Been too long since I’d been to Brisbane music institution, The Tivoli. Nestled in the heart of Fortitude Valley, it has played host to so very many important musical memories of both mine and the city of Brisbane as a whole. Tonight is the inaugural I Love Life festival, a massive Sunday afternoon spread put on by Poison City Records and tonight’s headliners: all-round Australian legends The Smith Street Band. Having only caught the last 10 minutes of their set for the ages at this year’s Splendour In The Grass, I jumped at the chance to get along and review them tonight.
Nursing a severe hangover from this week’s BIGSOUND festival (me and the rest of Brisbane I’m sure), I rocked up at 3:30 in the afternoon and ordered a much-needed hair of the dog. The crowd is sparse enough that everyone can find a seat without really having to sit anywhere inconvenient.
Opening act and local dudes Walken play to that same crowd, it’s to the detriment of the stragglers that they didn’t catch them because they missed a solid kickoff. They’re a guitar and drums duo in the vein of Royal Blood (what I consider to be a pretty smart career move given their popularity right now) with a big dose of Violent Soho and just a dash of Rage Against The Machine. I thoroughly enjoyed their set.
Next up are Sydney indie punks Oslow, who play to a crowd that has probably tripled in size since Walken were onstage. They play some pretty adept Australian-infused punk rock in a similar sort of Soho vein too and the crowd are looking livelier by the minute.
Following that all the way from Columbus, Ohio are rockers The Sidekicks. I’m personally blown away by the sheer breadth of frontman Steve Ciolek’s voice. No more so on their absolutely fucking amazing cover of Prince‘s Kiss. The falsetto and the funk just hit out of absolutely nowhere and blew everyone in attendance away. Watching a gaggle of scene kids nearby getting funky after spending most of the set nodding morosely along was unintentionally hilarious.
A short break and then we’re back with Long Island emo punk outfit Iron Chic. Their brand of music hasn’t really been my cup of tea since I was about 17 years young but that doesn’t stop me from greatly appreciating the unbridled energy that they play with and so does the seething crowd in attendance for their set. They never stop moving and it makes for a set leaving you trying to catch your breath afterwards.
Penultimate act are enjoying the most hype I’ve heard amongst the crowd tonight by a landslide in folk punk legends Andrew Jackson Jihad. They’re out of Phoenix, Arizona and I’ve heard more than a few conversations tonight between people who are anxious to finally see them. I met an 18-year-old over a cigarette who caught a train all the way from Coffs Harbour just to be able to see them and had to catch the first train home to be back in time for his Monday morning classes in Year 12. Just to give you an indication of the sheer dedication of some of the fans here. He didn’t think they’d ever play a show in Australia and can’t rave enough about them.
The crowd goes balls-out bonkers for them. Like Iron Chic before them, their lightning quick folk-infused punk rock isn’t usually my deal or something that I’d listen to normally but I’m nonetheless blown away by their live set. More than a few members in the crowd know every single lyric and shriek them all right back at the band, who themselves are energetic as all get out and they’re genuinely a joy to watch in a live environment. They sold me tonight at any rate.
And finally we have headliners The Smith Street Band who play one of the craziest sets I’ve ever seen at The Tivoli. From the minute they kick off the set there is crowd surfing in every single song, the pit just a flailing mass of limbs. Immediate crowd-pleaser Surrender is a raucous affair. Screaming ‘So why don’t you fuck off’ as one with the band in Surrey Dive is satisfying as fuck.
It’s a couple of songs in before frontman Wil Wagner breaks to introduce the band. He sputters after swigging from a random water bottle from his collection at the front that had apparently been replaced with straight vodka by one of the members of Andrew Jackson Jihad. Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams finds a good old fashioned circle pit forming as the song starts. It gets pushed right back with members on every side bellowing the opening lyrics and war dancing at each other before charging in and possibly killing each other (I don’t know, I just assume somebody died it was that gleefully violent).
Wagner dedicates a heartfelt rendition of Calgary Girls to his favourite bar in Brisbane (Crowbar). He thanks Iron Chic. He thanks Andrew Jackson Jihad. He asks everyone to buy their merch instead of theirs in a fantastic gesture. He thanks the sound technicians, he thanks the front row for ‘putting up with getting jumped on all night’ and he thanks security for ‘having cunts thrown at them all night’. He stops short of thanking my mother but it just goes to show what a genuine dude he is.
They play old favourites like Sigourney Weaver and I Can’t Feel My Face. Wagner dedicates I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore to anyone suffering through mental illness, telling the crowd that they’re never alone. He gives us the backstory to Throw Me In The River (‘this song goes out to anybody who ever went on tour and got dumped in London three days in and then was walking along the Thames and wrote a song about wanting to get thrown in the fucking thing’). Young Drunk goes off like a frog in a sock
By the time the set finishes with a heartfelt thanks from Wagner, most of the crowd are positively soaked in their own sweat and the sweat from many strangers including Wagner, who lamented mid-set that he’s never met anyone who sweats even a quarter as much as he does. They’re bruised from multiple circle pits and tireless moshing, their voices all but gone from singing every lyric at the top of their lungs along with the band. The passion I saw, the stories behind the eyes of so many of the people in attendance for whom these songs had so much hidden meaning. We already considered The Smith Street Band to be one of the most important Australian acts we have, tonight goes a long way to reaffirming that.
All in all, the first ever I Love Life festival was a massive success and a great showcase of bands both local and abroad. The air was palpable with good vibes from start to cataclysmic finish and the very name of the festival could not have been written on the faces of attendees exiting The Tivoli and into the night any more.