Built in 1915, Logan Square Auditorium has played host to a massive number of events—from weddings to performances, even wrestling matches—in all its storied years. But while there’s no ring or referee in sight, tonight’s headliners, Melbourne four-piece Amyl and the Sniffers, are nonetheless laying an epic smackdown on the historic Chicago ballroom. For all of the chaotic punk and metal shows that have called this place home, it rarely sees a band go so hard that the floorboards start to shake. Amyl and the Sniffers might have given this venue its most ferocious crowd ever.
The atmosphere of the show—part of the band’s almost entirely sold-out North American tour—is as chaotic and festive as the wild rainbow of colored lights projected across the ornately plastered walls and ceilings. While the floor bounces rhythmically, dancers, moshers, and stage divers cut loose to Amyl’s blistering mix of punk, garage, hard rock, and hardcore, intensifying during their most aggressive cuts, such as “Choices,” off their 2021 album, Comfort to Me. Everything is loud, hot, and sweaty—and it feels fucking great. If the crowd is trying to make up for some of the good times they lost to the pandemic, the Sniffers are their commanders in chief. There’s drummer Bryce Wilson pounding the ever-loving crap out of his kit; bassist Gus Romer firing up the crowd with calls to “get rowdy” between songs; and guitarist Declan Martens, whose vintage style gives the impression he time-traveled to the venue from 1985 to chug out loose but unflappable riffs.
At the center of the maelstrom is Amy Louise Taylor— the keeper of the namesake “Amyl,” which is also the inhalant over-the-counter drug known to many as “poppers.” Dressed in a crocheted bikini top, tiny denim cutoff shorts adorned with cherry appliques, and knee-high leather boots, she’s a pint-sized powerhouse. Add in her bleached hair, command of the crowd, onstage bodybuilder poses, and the previously mentioned chaos that ensues with audiences, and it wouldn’t be a massive stretch to confuse Amy Taylor with Ric Flair. With a toothy and mischievous grin, she zigzags across the stage, revving up the first few rows until a circle pit erupts, and taunts the much taller Martens—literally shaking him until he stoically unleashes an incendiary solo. If there were ever any question before, it is now totally evident: Amy was born to command the stage. She’s the Energizer Bunny, the “Rebel Girl” Kathleen Hanna pined for as a BFF, and arguably the first punk singer since the Gits’ Mia Zapata (R.I.P.) to so expertly fuse hardcore fury and riotous rock ’n’ roll with moments of self-deprecating humor and disarming vulnerability (such as on “Knifey,” a vivid depiction of trying to get home safe at night when you’re alone and female).
The crowd eats it all up, and after the Sniffers discharge their final song of the night—an explosive version of “Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)”—the energy spills out into the Chicago streets, with a couple of concertgoers pausing to etch graffiti onto the venue walls on their way down the stairs.