When Grinspoon’s Guide to Better Living dropped in 1997, it confirmed the Lismore post-grungers hard-won status as the next big thing in Australian music. Home to rocking earworms like ‘DCX3’ and ‘Just Ace’ and enough heavy riffing to ensure that heads were kept banging, Guide to Better Living invited the nation to a “Sickfest” and the nation wasted no-time crowning them the new “Champion” of the post-grunge era.
Tonight, twenty (yes, really, twenty) years, six more records, two ARIA awards, hundreds of thousands of record sales, countless sold-out tours and a few old-fashioned honest rockstar meltdowns later, the bonafide Aussie rock gods Grinspoon took to the stage at ‘Marriage Equality Arena’ in Melbourne to lead a rockin’ 20th birthday celebration of the record that made them.
Every good party needs an icebreaker and like the deadset legends they are Grinspoon invited Brisbane’s Good Boy and New South Wales surf-rock duo Hockey Dad to get a good buzz happening early, and both excelled at their task, with the former slowly winning over the crossed-arms/crossed legs set with their disarmingly catchy and at times heart-wrenching indie-rock tunes and the latter getting the night’s first mosh movement and sing-a-longs happening with inspired renditions of songs off of their excellent Boronia full-length.
Both acts reaffirm that Aussie rock is burning bright, with Hockey Dad in particular showing signs that something much bigger may be lurking beneath the surface waiting to emerge on album number two. As the singer of Good Boy might say ‘Cheers as lads’.
With the crowd having built steadily throughout Hockey Dad’s set, anticipation levels were at fever pitch as the lights went down, and the sounds of ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar’ from Mary Poppins filled the arena as a diverse crowd of Gen Xers, Gen Yers and whatever the hell their kids are called got set to party like it was 1997 all over again.
Taking to the stage to a heroes welcome, Phil, Pat, Kristian and Joe AKA Grinspoon wasted no time getting the crowd moving, launching immediately into the alt/metal party starters ‘Pressure Tested 1984’, and ‘Boundary’ that open Guide to Better Living, before Phil took a moment to literally say “Hello, we’re Grinspoon and this is Guide to Better Living”, then resumed his role as ringmaster of the Grinspoon circus, grinning sheepishly as the likes of ‘DCX3’ and ‘Sickfest’ turned the floor into an awkward yet awesome mish-mash of middle-aged moshers and once-were-moshers, all belting out the tunes at the top of their voices.
‘Pedestrian’ and ‘Just Ace’ were greeted with a similar response from rabid fans, many of whom seemed to have discovered a fountain of youth at the bottom of their beer cup, before ‘Post Enebriated Anxiety’ brought long retired crowd-surfers back to life for a one night only comeback tour. ‘Repeat’, ‘Don’t Go Away’ and ‘Balding Matters’ received some love, but when the opening notes of ‘Champion’ hit the night went from ‘six to midnight’, with both band and crowd losing themselves in a flurry of movement that maintained to the end of Guide to Better Living’s final official song ‘Tuk’. Exiting the stage to a rapturous applause, after firing through 16 songs, many in the audience could have gone home happy. Guide to Better Living is a ‘hard act to follow’ after all.
As a suit jacket and crisp white shirt-clad Phil emerged at the back of the venue to commence the encore with a solo rendition of secret track ‘Protest’, it became apparent that Grinspoon would have no problem following themselves. As Phil joined his bandmates on stage to tear through a half-hour of some of Australian rocks most familiar tunes, the arena turned into one giant, sweaty, somewhat tone-deaf choir, singing along to every word of monster hits ‘Chemical Heart’, ‘Lost Control’ and ‘No Reason’.
As Joe Hansen’s bass-line intro for ‘Ready One’ hit, the pit was activated again and no one in the world looked like they were having as much fun as the members of Grinspoon, this statement holding particularly true during a ferocious tear-through of ‘1000 Miles’.
Closing out the set with one of 90’s Australian rocks finest belters in the form of ‘More Than You Are’, Grinspoon left the stage to deafening applause and the sweat-soaked crowd made their way out into the freezing cold Melbourne winter’s night with smiles on their faces, basking in nostalgia’s warm glow, as passers by asked them how the show was “just ace” they might say, and they’d be right.