The Bennies rise to local heroes is truly a great story to be told. A group of musical stoners from North Melbourne who decided to create hard hitting music about what they love; Party culture, their hometown Melbourne and drugs. Their city has embraced them to the fullest. On Friday the 1st of April the Bennies played the first night of the Melbourne leg of their New Wisdom Machine Tour at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. The crowd slowly began to emerge from the streets surrounding the venue preparing themselves for what was to be a night for The Bennies and the fans alike to remember.
The first act of the night was a local group by the name of Sweet Gold. The set started with a spiel from the lead singer about how he wanted to see lots of romance in the crowd. This was quite a different request to the usual ‘I wanna see all the two steppers go off!’ Or ‘Open the pit up!’ that are usually barked at the crowd at punk and metal shows. The front man the proceeded to passed out flowers and requested that all the single ladies take a flower and that the single men should go and have a chat to the ladies. Sweet Gold have a delightful sound that combines alternative romantic music with hints of Indi Rock to create a sweet mixture of the wombats and the smith street band into one robust love Ballard after another. Definitely worth a listen.
The second artist for the night was Adelaide’s Hightime. The female fronted ska punk band turned the night from sensual to energy ridden within 5 minutes calling for the crowd to all push forward so they could see how many people they were playing to (I couldn’t help but compare this to the pleading of the Rolling Stones for people to push back at the Altamont speedway festival). The front rowers were screaming at the top of their lungs and the moshers were showing that the local ska punk scene is anything but dead. As the night prevailed the four part brought more and more to the crowd from slower more romantic tunes to angst ridden punk jams that allowed all of the crowd to enjoy either a head bob at the back of the venue or a thrash out in the pit. They finished the set off by promoting they’re Melbourne return in July for a sublime tribute show.
Photo credit Hightime Facebook
The final support was the U.S.’s own ‘Off With Their Head’. This band brought to the table what can only be described as a slightly harder Smith Street Band, but from the states. The band started their portion of the gig by explaining that “we have a set list but we never play it so just yell out a song and well play it”. The care free fan made set list created a bond between the band and the audience that was hard to beat. The band seemed genuinely stoked to be playing to the Melbourne crowd. The lead singer, Ryan Young kicked the fun up a notch when the Bennie’s lead guitarist, Jules replaced him on guitar so that he could make his way into the crowd to sing “Take Me Out”. His warmth and connection within the audience made new fans love them and old fans love them even more. As the set finished the stage became consumed with a large red curtain that had been (until this point) unused for the set.
After half an hour the tension began to build, and the crowd began to swarm around the curtain covering the stage. The lights went down and the curtain began to open as the sold out crowd developed into a human swamp. All of the once seemingly docile crowd was now in full motion as swaying, moshing, dancing, bobbing and crowd surfing morphed into one constant motion. The excitement seemed to amplify as the crowd was told ‘We’re recording this show’. After a few of The Bennies classics including ‘Sensi Mi’, ‘My Bike’, Acid on my Head and many more, the Bennies dropped an amazing Operation Ivy cover of “Knowledge”. That brought a seemingly euphoric crowd to a new high. Talking of which the presence of the bands favourite herb was surprisingly subtle within the crowd, possibly due to the mixture of ages or perhaps the security were more prepared for it. Either or the scent was non-existent for all of the support acts and only really became noticeable as the curtains opened. Substance filled or not the crowd truly knew how to make the Melbourne based band feel loved which is a beautiful thing to see in any bands home town. An amazing concert and a highly recommended gig for any ska, psych rock, or punk fan to get to when they come to your neighbourhood.
Photo at the back of The Corner Hotel. Photo credit The Bennies Facebook.