Words by Natalie Blacklock
Stalwarts of the Australian music industry, Grinspoon know a thing or two Rock and Roll. Formed in Lismore in 1995, and picked up as Triple J’s first ever Unearthed winner, Grinspoon have been in the game for over 20 years with their unique brand guitar driven Rock and Roll. On the back of the release of their ‘best of’ album, ‘Chemical Hearts’, the band have been on one hell of a celebratory trip around the country, dusting off the songs that made them a household name. The 14-date ‘Chemical Hearts’ tour has crossed the country from West Coast to East Coast, with a collection of Australia’s next crop of talent coming along for the ride; Adelaide’s The Hard Aches, Novocastrians The Gooch Palms and Brissie locals, Bugs.
Playing host to the two-night ‘End of Tour’ stand is the city’s newest and arguably most exciting venue, The Fortitude Music Hall. Located front and centre of the Brunswick Street mall, The Fortitude has already made its mark on the local scene, hosting the likes of Birds of Tokyo, Skegss and The Flaming Lips. The venue is the work of Hutchinson Builders Chairman, Scott Hutchinson and Powderfinger Bassist / owner of The Triffid, John “JC” Collins and seeks to serve as a “Festival Hall for a whole new generation”. From the bright lighted mall-side façade, The Fortitude Music Hall opens up into a spectacular foyer, glittering front bar followed by the triumphant two-level, high-ceiling bandroom, which features opulent hanging chandeliers and tiered standing areas for the some 3500 punters to have a perfect view of the stage no matter where they find themselves.
The crowd have come in thick and fast, arriving early to catch opening act Bugs. The Brisbane-based trio aren’t particularly new to the scene but certainly seem at home on a stage this size, delivering their fun pop vibes in spades. Frontman / Guitarist Connor Brooker and Bassist Jordan Brunoli are rocking almost matching denim overalls as they bound around the stage while Drummer Brock Weston oversees the operation. Opening with Something’s Bound To Go Bad and older cut Instant Coffee, a couple of fans down the front were already screaming for more. Brooker took a moment and told the audience how “special it is for us playing at the Fortitude (Music) Hall” and he wasn’t wrong – their poppy sound filled the room, providing a uniquely ‘Brisbane’ feel to the evening. Neighbourhood went over well with the punters, with the opening lines causing a bit of a chuckle. Closing their set with Seriously, Bugs have delivered their relatable suburban songbook to the masses and have gained a bunch of new fans as punters requesting songs and setlists as they left the stage. If this is anything to go by, the crowd were in for a stellar night.
The party machine kept rolling as an enthusiastic cheer rang out as The Gooch Palms bounded onto the stage, with Frontman and Guitarist Leroy Macqueen donning a kilt and a Newcastle Knights flag tied to his hot pink guitar for the occasion. Reminding us of their proud Novocastrian heritage, he proclaimed, “You Alfie Langer loving people, we’re from the greatest town in Australia – Newcastle” before launching into Are We Wasted?
Never one to shy away, Macqueen quipped “We might be in the Mall now but you want to score Heroin, go to the Hunter Street Mall” as he and Drummer Kat Friend smashed through the catchy and perhaps very accurate tale of Newcastle’s Hunter Street Mall. Newer track Busy Bleeding saw Friend take on the lead vocal responsibilities in stunning fashion. The Goochies took a moment to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and dedicate You to Sam McKenzie, the first person to book The Gooch Palms in Brisbane at The Jubilee Hotel. Bringing up the rear of the set was the 1-2 punch of We Get By and Ask Me Why, Macqueen proclaimed this as “The best night of tour so far” and it was clear that the crowd were equally as stoked.
It wasn’t long until Adelaidians The Hard Aches took to the stage. If your thing is emotive melody-driven punk rock that is both anthemic and intimate, then you’ll comfortably find a home in The Hard Aches family. Before their set even starts, The Hard Aches fans are in fine form, starting a chant for their Techie and all-round legend Huey. Frontman / Guitarist Ben David emerged from side stage, taking a moment to pay respect to traditional owners of the land, before welcoming the crowd to their “TED Talk” – which amused the nerdy High School teacher in me a bit too much. Opening the set with 2015 single Loser, Ben’s impassioned vocals are on show right from the outset.
Feel Like I’m Dying and Get Out Of My House, both taken from 2018 record, ‘Mess’ showcase the brutal honesty in The Hard Aches songwriting and the sheer prowess of Alex Upton on the Drums. Dropping a casual “HELL FUCK YEAH” into conversation, the bemused crowd froths Ben David’s reference to local legends, Violent Soho, as he speaks of learning Drop D tuning and being inspired by the evening’s headline act, Grinspoon. New single Wasted, which tackles the issue of alcoholism in the music industry head-on and makes some really important points about breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health.
For this run of shows, The Hard Aches have called on the Bass talents of Vlada Edirippulige, from Brisbane sweethearts Major Leagues to round out their sound, and even with a torn ACL, she is doing a mighty fine job, even lending her vocals on Outline, which was originally recorded with Craig Selak from Melbourne band, LOSER. The upbeat singalong Gut Full got the crowd and the band off their feet, as they tested out the ‘Ego Risers’ in full Rock-God mode. I Get Like This, from 2015 album ‘Pheromones’, is always a crowd favourite (and a me favourite too; so much so that it’s been my morning wake-up alarm for the last 6 months!) Rounding out their set with Happy, I think it’s fair to say that The Hard Aches have definitely left the crowd feeling that way tonight – thought provoking, reflective and honest is The Hard Aches from start to finish. Expect big these from The Hard Aches as they get set to release a new album in 2020.
The giant pink Chemical Heart emblazoned on a white curtain cut across the front of the stage, teasing the SOLD-OUT crowd for what was to come. As the curtain dropped, the crowd really came to life. With no need for introductions, Grinspoon ripped straight into DCx3, taking the crowd right back to 1997’s ‘Guide To Better Living’. The ‘all killer, no filler’ approach took hold as the Grinners smashed through Lost Control and Triple J Unearthed winning track Sickfest before unleashing the oh-so-fun Just Ace on the crowd who were more than ready for a mosh and a dance.
Pedestrian made sure things weren’t slowing down before making way for the grungy Secrets, which went a long way to prove that even after all these years Grinspoon still have it and they’re as tight as ever. The anthemic Hard Act To Follow from 2004’s ‘Thrills, Kills & Sunday Pills’ was a highlight with Frontman Phil Jamieson demanding the crowd’s attention like no one else. Slowing down for a hot minute with No Reason and the ever-emotional Better Off Alone, gave the sweaty punters a chance to catch their breath and maybe grab another beer. It didn’t take long before the heavy hitting tracks were back, with Rock Show and Ready 1 taking the set to yet another level and the crowd were so there for it.
1999 was clearly a favourite year among the Grinners faithful and when you see tracks like Better Off Dead and Overdriver live, it is so easy to understand why – fast, furious and the perfect head-banging distraction as Jamieson evacuated the Main Stage. Headed for a platform and microphone near the soundesk, he treated the crowd to stripped back versions of Sweet As Sugar and Bad Funk Stripe, with the heavyweight guitar sounds coming courtesy of Pat Davern, an inspired breakdancing circle broke out in the middle of the moshpit to the amusement of those up on the balcony. With the band reunited, the party continued back on the Main Stage with perfect Friday jam, Black Friday and the angsty heaviness of Post Enebriated Anxiety took the crowd to another level.
A well-rehearsed band introduction saw each member smash a little riff before coming together for the ever raucous, 1000 Miles led by Kristian Hopes on the Drums. The end was nigh, but not without a cover – perhaps the most popular Grinspoon cover and easily one of my personal favourites as the familiar opening chords to INXS’s Don’t Change rang out across The Fortitude Music Hall. This was a moment; beers in hand and standing shoulder-to-shoulder, screaming every lyric with your best mates – this was a pretty bloody special way to end the main set.
Not wasting any time in answering the calls to come back for an encore, Jamieson’s vocal delivery on Chemical Heart was nothing short of stunning. Commenting on the “fucking amazing” crowd, Jamieson seemed in awe as Davern exclaimed his love for the venue, calling it “The best venue in Australia”. Champion cranked it up to 11 with Bassist Joe Hansen absolutely slaying, as Grinspoon marched towards a big finish – and big finish it was – with the classic More Than You Are seeing bodies flailing, hair going everywhere and punk jumps left, right and centre. Cueing the confetti cannons for a dousing of Heart Shaped goodness and the chants of “MORE THAN YOU ARE! MORE THAN YOU ARE! MORE THAN YOU ARE NOW?” in the final chorus, the set could not have ended any better. With time for a family photo taken by none other than respected Australian Music Photographer and absolute legend behind the lens, Kane Hibberd, Night 1 in Brisbane was well done and dusted!
So if you love live music, and dig Australian music, then you need to see Grinspoon stat! Grinspoon, The Hard Aches, The Gooch Palms and Bugs are backing up tonight for Night 2 at The Fortitude Music Hall for the final night of the ‘Chemical Hearts’ tour – tickets are all but SOLD OUT!