When Philadelphia Grand Jury went their separate ways back in 2011, they left many a heartbroken fan. Faithful fans were left to feel their way in the dark, standing on the shadow of a ghost, you could say — but then, out of nowhere, the good news emerged: the scruffy looking trio from Sydney were back, hitting the road in order to fund a new record. Returning to their rightful place – on stage amongst a sea of drunken lovers – Philadelphia Grand Jury set their sights on Melbourne’s Ding Dong Lounge, and like all good comeback tours they left a path of destruction in their wake.
Kicking off the proceedings were Melbourne’s mellow-pop aficionados Sunbeam Sound Machine. With a woozy sound that combined shoegaze, pop and melodic rock, they attempted to warm up the crowd, but alas their placid style didn’t quite resonate with punters. Sunbeam Sound Machine is the musical dreaming of Nick Sowersby and takes listeners on a kaleidoscopic trip with the use of soft, melodic guitars and washed-out vocals. While their tunes were certainly easy to listen to, they didn’t translate so well live with the Philly Jay’s crowd, blending into one another in a wave of tranquility.
Melbourne’s I, a Man took to the stage next and switched the pace from mellow surf rock to upbeat indie rock. Performing tracks from their debut album Gravity Wins Again, which came out in April, the quartet showcased their hypnotic blend of noisy guitars and densely layered, pulsating tracks slowly building to a cathartic finish and giving the crowd a welcome change of tempo.
Beginning to grow restless, gig-goers were rewarded for their patience when it was finally time for Philadelphia Grand Jury to take to the stage. Bursting on with ‘Ready To Roll’, the trio showed fans exactly what they’d been missing during the band’s hiatus, causing the crowd to sing along as though they’d never left. There are very few bands that can get an entire room of people jumping about uncontrollably with little consideration for the wellbeing of those around them from the get-go, but Philadelphia Grand Jury manage it just about every time.
The set was boosted by the pre-recorded comical MC introduction of each song. Launching into their breakthrough hit from all the way back in 2009, ‘Going To The Casino [Tomorrow Night]’ proved to be just as much of a crowd pleaser now as it was back then. Simon “Berkfinger” Berkelman and Joel “MC Bad Genius” Beeson have perfected the art of rigorous party anthems recreated effortlessly in a live setting through their catchy hooks and thick bass lines.
The crowd needed a break from all the laborious dancing, and ‘Wet Winter Holiday’ provided the perfect, albeit brief, sing-along opportunity to break up the set. Giving fans a glimpse into what can be expected from the gig-funded album, they also previewed a new track ‘Crashing/Burning’. Before long, the trio were back to their crazy antics; with Berkfinger using ‘Save Our Town’ to get up-close and personal with his token in-crowd performance, relocating from the stage to the floor. Equipment can be problematic in these situations, with Berkfinger’s microphone cord becoming a seemingly deadly weapon. Luckily however, the crowd chipped in to pass the cord overhead and prevent innocent fans from being close-lined.
What happened next was something that even the most committed Philly Jays faithful had yet to experience. One crowd member eagerly lifted Berkfinger onto his shoulders to perform the band’s jubilant version of Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’. For Berkfinger this was (literally) the highest possible note to go out on. For the crowd it was a sure sign that Philadelphia Grand Jury were back to their best and weren’t quite ready to end the night just yet.
As the seemingly ecstatic triad returned to the stage and played the opening notes of ‘The Good News’, it was never clearer that this was an experience that everyone in the room was sharing together. Crowd surfing ensued, and strangers wrapped their arms around each other shouting the lyrics to one another excitedly — demonstrating exactly what it means to be present in the moment. They brought the shambolic evening to a close with ‘I Don’t Want To Party [Party]’; their performace undermining the song’s title as the floor shook under the weight of rowdy but satisfied customers.
For fans old and new, Philadelphia Grand Jury’s live show is something that should be experienced at the very least once. Whether seeing them for the first or tenth time, the atmosphere is always elated and Berkfinger and co. always aim to please. Welcome back Philly Jays, make sure you stick around!