The summer heat is upon us, the possibility of outdoor gigs is rising, and so inevitably comes the temptation to put on that gently swaying, pleasantly plucked, easy-to-drink-a-cheeky-white-to music made by one of the prototype surf, bongs and love songs soft boys of acoustic pop.
Wind Back Wednesday is here to ask: have you thought this through? Do you really want to do that? As evidence for consideration, here’s a review, almost exactly 10 years on, of a certain Jack Hody Johnson.
If you still want to play this afterwards, well good on you, go well. And may god have mercy on your soul.
The Domain, December 11
The distress signal text went out around 9.20pm from my phone: “Help. HELP! I am 50 minutes into a Jack Johnson concert and I’ve lost all feeling in my imagination.”
As if by divine (or Oprah? Or is that the same thing?) intervention, ten minutes later fireworks exploded over the harbour behind us. Colour. Movement. Noise. Would that do it? Was that the rescue?
‘Twas an unlikely evening for a rescue to be needed, it must be said.
On a mild summer night seemingly arranged to show a visiting American television audience that December doesn't have to mean salted roads and central heating (“and you too could be here for a low, low price, check the Australian Tourism hotline at the end of the show. Call. Please Call.”) the Domain was filled with relaxed, regular people who looked just like you and me.
Particularly if you and I are up the duff: I haven’t seen this many pregnant women at a gig since ante-natal classes.
The twentysomethings were on rugs; the middle aged on low-rise chairs; the families cuddled up together; while nearer the front, past the sign which said “this is a music gig, no chairs or rugs beyond this point”, people on their feet were swaying and smiling at each other, like a Ben Ean commercial from the 1970s.
Actually, I've no doubt Johnson could have sold a whole lot of Moselle back then with his good times/warm times songs made for summer nights by the beach, such as Taylor or Better Together. For indeed, any individual Johnson song is a pleasant thing: gently rhythmic, gently melodic, gently nostalgic. Even when he gets funky with something like Bubble Toes it’s gently done.
The problem is, run them together and these songs become indistinct, become numbing really.
Comfortably numb, true, but when a cover of Steve Miller's easy grooving The Joker (possibly Johnson’s mission statement in song: “I'm a picker/I'm a grinner/I'm a lover/And I'm a sinner/I play my music in the sun”) stands out from its surroundings like someone dropping a Zeppelin riff into a Manilow ballad, it does not bode well for the rest of the night.
Help. Help .......