When Ball Park Music played their first gig some 13 years ago, there’s no way they could have predicted where they’d be 499 shows later.
Seven albums deep, the Brisbane indie rockers have emerged as one of the country’s most beloved contemporary bands. Their bold mix of cheery pop and existential philosophy has rewarded them intergenerational status as new fans join the day-ones with every album cycle. Their June 17 show at Hordern Pavilion on the ‘Weirder & Weirder’ tour was a chance to celebrate – it was not only the band’s biggest headlining show in Sydney, but their 500th ever concert.
RAT!Hammock immediately made early arrivals feel welcome with their dynamic, jangly and quirky take on ’90s indie rock. Having recently expanded to a quintet, the band are bigger and bolder than their previous iterations, as proved by their final run of ‘June’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Word Of The Day’.
Teenage Joans then continued their momentum with a loose but engaging half-hour, moving past persistent sound issues to let their coming-of-age anthems speak for themselves – and songs like ‘Wine’ and recent shredder ‘Terrible’ can speak volumes. Their own ascent to venues this size is a matter of when, not if.
If anything had been holding King Stingray back before, it was frontman Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu’s shyness – an incredible singer, but still and softly spoken onstage. But at the Hordern, he had the confidence of a headliner – all smiles, calling for crowd participation and wanting the audience to be as loud as possible. Wish granted, particularly when triple j favourites ‘Get Me Out’ and closer ‘Milkumana’ were played. If you haven’t gotten King Stingray by now, you’re just not getting it.
And then… the banner drop. Nothing quite signals a band taking things to the next level than arriving on stage behind a giant sheet, literally shrouded in mystery, and then revealed in a flurry of flashing lights. That was how Ball Park Music made their entrance, opening with the slinky drop-D headbanger ‘Manny’ – a pitch-perfect choice.
“I expect great things of you, Sydney,” said irrepressible frontman Sam Cromack early on. “Can you give me great things?” That was a 10-4 from this incredibly enthusiastic gathering: Wherever the band wanted to take things, this crowd was right alongside. ‘Exactly How You Are’ and ‘Cherub’ were sung back to the band in full force, cementing their place in the Australian indie canon.
Left-turns came in an acoustic reworking of ‘The Perfect Life Does Not Exist’ – with guitarist Dean Hansen taking lead – followed by the grand-scale wig-out of ‘Pariah’. The audience was completely on board for both, and were left screaming for more following a blistering drum solo from Dean’s brother Daniel in the latter.
Perhaps the night’s most powerful moment came with hearing ‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’ again live and in living colour. Recently revived as a pandemic anthem, the song has an undying optimism that felt remarkable in the room – especially when considering this was probably a lot of punters’ first live show in quite some time. When Ball Park Music bowed out with a King Stingray-assisted ‘Head Like A Sieve’ and ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’, it was clear to see how they’ve continued to mean so much to so many over an illustrious run.
If one were to nitpick, it felt like a wasted opportunity that the band didn’t showcase more of a retrospective set, given the occasion. Still, when you’re already putting on as warm, welcoming and ultimately endearing a show as Ball Park Music’s, this is a very small con. Don’t stress, that’s dumb – Ball Park Music are here, and still feeling incredibly nice to be alive after 500 shows.
Ball Park Music played:
‘The End Times’
‘Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You’
‘Stars In My Eyes’
‘Exactly How You Are’
‘Weirder & Weirder’
‘The Perfect Life Does Not Exist’
‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’
‘The Present Moment’
‘Trippin’ the Light Fantastic’
‘I Feel Nothing’
‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’
‘Head Like a Sieve’
‘Sad Rude Future Dude’