Cultural cringe is an interesting phenomenon. Something that you should be theoretically proud of leaves you rocking back and forth in the foetal position and filled with an innate sense of dread. Ozhop fits extremely comfortably in this category.
The increased popularity of this genre does not detract from this, as things that were once popular are now viewed as “not being such a good thing”, i.e slavery. Many of the artists are ripped directly from the pages of Encyclopaedia Generica. In South East Asian t-shirt parlance they would be described as “same, same but not different” and Pasteur would have been enraptured by the level of homogenisation had he of not been dead for over a century. Massacred similes, the same story about the struggles of growing up and droning monotone vocals rule the roost. In light of this, how lucky is the world to have The Herd as a truffle in a dark forest of mediocrity?
Throughout their existence, The Herd have continually reinvented themselves, from the seminal single “Scallops” off their self-titled debut through to “Future Shade”, their sounds have evolved unlike so many of their contemporaries. The diversity of the crowd present tonight illustrates this perfectly; straight brimmed baseball caps and massive t-shirts are certainly present but so are indie kiddies and every other type of musical stereotype that you can imagine. The ability to span these differing tastes speaks volumes of the talent of the all-encompassing beast that is The Herd.
The set opened up with “A Thousand Lives” and “The Sum Of It All” by which time The Corner was already bouncing. Well it felt like it until 2020 was played. Then it felt as though The Corner had all the structural integrity of certain Japanese nuclear reactor that will remain nameless. On and on it went, the crowd singing all of Ozi Batla’s and Urthboy’s raps and desperately trying to reach some of Jane Tyrell’s notes. Every time she opened her mouth, she was greeted by huge roars of approval. And entirely justified too. Jane’s permanent addition to the lineup is a really, really good thing in much the same way as adding Fergie to The Black Eyed Peas was not. Sure it has now made them ridiculously popular, but would actually listen to them if you weren’t forced to? The days of “Joints and Jam” are now long gone. There is something a little MacBeth-like about the whole sorry imbroglio…
As always at a Herd gig, there was a cause du jour and today being Record Store Day, it was the turn of the independent record stores to receive the support of the band. Urthboy’s pleas to get behind the music nerds that keep these places alive will no doubt have been heeded, as by this time the crowd was pretty much brainwashed. This is probably best displayed by the fact that Ozi Batla told a Melbourne audience that Sydney is not such a rubbish place after all and escaped without getting lynched.
When Ozi Batla led off with “Lost in deep cover”, the crowd immediately knew that one of lesser played songs “Starship Troopers” was set to be unleashed. The stylised tale of the life of soldier is both moving and troubling with an overwhelming aura of bleakness. The Homer Simpson quote of “give peace a chance… that doesn’t mean anything” unfortunately sums up the situation in Syria, Bahrain and virtually everywhere else in the Middle East, Africa etc etc perfectly. And this was even before “I Was Only 19” was played…
From then on, it was virtually a greatest hits set, “We Can’t Hear You”, “The King is Dead” and “Emergency” were all featured and then the coup de grace was unveiled, a mix of “77%” and “Burn Down the Parliament”. To say that is was a bit special is a bit of an understatement… Mariachi style duelling guitars opened up “Unpredictable” which as always lived up to its name. At some point, the stage looked remarkably similar to the wedding scene from “The Deer Hunter” although sadly with less Christopher Walken and his googly eyeballs.
The encore opened up with “Better Alive” which included the not inconsiderable talents of Thundamentals and Sky’High. Despite being the newest song in the set, it was still a highlight. This was in no small part due to Sky’High who was channelling M.I.A with amazing effect. Definitely one to look out for in the future.
As per usual, The Herd turned it on and lived up to their reputation as one of Australia’s best live acts. And too much piano accordion is never enough…
Live Gig Reviews provided by our intrepid guest writer – Aymeric de Rosbo.