By Jonathan Brodala
Main Stage: Jet, The Living End, Hilltop Hoods, Spiderbait, Jebediah, 28 Days, Rocket Science, The Casanovas, Dallas Crane.
Small Stage: 67 Special, City Lights, The Cops, Ground Components, In The Grey, Betchadupa, Redsunband.
Another trip for yours truly to the big city to see the bi-annual event known as Rockit which this time around has an all Australian line up as opposed to recent times. But it seemed to matter little to the 25,000 or so people that rolled through the gates at Arena Joondalup to get treated to THE rock and roll event of the year. On a side note however it must be said that the train system in Perth is absolutely brilliant given the effortlessness of a complete stranger to public transport and given that the Rock-It ticket doubled as free public transport all day was also very handy. At $50AU (roughly $4 a band) this is without a doubt the most enjoyable music festival on the calendar.
Anyway onto the show….
There were bands that I wanted to see and there were bands I didn’t care for too greatly so I can’t give you my thoughts on the live performances of every band on the card. First cab off the rank however was Dallas Crane. I couldn’t think of a better opener personally to get the fast-growing crowd into the swing of things. ‘No Through Road’ and ‘Ladybird’ have the greatest airplay on Triple J (Australia’s greatest ever radio station which is dedicated to giving unsigned and independent acts airplay as well as non-commercial overseas artists) and thus got the crowd into their set but a sign of a good rock band is that they didn’t play all of their more popular tracks aiming to perhaps keep the set at a hard and heavy pace throughout. On a whole these guys exceeded my expectations of them and I personally can’t wait to see their set at the Big Day Out in February next year.
The Casanovas didn’t let up in their set either. It featured tracks from their self-titled debut album and in among those was some guitar solos from Tommy Boyce that really needs to be heard to be believed. The guy could have been standing on his head and he wouldn’t have skipped a beat while Dave Campbell on the bass provided some excellent vocals to keep a very energetic mosh area occupied with their no nonsense approach to rock and roll music. ’10 Outta 10′ and ‘Shake It’ remain as highlights for me but try telling that to the circle moshers who were just happy to crash into one another to the hard riffs being doled out by the trio. The only drawback to the Casanova’s set was the fact that it ran into Betchadupa’s set. My first venture into the newly introduced small stage saw the New Zealand exports pumping out their two recent hits ‘Move Over’ and ‘Who’s Coming Through The Window’ to conclude what must have been a crowd pleasing set given the hearty reaction given by the female fans in attendance.
Young emo-punk rockers In the Grey hit the stage after Betchadupa and thundered into their set. The stage clearly wasn’t big enough to contain their exuberance. As if they carefully choreographed their jumps to barely miss one another when they launched into their opening song, they delivered every song with such energy that this writer wished it had rubbed off on the headliners of the event, Jet. For relative unknowns to the WA crowd they received a respectful applause after every track, which no doubt was in tribute to the effort they were giving. ‘Skyward’ closed their set which would have just about been their only recognizable song to most in attendance given it’s regular appearance in the ‘Net 50’ months and months ago.
Next up was the biggest surprise of the afternoon for me. 28 Days played all of their hits as well as some samples from their new album ‘Extremist Makeover’. A deafening chant of ‘Rip It Up’ (their first hit) seemed to have the lead singer totally flabbergasted as the band dropped tools to soak up some of the adulation halfway through their set. They did this twice. Once to stop the crowd from surging and causing massive holes to form into the quickly building mosh area. People couldn’t help but fall over as the heavyweights from the licensed area attempted to push their way into the teenage throng occupying the front of the stage. It was by far the most physically draining mosh in my experience which includes Rammstein, Metallica and Pacifier. When they got the crowd to tell them to ‘fuck off’, they then began to ‘Rip It Up’, as well as inviting members of local favorites Gyroscope on stage for backing vocals in their closing song ‘Hate Now’. They must have also got their lifetime supply of shoes given the amount of crowd surfers losing their Globes and DC’s.
Intermission time was supposed to me next up for me as neither Jebediah nor The Cops were too appealing to me. I watched The Cops’ entire set and marveled at how much effort the band put in once the crowd started arriving. They had a chick bass player and calls for a bass solo were ignored and not surprisingly as they gave a half assed effort for the first part of their set. They picked up and showed all what they were capable of as ‘The Shake’ had the crowd moving and the band began to jam like they had been playing together since birth. Afterward I was out looking for food; meanwhile, Spiderbait seemed to have the crowd totally into their set which sounded pretty ordinary from the food queue I was in. Once out of the queue I saw one of the biggest crowds ever assembled at Rock-It playing into drummer/singer Kram’s hands. A veteran who used his brilliant charisma to involve most of the 25000 people in attendance clapping along to an adequately subdued version of ‘Buy Me A Pony’ and then powering into the most popular rock cover song in Australian history ‘Black Betty’. That was never going to be hard considering the song went to #1 in Western Australia before anywhere else in the country and it showed as around 10000 fans in front of the stage and thousands more behind the gates in the licensed area were into the song from start to finish. As the sun set on the afternoon Spiderbait had set the tone for the evening and it was going to be hard to top. It was easily eclipsed by the next act on the small stage in my opinion.
As much of a spectacle Spiderbait were for crowd involvement, 67 Special delivered the goods and more. They blew up three speakers to start their set yet still had enough power to have me paying attention to the bands every move. They played their most popular track ‘Hey There Bomb’ with so much oomph that the CD version I purchased the next day couldn’t do it justice. They played a ‘pop’ tune in ‘Princess Pie’ that turned into one of the band’s great jams at the conclusion of the song ‘Last Drag’. They seemed to do this with so much accuracy that this writer can’t wait to see it again. Even when the drummer fucked up (made even worse by his reaction) they recovered so well that it could only be laughed off at the end of the show. 67 Special is a MUST SEE BAND for all of those people that appreciate rock and roll music the way it used to be and if you thought Jet were good keep in mind they were only first when 67 Special come to town. My personal pick for MVP of the day but the night wasn’t over and considering The Living End’s reputation the standard wasn’t about to drop.
For a band that I’ve followed since their humble beginnings in ‘Hellbound’ to their latest and greatest collections released on both Double CD and DVD I wasn’t about to be disappointed no matter how drunk or stoned Chris Cheney said he was. That only affected Nic Cester from Jet it seemed. From ‘I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got’ to ‘Second Solution’ the crowd were treated to a punkabilly feast that only the Living End can deliver. The fact that I could sing along to most of the set helped me enjoy it more but I could sing along to most of Jet’s too and I couldn’t possibly hold Jet’s effort next to The Living End’s in terms of enjoyment. There was no better way to end a concert than for Living End to belt out their trademark ‘E Boogie’ when Cheney would play slide guitar with a beer bottle of choice and Scotty Owen would show us his balancing act on his upright double bass before powering into their double single that propelled them into Australian music history being ‘Prisoner of Society/Second Solution’. Unfortunately it wasn’t the end…
Jet has become Australia’s biggest success worldwide since Savage Garden selling more than 2.5 million units of their debut album ‘Get Born’. While these men deserve nothing but praise for putting Australian rock music back on the map they surely could have belted out a better performance than the sleepwalking the crowd were treated to. Sure they may have played the same set over and over on tour 200 times this year but I’m also certain that 25000 West Aussies deserved better and not that I condone throwing things onto the stage during a performance I was almost pleased to see lead singer Nic Cester get hit in the head with a shoe…twice. A defiant ‘fuck you’ almost tied in with the start of the chorus to ‘Cold Hard Bitch’ and it seemed to motivate him slightly but it didn’t last and it was clear to me that he was dogging it. The bass player almost seemed ready to knock his block off after a brief altercation almost knowing they weren’t performing to their capabilities. I’ve seen these guys rip up the stage at Big Day Out in a late afternoon set that had people climbing to the top of 20 foot tall trees to get a better look at their rock and roll heroes and this performance didn’t live up to their lofty expectations. However they did have a few tricks up their sleeve to redeem themselves somewhat and it came in the form of a cover of Aussie rock legend Stevie Wright’s ‘Evie’. For this show stealing finale they invited Kram from Spiderbait to provide percussion, Chris Cheney on guitar and Dallas Crane’s bassist leaving Jet to provide vocals and additional percussion. It worked on many levels and it re-energized as the band were seemingly relieved to be doing something different. In any case the crowd left happy as this one song alone nearly erased their dodgy efforts just minutes previous. Nearly, but not quite. Hey don’t get me wrong! I’ll still buy all of their records and any new material on their singles but I have to draw a line somewhere! For a headline band to turn in that kind of performance on a stage as big as Rock-It, it’s nearly unforgivable, and I’d really hate to see Jet let fame go to their heads and repay the fans that shell out their hard earned cash to hear their music with a performance that belongs to a cover band playing smalltime pubs in the outback. Anyhow ‘Evie’ kicked arse and maybe that’s something Jet needs to do to freshen up its seemingly stale set list. But then they’d just be a glorified cover band….which is what they were in the first place and look where they are now.
Concert MVP: 67 Special
Biggest Disappointment: Jet
Biggest Surprise: In The Grey/28 Days
Best Crowd: Spiderbait
Worst Crowd: 28 Days