Live Review: Grinspoon, Hockey Dad, Good Boy

10 July 2017 | 4:17 pm | Benny Doyle

"For the next 45 minutes it feels like we're catching up with an old friend. Time has passed, people have aged, but the feeling and energy remains the same."

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This tour. This night. It had to happen. Guide To Better Living meant, and still means, too much to too many for its 20th birthday to be skipped over, and the sold out shows right around the country — everywhere from Newcastle to Northbridge — all but attest to the fact that us Gen Xers and Xennials (it's a thing, look it up) have been seriously gagging for a decent night out.

'Enjoy your sleepover at Nan and Pop's, kids — Mum and Dad are going to get fuuuuucked up.' Okay, probably not the exact wording, but I'm sure the sentiment would have been the same.

As an angsty teenager just getting comfortable with some heavier shades of rock, this record was an absolute revelation when it landed back in the spring of '97. I can still remember the shockwaves in the schoolyard. As Phil says in Railrider: "Something out of nowhere. Like a bullet from a gun." That's what it legitimately felt like. One of our grade's more well regarded guitar slingers brought the record in to play for a few of us on the school's big speaker system in the music block. As soon as those slabs of riffs sounded out, our collective beings were floored. Almost immediately, it was the only LP anyone seemed to have spinning in their Discmans. No one could believe that a bunch of questionable looking 20-year-olds from little old Lismore could make the coolest album a lot of us had ever heard.

For my friends and I, Guide To Better Living became our soundtrack for early morning surf runs and late night hot laps around the suburbs. It was aired with almost expected regularity during weekend drinking sessions, when we'd take over an unlucky parents' lounge or pool room to drop a few glasses and fall over a bit. Grinspoon quickly became staples on the festival circuit, earning prime position on Livid, Big Day Out and Homebake bills. Although I've seen the band at least ten times, only this week did I realise that tonight's concert will actually be the first time I've attended a Grinners headline show, such was their status as festival mainstays for the better part of two decades.

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"I'm a macho fucking number one champion."

The vibe is nostalgic and celebratory as soon as we enter The Tivoli's main lobby. Guide To Better Living's bright yellow logo is plastered across most items on the merch wall, and the album cover has been stretched out onto 2.5m x 2.5m fabric, so we grab a photo in the car with the lads. Good Boy get things off to a flyer, with no miscues or ramblings. Sonically you could mistake them for Eddy Current Suppression Ring's younger brothers, though they've substituted that band's erratic intensity with a more subtle warmness. Simply put, the guys are easy to like, and plenty of tins are raised when they drop recent nugget Poverty Line to round out their set.

Fellow youth Hockey Dad are taking care of main support duties, and although they barely acknowledge the now packed room to begin with, the songs speak volumes. The rocking duo are completely locked into their polished garage groove. Zach Stephenson has a vocal tone and storytelling quality that far outstrips his years, while drummer Billy Fleming just won't fucking quit — creating a bedrock of creative rhythms that make the band's tracks anything but ordinary. Good Boy frontman Rian King emerges at one stage to assist on vocals. I didn't appreciate just how short his shorts were. So Tired and I Need A Woman kill. The hype around these guys is totally justified.

It's frantic scenes as everyone races around trying to squeeze in a final bar run, but we're positioned at the ready as Grinspoon arrive to huge roars of appreciation. Guide To Better Living's hectic one-two opening of Pressure Tested 1984 and Boundary are delivered with breakneck precision, and the pit is quick to pogo at any given opportunity. Frontman Phil Jamieson takes a moment to clock the jovial scenes before addressing us: "We're Grinspoon, and this is Guide To Better Living." Smoke cannons fire, Jamieson shows off some high kicking flair, while bassist Joe Hansen tucks up his knees and gets air.

For the next 45 minutes it feels like we're catching up with an old friend. Time has passed, people have aged, but the feeling and energy remains the same. Jamieson is in a playful mood, letting us know on more than one occasion that "this song's about losing your hair", while sporadically flailing his arms around and skipping like a loon — movements that joyously contradict every sound around him. Most lyrics are sung with the band by the majority of the sold out crowd, but some just have to be screamed, like "Happy birthday!" in Pedestrian. A sharply styled Pat Davern delivers a choice guitar solo during Bad Funk Stripe, and everyone loves it because it's Davern ripping a solo. Champion and Truk round out the full record with the same brute force we began with.

With plenty of time still remaining until sign-off, Grinspoon take the opportunity to ice our night with a selection of choice cuts from their catalogue, but not before Jamieson sneaks to the back of the venue to strum out Guide To Better Living's acoustic secret song, Protest, on his lonesome behind the mixing desk. By the time he's returned to the main stage he's found himself a jacket to wear. We're upstairs on the balcony while all this takes place so it's some legit theatrical magic for us. Chemical Heart extends the mellower mood for another song, but we're fully amplified again soon after for the likes of Lost Control, Ready 1 and 1000 Miles. More Than You Are eventually completes tonight's second stanza, with smoke and confetti filling the air. Screaming along with a huge smile, great memories from the past 20 years flash in our minds. Grinspoon have soundtracked our lives, and as Jamieson, Davern, Hansen and drummer Kristian Hopes take a bow, we let them know just how grateful we are.