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Gig Review: Philadelphia Grand Jury @ The East Brunswick Club, 10th April

Last night saw one of the biggest names in Australian indie music at the moment, Philadelphia Grand Jury (but you can call them the Philly Jays) played at the East Brunswick Club on their final tour before relocating to the UK.

This was my fifth time seeing the guys live, after first having been been introduced to them when they were opening for Yves Klein Blue at the Northcote Social Club, before even releasing their debut album.

Part of the attraction of the gig for me was definitely the second openers however, The John Steel Singers. Having liked these guys’ music for a while, I finally got a taste of their live show at Falls and was blown away. The band had entered the stage all wearing horse masks, and the set had ended with a massive ten person linedance on stage.

So we arrived at the venue just before The John Steel Singers were scheduled to take stage, and, after only a bit of a delay, they did just that.

They’re definitely a larger band than most, with no less than six members. However their stage presence and sound definitely reflect this, and they are so cohesive as a unit that they managed to make it work. They played a phenomenally good support act set characterised by galloping drum beats, catchy upbeat tunes, and blood on a guitar.

Their set was probably split half-half with songs I recognised from their debut LP ‘The Beagle And The Dove’ and subsequent singles, and those that I only remembered vaguely from Falls. Every song was thoroughly enjoyable however. Strawberry Wine was greeted with warm applause from their fans littered amongst the (sizeable) crowd, and Masochist, my favourite song of theirs, got everybody warmed up nicely.

Newer single Rainbow Kraut went over very nicely indeed, and a late-set Evolution was absolutely epic. It saw frontman Tim Morrissey cut his fingers with some frantic guitar playing. Not concerned at all, he continued playing the song, in what can only be described as in true heroic gig style.

Even sans horse masks, The John Steel Singers were absolutely wonderful. The end of their set was the most enjoyable, after Tim asked the crowd to “Fill in this layer of hatred” in reference to the empty first few rows. The crowd were duly appreciative of the great music, and it was a simply fantastic set from the guys. At 45 minutes it was a satisfactorily long set for an opening act, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Tim left his guitar on stage after the band had departed, smeared with his own blood. If you want any more symbolic proof of a band dedicated to their live show, look no further than that.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting and watching the curtains now obscuring the stage, a disembodied voice echoed through the now completely packed room: “Welcome to the party!”. Straight away there was a surge towards the very front of the crowd, and the curtains dutifully parted to reveal The Philly Jays themselves walking onto stage: MC Bad Genius, Berkfinger, and, of course, Calvin (no last name necessary).

Straight away the atmosphere lifted another level, and the trio broke into what would be a decidedly short but insanely energetic set. The Philly Jays absolutely ripped into a set full of fan favourites from debut album ‘Hope Is For Hopers’.

Pretty much every song was introduced via pre-recoreded banter as “My favourite song; the best song”, but when every song was so enjoyable that was perfectly fine with us. Growing Up Alone was definitely an early set favourite, as Berkfinger and MC Bad Genius prowled around the stage and Calvin absolutely owned the room as always, starting clap alongs with the crowd and getting a huge cheer every time his name was mentioned.

Going To The Casino (Tomorrow Night) got the whole room moving as everyone took pride in singing along to the line “And then it hits me, that no-one’s in love with me”. Ready To Roll was as fun as ever, and works magnificently live.

I’m Going To Kill You and The New Neil Young both of course went over perfectly, and the latter was definitely one of the highlights of the night: the lyrics “These are such ordinary times, we live such ordinary lives” could not have juxtaposed more strongly with the sheer insanity that is the Philly Jays live.

A very drunken solo (and temporary) stage invasion occurred, which really didn’t do justice to the legendary stage invasions that have occurred in other cities this tour, but you can’t exactly complain about that. I Don’t Want To Party (Party) put the craziness levels in the room to a new high, as it always does, with Calvin going insane on the drums and MC Bad Genius and Berkfinger charging one another across the front of the stage. Only the Philly Jays could turn a song called ‘I Don’t Want To Party’ into such a party.

It probably went for close to ten minutes, and the crowd managed to keep up the energy for the whole song. The atmosphere only got better when the end of the song merged into the beginning of everyone’s favourite, The Good News. It is such a wonderful song, and I definitely think that the inclusion of keys in Philly Jays songs adds another dimension to their music that makes these songs much stronger than the others. Philips’s Not In Love With You is my favourite Philly Jays song for instance, although it sadly did not make an appearance in this set.

With only half an hour elapsed, the band left the stage to huge applause, only to return almost immediately and play an encore consisting of Wet Winter Holiday and a cover of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. The latter was the highlight of the whole night for me, oddly enough. Berkfinger pulled off the legendary ‘reverse stage invasion’, jumping into the crowd and retreating all the way into the middle of the venue to sing the entire song, as a bit of a mosh formed around him, and the crowd took pride in jumping around, hugging him, and ruffling his hair. Once again, only the Philly Jays could pull off a cover of Jay-Z at an indie gig, with their lead singer standing and dancing in the middle of the crowd.

It had been an extremely short but utterly excitable set. Thirty-five minutes is the shortest main set I have ever witnessed, and significantly shorter than the opening act, but the Philly Jays crammed it with so much fun and craziness that no-one could possibly complain. Like a whirlwind they came and left the East Brunswick Club much sweatier and excited than it had been when they arrived.

It was also great to see the band hang around after the show- they strike me as guys that really appreciate their fans. I had a bit of a chat with them all and particularly enjoyed talking to Calvin, who is just as cool in person as he seems on stage. They were all very impressed that I had seen them five times live, and I managed to grab a vinyl of Going To The Casino (Tomorrow Night) and get it signed.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable gig. I loved the support act and the main act equally, and they were both absolutely wonderful. It just had the feel of a uniquely crazy night, even if the Philly Jays do the same thing all tour and will be doing the same thing tonight. It felt special.

It was an honour to meet the guys after the show, and really nice to see them one final time before they head overseas. Best of luck guys, and return soon.

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