The music is deafening. It thunders from the speakers on stage and pounds into your head.
Bathed in a red spotlight, a tall, bald man performs a convulsive dance. His face, saturated in sweat, is distorted as he sings his angry words."Apathy rolling on. Time to take a stand. Redneck Wonderland," sings Peter Garrett, lead singer of Midnight Oil, one of Australia's most successful and politicized rock bands.
Midnight Oil is touring Australia, not just the capital cities but the soccer clubs and small town hotels of middle Australia, promoting its latest CD, "Redneck Wonderland," which has a kangaroo toting a rifle on the cover.
Garrett, 45, says "Redneck Wonderland" is taken from a piece of graffiti and warns of what Australia could become as racism and the far-right "scapegoat" politics of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party are fanned across the country.
Midnight Oil has been Australia's musical conscience for two decades. Garrett, a lawyer listed among a group of 100 prominent people as a "Living Treasure" by the National Trust of Australia, has been at the forefront of campaigns for the environment, disarmament and civil liberties.
"One of Midnight Oil's roles is to be social critic and to reflect against those things we believe are hostile to our idea of Australia," he told Reuters in an interview.
"We didn't set out to write a tough record , it just happened by osmosis - we absorbed the events of the day and produced a record which was highly charged," he said. "There is an urgent need to renew our national focus and recognize our national strength of being a tolerant and diverse immigrant society that has no truck with old-world racism and paranoia."
Australia is at a pivotal time in its history, Garrett says, and must exorcise its racist demons and agree on a new national identity for the 21st century. He sees anti-Hanson street protests and pro-Aboriginal rallies as good signs.