Boris @ Max Watt’s, Melbourne, Friday 10 June (as part of Rising Festival)
Images by Ian Laidlaw

When earplugs are highly recommended upon entry (they’re available for purchase at the bar for $2), that speaks volumes, right?

A highlight of Rising’s Japan In Focus music program, this particular Boris 30th Anniversary show promises the unrelenting glory of this experimental doom-rock trio’s 2002 record, Heavy Rocks – performed in full with special guest guitarist Tokie – plus a smattering of bonus cuts from their enduring back catalogue (latest count: 29 albums!).

As vocalist/bassist Takeshi, lead guitarist/vocalist Wata, drummer/percussionist Atsuo and guest guitarist Tokie arrive on stage, our eager-beaver anticipation levels peak and we feel like we’re about to test out the most thrilling rollercoaster ever invented. And when Atsuo signals showtime by banging his gong, we jump out of our skin before strapping in for the ride.

Boris boast effortless, Ramones-level swagger – they’re cool AF! – and we wish to commission a Shag illustration of them for the pool room immediately. Actually, was Bowie imagining Takeshi when he penned the following lyrics: “Like some cat from Japan/ He could lick ’em by smiling/ He could leave ’em to hang…”?

Woman on stage playing guitar

The crowd resembles that Laughing Clowns arcade game – mouths agape, heads turning from one musician to the next as if searching for a clue that’ll help unpack the sludgy goodness that oozes through the gazillion amps stacked up high on stage. While making wide-eyed eye contact with other revellers, we instantly form a mutual Boris admiration society: “HOW GOOD IS THIS!?”

Formed in Tokyo back in 1992 and named after a song by their grunge heroes Melvins, Boris are experts at escalating from a simmering, menacing drone to ear-shattering, internal-organ-rearranging propulsive noise – and then back again – in a heartbeat.

Dyna-Soar’s barely contained chaos makes every single hair on our bodies stand on end. Bass rumbles through the soles of our feet and explodes through our chests like we’re somehow being rebooted from the inside out. Set highlight Rattlesnake’s arrangement ducks and weaves – a riff sparring match.

The amount of smartphones held aloft around the venue throughout set’s duration can be counted on the fingers of one hand, which is exactly the kind of undivided attention Boris deserve.

Tokie contributed additional bass on Boris’s killer 2021 single Reincarnation Rose, which is included within the band’s three-song encore this evening.

Experiencing the majesty of Boris live – any time, anywhere – is a guaranteed life highlight. Be sure not to miss this Japanese phenomenon next time they grace our shores.

Read our review of Sampa the Great’s recent RISING Festival performance at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre!