Firstly, I should point out that of the 1800-plus people encased in the Palace Theatre tonight, I’m probably the only one over 25, and the only one who hasn’t listened to Triple J in over a year, so this is a review from the outside of the phenomenon known as Ball Park Music. From this perspective, the show seems like an extension of nationwide schoolies celebrations and a massive testament to the power of Triple J playlisting. Anyone thinking that Spotify and music streaming sites are changing the way people listen to music gets a massive reality check coming here tonight.
The crowd, made up of hyperactive freshly laundered teenagers with neat haircuts (and a worrying number of unflattering moustaches), throngs with excitement. Opening festivities is Courtney Barnett, local legend and charisma machine, a woman as hilarious as she is talented, who boasts a deft backing band. Barnett sets about converting the curious and has little trouble winning them over, so at ease is she. Her songs perfectly straddle the line between radio friendly and chipper Empress open mic night fare. Closing with probable local Single of The Year™ History Eraser, it’s a safe bet she’s found plenty of new fans.
Next up are Loon Lake, a five piece specialising in clean but heavy power pop with so much emoting in the vocals that words are almost intelligible. This matters little though, when you pull out pop hook after pop hook and the audience love every song and shred of stage banter. Softer songs have a yacht rock feel about them, and each one features at least one guitar break, which is a nice throwback. Songs are simple and to the point with Into The Office and Cherry Lips generating the most excitement.
Ball Park Music, now in the home stretch of their Museum tour seem to barely need to try, so in love are the crowd. That they do and that they bring so much personality to the performance is testament to the professionalism they bring the music. Opening with Fence Sitter, for all their wild stage antics and madcap instrumental breaks, their songs have sharp edges and sudden ends and are actually very controlled. Though the crowd are singing every word, punching their air and occasionally dabbling with a little crowd surfing, there is something shallow about their music, a sense of empty gesture that isn’t there on lead singer Sam Cromack’s solo work.
While weightless, almost meaningless lyrics are de rigueur in pop music, this lack of substance extends to the music and undercuts the moments of greatness that the band occasionally reaches. All I Want Is You, Surrender, Literally Baby, and new single Coming Down all send the crowd into greater paroxysms of glee, a sight that warms the heart of anyone who fears the next generation want their shared experiences exclusively online. The music itself though is free of surprises and unexpected tangents, but when songs this poptastic are rendered so crisply and to such a rapid response, asking for something more sounds like pointless niggling.