I think the last time I saw The Superjesus I was not yet twenty years old and standing a few feet away in a seething moshpit at a ZZZ market day in Brisbane. Little has changed with the group in the past fifteen years, despite their long hiatus. Sarah McLeod, blue bandana holding back her cropped black hair, took me back in time with her You Gotta Risk It to Get The Biscuit t-shirt and energetic shredding. Her distinctive and ever-so-slightly out of tune punk pop voice rang through crowd favourites like Gravity and Secret Agent Man before ending on a high with the belligerent Down Again. The years have been kind to The Superjesus who have lost none of their rock sensibilities, and their too-short support set left the crowd wanting more.
The Tea Party are also returning after a long hiatus, however they have brought a whole new album The Ocean At the End along for the ride. Largely written in Australia, Ocean contains arguably some of the band’s finest writing to date. Explosive openener The L.O.C had all the trademarks of classic TTP, with minor to major chord progressions, heavy, soul crunching guitar riffs and layer upon layer of Eastern inspired instrumental tracks.
Following up with The Bazaar from the band’s most successful album Edges of Twilight, Jim Morrison doppelganger Jeff Martin handled his guitar in such a lazily competent fashion that it became easy to forget you are watching a masterclass by a set of superior musicians. The three members between them played ten instruments during the entire set, as well as those included on the backing tracks, bringing the grand total to something in the vicinity of twenty-seven.
Although Jeff’s rich and resonant vocals demand to be taken seriously every time he opens his mouth, he managed to attract several rounds of good-natured chuckling from the crowd with his dry humour and personal disclosures: “My mother always asks me why I am so dark, and why I can’t smile more? I tell her the darkness makes me smile.” and “Rumours over the years are The Tea Party music has made a lot of babies. They aren’t mine I swear! But if you have kids, don’t put them to sleep with our song called Lullaby, cause it will f*ck them up.”
Fire In The Head started stripped back, slowed down and with plenty of reverb, but had the crowd heaving towards the end. Another new track This Water’s On Fire actually begins acoustically, an unusual departure for The Tea Party, and by the end had the entire audience engaged in singing the chorus as though under hypnosis. Save Me came next, the band cleverly layering new tracks with old to build a wave of momentum throughout the set. In a nod to their constant comparisons to Led Zeppelin, the group segued seamlessly from Save Me into a hard and raucous version of Kashmir, complete with string backing.
The angry electronica and driving drums of Temptation marked the only appearance of 1997’s Transmission album, a disappointment for fans (like me) who loved that album’s chaotic and unsettled departure from the norm. A high note with which to end the main set, it had the crowd ceaselessly cheering and demanding more for a good four or five minutes before the band returned for their encore. Of course Sister Awake had to close the set, and did so in a truly spectacular fashion, featuring first just guitar, then extended drum and bongo solos. Jeff Martin asked the crowd towards the end of the song “Do you want to know what ultimate power sounds like? This…” before turning it up to eleven in a crowd-jumping, soul-searing, chest-thumping finale that left us all sweaty and exhilarated. The Tea Party is back, and they’re better than ever.