismissed as ‘poodle rock’.

Sleaze Ball is a labour of love for local metal fan Lindsay Bulach, whose love for this music and the bands that make it have seen him travel the world extensively to see these bands, but along the way get to know and become friends with many of them too. Which is how a small sleaze rock event had acts from Sweden and South Africa flying in for exclusive Australian sets. It was doubling as birthday celebrations for both Lindsay and his wife and it was a pretty great party all round.

First up tonight is Don Cobra, lead vocalist of South African sleaze rockers LA Cobra who have been around since 2005. Word is that Cobra, was so taken with the idea of Sleaze Ball he paid his own way here to be part of it. It was a good solid 40 minute set of acoustic versions of his own bands songs and a couple of covers. Next up local glamsters Laced in Lust pulled a MTV Unplugged style set, but dressed in leather pants and military hat lead singer Torsen Steel (I think that’s his real name) can barely sit on his stool as his writhes around to the music.

These guys have been playing around Australia since 2012 and have just returned from their first European tour. They are a tight outfit and clearly this crowd knows their songs like the sing-a-long Lip Service and Firing Lines. They also throw in a couple of covers including a great take on The Letter originally a hit for The Boxtops in 1967. Next is the reason that people had travelled from Melbourne, and even a couple flew in from Europe. Crashdiet are from Stockholm Sweden and I am not sure what it is about those Scandinavian territories that breeds such a strong history of melodic rock. I’m thinking of bands like The Hives, Hellacopters, Turbonegro, Crucified Barbara even two stringed bass rockers D.A.D. going back to the 80’s.

There is a the raw rock sound but with a distinct pop sensibility that is often missing in US rockers. In an interview I did with The Hives once they suggested that Scandinavian countries have a massive tradition of folk music and that some of that may inform peoples preferences when making music wether the band sound like Abba or Norwegian death metal. Crashdiet formed in 2000 and have had a crazy rock’n’roll ride from the start, complete with highs, lows and tragedy.

After recording initial demos and making them available on their website they’d started gaining a large following, but broke up in 2002. By the following year they had regrouped with only vocalist Dave Lepard from the first version of the band. Peter London on bass, Eric Young on drums and Martin Sweet on guitar. The new version of Crashdiet released an EP and a debut album Rest in Sleaze, which did well in Sweden and saw them play at Download in the UK. In January 2006 Dave Lepard committed suicide after a bout of depression.

Initially the band broke up, but at with the support of Lepards family they decided to continue and have released three more album (with two different lead singers). Bulach was a fan from the very earliest days and has become friends with the band and Lepard’s family. So when his wife secretly floated the idea of them coming out for Sleaze Ball 2017, the guys were very enthusiastic, despite not currently having a singer. The compromise was that London & Young agreed to come and do an acoustic set. It was enough for sleaze fans to travel to Adelaide instead of the other way round for a change.

Their set was warmly received and they were quick to enlist Don Cobra to sing with them on several songs and even got Bulach up to sing with them too, briefly making him the lead singer in one of his favourite bands. It did seem a bit strange that a sleaze/metal show should have three acts playing acoustic sets at first. But the crowd was enthusiastic and the sets were all terrific. Next up was the first show back for Adelaide bad boys Generation Swine. They cranked up the volume and energy levels and there were many people here to see them. People knew all the songs, sang along, cheered as each new song started. Fuel N’Fire was a biggie and they did a killer version of The Cult’s Lil Devil. At one stage they invite a bunch of people on the stage and people are going crazy in particular guy (possibly somebody’s dad) in his 60’s who is completely embracing his inner Axl Rose.

To wind things up Sisters Doll crank things up to the next level. These guys are ticking all the glam/sleaze rock boxes. The big banner with their logo, Spandex, make-up, big hair, high kicks, big jumps, lots of twirling round, pointing at the audience and they are riff-tastic rockin’ pop outfit. They’ve been together seven years, and as they all look like they have just turned 17 they must have been dodging the pyro when they were still in nappies! Like the bands that inspired them when growing up (KISS, Crue, etc) they rock out and have great tunes too.

In 2016 they got to the last five acts on Australia’s Got Talent, a show I would’ve watched to see these cats kicking the dust off that reality show. I am sure there are some who might accuse them of being a pastiche, but they are great musicians with super catchy songs, in the same way The Darkness manage to wear their influences and still make valid music of their own. They prance and pose for the camera phones, as people sing along with Dollhouse and Great Day To Be Alive. Their energy is infectious and they are top notch. Towards the end of the set they invite Cobra, London and Young and members of all the other bands, fans and family up on stage and smash through Crashdiet’s Chemical from their Generation Wild album.

Over at the merch desk, Sisters Doll had taken another page from the Kiss playbook and has Sisters Doll vinyl, drumsticks, posters, guitar picks, etc for sale. All the bands hung out after the show having a drink, signing stuff and doing photos. It was a pretty tippy top night all round. Roll on Sleaze Ball 2018 I say.

Review by Ian Bell