Photos by Tanya Volt
It just got hotter and hotter.
On a sizzling day at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Skegss treated a music-starved all-ages audience to a cracking show, as part of the venue’s Live at the Bowl concert series, hosted by Arts Centre Melbourne.
Presented as part of the Melbourne Music Week-Extended program, the afternoon of live music was delivered by a team of underage tastemakers and future music industry leaders who form up New Slang, a program delivered by youth music organisation The Push.
The Bowl was a little different from memory, with the lawn and stalls replaced by mini scaffolding stages, built for a maximum of six people to enjoy the sounds and sights while safely socially distanced. Stranger yet, the all-ages gig was (appropriately) alcohol free, so the energy was more ‘two lemonades, please’ than ‘five Cougars, thanks’.
Taking place from around 2-5pm, the gig’s time slot was an interesting one, ostensibly due to the all-ages nature of the show. Unfortunately, this meant it spanned the hottest part of the day.
The aggressive sunshine wasn’t a problem in the stalls, blessed under the stage roof’s shade, but those on the lawn (the bulk of the crowd) were in serious need of broad brims and the old slip, slop, slap – something us Melburnians are a bit out of practice at.
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With the snap five-day lockdown threatening whether the gig would even go ahead, the fact it did made it all the sweeter. Good Sniff kicked things off just after 2pm before The Vovos picked up the pace.
Main support Ruby Fields and her three bandmates received a really kind reception. Her warm demeanour and positive tunes felt like the perfect soundtrack for the mid-afternoon sunshine.
The sound mixing was a little off, leaving her vocals to get a little bit lost in the sauce, but thankfully it didn’t inhibit her set too much – as was the case when the massive screen behind her failed to work for the first two thirds of her time on stage.
Playing a 40-minute set, she got the crowd going with plenty of favourites from her EPs and singles. ‘P Plates’ and ‘Ritalin’ garnered great responses from the crowd.
Her final song ‘Dinosaurs’ confirmed she’d saved the best ’til last.
Aside from her great tracks which showcased her sweet vocals, she was an absolute delight in between songs, seemingly genuinely overwhelmed – in the best kind of way – to be playing such a large and iconic venue.
Not too long later, shortly after the emcee for the afternoon had proclaimed them as “the worst band to ever play the Sidney Myer Music Bowl,” the three men of the hour bounded happily onstage to a rapturous reception.
‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’ played over the PA while Skegss got things ready before bursting straight into ‘Valhalla’ from their forthcoming sophomore album Rehearsal.
The new single is an absolute ball-tearer of a song and was the perfect choice straight off the bat. They followed it up with the slower, ‘Save it for the Weekend’.
At one point, bassist Toby Cregan had to remind the crowd to remain in their own scaffolded stages or the gig would not be able to continue. Worded up by a roadie who appeared to be passing on word from security, he handled the situation in a manner that felt somehow both cheeky and polite.
Later in the gig they were forced to do it again. It was a reminder that COVID gigs are not regular shows, and the measures taken to ensure live music can take place are a necessary, albeit not fun, evil.
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‘Got on My Skateboard’ earned a huge singalong from the crowd while ‘Up in the Clouds’ showed how well the band can transition from a slow, melodic verse to an absolute screamer of a chorus in just a few bars.
The infectious ‘Road Trip’ was a real highlight and produced yet another sing-along, as did ‘New York California’. Singing along to this simple but incredibly catchy song reminded you how much fun Skegss are live. Their lyrics and reputation can at times belie their musical abilities and just how good they sound in person.
The sound mixing was a lot better for their 11-song set too, as is often the case for the headliner. Frontman Ben Reid’s lyrics were easy to follow, as was the case when Cregan took over lead vocals on a few songs. Jonny Lani’s impressive talent on drums was plainly evident, while the Reid’s riffs shined through on numerous occasions.
‘Under the Thunder’ put a final stopper in their tight 45-minute set. With no encore, the whole afternoon of four bands was over in just under three hours. The short turnarounds were a testament to the meticulous organisation of the event.
Highlight: Belting out ‘New York California’ with your feet up on some scaffolding in the midday sun with a Pepsi Max.
Lowlight: The headliner having to threaten to stop playing twice due to social distancing infringements.
Crowd favourite: ‘Under the Thunder’ – always saving the best for last.