Since its inception in 2001 A Day on the Green has proliferated from a one-off event into a full-fledged six stop Australian touring circuit. Sunday’s event marked one of the festival’s more recent additions, a Queensland iteration at the scenic Sirromet Winery slightly shy of the southern edges of Brisbane. In keeping with its southern antecedents, the Sunshine State’s event offered the festival’s trademark ameliorations of wine, ample seating and a scenic setting to those long lapsed into festival aversion.
This time around there was a genuine cause for excitement: a lineup squarely aimed at those feeling the sentimental resonance of ’90s summers, exciting Big Day Out lineups and triple j Hottest 100’s which didn’t court controversy. It promised to bring together some of Australia’s most cherished acts. Heading up the day’s bill was You Am I, Something For Kate and Spiderbait. All three have charted their own trajectory across Australia’s musical landscape during the past two decades. Few could deny that each has earned a place in the country’s musical pantheon.
For a band who stepped in the shorter and poppier aspects of rock, Spiderbait has enjoyed a remarkable longevity. The trio hammered out their hard rocking back catalogue before a sprawling crowd. It was clear the band were, first and foremost, out to entertain. Drummer-vocalist Mark Maher could do little to hide his pleasure at revelling within the mischievous extremities of his “Kram” persona. Bent on inciting wayward weirdness and pandemonium he more than achieved his twisted goal. Late arriving festival guests would have been greeted by an ungodly sight: a teeming mass of hundreds of matured aged fans, each dancing with chairs on their backs to the tune of their very own Chair Dance.
While a little banter-heavy at times, the group’s rough and chaotic signature songs invoked sweeping waves of festival euphoria. The fan response reflected a near-pathological love for the band. Fires of decades-long fandom ran hot underneath the sweltering sun. Stripped-back and bottom heavy rockers fanned the fervent movements of an enraptured crowd. At times the sonic emanations of Damien Whity’s distorted fretwork seemed capable of sustaining the thriving energy of the thronging mosh all by themselves.
Janet English’s crowd-pleasing cover of Nena’s 99 Luftballons was surprisingly well received. However, it was power pop thrashers Buy Me a Pony and Calypso which really stood out. The two hits have each endured the test of time with surprising exuberance. Despite having gone some way to setting the sonic template for a generation of triple j friendly rock outfits, it feels like the core of the Spiderbait sound could easily hold currency with younger ears today. Recollections of pot-addled exploits in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley and veneration of local contemporaries Screamfeeder preceded the thunderous licks of obvious but well-received closer Black Betty.
After the sonic chaos of Spiderbait, Something For Kate added some welcome atmospherics to the evening’s proceedings. Brooding waves of melancholic riffs, pounding drums and emotive vocals pulsated from booming amplifiers as the darkness of night closed in. As gloom descended, the venerable Melbournians projected a calming effect upon the previously raucous crowd.
More than twenty years into his group’s career, Paul Dempsey still cuts a striking figure. His brooding and angst-ridden alt rock persona has transcended the formative period of the band.
Something For Kate’s longevity may be something which is too often understated. Despite focusing on their older material, there was still a certain sense of vitality to their hook-laden sound. It felt like the group was doing more than returning to some element of bygone nostalgia. Songs like Electricity and Beautiful Sharks feel like they’ve matured with the band, exchanging an abrasive and rough-hewn edge with a more textured flow. Dempsey may well be on his way to inhabiting the role of elder statesmen of Australian music.
Cutting through the fog of existential discontent, their set also provided some lighter moments. Dempsey was quick to regale his audience with tales of swallowing moths on tour in 1996 and expressed his excitement to be playing with what he termed “some of Australia’s youngest talent.” Monsters’ quavering vocals and paranoiac lyricisms brought a powerful climatic element to the set.
The most senior amongst a bill of veterans, You Am I took out the festival’s closing slot. Ahead of their return to Falls Festival at the close of the year, it was clear that the alt-rockers were looking to add a dimension of grandeur to their live act, recruiting both a brass section and trio of backup singers. Emerging to the sound of pummelling rhythms; there was a certain sense of fanfare to opener Baby Clothes. Their brassy backing elements added a certain sense of swing to the song.
Yet as much as they could dress up solipsistic ’90s apathy and disillusion with vaudeville elements (no doubt a treat for the band to play with live and something to spice things up for long-term fans) it was the rawer elements of You Am I’s signature sound which provided their most engaging moments. It was songs which slipped back to the ragged rock undercarriage of three original members which conveyed the full effect of Tim Rogers’s pop masterstrokes.
The reception of the three acts cannot be understated. In the eyes of a sizable, pulsating mass of dedicated fans, they could do no wrong. The mere stage presence of the groups was immense, even an offhanded gesture could evoke waves of crowd euphoria. It begged the question: which of the current wave of triple j bands will be commanding similar reactions come 2036?
A Day On The Green continues this weekend. Catch dates and details here.
A Day On The Green – Mt Cotton, Queensland 06/11/16 / Photos: Rebecca Reid
A Day On The Green w/ You Am I, Something For Kate, Spiderbait, Jebediah And The Meanies - Mt Cotton, Queensland 06/11/16 - Music Feeds