Live Review: The Bennies w/ Off With Their Heads @ Woolly Mammoth
Melbourne seems to continually pump out some of Australia’s most lovable musicians and artists. The Bennies are a clear example of this phenomenon at work. After floating around Australia’s underground rock scene for years, the release of their sophomore album ‘Wisdom Machine’ last month saw them finally break through to a national audience. Riding high thanks to their highly acclaimed album and an entry in triple j’s 2015 Hottest 100, the carefree 4-piece delivered a glorious 90 minute set to a sold-out Brisbane crowd, that felt more like a family gathering rather than a Saturday night gig.
Charged with getting the crowd to liven up before The Bennies was American quartet Off With Their Heads. Hailing from Minneapolis, the rockers treated the crowd like old friends, sharing plenty of banter and anecdotes about their previous Australian tours and mischievous “after gig” adventures.
A rough sound check and a couple of tech issues, which saw frontman Ryan Young stop mid-song to say ““thanks for your patience, we’re professional musicians”, meant their set got off to a stuttering beginning. But three songs in they found their mojo as Young took command of stage and began his 40-minute sermon about personal issues and not wanting to grow up to the adoring moshers below.
Their biggest single Drive had most screaming “I’m outta my mind and I’m out of your sight” right back at Young, while those who didn’t know the words started the friendliest of mosh pits. The lack of structure was possibly the best quality of Off With Their Head’s set. Young’s shout of “do we even have a set list?? Let’s do drummer’s choice!” won over the few who weren’t fully interested in the set, making them put down their drink and join the rest of us jumping around and singing along to the “ohh ahh” backing vocals.
The highlight of the set was Die Today, which Young explained is about “skipping out on work to do drugs on your porch all day”. It’s brutally honest lyrics combined with a fast tempo and the slightly inebriated crowd created an infectious vibe that saw everyone join in on the friendliest of mosh pits and scream what we all think five mornings a week, “I don’t wanna go to work today!”.
The crowd packed in close as The Bennies exploded out of the traps with a vocal-led psychedelic trip, before their signature Korg synth signalled the beginning of the 90-minute ruckus. To the uninitiated, The Bennies are the sonic personification of a metal-loving hippie substantially off his chops, and as such their live shows are completely out of this world. The Bennies got the party well and truly started with Detroit Rock Ciggies, with it’s reggae verse and ripper guitar riff leading to the first mosh and mass groove of the set. It also saw the first of many stage divers carried across the mosh, back onto the stage, and then back out into the fray.
The crowd by now was an equal mix of tattooed longhaired larrikins, fresh-faced 18-year-olds wearing their newest Vans and Connies, and silver foxes. Normally this would mean a clear separation in the audience, but the relatable and carefree nature of The Bennies meant everyone moshed, sang, and shared (several) doobies as if it was one big gathering of old friends.
The chemistry of The Bennies made their purposely-disheveled look and carefree stage antics feel like a well-oiled (‘Wisdom’) machine. Frontman Anty Horgan seemed to be the happiest man alive as he proclaimed, “We’re here celebrating the release of our new album ‘Wisdom Machine’, have you listened to it?” to which he received a deafening “YEAAAAAAH!”. Horgan then set the wheels in motion with, “The band believes in one thing, and that’s sweet Mary Jane! This song’s called Sky High”. As if a (not very) cryptic message was finally spoken, the venue filled with the smell of…well Mary Jane as the four cosmic rockers grooved through the very reggae track. As the haze cleared their guitarist Jules Rozenbergs ripped a killer solo to close out the song, as the band shared round a doobie of their own.
Heavy Disco picked up the pace and had the Woolly Mammoth shaking as the capacity crowd jumped all as one sweaty hairy entity. Stage divers came flying out from the stage at all angles, treating the mosh pit more like a pool in the middle of summer. This forced Horgan to set some ground rules, “Don’t kick anyone in the head, just high five each other and let’s get wasted!”. This did nothing to slow down the stage divers, one even decided to climb and hang upside down from the lighting rig, but a crowd surfer (literally) did put a helmet on before jumping up on top of the wriggling mass of moshers.
The rest of the set slowly descended into a stoner-rock party, with Mary Jane floating around the crowd freely as the The Bennies blasted through the best of their reggae-inspired cosmic pub rock. Feeling the full effects of the previously mentioned doobie, Rozenbergs’ guitar work was pushed to a whole new level as he ripped solos and power chords while wearing the happiest of grins. Hold On was sung so loudly by the crowd is was as if it’s The Bennies’ unofficial theme song, while Party Machine sent a bolt of cosmic electricity through the crowd as we all joined in on the friendly mosh, screaming “I’m a PARTY, MACHIIIIIIINE”! .
The Melbourne larrikins finished the night with O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a fitting end to both ‘Wisdom Machine’ and their set as the track somehow crams all their lovable cosmic reggae-rock sounds into nine minutes of ‘Bennies goodness. When the quartet eventually left the stage it felt like a spell had been lifted, did we all just jump around like idiots screaming about illicit substances for close to two hours?
Check out our Photo Gallery HERE
Photos by Tom Sue Yek