SYN Reviews: Good Grief – Bendigo Hotel, 26th March 2018

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Good Grief live at The Bendigo Hotel, Monday 26th March
Photos thanks to BPrice Photography

Words by Nicolas Zoumboulis

 

In their debut gig on Monday 26th March, newly formed Melbourne alt-rock group Good Grief reminded the Bendigo Hotel what a grunge experience should really feel like.

Although it was a Monday night and Melbourne was dealing out its first bit of seriously cold weather, the worn-in interiors of the Bendigo Hotel were being put to good use by a surprisingly sizable crowd. Whether the crowd size was due to outrageously cheap drink prices or not, Good Grief took full advantage and without any introduction launched into ‘Go Lightly’, which was anything but. Heavy, filled with grit and unapologetically high amplitude, Good Grief started strong.

There isn’t a whole lot of space between songs starting and ending, perhaps as Good Grief gather experience it’ll leave more room for personalities to shine through. For now though, guitarist and vocalist Frances Sweeney kindly thanks the audience and gets back into business.

As the ongoing theme of hard-hitting guitar-work continued in their third song, ‘Housemate Jam’, high-gain guitarist Liam Niere quickly moved to keyboard adding some appreciated instrumental and tonal diversity to the performance. Quickly overcoming some brief sound issues Niere recovered with professionalism, and was then able to sink back into a relaxed state as he glided over the keys.

Forgivably there are some visible nerves onstage; with all new bands its members must each face the challenge of experimenting with their own individual positions. Immediately apparent however was the self-confidence of snarling drummer Floyd Taylor-Morrison who provided not only solid ground for the band but an entertaining flair for theatrics, at one point later on even letting a drumstick fly. Morrison’s drums are tight, punchy and unlike some drummers he’s not the sort to fade into the background. At some points he took full control of the moment to digress into a solo, but his band didn’t seem to mind as they allowed themselves to drop their serious-rock personas for a brief chuckle. These are the best parts of the performance, when the audience is able to get a greater sense of the real dynamic within the group.

The name Floyd Morrison brings up reminders of two musical icons, but this isn’t the only apparent reference to rock greats being played out onstage. There are hints of influence from early Queens of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and Muse, with Sam Reeves doing the bulk of lead guitar work on a Gibson Les Paul 1950s tribute. For the most part, Reeves intently focuses on the robust and heavy riffing with his long mane obscuring his face and adding a touch of mystique to his persona. However, he’s best when he sneaks a small grin between songs to signal that he’s not taking it too seriously.

The vocals are shared between Sweeney and Bridget McArthur, with each giving their counterpart the opportunity to show off their own specific skill set. Although they both share the front stage, it’s clear each understands their strengths and won’t let ego jeopardise the performance as they dished out some slick harmonies. When focusing on the vocalists’ command of space visually, it’s difficult to ignore their striking aesthetic, there’s something reminiscent of the 1970-80s female rock pioneers and this extends to their sound. After powering through some impressive original tracks, Sweeney took to covering a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds classic, ‘Red Right Hand’. This time the band was directly sharing with us a major influence, but it’s being played in homage form with Sweeney coming through with deep, husky vocals.

Each of Good Grief’s vocalists brings something different to the table but in doing so compliments the other. McArthur was clearly very comfortable at the microphone, dividing her attention between passionately executed vocals and supportively playing bass. Her role is measured; the vocals remain relatively fast and upbeat, but harmonising or alternately overpowering when they need to be. It’s surprisingly mature and well put-together for a band doing its first live performance.

Ending their gritty first performance with a self-titled track, Good Grief thanked the audience and like all modern rockers urged the crowd to like their Facebook page, before heading to the bar to relax with friends.

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