Dusk. The sun fading behind the cityscape, the bats flying overheard, and 25,000 people listening, captivated to Daniel Johns performing Smells Like Teen Spirit. A slow, heartfelt version of a song that defined a generation, covered by a singer whose diversity and creativity epitomises Australian music.
Too much, you might say? If you were there, you wouldn’t argue. It was the moment of triple j’s 40th birthday celebrations last night in the Domain, Sydney.
There were other stunning moments. Briggs and Trials paying tribute to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Isabella Manfredi from the Preatures donning a Chrissy Amphlett jacket and smashing out Boys in Town with Mark McEntee. The crowd losing it as Vance Joy played his Hottest 100-topping Riptide.
Impressively, it seemed like the action never stopped; changeovers were short and there was always something to watch on the stage or screen. You felt like you couldn’t move from your post lest you miss something important.
You Am I, who thanked the station for “giving a couple of kids a chance”, teamed up with Courtney Barnett for Mr Milk, and with a crowd-surfing Adalita for Jewels And Bullets. They played back-up for Joelistics on the rapper’s Say I’m Good.
Watch: You Am I + Joelistics and Adalita @ triple j’s Beat The Drum
Interspersed between these moments were highlights from triple j’s 40th anniversary doco, Sounds Like Teen Spirit. Old footage from the very beginnings through the last 40 years, coupled with interviews with former and current presenters, and commentary on the important role Double J and then Triple J — and now both — have played in giving a voice to Australia’s youth and promoting Australian music.
The best part? As a single stage event, we all experienced the same thing. We knew it was simulcast across the nation. Friends played with friends on stage. Everyone was at the same party. There was a sense of connection and community — a perfect reflection of triple j’s effect on Australian youth culture. When the Presets performed My People, you felt it.
Watch: The Cat Empire and Owl Eyes cover Kylie Minogue @ triple j’s Beat The Drum
In front of a crowd which seemed to grow impossibly larger with every act, the Cat Empire made hearts melt with their cover of Kylie Minogue’s Confide In Me, fronted by Owl Eyes. The divine Megan Washington provided vocals for The Presets This Boy’s in Love — magical.