Ball Park Music – The Thank Ewes Tour @ The Enmore, Sydney 06/07/13
Why are all ages gigs looked down upon exactly? Last Saturday, Ball Park Music played an all ages gig in the middle of the school holidays. Needless to say, there were swarms of children everywhere you looked, possibly experiencing their first concert. From the palpable enthusiasm in the room it certainly seemed that way. The band probably could’ve just waved from the stage for five minutes and the crowd would’ve been happy. Instead, they fed off the crowd’s energy and performed one of the most memorable gigs I’ve seen in a long time.
Before that though, Brisbane’s Jeremy Neale played the first of two support slots, and it was hard to tell if they were older or younger than the very young crowd. Arriving on stage to the Star Trek theme, it was clear they were there to have fun, not to prove a point. Their Jangle-pop in the style of Teenage Fanclub or an uptempo Big Star certainly fulfilled that ambition (sample song title: “Do Do Do”, after the chorus’ hook). Unfortunately, they often let having a good time get in the way of accommodating their surprisingly melodic songs. It was interesting to hear their easy going pop songs get progressively out of tune as the set wore on. Still, this young band seems to have a bright future.
Eagle and the Worm were next, and were a little harder to pin down. The seven piece band includes a trumpet and trombone, and they certainly have a sound that is close to being their own. However, I’m not sure they know how to play to their strengths. When they were good, they were brilliant, like on the uptempo track they played second which borrowed the hook from The Doors’ “Touch Me” (the only track that rose above a mid-tempo), and the track which featured a beautiful five part harmony towards the end of their set. Closing with weird, white guy funk that The Doobie Brothers and Billy Joel would happily bop along to however might not have been the best choice.
Following Jeremy Neale’s lead (or should that be vice-versa?), the ironic intro music continued with Ball Park Music arriving to the full version of ABBA’s “Thank You For The Music”, and what felt like an extended 12″ mix at that. Again, the crazy reaction this got from the crowd meant the band could have probably called it a night then and there. Aside from this and dropping Hanson’s “mmmbop” into “Glass Jar” mid chorus however, the band known for their quirk were relatively quirk free, opening with a charged version of Museum highlight “Bad Taste Blues (Part II)” and staying in relatively serious rock mode from then on.
That’s not to say that there weren’t other memorable moments, the kind that push a great gig into classic status. At one point, frontman Sam Cromack announced that this is the best set they’ve ever played, and no-one had any reason to disagree. Mid set, a guy proposed to his girlfriend (successfully too. If it was rejected the night may have taken a weird turn). The enthusiasm and the singing of every word from the entire room never ceased. They even played two new songs to a rapturous reception; one that bore the band’s classic sound with some weirdly timed phrasing thrown in, and a reggae-inflected one. (For what it’s worth, I preferred the one that wasn’t reggae. It may have been the best reggae song ever written for all I know, but my critical faculties simply don’t work on reggae.)
The set contained more songs from the first album than the recently released Museum, which is I guess what happens when you release half an album as singles. This is a shame, because the growth shown on Museum definitely pushed them in the right direction; out of the area of novelty and ushered in some much needed maturity. It’s almost as if the band is growing up faster than its audience.
It was Museum’s songs too that provided the set highlights; the opening one-two punch of the aforementioned “Bad Taste Blues” followed by single “Surrender”, a lovely solo piano version of “Coming Down”, and an absolutely blistering version of “Fence Sitter” to close the main set, with the crowd singing not only the words, but the riff. That’s something normally reserved for a Metallica gig.
Closing with a fine, faithful version of “8 Days A Week”, I began to wonder if this band could become to the kids in attendance what The Beatles meant for kids in the 60s. But then I decided that that’s an incredibly cheesy, unrealistic thought to have. So I’ll just leave it by saying that Ball Park Music played one of the year’s best gigs last Saturday, and their third album could not be more anticipated.