The evening of the 24th of January began with an air of excitement, as me and my guest for the evening wandered over toward Sidney Myer Music Bowl for a night of alternative Brit-Rock (and The Griswolds). The line stretched far and away over the hill and past the monument outside SMMB, and every person in the crowd had a story about The Kooks. Once the gates had opened, hundreds of people shuffled in to take their spots on the grass and in the stands, the stage was set for one hell of a concert, and as more and more people poured into the area an electric feeling took hold of the evening.
Out of nowhere, the music faded, and to a huge outpour of applause Catfish and The Bottlemen took the stage. The raw energy that Catfish and The Bottlemen threw into their songs shook the crowd, and everyone was madly applauding by the end of their first song. They continued to bring the thunder for the remainder of their songs, being interrupted only once by a heckler who ended up buying their vocalist, Van McCann, a drink. Their performance of ‘Rango’ was outstanding, and hooked me instantly on their unique brand of musical bravado, drawing in the crowd with their heavily reverberating solos between choruses. The stand out track of their set was ‘Kathleen’, with the harsh tones of the vocal melodies lashing out at the crowd and getting pulses racing in anticipation for the following act: The Griswolds.
As Catfish and The Bottlemen walked off stage to a cacophonous round of applause, the crowd immediately scattered in all directions, racing for water and bathroom breaks in order to be ready for The Griswolds’ performance. As the stage was once again occupied, the huge presence of The Griswolds was felt almost immediately, and they took the opportunity to blast the audience with their unmistakable style of pop, filling every inch of Sidney Myer Music Bowl with some form of wonderful sound. Although utterly different to Catfish and The Bottlemen, The Griswolds built on their already considerably hyped up crowd, and with little to no effort turned it up to 11. In the midst of the dancing crowd and the flow of the concert, vocalist Christopher Whitehall subtly remarks “We’re gonna play a cover now. This is Riptide”. At which point the crowd reached critical mass, and from that moment on the people were ready to hear the band of the night, The (hugely anticipated) Kooks.
Some time passed as the stage was cleared, and again the mad rush to ready oneself for the next act began. Around about 9:45, the stage and the sky went dark, and the roar from the crowd was deafening as The Kooks casually strolled out onto stage and launched into a blistering rendition of “Around Town”, causing people in the whole Music Bowl to surge forward, forming a mosh pit in the seated section and a second, larger mosh pit on the grass. The set continued with many new songs, some oldies, and even some featuring Van McCann on stage, all the while the combined voices of the people and the band mixing in a massive harmony. As the night wound down, the encore began with vocalist Luke Pritchard dedicating ‘See Me Now’ to his father. This raw emotional moment was followed by classics ‘Junk of the Heart’ and ‘Naïve’. The crowd’s musical appetite was sated for now, and like their predecessors, The Kooks stepped off the stage and the lights came back up, and just like that the crowd dispersed into the city streets.