Any hope of blissfully reliving 1995 at this gig was instantly and brutally scuppered as soon as local kids The Wellingtons made their way onto the stage. It’s just not their music.
They can play and they love it, but it’s like passing out at a party and being dragged unconscious to the nearest school gym and dumped there, only to be woken in a cold, damp fright by the cast of Glee in full voice.
Aside from that sobering fear, The Wellingtons are nothing to shy away from. There was serious talent on show from bass playing singer Kate Goldby, while frontman Zac Anthony would simply not stay still. If humiliatingly confident power pop is your thing, this polished lot are for you.
Next on the padded bill were Brisbane’s Hey Geronimo. Quickly assembled and into their set, things seemed normal until mid-song, guitarist Ross Pearson decamped unannounced. A glance or two was traded between frontman Pete Kilroy and bass player Greg Chiapella, who stood equally confused to his right.
Kilroy strummed along and the band braved the sudden lack of a lead guitarist with a collective anxious fret.
Ross was nowhere to be seen, but that didn’t excuse the poorly executed intermission. Chiapella chirped away to kill some time, but he very nearly killed off half the patient audience. Playing out like a pre-school book club, the Wiggles-esque banter wasn’t what the paying punters deserved, and each excruciating quip was followed by head-wobbling bemusement.
Thankfully, or not, they applied themselves to do what they were expected and played a song with Kilroy’s meek vocals distracting from the guitarist’s absence.
However, soon there was Ross, conspicuously scurrying around the back of the drum kit and back to his post. A ‘woo-hoo’ later they carried on, gifting vocal duties over to Pearson (how quaint) before, for no good reason, the stage was invaded by what appeared to be a short, bald, bearded roadie.
He took the microphone, launched mystifyingly into an unnecessary barrage of shout-driven cheerleading, before once again bounding offstage. Presumably to polish his head while jumping up and down on a chair. Why? Why didn’t they just quit with Pearson’s departure?
And so, back to 1995. Thank Christ.
Think of the age of pudgy Bill Clinton, Oasis, Madonna (at the time, happy being a rehash of ‘80s Madonna) and Michael Jordan; a time when Kurt Cobain was still kinda warm. Then you heard “Lump”. The Seattle-spawned Presidents Of The United States Of America had arrived.
And so it was at the Palace, with frontman Chris Ballew, drummer Jason Finn, and guitarist Andrew McKeag hopping out into the lights. Banging straight into the, let’s say, lesser known (read: cared for) tracks that scattered the second leg of the band’s life from 2004, the mass of punchy tunes was a spark for the evening.
Ballew’s energetic drive (and pleasant baldness) powered through, while the water-tight dual axe approach really rang out on “Some Postman” and “Flame to Love”. The sweet melancholy of Ballew’s ode to a stolen guitar through “Poor Turtle” then reeled all in.
Something was missing though, in the old theatre barn that is The Palace. Ballew took his moment, just as he’d guided us through each track, “Hey, we haven’t played any songs from the debut album yet … Oh, well,” he teased. “I guess we’ll have to make it up to you by playing the whole thing now!”
KITTY! That was a gear change like no other. Even with the lack of original guitarist/singer Dave Dederer for authenticity, there wasn’t a frown in sight as the room bounced as one. Ridiculous. Totally awesome, dude.
Any album good enough to spit out a couple of hit singles is something to behold – and this was so much more. The shackles of deathly grunge were forgotten and the unmentioned idiocy of the tunes still rings true. Loud, punchy chords from both Ballew and McKeag had every jump in time while the tracks flew by.
No one seems to be quite sure what “Lump” is all about, but fuck it, it’s great. Having the chance to nod furiously in time while Ballew threw shapes won’t be forgotten soon.
Nostalgia is often guilty of polishing turds, but not here. “Peaches”, surely the band’s biggest hit of all, had the place falling over itself to join in. Neither did “Dune Buggy” disappoint. The (matchless MC5 number) “Kick Out The Jams” then acted as the marker of ‘side-two’ before the album tracks faded to the gig endgame of hide and seek.
Ballew and co. skipped away only to reappear with a party trick or two. So well rehearsed is this set, right down to the routine of encore banter, that they’d expanded the matter for us. “What should we play?” was the question.
“Give me like a ‘disco beat’,” asked Ballew of Finn, before sliding into a highly unexpected version of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”… but that wouldn’t be all.
Split Enz’s “I Got You” then morphed to “Highway To Hell”, followed by The Saints’ “(I’m) Stranded” for a nod to the hosts. The medley went on, only giving way to a final and rousing version of their 2000 single, a cover of the undeniable Buggles hit “Video Killed The Radio Star”.
No one knew what it was. Whatever it was, it was stupid. And brilliant. If you couldn’t jump up and down hearing this power-pop-punk genius, then you weren’t ready for the real world and you still aren’t.