Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
November 9th, 2019
Supports: Bugs, The Gooch Palms and The Hard Aches
Most Aussie music fans my age have a Grinspoon story; a time in their formative years where they saw them and have fond memories. Judging by the number of guys that had their arms around each other, singing every song at the band’s show on Saturday night, there are a lot of people who would agree. Side note; seeing guys getting affectionate with their mates at gigs is so bloody wholesome, even if they are drunk. I know society is finally catching up and letting males be affectionate with each other, so I hope to see more of it extending to outside of gigs. My story is that when I was 13, I went to the Rockhampton Music Bowl and saw them. I found myself in my first (and only) mosh pit, something I didn’t know existed. At the time, I thought it was fun to lose my footing, and my friends and I joked that we “almost died”. The “punk” guys we met that day were impressed that I knew the words to ‘Just Ace’ because apparently, that was rare for a girl (eye-roll). These fond memories meant that dancing to ‘Just Ace’ and all of Grinspoon’s bangers nearly 20 years later was such a blast.
Saturday night was my first gig at the new music hall, and I know much has been written about it already so I won’t say much, but I was so impressed. It is so big and pretty, and the sound quality is incredible.
First up was Brisbane locals Bugs who I was excited to catch finally. Playing to a relatively small crowd didn’t slow them down, and their energy was contagious straight away. The band bill their sound as carefree, infectiously happy guitar pop and I would say that’s bang on. Their friendship and love for each other is evident, and it was such a pleasure to watch three mates have a great time together while also playing catchy songs. I love their songs ‘Something’s Bound To Go Bad’ and ‘Seriously’ which is getting a fair bit of radio play, and these were great live. Bugs were such a wholesome, enjoyable way to start a gig. I can’t wait to catch them again soon and enjoy their imminent rise to the top.
Now I am going to be honest here and say that The Gooch Palms aren’t usually my thing. Absolutely no shade, it is just that intensely Australian punk isn’t something I am all that into- different strokes for different folks. In saying that, I really enjoyed their set. They took the energy that Bugs had built and ramped it up a bit more. I like their formula of Kat Friend on the drums and Leroy MacQueen on the florescent pink guitar, and even though there is only two of them, they make a lot of noise. Their songs are about taboos like periods and mental breakdowns which I also like. It was fun to yell along with the feminist chorus in ‘Busy Bleeding’. Friend also has a drink holder on her drum kit for easy access to beer, which truly encapsulates Aussie punk.
Next up was Adelaide’s The Hard Aches. Usually a two-piece, they have had rad bass players joining them for this tour, and Vlada Edrippulige who played with them on Saturday was no exception. With a brace on her knee, the band explained that she had recently torn her ACL and shouldn’t even be on stage. The injury didn’t slow her down though and I wince thinking about the pain she would have been in afterwards. I like what The Hard Aches are about; they play good, honest rock that tells a story, are vegan and talk about mental health. I can’t help but imagine they are incredibly lovely humans. Every band mentioned that they all had become best friends on the fun tour and that was evident when The Gooch Palms came back on stage to wish The Hard Aches’ Drummer Alex Upton a happy birthday and make him shotgun a beer. While I did enjoy this set, it wasn’t anything new or unique; just good old, standard rock and roll. I did see that there were quite a few fans of the band getting into the heartfelt lyrics and maybe if I were a bit more of a fan, I would have been too. I am definitely not saying that there was anything wrong with The Hard Aches’ set, it just failed to wow me and it wasn’t anything different.
Maybe it was also that the crowd was starting to fill up with one some of the most interesting people I have seen at a show in a while and it was starting to get rowdy where I was standing. When I say interesting, I use it for want of a better word. It was a real mix of different ages, some Stereosonic attending type guys, older women and many a Bundy rum drinker.
With The Hard Aches finished, a white curtain with a projected pink heart came down and covered the stage in mystery, it was time for the headliners. Grinspoon burst onto the stage starting with ‘DCx3’ from their first album Guide to Better Living, followed by ‘Lost Control’, ‘Sickfest’ and ‘Just Ace’. Four insane, well known and loved, fast songs to get the night started and the crowd lost their shit from early on. The set was a massive 22 songs long, and a vast majority came from the band’s earliest albums, seven songs from Guide to Better Living and six from Easy. These songs have stood the test of time, they may be simple at times in their lyrics, but even though they are from 1997 and 1999, they hold up against the newer songs and sound like they could have been written recently.
Highlights came with well-known hits ‘Hard Act to Follow’, ‘No Reason’ and the “lighters up, arms around your mates”, ‘Better Off Alone’. Ever the showman, frontman Phil Jamieson was fabulous, flamboyant and energetic, he danced and jumped around the stage like someone twenty years younger. He also did a sneaky disappearing act during instrumental ‘Overdriver’, leaving the rest of the band to rock out on stage while he appeared at the back of the room. He stayed at this smaller stage to play ‘Sweet As Sugar’ solo. I know there have been times in the past where Grinspoon was perhaps a bit messy, and Jamieson is rumoured to have performed quite intoxicated at times. But they have passed over into respectful older musician territory while their energy made it feel like they hadn’t aged at all. They were tight and polished, and while Jamieson was the performing frontman we know and love, he didn’t overshadow the rest of the band. The band bounced off each other, and again it was like watching old mates having a great time together. I also really liked that Jamieson and guitarist Pat Davern were constantly checking in on punters in the front row to make sure they were ok and even breaking up a fight. The offending punter was told it was a show of love, not war and sent on their way with a “fuck off and take our shirt off” from Jamieson.
The set ended with their fantastic cover of INXS’ ‘Don’t Change’ before the band came back to play the tour namesake ‘Chemical Heart’. Hard hitters ‘Champion’ and ‘More Than You Are’, finished the encore with the band going out the way they started, in an absolute fury. This was a very professional set with fancy lights and confetti that came from cannons at the end, but the band and the songs held up and would have been incredible without the fancy trimmings.
Grinspoon has proven once again that they belong in Aussie hearts as a beloved band but also that they stand up against the new kids on the block, both sonically and performance-wise. My Thirty-two-year-old self had just as much fun, if not more, than my thirteen-year-old self did all those years back. I’ve used this word several times, but the whole night was incredibly wholesome, and I came away feeling like all of the bands were my new found mates.
Gig Review By Caitlin MacDonald @caitmacca
- DC X 3
- Lost Control
- Just Ace
Hard Act to Follow
Better Off Alone
Better Off Dead
Sweet As Sugar
Bad Funk Stripe
Post Enebriated Anxiety
More Than You Are
Revisit Grinners frontman Phil Jamieson co-hosting our Wall of Sound: Up Against the Wall podcast right here
The Hard Aches
The Gooch Palms