Review: “Is This The New Australiana?”

Review: “Is This The New Australiana?”

November 28, 2023

By Michael Ryan

Ruby Fields Live at Crowbar

The night began well, beers at Bob Hawkes coupled with a succulent Chinese meal. My friends and I were to depart to the Grifter Bowling Club for one more but before we did, I exercised the obligatory restroom check. As I entered, I was met with a well-groomed facility and the dulcet tones of Tony Greig and Richie Benaud. The sheer enjoyment I received listening to them discuss a golf round is clear, the fact I am even choosing to include this rather poor and random anecdote for a review of a concert is both unsettling and a testament to the bliss satisfaction of appreciating the smallest of details in an evening.

Off we went, to the small Marrickville bowling club now owned and operated by the Grifter Brewing company. Immediately the sweet sight and sounds of the romantic, depressive state of “Australiana”, this mundane culture was on full display. The décor stuck in the bygone era of the 60’s and 70’s, untouched and unfettered. As we sat in the bowlo, drinking our schooners of various craft beers, we watched and listened to the group of retirees and blue collar workers hunkering around the table to the front of the bar celebrating the past bowling competition held on Thursday Nights. It provoked the deepest of thoughts, is spending most of your time playing the same game, in a place still clinging to its youth depressing or sweet? A question I do not know how to answer yet.

As we made way to the point of this article, we were already late. Hastily we went to the bar to get a drink and listen to the rest of Jet City Sports Club. Hailing from Sydney and comprised of Lilla Obradovic, Jack O’connor, Sebastian De Haas and Dominic Maher, the band was a favourite of my acquaintances. Their poppy tones coupled with the rhythmic, guitar driven songs were excellent. Although we only caught the back end of their performance it was the choice of the bands on show that evening. I am excited to see them again and in full. I first came across them a while ago whilst listening to Triple J. I was entranced by their track Redfern Station. The band’s sound has evolved since that track, to a more upbeat and nuanced composition and production. Yet, what makes Jet City Sports Club shimmer is the dreamy vocals. Easy and beautiful listening. 

After a brief reprieve and another toilet stop, it was Rum Jungles turn. The band from Newcastle surprised me with their vitality and energy. From the get-go they were loud and boisterous. The band can be described as good, but not so much memorable. They felt just like every other Australian Indie Surf Rock bands. They came, they played and brought the house down with their most popular song Everything is Easy. Their tone and energy are at an almost complete dichotomy to their recorded songs. In particular the song Nervous was performed with a sense of velocity as opposed to the record version which is a bit more muted and relaxed. For a younger, looser self I would have absolutely frothed it. However, as I age (hopefully gracefully) I have found my tastes are more inclined to slower, softer and sweeter performances. The days of moshing are fading. The dawn of being moved by the gentlest of lyrics are upon me.

To the final, the headline of the evening, Ruby Fields. I have seen her, and her band perform twice before. She always put on a great show. This time it was nondifferent. The first time I saw Ruby play was at the very same venue. To see her transform and evolve as an artist has been truly wonderful. She appeased the crowd with classic tracks, reminding me of how well I knew her songs. I recalled each lyric to my surprise. Ruby also performed two unreleased tracks. These were darker and with a heavier edge to her previous work. She is an everchanging artist who eloquently and poignantly voices who she was, is and feels she is becoming. Ruby includes all the joys and vices within existence. An artist I respect none more, her lyrics are always self-referential and vulnerable. They are the truest form of writing and performing. Ruby Fields demonstrated the wonders of live performances. She reminded me of songs I thought I had forgotten; she ignited my obsession with her music and intrigued with new tracks that possess an enigmatic aurora. 

In summation, the evening has triggered a new perspective. Is the proliferation and indulgence of craft beers in tandem with live music the new Australiana? Within the diasporic Australian culture, it is safe to say beers and music are no new revelation. But it is the style in which both are consumed that culminate in forming a new definition. As I cast my mind back to the bowling club, those members are a dying breed. No longer is seeing ‘Debby’ and ‘Bruce’ down at the bowlo on a Thursday night a stalwart of tradition, that spans decades within one’s rather repetitive life. Rather, is it now going to the craft beer breweries then onto a venue of live music? In this economy who knows how long that could last, but I hope along with the reader that live events become their own pillar of anecdotes and memories of one’s life. 

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