With the shadow of a COVID lockdown looming overhead, the Spring Loaded festival finally got back into gear after a year long wait for rock starved punters. The first of nine festival dates of iconic 90’s bands put together by Empire Touring got off to a cracking start with a sold out effort for 5,000 lucky fans. I joined the slightly greying crowd on a cracking autumn day on the lawn at Royal Randwick in Sydney. Just looking at the line-up of bands for today was enough to invoke mass tinnitus. A bunch of classic acts, with Grinspoon, Jebediah, Frenzal Rhomb, Magic Dirt, Custard, Tumbleweed, Screamfeeder and Caligula. MC and talky talk duties were carried out by Lindsay “The Doctor” McDougall.
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Coming back into the music scene after what seems like decades, Caligula blew the dust off the tech and started the day with their own brand of electro rock.
While the long dreads were gone, there was still plenty of bouncing around on stage, with an infectious beat (even without a bass player) and their cover of Tears of a Clown seemed to entice the growing crowd to start making their way up to the front of the stage and have a bit of a tentative sway (not quite a dance at this time of day).
After a little bit of banter about sunshine and a bit of love for the return of the festival by “The Doctor”, Screamfeeder were on deck and raring to retune our ears.
There was definitely a bit more movement through the now swelling crowd, and plenty of shouts of love for the band as they fired up after 30 years of playing noisy indie pop rock. With a set full of dirty edged tunes, they were as solid and as fresh as they were hitting the stage in 1991 – but maybe with a couple more wrinkles.
More crowd hits the lawn and more hair hits the stage. Tumbleweed cranked up the amps and cranked in the stoner rock. There was plenty of full assault, heavy guitar, sludge rock that just oozed into every crevice until it was all about involuntary movement.
On stage, Richie Lewis trip danced his way across the stage, facial contortions adding punctuation to his every lyric. The rest of the band just kept the solid beat to wash over the crowd. The first strains of Daddy Long Legs had the crowd threatening to almost break into a little impromptu mosh – but not quite. Newer recordings Shadowland were lapped up by the crowd, but Silver Lizard had the crowd going into a full lizard stomp across the lawn.
There was an obvious gush as The Doctor introduced the next band as being fronted by Blueys dad. And on they came – seasoned, professional and wearing a big hat! Custard were straight into the old faves of Lucky Star, Take the Skinheads Bowling, Music is Crap and Girls like That.
There was plenty of little dance circles forming through the crowd, bopping along under the sunny skies, egged on by the raucous and jangly guitar driven, quirky indie tunes. The set finally wound up with a cracking version of Apartment that just set the crowd off and left them yelling for more.
More banter from The Doctor – this time accompanied by Murray Cook (of red Wiggle fame) to give us all a quick COVID safety chat and fling a few Wiggles pointy finger guns at us for a half time treat, before the sun disappeared and the stage lights kick in.
Magic Dirt hit the stage and immediately fell into full rock mode with the crowd eating out of their grunge filled hands. The front of stage was now heaving and the crowd was chanting along with Plastic Loveless Letter. Late in the set, Dirty Jeans was anthemic, with more chanting and stomping.
On stage, there was a mass of writhing around, plenty of guitar hero antics to the pure dirgy, guttural rock that swept out over the crowd on the lawn and into the surrounding suburbs. The energy packed set finished up with She Riff and an insane version of I Was Cruel in a mass of frenzied guitar torturing, flinging instruments and stopped just short of a guitar smash fest; leaving a mess of feedback and a yelling crowd.
Tinnitus check – yep, ringing like a bell
The crowd were now in full festival mode and there was immediate mayhem in front of the stage as Frenzal Rhomb started up and promised to play 800 songs in the next 40 minutes.
The mosh started up in earnest as the band wound up into full frantic punk mode. There was an attempt to calm proceedings down a little with few song breaks, a couple of veiled threats to pull the plug; and a bit of coaxing and ….. plenty of police presence, doing a lot of pointing.
Was there mayhem? – yes
Was the crowd respectful to each other? – mostly
Were there smiles on faces? – all around
An eventful set wrapped up with an absolutely hectic version (on and off stage) of Punch in the Face – but no one did……thankfully.
A bit of a calming break between bands with a little COVID safe chat delivered to remind us of the reality outside the festival grounds. At this point the grounds were packed, with the crowd extending across the full extent of the lawn and surrounding area, chatting, drinking and just being happy that they were able to do festival stuff.
Jebediah hit the stage and there was an immediate flush of joy through the crowd, starting strong with Animal and keeping the pace up through the set with their driving guitar indie rock.
There was plenty of sing along from the crowd from their solid set, especially when Leaving Home and Harpoon get a run. The set wound up by upping the pace to get the crowd bouncing before an abrupt end (intentional) for a bit of a rest.
After another calming break to soothe the mosh beast, the stage is bathed in smoke, ready for the final act of the night. But as soon as Grinspoon emerged from the mist, the calm just dissolved into a fully-fledged festival beast.
From the first song of the set DC X 3, the mosh exploded into mayhem again. By the time they played Just Ace, distancing was just a memory and dancing was a priority.
On stage there were plenty of antics, with Phil Jamieson strutting, vogueing and leaping across the stage like the true seasoned performer that he is. The band are tight and match fit, punching out their relentless gritty rock – with clinical precision.
The night ended with beaming tired faces covered in confetti, always a good sign – hopefully, of more festivals to come.