Picnic blankets, lawn chairs, giraffes: this lazy summer afternoon was about to turn crazy with the brimming tunes of Brisbane bands The Jungle Giants and headliner, Ball Park Music. All in support of the humble Bilby, the Zoo Twilight shows raise money to help prevent animal extinction, while getting the crowd to party among their fellow animal friends. Held at Melbourne Zoo, this gig was the perfect event for a Friday afternoon.
We entered the zoo and made our way to the central picnic area, now decked out with a small stage, food trucks and merchandise stall. A sea of people sitting on picnic blankets splattered the main grass area, and people in lawn chairs sat to either side. The atmosphere was electric – people were wandering around looking at the animals, or grazing on snacks and waiting for the bands to ascend. I loved the way the Zoo was set up – dream-like, with fairy lights hanging from the trees. It made me so happy, like a little girl at Disney Land. After a quick look at the animals, The Jungle Giants made their way on stage and began to play.
The best thing about them was their stage presence. The lead singer and guitarist, Sam Hales, was upbeat and warm, getting a portion of the audience up to dance. An eclectic bunch – the bassist in almost business clothes, the lead guitarist in 70’s green plaid pants, and the drummer and lead singer in comfy casuals – made for an exciting and engaging mix on stage. I loved their energy, and I was smiling and dancing so much it began to hurt. Although I’d never heard much of their stuff before, I really enjoyed their set. They were actively trying to get the audience involved, playing songs that were fabulous to jump and dance to. Further, the bassist was going completely crazy jumping about the stage and bringing a ‘wild’ force to the show – perfect for the Zoo. The only negative I found in their set was they relied on pre-recorded sounds on a few of their songs; sounds that could have been replicated fairly simply on stage. This did draw some attention away from the magnificent skills of the band themselves, and that was a little sad as they were playing wonderfully the entire time. Overwhelming though, their set was energetic and it was obvious throughout that they were simply doing what they loved – that’s all that matters.
The crowd began to die down again after The Jungle Giants left the stage, but I decided to stay up the front so I would have a great view of Ball Park Music. The wait wasn’t long.
On the brink of dusk, the crowd broke into crazed applause as the brilliant musicians took centre stage. They opened with ‘Feelings’, the first song off their newest album, and was the perfect song to get the audience swaying. Then they proceeded to play some songs off their older albums, which I was immensely pleased about – their album ‘Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs’ has a very special place in my heart. I loved Sam Cromack’s acoustic rendition of ‘It’s Nice to be Alive’ – that was the first ever Ball Park Music song I was introduced to, and I remember instantly loving it. The acoustic rendition was just magical, and took me to a whole new place.
Every member of the band was rocking out, especially frontman Sam who was jumping around the stage, and even into the audience at one point. Although they didn’t have a lot of interaction with the crowd – short little snippets here and that that grew progressively more frequent over the course of the night – they still had the audience in a trance. It was just mesmerizing, and certainly an experience I will never forget.
They were very tight, with the occasional altercation or added solo that just lifted the songs to a new level. The sound levels were okay (with consideration of the animals, of course), although at some points it was hard to hear both Sam Cromack and Jennifer Boyce (bass and backing vocals) sing over the crowd screaming out the lyrics. I didn’t mind this too much though, especially in songs like ‘iFly’: a crowd favourite. Their band t-shirts weren’t overly pricy, however they did hold a limited range of shirts without stocking much else. This was balanced out though with the quality of their content – I was surprised that they played as much of their old stuff as they did, however this was not a disappointment to me. I felt like there was a really nice harmony between their new content and old content, and that their set list was well thought through. While starting the night on an upbeat note, they very gracefully wound it down by the encore – a stunning duet between Cromack and Boyce as they played “Glass Jar” and “Cocaine Lion”. This was the perfect night, at the perfect venue – the lights hanging in the trees, the oncoming night, and the band of my dreams.
This is a night I won’t forget for a long time to come!
Written by Ari Smith.