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[Review] Jungle Giants @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 23/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

I’m convinced that every Australian under 30 has been made to watch The Jungle Giants at least once. Except it’s less, “A Clockwork Orange” and more “oh noooo, please don’t make me watch one of Australia’s most iconic, musically sharp, banger-producing bands, play yet another festival oh noooo”. Like clockwork, every festival season, Sam Hales and his gang take to the stage and absolutely rock a sea of bucket-hat wearers. I have been this bucket-hat wearer, and always look forward to somehow ending up at The Jungle Giants stage and dancing in the beating sun. But something I’d never done, was see them play at an indoor venue, especially not one as intimate as Melbourne’s The Forum.

The Lazy Eyes, however, were a new treat for me. And treat is the right word. The band members are unassuming; lead singer Harvey Geraghty looks like a more relaxed Kurt Cobain, if Cobain ever decided to pursue the synth instead of the guitar. Itay Shachar shreds on lead guitar, and he looks like a missing member of notorious Loser-Rock band Weezer; big glasses frames hiding his face, white button up tucked into chinos – the whole ensemble. But these guys aren’t Loser-Rock, they’re cool, very cool. They have this laid-back air about them as they wind through tracks from their various releases, as if it’s no-big-deal that they are playing flawlessly. They easily match the quality of their recordings, and then blow it out of the water. Even as newcomers, they are a band that was born to play live. A highlight in their set was undeniably their cover of More Than A Woman by the BeeGees, it was the same disco-esque beat we all know and love, mixed with Lazy Eye’s own psych-rock sensibilities – and it was awesome. During personal fave; Where’s My Brain??, the fearsome foursome are playing so loud, I can feel the wall I’m leaning on wobble, pulsing with every slam Noah Martin delivers to the kick-drum. The venue is literally alive, Lazy Eyes it’s metronomic heartbeat. After blowing our minds, and nearly blowing the ceiling off The Forum, front-man Geraghty thanks us with a beaming grin; “Thanks! We’re going to play some piano songs now.” He says it as if that last track wasn’t anything special. What’s jaw-dropping for the rest of us, is just another day for The Lazy Eyes. Once the piano comes out we are treated to unreleased track; Better Off This Way. “We’re going to play you one more love song and then get outta here. This is the first-ever song we put out, and it’s called Cheesy Love Song”. I love Cheesy Love Song, it reminds me of going to highschool in New South Wales – just like The Lazy Eyes. For anyone who had crushes or romances in the suburbs of some satellite-city, this one’s for you. Enjoy your meal.

It’s easy to forget how young the four guys onstage are, with their ever-growing trail of releases, international festival slots and rave reviews. But when Geraghty takes the mic to say, “This is the last show of our tour with The Jungle Giants, and it’s been a massive pleasure. Thanks to them for inspiring us and putting up with our shit!” And I look at all their beaming smiles, it hits me. They’re still just four young men, unsure how they got to this stage, but they are damn well not going to lose it. They bring the support act to a close with Fuzz Jam. Gerahgty gets weird with the synth, playing with his voice “oooooh” becoming “oOOoOoOh”. I can see him giggling a little bit. But, somehow, even while they are having a mess-around – they’re flawless. Bassist Leon Karagic is absolutely ripping into his bass strings, giving us the solo of a lifetime. Dissatisfied with the crowd’s energy, Geraghty just says, “Can I get a little more movement?” and subtly waves his arm up, and the crowd goes for it. Girls who drink Somersbys and guys who drink GOAT beers throwing their arms in the air and shimmying and jostling. And then, they leave the stage, and no one moves – despite the 20-minute space between acts. All of our eyes are glued to the stage, desperately trying to make our main act appear.

In the gap between acts, jungle-esque techno is playing through the venue, just in case you’d forgotten you were here to see The Jungle Giants. The crowd is awash with people in cowboy hats. I’m confused, but rocking with the vibe nonetheless.

Then, the lights go dark and tendrils of light burst from the stage and make us squint to see the silhouettes of the Brisbane-icons take the stage. The room is holding it’s breath, you could hear a pin drop. Instead of a pin, we hear the voice of front-man Sam Hales, one we will hear a lot of through the night, say two simple words; “Let’s go” and we are thrown into Something Got Between Us. Normally, crowds need a bit of warming up, but we are sufficiently warm. So when Hales starts a call-and-response with us, we are immediately there with him, not a drop of hesitation. The iconic festival banger is one a lot of us had to miss last time The Jungle Giants were in town, Laneway ’23, due to The Great Jungle Giants / 100 gecs Timeslot Clash. So we are making up for it now. People are on each others shoulders, hats are being waved in the air, we are screaming back to the band onstage:

“Hey! Never gonna let you go! Not. This. Time.”

There’s always something amazing about the last show of a tour, the band gives it everything they’ve got, but it isn’t without a slight air of mourning. Hales is an extraordinary vocalist at the best of times, but tonight he’s something else. He belts these incredibly long, high notes that aren’t even on the recording. He’s letting it all out. And the energy in the room is matching this. In between every song, he lets out; “The energy in here is fucking fantastic. It’s something else. It’s ethereal.” Send Me Ur Loving is their second track, and our energy only grows. The question is, how long can we last? (Spoiler: The energy only grows for the next 90 minutes, thanks to the masterful musicianship and audience connection that makes The Jungle Giants one of Australia’s best.)

You’re a great crowd, we can tell that already, so we are gonna treat you fucking right tonight.” And they do, literally. Treat You Right is the next cab off the rank, and just like the songs before it, it’s so good. The lighting team is absolutely crushing it with these big washes of purple, red and orange. Spotlights going crazy on the band, and on us. They are giving it everything they’ve got. You can tell The Jungle Giants play at festivals, they know what crowds want. This tiny space is alive. I can nearly feel the grass, and taste the canned water, and feel my pupils becoming dinner plates. They have created a nostalgia-pill, a yearning for summertime, a much-needed release from Melbourne’s unrelenting winter. And then, suddenly, silence. The stage lights are stopped, the band stops mid-song. The stage has lost power. Instead of being upset, Hales just laughs. “You know what this means? It means you’re seeing a live fucking rock show!” The crowd cheers and his band look relieved and let out held breaths. Hales is one of the best frontmen in the business, you immediately trust him. He’s disarming and funny and talented, he loves his band, he loves his crowds, he always wears fun outfits – he’s an Australian icon. He’s the perfect person to ease our minds. “I’ve always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, maybe this is my chance.” Before he can tell us a joke he spots some girls frantically waving fake candles in the crowd. “Are these candles?” he asks, he’s met with untranslatable screams, “You stole them?! Why?” The girls just shrug. “Fair enough, you look great!”. Hales then hits us with some of the worst dad-jokes you can imagine; yes, that bad. But he’s so confident with it, that we all have to laugh. He keeps the energy light. I’m standing by the tech-desk and see the chaos unfold right before me. A few men frantically pressing buttons and moving levers, seemingly to no avail. And then, like Moses parting the Red Sea, She arrives. Out of the crowd, a woman with a bleached mini mohawk, leather jacket, heeled boots steps up to the desk. I spot the lesbian-pride badge on her jacket. If I have to trust anyone to get the job done, it’s a lesbian with a buzz-cut. And within 30 seconds and barely a wiggle of a knob, we have power. She’s the underrated superstar of our evening.

“Let’s just start the next song, and you guys are gonna set the tempo. Start clapping to the same beat!” It’s been said that ‘White People Have No Rhythm’, never has that ever been truer than right now. We can’t find a beat to save ourselves. But somehow, we eventually find one, and it’s fast. The band doesn’t look perturbed at all. Drummer, Keelan Bijker (Dutch icon), picks up for us, and the band plays On Your Way Down, to a completely new tempo. Fuck me, it’s impressive. The music just flows out of them, effortlessly. This song is a personal fave, so I’m loving it. I love it so much I start a dance circle with my friend and this girl next to us. The crowd is going nuts, we are all swaying arms and reckless abandon, bathed in a sea of purple and blue.

Now, the hats, don’t worry, I didn’t forget. “I can see some of you know what The Hats are about, and for those of you who don’t let me explain,” begins Hales, “Throw those hats up on stage and we will auction them off to a charity; Support Act, it’s one primarily focused on music. If you can get your hat on my head, you get 50 free tickets to The Jungle Giants. A guy got it last night and I’m gonna call him later.” The crowd shrieks and a swarm of hats, all directly aimed at Hales’ head fly onto the stage. Someone nearly gets it, it knicks Hales in the ear. “You know what, that’s close… We’ll talk” and our frontman shoots off a finger gun to the owner of said blue bedazzled cowboy hat. Someone throws a feather boa onstage. “Oh shit! What is this? A feather boa? I’m just like Harry Styles.” Hales laughs, “I don’t know how he plays in this, so I’ll just wear it in between tracks.” And he does, for the rest of the show, while rotating through the hats so lovingly chucked at his head. Legend.

Feel The Way I Do is next. And this is where it dawns on me, I know every The Jungle Giants song. So does everybody. They have ingrained themselves into our subconscious, like U2 putting that album on everyone’s iTunes back in the day. But instead of thinking too much about why it is these guys seem like old friends, I throw my hands in the air and jump along to the silly synth beats and Andre Dooris’ unmatchable bass lines. As they swap cowboy hats, they wind through the rest of the set, each track keeping the energy high and the people overjoyed. Rakata, Monstertruck and others are all in store for us – the songs just keep coming. The Jungle Giants throw film cameras into the audience every time I’ve seen them, “Take some motherfucking pics!” is our only instruction. Our soundtrack is In Her Eyes, and soon those cameras are being thrown back onstage, stocked with photos of friends, couples, and strangers. Looking around, I see lads in bucket hats jokingly slow dancing with each other, young couples making out, and the girls behind me, fuelled on rose, screaming “Sam, you’re so SEXY!!! Sam!!!!” I’m also 99% sure recently reviewed Matt Maltese is in a booth here tonight. They finish with Trippin Up, before blowing us a kiss and walking offstage. The crowd isn’t having it, and they scream like how I’ve never heard people scream. And so, the band comes back on for their encore. Hales, somehow not out of breath, introduces us to his band. “I thought I’d lost my band, would’ve made it hard to give you one last song. But here they are: on drums, Keelan Bijker, on bass, Andrew Dooris and on lead guitar, the always sensational, Cesira Aitken.” Aitken is unassuming, as ever, acting as if it isn’t a big deal that a premiere-league Australian rock band has a female lead guitarist. She always gives a shy smile and returns her gaze to the guitar, as the crowd screams their love for her. “Let’s give a big cheer to our tech crew, say ‘Fuck yeah, Tech Crew!”


Hales seems satisfied with that, “Thank you so much! This was out 17th and final show of tour, and we’ve made something special here tonight. Take all that energy you have and pour it out, leave it here, give this everything you’ve got!” Heavy Hearted is one hell of a closing number. And we get an extra-long version. Hales’ gives and gives, and so do we. It’s a battle of wills, and neither of us let that energy drop. It’s such a good song, so we clap and laugh and some of us cry. To cap off an already insane night, with a stacked setlist, the band plays us out with Used To Be In Love. It gets emotional; all of us excited for summer and romance and friends and picnics. And so, we pour all of ourselves out onto the dancefloor, strangers become friends, and The Jungle Giants become our anthem.

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