Last Thursday night, Hockey Dad performed at The Lansdowne Hotel to kick off Jack Daniel’s & Secret Sounds “LIVE AT LAST” series.
I missed the lonely sight of a drum set, an amp stack, a pedalboard, and a microphone all set up at the end of a bar, all waiting to rock. I missed those few anticipation-laden seconds when guitars are being plugged in, the amps begin to hum, and those few cracks of the snare drum before they launch into their first song. I missed peeling my Chuck Taylors off the sticky, beer-soaked floor every time I take a step. I missed feeling the thud of the kick drum and the guitar screaming out of an amp like a harsh breeze against my face. I even missed banging my shins against the stage as the crowd surges back and forth. Well, maybe not as much. Hockey Dad delivered those needs at The Landsdowne Hotel last Thursday night.
The show kicked off Jack Daniel’s & Secret Sounds “LIVE AT LAST” series, a string of free, intimate shows bringing major acts to lucky ticket-winning fans in comfy venues around Australia. What better way to do it at Chippendale’s iconic, grubby venue with a South Coast surf rock garage band-turned-world-tourers?
With their ocean-drenched garage rock, Hockey Dad—childhood best friends Zach Stephenson (vocals, guitar) and Billy Fleming (drums)—have become one of Australia’s most popular and exciting acts, cutting their teeth at pubs and festivals up and down the New South Wales coast, sold-out shows across Australia, and successful tours in Europe, US, and Canada. Their third release, Brain Candy, showed assured growth in sound, range, and songwriting for the band, debuting at number 2 on the ARIA Albums Chart upon its release in late July 2020. For their show at the Landsdowne, the Windang duo returned to their roots with raw, scrappy charisma.
Thursday was a pit stop in the middle of Hockey Dad’s sold-out Brain Candy tour to support their third release from July, a tour that has been postponed several times due to COVID-19. This is their fourth city in a week, having been through Adelaide, Melbourne, and Wollongong. They looked comfortable with the change of scenery from playing on a rotating state to fifteen thousand at Wollongong’s Yours & Owls festival last weekend to the crowded Chippo bar room.
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Accompanied by an energetic bassist, the boys set their focus on songs from Brain Candy (Germophobe, Dole Brother, In This State, Itch, Keg, Good Eye, I Missed Out) and 2018’s Blend Inn (Homely Feeling, I Wanna Be Everybody, Join the Club). They even threw in a cover of Pavement’s 1994 indie classic “Cut Your Hair”, a tongue-in-cheek move from the shaggy-haired surf rockers. The set was short and sweet—45 minutes, 11 songs, with Zach and Billy taking turns chatting to the crowd in between the second or third song. “Who’s got work tomorrow?” yells Billy with a laugh as the crowd roars back at him. The fans were packed into the checked dancefloor, most close enough to be able to touch the microphones. Throughout the set, a half-dozen spectators hopped up next to Zach on stage, only to launch themselves on top of the crowd for a different kind of surfing. One couldn’t help but notice Billy’s bouncy giddiness, seemingly in disbelief that this is his job, or Zach’s smiling when singing as he hears the crowd chant his words alongside him.
I woke up with a touch of a hangover and my ears still ringing. It’s good to have live music back in full force. Thank you, Hockey Dad.
LIVE AT LAST: Hockey Dad at The Lansdowne Thursday 29 April setlist
I Wanna Be Everybody
In This State
Cut Your Hair (Pavement Cover)
I Missed Out
Join the Club
Words by Mack Perry
Images via Maclay Heriot.