A Day On The Green
Josef Cromy Wines, Launceston TAS
March 10th, 2018
Featuring: The Living End, Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, Tumbleweed and The Fauves
And now, time for another instalment of “that one guy who moved to Tasmania tries fervently to justify his decision by attending rock shows”. This time, we have A Day On The Green, a national touring festival that takes the best of the touring festival formula, and then dumps it into venues all around the country – in this case, Josef Chromy Winery, located about 20 minutes south of Launceston. I’ll be up front here: as far as settings for a full day of rock music (and, as one could reasonably expect, the large quantities of booze the punters consumed), this place certainly ranks up there on the “holy crap that’s a winner” charts.
One thing you don’t really realise when you’re from Hobart is quite how far Launceston is when you’ve got a full day of running around in the sun like a maniac with your entire camera kit ahead. For those playing the home game, it’s about 3 hours at questionably legal speeds far. I’m not certain how that works when it’s only 200km away, but this place seems to warp time in very weird ways.
After an interesting morning of getting my credentials, we all shuffle into the venue to be greeted by the lone stage standing in the middle of an amphitheatre-like field beside a small lake like a neon-glowing monolith. The setup is broken up into tiers – the frontal area is caged in and restricted for AAMI “Lucky Club” members (… and members of the press who are crafty with words, but we will ignore that fact – Ed.), offering them the best views and proximity to the stage. For rest of the punters who weren’t quite so lucky (lolpuns), there’s a pair of stageside screens set up, and an extra series of speakers projecting into the aether from behind the mixing tent. It’s actually a pretty interesting setup, because it offers two vastly different, entirely visceral experiences depending on where you find yourself. It also seems to demark two very different groups of audience members as well – one very relaxed and generally there for a chilled out bottle of wine (and they were consuming them by the bottle), and the other, well… let’s just say the absence of a 1500-strong mosh pit was a surprise as much as it was a blessing.
On the stage we’re greeted by the DJ for the event, one “Grandmaster Bates”, dressed as a tennis ball boy – and of course there was quips about him interfering with balls at the Australian Open, which thankfully seemed to go over the children in the crowd’s heads. He’s throwing down some classic 90s rock jams, getting everybody suitably set for the upcoming acts.
After a little bit of hubbub, The Fauves arrive onto the stage.
For the unfamiliar, The Fauves were very much a product of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their sound sits comfortably along with their contemporaries Custard and Machine Gun Fellatio, finding reasonably frequent airplay on a national broadcast station of some note with songs like, “Dogs Are The Best People” and, “Self Abuser”. Their lyrics are witty, and their riffs are catchy. And of course, they’re not unfamiliar to playing festivals, having played the likes of Big Day Out.
Their sound is a nice way to ease into the day, offering a bit of quirky rock to placate the as-yet unimpressive number in attendance. Conservatively, there is maybe 400 in the venue, far short of the thousands which were to arrive later in the day. That has an upshot for them – it offers them an opportunity to engage in banter they may not otherwise had the chance to, and seems to put them noticeably at ease about the whole deal.
They burn through a set of catchy and nostalgic tunes, with a “little bit of sexy”, courtesy of guitarist/vocalist, Phil “Doctor” Leonard. Given the reasonable number of children in attendance, and their occasionally objectionable lyrical content, they sanitise their set for a more family-friendly appeal, and it seems to work well.
All in all, they sounded pretty much exactly like they did coming out of the speakers of the radio during the height of their success. Is that good or bad? I’ll let you be the judge. I enjoyed the set.
Tumbleweed are a band I was introduced to pretty early on in my formative years, courtesy of my older brother’s mate Russell (a musician himself, and incidentally, the son of my one-time guitar teacher). I remember being treated to albums like Galactaphonic and Mumbo Jumbo pretty often, mixed in amongst all of the other stoner sludge miscellanea I was being offered at the time. To say that upbringing had no lasting impact would be a severe misjudging of history.
They were pretty much the darlings of every rock-listening bong enthusiast during the 90s, offering the same riffs and heavy beats that Seattle was putting out at the time, but with lyrics that are somewhat more relevant to the chemically disaffected. And by that, I mean not really relevant to much at all. When you see them in the flesh, it’s not hard to see why: they look every bit the part of languid, hard-tune-playing, questionably sober rock lords.
I’d been looking forward to seeing these guys for a very long time, and let’s be honest, I’d pretty much given up all hope that it would ever happen. When I saw they were playing ADOTG, it was one of the first things that drew me to the festival. Getting to see them within inches was next level.
They didn’t disappoint.
The most critical thing that I can say is that it’s almost a shame to see them while stone sober. That really isn’t a bad thing – they sound exactly like Tumbleweed did, do, and will, including the obligatory Marley being cranked off in the crowd somewhere. The waves of nostalgia were satisfying. Genuinely, they put on an excellent show, covering their best-known tracks (Daddy Long Legs, Hang Around, Silver Lizard, and Acid Rain amongst them), as well as some lesser-known offerings.
Were they everything I expected after like two and a half decades of listening? It’s hard to say. But what they were, it was certainly satisfying.
Oooooooooh boy. I’ve been dreading writing this part of the review for fully two days now. I’ve been tossing up the most professional way to approach it, because on one hand, I want to let loose and tear shreds off of vocalist/guitarist Evan Dando for his conduct while myself and several other photographers were in the pit, but on the other hand, as a band, they didn’t actually play badly. It’s a hard line to walk down when one member ruins a set for you – especially when you rather like the band (It’s A Shame About Ray was essential listening for me during the early 2000s).
For the first few minutes of our engagement as media representatives, the set proceeded as expected – we all walk around the pit and trade positions, trying to get the best coverage that we can to make the band look good. That emphasised bit there is of fairly critical significance to what we do; we are there for the purpose of telling others to go and see whatever band we are shooting, thereby ensuring their careers proceed.
For the unfamiliar, most press engagements will see you given the first three songs from the press pit in order to make the shots you need to for your quota. Depending on the artist, this can mean needing to hit a pretty high keeper ratio, and occasionally being a pain in the arse for those involved. It’s a thankless job, and in most instances you’re treated with a level of disdain from all corners. This, however, was the first time that disdain spewed over into verbal abuse from a performer.
Before the third song had ended, he moved away from the mic and yelled at us to leave the pit, “Three! GO! That’s three, you’ve had three, GET OUT!”, as though we were the only adults in attendance incapable of counting on one hand. There was more – some of it into the mic – but within a fraction of a second I went from enjoying what I was doing to a blinding, seething rage peppered with four letter words.
Sometimes you do lose track of time, it’s a fact of the job – I’ve had occasions where the distinction between two songs is next to absent, occasioning you to stay for four. In this case, I’m all but certain that wasn’t what occurred. And even if it was… dude, be a fucking adult.
It worked out in my favour though, I pretty much spent the rest of the event getting high fives and cheers and hugs and selfies taken with me by punters who thought he was a dick. It was like I’d spontaneously become an event celebrity. One even said, “Don’t let it get to you, he’s a fuckwit and he’ll be dead in five years anyway.” Suffice to say, I wasn’t the only one it rubbed the wrong way.
Still, despite that, they did play well. They did sound good. They were tight. It’s just a shame five seconds can ruin an hour worth of living up to two decades’ of expectations.
Hailing from one of my favourite cities on the planet, Chicago, Veruca Salt are one of those bands you really have to see live. They know how to control a crowd exceptionally well, rocking just as hard now as they did two decades ago. And the audience responds in kind, swelling in an ebb and flow of surge towards the fence with a torrent of arms and bodies.
Their sound isn’t especially dissimilar to their fellow female-fronted outfit, Hole, a band they supported in the early days and were helped to be sent into fame by. Actually, come to think of it, they sound a fair bit like a lot of lady-fronted bands of the time (put your pitchforks and torches down, they sound similar in the same way Nirvana and Pearl Jam did during the 90s… although the former don’t sound like much outside of that decade I guess). It was an aesthetic of bold, female empowerment that permeated a very male-centric industry and it put those involved on notice that girls could do it just as well, and rock just as hard.
That aesthetic is teeming from the stage for this set. Vocalist/guitarists Louise Post and Nina Gordon ooze this sense of boldness to easily show up the other bands who have come before them, and drive the audience in the same way albums like American Thighs and Eight Arms To Hold You did two decades ago. Post drives the crowd with rhythmic arm movements, beckoning the audience closer.
They actually sound better live. I’m not sure if it’s the kindness of the passage of time allowing them to hone their performance to a level they didn’t have when they were new, or if I’m captured by the fact they’re another I really wanted to see, or some other unknown quantity, but whatever it is, it’s working.
The double vocals tear around the amphitheatre and reverberate off of the hedgerows of the vineyard and the lake beside the stage, enveloping us in this electric feeling. Apparently we weren’t the only ones, as Gordon apparently is receiving shocks via her guitar. They have to stop one song halfway into the intro as a result – the contrition and embarrassment doesn’t go unnoticed. The song starts again, and all is forgiven very quickly.
The beautiful thing about their sound in such a venue is that you can actually feel the crunchy distortion rattle around inside of your spine. It almost sweeps you off of your feet, taking you to a place where you’re lost in a rhythmic groove. I like it.
It’s hard to say if it was the set of the day, but it sure as hell put in a good argument for that title.
Spiderbait are actually the only band on the bill I’ve seen previously – when I was a mere teenager of 17 years of age at one of the now-notorious Skinny’s in-store shows. For those of us lucky enough to reach our teens in Brisbane in the early 2000s, this place was the scene of what became in my mind some of the best gigs around. The price was hard to argue with (… is free a price?), and it made music accessible to the young punters of the scene.
That gig has stuck with me for many years. Not least of which because Kram gave us a half-consumed tallie of VB that he’d signed, which the local constabulary promptly made us donate to the nearest bin. Bastards. But also, because they sounded, to borrow the name of a song they’d just released at the time, Fucking Awesome.
Fast forward a healthy decade and a half, and here I find myself in another state, as a bona-fide adult (I’m nearly 31, but that’s mere formality). It turns out Kram is in fact just as loose a unit as he was all those years ago, as became obvious within moments of his entry onto the stage. The crowd is at what can only be described as fever pitch, almost certainly having similar recollections of the outfit to my own. They’ve been around long enough now that everybody knows what to expect, and if they don’t, well… the fact that the bandleader looks like the bastard child of John Bonham and Lemmy should be a fair indicator of it.
The entire amphitheater is going, to put it bluntly, apeshit. They sound incredible. Everybody is having a bloody good time. This is what we are here for.
They actually got pretty lucky with their set time, because it happened that not long after they began, the sun started to set behind the hills of the vineyard, bathing the entire venue in a beautiful golden light. It made shooting kinda hard (ever tried to balance several very rapidly changing light sources with moments available to adjust as needed so you can capture several very rapidly moving subjects? No? Summarily: don’t), but my god it was beautiful. It was this overwhelming experience, and I know this because I wept a little bit. Although, in hindsight, that may have just been the onset of delirium and exhaustion as much as anything else. For official purposes, though, we’ll say it was what I was seeing rather than how I was seeing it.
About halfway through the set, we’re suddenly being serenaded by what can only be described as “a rather protracted jam session”, then the familiarity of a tune from our youth emerges: the lyrics to 99 Luftballons, in perfect German, carry their way through the revelers bathed in dwindling light. Truly, it is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.
They creep through the rest of the set crossing off nostalgia-winners, closing out with their hit rendition of Ram Jam’s Black Betty. That’s hardly a surprise to anybody.
It’s been a lot of years between drinks seeing them, and none of the fondness of my nostalgia has been lost. What an absolute cracker.
The Living End
This is pretty much why most folks are here, and rightly so. I’ve missed out on seeing them so many times over the years, and it’s always stung because I’ve always been curious to see how vocalist/guitarist, Chris Cheney’s skills translated into a live show. HO LEE SCHIT. This boy can play. His virtuosity is demonstrated at many points throughout the set, but it doesn’t take long before everybody there is all too aware of the fact he’s on maximum attack. We’re also all aware of the fact that he’s pretty much at the top of the list when it comes to talented, home-grown popular artists.
As with the rest of their co-conspirators, they sound more or less like they were cracked out of a chunk of ice, circa 1999, and thrown onto the stage. Although one can’t help but wonder just how many Cheney has had to drink over the course of the tour… my guess is “several”. He makes mention of it being “the best [he’s] felt since this time last night”, alluding to what he described as a pretty vicious hangover. This leads into a bit of banter between the boys, posing the question, “Who has the best job in the world?”
We’re taken through all points of their illustrious career, touching on many old classics that helped make them the winningest band in Hottest 100 history, through to newer offerings – including their new track, Drop The Needle. It’s pretty bloody good, I’m definitely keen to hear it committed to record (which will be out soon I’m lead to believe). The songs are treated with a careful hand, avoiding too much embellishment or superfluous wankery that they don’t deserve to be lambasted with.
From within the depths of the crowd, the mood is very obviously exhausted – by this point, it’s been getting on for 9 hours in the rather angry sun –ask me how I know– and keeping up the pace is becoming difficult. Of course, then, the most energetic rockabilly interlude imaginable was exactly what we needed.
In the back of the venue, we’re instructed to, “make some fucking noise”, a command Cheney apologises to the children in attendance by saying, “Fuck, I’m sorry for swearing kids, but I really just want to hear the fucking back make some noise!” That provides a great segue for the entry into one of their most recent hits, White Noise. We’ve only got so much energy left in us, but we’ll grant them this. It sounds so huge bouncing around the vineyard, off into the deepening black of the sky.
To wind out the set, we’re taken to where it all began: Second Solution and Prisoner of Society. The crowd, one last time, goes absolutely apeshit.
And that’s the end of that – one of the greatest sets we’re likely to ever see.
The People of Tasmania
This festival was as much an anthropological experience for me as it was a musical one – it was my first major festival, and my first solo trip to the north of the island.
The people at the event were awesome. I’m not sure if it was the fact of what happened during Lemonheads that did it, or the fact that I was a fat bloke with an afro in an outrageously bright, fluro orange Hawaiian shirt that did it, but people seemed to love me… in some cases, perilously close to literally. It’s some time since I’ve heard the words, “Do you fuck on first dates?”, but it for some reason wasn’t an uncommon theme for the day.
I am probably on about 50 different phones in selfies that people asked for with me, my arms hurt from so many high fives and hugs, I can almost remember how to dance after being danced with a lot, and so many people took the time out to talk to me about what I was doing. It was a genuinely brilliant time.
Will I do it again next year if I get the chance? Well… where do I sign up?
The Living End