It was a Gen X-er’s dream at Sirromet Winery on this warm Sunday afternoon in February. Docs abounded. Greying rocker dudes in twenty year old Pearl Jam t-shirts mingled with sassy pink-haired chicks in torn fishnets, and small handfuls of the crowd snoozed in their camp chairs in between bands. I’d like to pretend that everyone there was older than me, but let’s face it; with the dreaded 40 looming, these are my people. Next stop: Twin Towns.
Aussie alt-rockers The Fauves were first up, and were probably more funny than they were good, but highly entertaining either way. Andrew “Coxy” Cox and Phillip “Doctor” Leonard were in fine form, trading barbs and anecdotes with the kind of sarcastic wit that made these guys a cult fave in the nineties (“We weren’t exactly a household name back in the day. More like a one in one hundred thousand people name”, quipped Coxy). Some solid, melodic pop-rock to kick off the proceedings.
Tumbleweed were next on the lineup. The only song I was (and still am) aware of by this band was the 1993 stoner rock hit ‘Sundial (Mary Jane)’, which was duly trotted out to a decent amount of fanfare. At a certain age singing about weed becomes less controversial I suppose, but the fuzzy riffs, mega volume and excessive hair flipping that accompanied the driving tunes was enough to engage a warming up crowd. Good lord, lead singer Dave Curley has a head of hair on him. And I won’t be forgetting his purple flares in a hurry, either.
Remember The Lemonheads? They had a massive Aussie hit with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ in 1992, and then… well I’m not too sure what happened after that. It’s unsurprising that they didn’t play ‘Mrs Robinson’, as Evan Dando – the group’s frontman and only original band member remaining – loathes the song, and absolutely detests Paul Simon to boot. Awkward! Evan advised the crowd that he’s had some recent illness and as such barely had a voice, so it was pretty impressive that he managed to make it through an entire set of their jangly indie rock.
A word has to be said here about the ball of fun and hilarity that is DJ Grand Master Baitz, who keeps the crowd rocking and entertained between live sets at all A Day On The Green events. Whatever he’s on, I want some.
Oh, Veruca Salt. The soundtrack to my angsty teen years. You could feel the energy in the venue ratchet up a couple of notches when the fiery Louise Post strutted onto the stage. Never was there a rock feud that I was more happy to see patched up than that of Post and lead guitarist Nina Gordon. The years apart and the band’s hiatus don’t seem to have done any harm, as the engaging quartet gathered the biggest dancing crowd yet to the front of the stage, and just plain rocked out, having a great old time in the process. Of course, ‘Seether’ got a workout, as well as ‘Volcano Girls’ and a sprinkling of newer stuff. Shredder Nina looked mildly amused as the pair of jocks thrown by an over-enthusiastic male fan at the front landed near her foot. I just hope they were clean. And that they didn’t touch her pedals.
Now I haven’t seen Spiderbait for years, and either my ears are on the way out or they’ve gone up about 80 decibels since I last heard them. (Or a little from Column A, and a little from Column B.) I don’t know what Kram’s drums have done to deserve the beating he gives them, but let’s just say if the PA had cut out and they’d had to go acoustic, the folks at the back of the amphitheatre still would’ve been treated to a (loud) 50 minute drum solo. He was as excitable as a puppy, jumping up from the drums regularly, geeing up the audience, blessing all the longtime supporters and basically enveloping the entire winery in a giant virtual hug. Janet and Damian held up their musical end of the bargain in their laid-back, done-this-a-million-times-before way that was also extremely endearing. These guys have been friends forever, and it shows in the comfort they exhibit when performing. ‘Buy Me A Pony’, an extended version of ‘Black Betty’ and ‘Calypso’ were the real crowd pleasers, and Janet ably pulled off ’99 Luftaballons’ entirely in German, just for something different. It was a fun, high energy and suprisingly emotional set from the much-beloved Aussie stalwarts.
Heartfelt is not a word that one usually associates with seeing The Living End live, but there was just something in the air on the night (perhaps a lingering hint of emo from Kram). The disgustingly talented frontman and guitar ninja Chris Cheney just seemed to be feeling it a little more than usual, and so was the crowd. There was a special touch of pathos; a gentle, maudlin vibe to the less frantic tracks such as ‘Keep On Running’ and ‘All Torn Down’, (“Tomorrow might never happen. This is it, right here.” mused Cheney.) ‘Uncle Harry’, ‘Monkey’ and ‘Hold Up’ raised the energy back up to normal blistering TLE live levels. The announcement that the rock star trio have just put their latest album to bed in Berlin was met with whoops and riotous applause, the taster song from the album ‘Drop The Needle’, less so. It was a good, solid rock tune, just not a ‘wow’ moment. After Chris finally finished up a long waffling yarn about some kind of holographic Daryl Braithwaite apparition encouraging drummer Andy Strachan to join the band (don’t ask), the guys brought out the psychobilly with an amped up folksy instrumental bit, at the end of which Chris played his guitar with a bottle of VB. I’d lament the spilled beer more if it were another brand; instead I found myself concerned for the health of his instrument. The buzz remained high for the remainder of the short and snappy set, with the guys bringing out crowd pleasers ‘Wake Up’ and ‘White Noise’ before finishing it off with the ol’ one-two punch of ‘Second Solution’ and ‘Prisoner of Society’. There are no off nights for The Living End. Tight, explosive and fun, the guys yet again cemented their rep as one of the best (and in this writer’s opinion, THE best) live bands in Australia. A hugely fitting end to a day of delirious and distorted nineties fun, and another roaring success for A Day On The Green.
IMAGES (c) Dan Maynard Photography