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Wednesday, 16 March 2016 |
A Day On The Green
I could scarcely believe it when the lineup was announced for this years 'A Day On The Green' at the picturesque Rochford Winery. Five (count them...FIVE!) seminal 80’s acts on the one stage. Who would have believed that a quarter of a century after they first hit the big time, all five bands featured today are not only still together (and talking to each other), but moreover, are still able to muster their respective counterparts and put on a show that genuinely piques the punter’s interest? Whoever dreamed this lineup into fruition deserves to be amply rewarded for their level of confidence and conviction. As the saying goes, "build it, and they will come”.
And so it is. Despite a slight chance of rain and overcast skies, the truly heartwarming vision of over 8,000 devotees gathering on Rochfords gentle incline, in mutual appreciation of great 80’s Aussie rock music is something to celebrate. We find ourselves luxuriating in what can only be described as a very chilled and inclusive vibe.
The main screen occasionally flashes up a few friendly tips about what respectful picnic blanket layouts should look like and to everybody’s credit, decorum and awareness prevail, resulting in plenty of room to stretch out and manoeuvre from one area to another.
Many music lovers have chosen to bring their kids along – some now teenagers and some still only waist high. I spot plenty of very understated and yet cool music t-shirts worn by punters who look like they could actually have been present when their favourite band, featured today, first played the live circuit. The gent next to me fairly beams when I compliment him on his ‘Television Addicts' T-Shirt.
As my friend remarked, “everyone's got a bit older and cuddlier, but it doesn’t matter in the least, does it? Actually, it gives us all some hard-earned credibility!” And she’s spot on. Those loose-fitting clothes that hide the beer gut, the long black tops that slim down the love handles, those quirky hats that hide the receding hairline, and those wrinkles on once youthful faces – in actuality, magically seem to disappear once the music starts.
As I sit here surveying the layout of this years 'A Day On The Green', the first thing I notice is how good the camera work and sound is. I’ve been to a few similar gigs at Rochford now, and this is by far the best I’ve seen the setup. Everything has been well considered... Security are easily discernable in their flouro orange vests but there is no attitude and they maintain a low key presence and spend most of the time enjoying the day as much as the punters, which is a tribute to the organisers and the kind of crowd that is here today. The resident DJ who I recognise from previous events, 'Grand Master Baitz', is on point today with his sets, which deftly carry the momentum and vibe. They feature moving tributes to David Bowie, George Martin, Jon English and Keith Emerson. The mixes are well considered and every song meets with the crowd’s resounding approval.
Seeming to take his cue from the happy crowd – a very relaxed and casual Simon Day of Ratcat takes the stage to kick off proceedings. Joined by Nic Dalton (ex member of The Lemonheads, Sneeze, Godstar, The Plunderers and more) on bass and Reuben Alexander on drums. A smiling Simon launches into the instrumental 'Overdrive' which is followed by ‘Don’t Go In The Water’, 'Yes I Wanna Go’ and ‘Racing’. Occasionally he turns his back on the audience and lurches at his amps eliciting more feedback for his guitar solos.
The trio sound superb. I close my eyes and I could swear it's the Ratcat of old. But like all fine wine, it passes by in a flash and seemingly within minutes the lads have raced through an 11 song set finishing up with crowd favourites 1991’s ‘Don’t Go Now’ and 1990’s ‘That Ain’t Bad’ – which, during it’s ‘Yeah-eah-eah-eah' refrain, sounds more Ramones than the Ramones!
Don't Go in the Water
Yes I Wanna Go
She's a Gas
Run and Hide
Don't Go Now
That Ain't Bad
A brief DJ set ensues before the next band hit the stage. Now it’s the turn of the mighty 'Died Pretty’. The last time I recall seeing them was 8 years ago for The 'Back-to-Back Album Series' at the Forum Theatre, where they performed their classic ‘Doughboy Hollow’ in it’s entirety. It was a screamer of a set and my hopes are high for at least some of those songs tonight.
Ron Peno saunters onstage resplendent in his trademark black shirt and tartan trousers – a definite sign he means business from the get-go. The band are all there, and it brings great joy to see the other lynchpin of the trademark Died Pretty sound, Brett Meyers bent double over his black and white Strat, playing out those trademark solo’s.
From the very first salvos of ‘Stop Myself’, 'Harness Up’ and ‘DC' the boys are here to stake their claim in no uncertain terms. Ron, as we’ve come to expect, is putting everything into his performance and within minutes is crimson as he squeezes every last note out. He is truly an enigma. There are times during some songs where it sounds like he couldn’t possibly have anything left in the tank – and that his voice isn’t going to last the set – and then the very next number he comes back stronger and more powerful than ever.
The roving camera work is stellar and we see great angles of every band member, especially John Hoey's keyboard solos which are an often overlooked aspect of this band. Great stuff.
A little bit of serendipity ensues when they play the second to last song in the set. It’s ‘Godbless’ – a track that has become their unofficial homage to the very band that are due to follow them on stage tonight. The crowd pick up on the significance and bellow the pertinent lines back to the band… "So here I am, alone with you...The Sunnyboys? - God bless them, And God bless yooooooooou!” It is a spine-tingling moment and is worth the price of admission alone.
The boys choose ‘Winterland ‘ to finish the set and Ron switches it up a notch, lurching into his best wriggling contorted ‘Iggy Pop’ impression, as he once again looses himself in the spiralling crescendo of the song. (It is no surprise then that I am later informed that way back in 1977, when he was singing in an early Sydney punk band The Hellcats – he was known as 'Ronnie Pop'! The similarities are uncanny.) It’s an epic set once again from Died Pretty who have never disappointed whenever I’ve been blessed enough to catch one of their very infrequent live shows.
Apparently they are due to play a sold out show at Max Watt’s in Melbourne next Friday 18th March. After seeing this performance, I’m insanely jealous of those who have managed to secure a ticket. It’ll be a show for the ages.
Died Pretty’s setlist:
Sunnyboys are next on tonight’s bill and expectations are certainly running high. Died Pretty have just played a blinder. We hear a timely intro of The Beatles ‘Here Comes The Sun’ as the band take their positions on the stage. From the moment the band appear and Jeremy Oxley approaches the central microphone, the overwheming feeling of sincere warmth rising up from the delighted crowd that greets him is palpable. It’s like we're welcoming home a long-lost son… which in effect is not far from the truth. Jeremy’s 30-year battle with schizophrenia has been lovingly told in ’The Sunnyboy’ documentary which most fans here today will have seen.
Today, in somewhat of a sign, this same man triumphantly sports the loudest Sunflower long-sleeved top I have ever seen. I take it just to be another joyous indication of the new-found confidence and pleasure that he still manages to derive from live performance with his trusted and loving mates.
Tonight the usual lineup of Jeremy on lead, his brother Peter Oxley on bass and Richard Burgman on rhythm guitar are joined by Raphael Wittingham filling in on drums, as sadly Bill Bilson is sick. Alastair Spitz is also introduced on keys for a few songs.
I found myself absolutely blown away by the virtuosity of Jeremy when he took off on his solos. It was almost as if muscle memory from all those decades of playing these songs kicked in and he was away and flying. It was just a joy to behold. Richard spent most of the gig laughing and smiling at the punters below him in the audience. He too was having a ball, darting back and forth from stage lip to Jeremy and then the drum riser and back again.
One look at all their faces and I could see just how much these band of brothers are loving the dynamic of playing these songs live. Raphael was absolutely slaying it on drums. His tongue was hanging out by the end of ‘Happy Man’ though – obviously a tough one to get through unscathed! He is congratulated by Richard at the song's end – a definite vote of confidence in his ability from the rest of the band. All up an absolutely outstanding gig – personal highlights were ‘Alone with You’, Happy Man' and ‘Trouble in My Brain’ with extra bonus points for generously returning for an encore of ‘The Seeker’ which Jeremy visibly relished, guitar free for one whole song. At the end he was clearly ecstatic and held his arms aloft, fists clenched victorious…almost as if to say: "Yes! another smokin' gig! Sunnyboys’ are back!"
Love To Rule
Tunnel of Love
My Only Friend
Trouble in My Brain
No Love Around
What You Need
Alone With You
Show Me Some Discipline
Let You Go
You Need a Friend
Tomorrow Will Be Fine
The Violent Femmes
From the first notes of ‘Blister In The Sun’, Gano, Ritchie & Company effortlessly transport us back to those heady days once more – all the folks who actually WERE in the 'college crowd of 1983', when these songs were big hits the first time around, are immediately up and jumping about – uncannily like a bed of agitated ticks. All the musicians on stage are loving the opportunity to play this material live. Next to the slight and idiosyncratic Gordon Gano on lead vocals, Brian Ritchie casts an imposing presence, taking up every square metre of stage right. His phenomenally dexterous bass runs during legendary numbers like 'Kiss Off’ are delivered with an air of nonchalant gruffness and he brandishes his large acoustic bass like someone (or something) could quite possibly cop a clobbering any tick of the clock.
The sheer variety of instrumentation required to faithfully reproduce the Femmes brand of cacophony brings a gleeful smile to my dial. I spy the inevitable xylophones lying in wait, a tin whistle, and wooden box (makeshift second percussion item for Brian on some numbers) and also a very strange addition to John Sparrow's drum kit... on closer inspection, I notice it’s a shiny black Webber barbecue! During drum solos on tracks like 'Black Girls' a quick flurry on it’s domed lid produces an all too familiar 'clackety clack’ sound… the perfect foil for Ritchie’s rich warm full bass lines.
Tonight the normal Femmes lineup is bolstered by the addition of Jeff Hamilton and ’The Horns of Dilemma' which tonight happily features Jack Howard on trumpet (of The Hunters & Collectors) and a 24 year old saxophonist Blaise Garza who apparently has been playing with the band since he was 15. They are both lauded by Gano during their introductions – and by the looks on their faces – the feeling is very mutual.
The thing that strikes me about seeing these guys on stage tonight is just how much more powerfully potent the songs become when trotted out in the live setting. On record the compositions are whimsical and cute, but live, they become other beasts altogether. All of a sudden, when thrown over to a rampantly appreciative audience (who it should be noted can sing the songs back louder than the band), the ownership and impetus transfers momentarily – and we – the audience, get to take each one out for a spin – a bit like an unexpected burnout session on a buddy’s borrowed dirt bike. It’s all faux angst and attitude… and it’s great fun to boot.
Personal highlights are the openers ‘Blister In The Sun', 'Kiss Off', 'American Music', 'Gimme the Car', the legendary 'Gone Daddy Gone' with it’s characteristic 2 xylophone solos and the anthemic set closer ‘Add It Up’. All too soon, The Violent Femmes thank us profusely for being such a great audience and disappear into the Rochford night, leaving us all wanting more.
Violent Femmes setlist:
Blister in the Sun
Good For/At Nothing
Love Love Love Love Love
Country Death Song
I Could Be Anything
Old Mother Reagan
Gimme the Car
Jesus Walking on the Water
Gone Daddy Gone
Add It Up
The Hoodoo Gurus
By the time the Hoodoo Gurus come on stage in their stylishly dignified paisley shirts, there is barely any bums left on the grass, rugs or folding chairs – everybody’s on their feet, having been fully primed by the Violent Femmes stellar set. We all stand in readiness, in full expectation of a dance-filled set. The Gurus tonight ease us in with the teasing refrain of ‘Bittersweet’ which eventually kicks hard and then perfectly seques us into a 1-2 ’tenderiser' of ‘Tojo’ and 'Dig it Up’ (which Dave Faulkner thoughtfully dedicates to Jon English and Keith Emerson who had passed earlier today).
Lesser known ‘Head In The Sand’ is up next, which I ponder perhaps only the most fervent up the front are likely to recognise. Thankfully then it's back with three very familiar hits in the form of 'Poison Pen’, ’The Right Time’ and their first ever single – a love song penned to Dave’s greyhound: ‘My Girl’. This has always been one of my faves and tonight the rendition is tenderly played out. The set then diverts again into less familiar territory: ‘Axegrinder’ and ‘Crackin Up’, the first of which is clearly a fan request from the hardcore right up the front.
The crowd are quickly back in the palm of Faulkner’s hand as he dishes out ‘Death Defying’, ‘Come Anytime’ (which goes down a treat) and ‘Miss Freelove 69’ which features a brilliant customised video of 60’s Go-Go dancers – it really rocks hard, both visually and sonically.
Next up is probably one of the songs that Dave can be most proud of, in terms of melody: ‘1000 Miles Away’ is sublime and lulls us all into a melodious melancholy before he blindsides proceedings once again with the brutal rawness of 'I Was A Kamikaze Pilot’. This has all the faithful Stoneage Romeos stomping along in feverish abandonment.
Then just when I predict they’re going to bring it all home with one last string of powerful hits, Dave and the band wrong-foot us once again choosing instead to serve up the rarely played ‘Form a Circle’… it’s a fair call to say the party vibe diminished a tad.
But true to form, Faulkner knows his crowd and his material – and knows he could still deliver the knockout blow. I calculate the sly old fox still has two superb aces up his sleeve. And sure enough, as he sets us up for the fall with ‘What’s My Scene’ we begin to feel the first wobbles set in. As he follows it up with ‘Like Wow – Wipeout!’ the last thing we remember is the horizon faltering and the mat racing up to greet us. As predicted, the outright winner is Hoodoo Gurus by TKO in the 17th Round.
The Hoodoo Gurus setlist:
Dig It Up
Head in the Sand
The Right Time
Miss Freelove '69
1000 Miles Away
I Was a Kamikaze Pilot
Form a Circle
What's My Scene
Like Wow – Wipeout!
This years 'A Day On The Green' has surely been one of the most memorable lineups in my experience. Five amazing bands sharing so much musical history and yet still displaying such formidable sonic diversity, in one of the most well considered, relaxed and informal environments to date. True to its name, Rochford's 'A Day On The Green' was indeed 'Perfect Pop for Now People’. A highly recommended day out for music lovers of ALL ages.
To view our comprehensive photo gallery from A Day On The Green.
CLICK THIS LINK:
There is ONE more A Day By The Green show to go:
Hoodoo Gurus, Violent Femmes, Sunnyboys and Died Pretty
Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth, WA
Saturday, March 19, 2016
4.00pm Gates Open
5.00pm Died Pretty
7.40pm Violent Femmes
9.15pm Hoodoo Gurus
For more information: adayonthegreen.com.au/
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