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A Day on the Green: Getting Shirty

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If the great Australian play, Don’s Party, and the often-maligned film, The Big Chill, both concern themselves with university graduates a decade or so into their careers and juggling work, family, and reconciling fading student idealism and with their tarnished realities, then the Day on the Green music festival is also populated by a specific demographic.

These are about us Gen X types. For many of us, music in the 1980’s was unspeakably horrific, and post-2000, a little spasmodic if not disappointing.

The 1990’s were it.

So yesterday on the outskirts of McLaren Vale, as American grunge outfit Veruca Salt worked through their excellent set, we were sitting back on our chairs and watching all the punters and all their different band shirts. It seemed to be an unspoken uniform.

Anyhow, the wife suggested I make a list of the band shirts I saw.

Midnight Oil – Head Injuries and Great Circle tour edition
Bad/Dreems – making expertise use of the West End design
Fat Boy Slim
Rise Against
Cold Chisel- Adelaide 500 edition; sadly no East album shirts

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Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
The Living End – is it cool or even appropriate to wear a band shirt to their concert? Is it done ironically?
Ed Sheeran – this poor kid had obviously been dragged along by her parents!
Some band called Bintang – I think they’re big in Bali, specialising in Khe Sahn covers
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock
The Hard Ons – given the demographic, at future concerts they’ll be supported by rising punk stars, The Viagras
Tool – see above

dotg

Motorhead
The Clash – London Calling shirts; impossibly cool
My Bloody Valentine
ZZ Top
Nirvana – the smiley face version
Joy Division
Pink Floyd
Guns ‘n’ Roses
Cosmic Psychos – nice day for some beetroot

line up

Adam Ant – What do we make of this?
DZ Deathrays
Boony Army – great band out of Tasmania, lead singer a stout moustachioed cult hero
Green Day
Screaming Jets
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

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Pennywise
INXS
NOFX
Foo Fighters
The Audreys
The Smith Street Band

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Old Day On The Green shirts – again is this cool, or sad? How would I know!
Sturt Football Club – I think they play the, wait for it, blues
Rage Against the Machine – male, middle-class and white
Pantera
Dropkick Murphys
Dandy Warhols
Metallica – not the Speed of Sound tour, as roadied by The Dude
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The Darkness
Fred Pants and the Footy Pies – this one intrigued you didn’t it? I just made it up. But I’m going to get it printed before my next concert. I’ll be the coolest guy there.

clash

Quite a list.

Of course, I was sat there in a checked shirt, looking like an accountant searching for a water cooler. Maybe I could’ve worn my c. Marsh b. Lillee shirt.

Later, in the rain wandering through the crowd I had on a plastic poncho. A bloke yelled at me, “Nice poncho. You’ll never catch me wearing a condom!”

“Fair enough.” I replied, “But I’m trying to keep the stuff out, not the stuff in.”

Heading along the Southern Expressway (to home, not Yr Skull) I glanced at the dashboard clock, and said, “It seems like midnight! At this rate we’ll have to go to a Lunchtime on the Green in future.”

It was just after 9pm. “Or maybe Brunch on the Green,” replied the wife.

Meanwhile, let me know if you spot a Fred Pants and the Footy Pies shirt.

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A Day on the Green: Nostalgia by the North Para

 

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T-shirt slogans can capture a moment, and a couple summers’ ago, from an English website I bought one that featured no imagery or graphics, just plain text in a small black font

c. Marsh b. Lillee

Music festivals like Saturday’s Day on the Green are the preferred habitat of the hipster t-shirt, and I saw many, but this was the standout, catching the zeitgeist in this time of disenchantment: the alarming rise of herb rage

fcuk coriander

With band members Link, Ringo, Wally and Jaws Meanie, the Meanies opened our afternoon with their energetic brand of irony-infused punk, and each song is a brisk splash of droll turbulence. Lead singer Link Meanie sports a Chopper Reid ‘tache, a diesel mechanic’s physique, and a B-grade back pocket’s self-deprecation. As Link would attest, it takes enormous dedication to look like you don’t care one dot. “10% Weird” is a great song, and it’s a cracking set. We’re off to a flier.

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The Barossa Valley boasts Germanic villages and pastoral beauty. A most painterly aspect is Peter Lehmann’s winery on the edge of Tanunda, and it’s obligatory when we take visitors wine-tasting.

The blue-green Gatsby lawns have hosted friends’ birthdays and Mothers’ Days complete with games of cricket punctuated by adults juggling glasses of shiraz as they toss up feathery off-spinners to free-swinging kids. Today’s stage is adjacent to the North Para River while on the Nuriootpa side gum trees grasp at the azure sky. Between these are about seven thousand folks- and just a few toddlers.

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Decades ago in Kimba my foot was broken by a behemoth opponent called Gut, and unable to play footy, I spent an enthusiastic month in the pub on the punt. The small and eclectic ensemble of TAB aficionados became my Saturday friends. Although I was the youngest by about thirty years our bond was functional, and it presented a singular entertainment. Isn’t it fantastic to enjoy the elliptical orbits of different friends? Some relationships are founded on footy or golf or wine, and with Nick and Holmesy, they’re (among other things) my music mates.

From our grassy spot, and over cans of Fat Yak we trade reviews. “The new Nick Cave album’s a bit bleak. Warren Ellis is having too much say.” And later, “The Pixies’ latest is a mixed bag. Some good moments, but a few formulaic tracks as well.” Then as Jebediah diffused their sunny pop Holmesy editorialises, “On the new Metallica the pace and fury of the guitars is like they’re channelling Lemmy.”

We’re joined by Trev. He played drums with a few bands back in the 90’s, including one who enjoyed airtime on Triple J. Another was called Imelda’s Shoes, which still amuses me. He went to every single Big Day Out. He’s still in mourning.

Late afternoon and Spiderbait is on, led by hirsute drummer Kram who is energetic like a Labrador, or Rory Sloane. He alternates vocals with bassist Janet English, a Cate Blanchett lookalike wearing oversized glasses and blonde bobbed hairdo.

The band formed twenty-five years back, but she still sings as she did back then, and I’m reminded of how enduring and immutable is the human voice. It’s remarkable. Her singing is innocent, but also as bewitching as the sirens of Greece especially on “Calypso.”

Sunshine on my window

Makes me happy

Like I should be

During one of his uproarious solos the wife says that she has a “drummer crush on Kram,” which is reasonable as, at six o’clock on this particular Saturday, we all do.

With the Barossa having been settled by persecuted Prussians Janet’s acappella introduces “99 Red Balloons,”

Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich

Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich

and the bilingual crowd ignites. On my top 100 one-hit wonders list, it’d go top 10 for sure, right next to “Slice of Heaven” and “Harper Valley PTA.”

You Am I is a favourite, but their approach is naive, and confused in application, like the Australian middle-order. Their blue lounge suits promise much, but instead there’s self-parody and simmering agitation, both on the lawns and on the stage. Timmy could chuck a wobbly. I’m unsure if he’s helped by the bottle of wine he’s necking like a Tom Waits sailor.

Around from the prehistoric scoreboard You Am I played a blistering set before last year’s SANFL grand final. At our Day on the Green they do sizzle on “Cathy’s Clown,” but this is swamped by baffling patches of novelty including the backup singers doing, “Nutbush City Limits.”

The last act is a band I always find clinical. Something For Kate’s “Monsters” is wonderful, but like Adelaide Zoo’s two giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi, their set fails to (re)productively connect. However, they cover REM’s “The One I Love,” and it reflects the gorgeous anxiety of the original.  

Our recent festival experience was the St Jerome’s Laneway event in Singapore, and this franchise is about the future, the next wave of artists, while Day on the Green looks unashamedly to the past in targetting middle Australia’s healthy hunger for nostalgia. The line-up could have been photocopied from the 1998 Big Day Out program, but this is why we’re here, in our eager dotage.

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With midnight ticking close we’re back at Nick’s farm in She-Oak Log. Our wives have retired, and we listen to old music and drink new wine. Outside the window his crops sway in the earthy dark, and we toast our good fortune.  

 

99-red-balloons