Between Rock & A Hard Place

An article about the Sound Relief gigs, including Hunters and Collectors.

Author: The Age.

Date: 13 March 2009.

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Some of the biggest names in music unite tomorrow to help Victoria’s bushfire victims. Patrick Donovan reports on how Australia’s biggest-ever concert came together.

In 1993, about 75,000 people trekked out to Calder Park Raceway to see Guns n’ Roses, Skid Row and Rose Tattoo on a sweltering summer’s day.

That show holds the record as the biggest paid concert in Australian music history. But it will be broken tomorrow when about 80,000 music fans turn up to the MCG for the Sound Relief bushfire benefit.

While the Calder Park show celebrated rock’n’roll excess in all its guises, Sound Relief has a much more sobering message. Some of Australia’s biggest musicians have come together – and in some cases reformed – to raise millions of dollars and send a message of support to the victims of the recent bushfires.

They include Midnight Oil, Hunters & Collectors and Kasey Chambers, to name a few. They will be joined by such international acts as Kings of Leon and Jack Johnson.”

It’s just an amazing result,” says Sound Relief co-organiser Michael Gudinski. “The line-up is without doubt a once-in-a-lifetime one – we could have filled three MCGs. It speaks volumes of the passion of our great country helping a mate in trouble.

It’s more than just raising money, it’s about solidarity.”

Sometimes I wonder what it is I actually do, so it’s great to be in a position to help.”

Gudinski’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he announced details of the concerts – that will be held simultaneously tomorrow at the MCG and SCG – on Channel 9’s Australia Unites telethon last month.

The first person Gudinski spoke to was his former Frontier Touring partner and sometime rival Michael Chugg, who was already planning a concert with ARIA Awards organiser Mark Pope. They decided to run the concerts simultaneously under the one banner in two cities.

Next call was to Midnight Oil manager Gary Morris to see if federal Arts and Environment Minister Peter Garrett could excuse himself from helping run the country for a couple of days. Then he spoke to bands from his Mushroom Records label. Hunters & Collectors, who he has been trying to get to re-form for years, overcame personality clashes to play their first set in 11 years.

Split Enz, who called Melbourne their second home, agreed to don the make-up for one last time. US singer songwriter Jack Johnson offered to fly down from his home in Byron Bay, and US rock group Kings of Leon agreed to play with their full production set-up even though they are playing a headliner show later that night at Rod Laver Arena.

Kylie Minogue offered her support and will fly in on the morning to be guest MC and probably sing a song. Even ex-pats Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and Olivia Newton John have arranged to fly to Sydney and perform at the concert that will be opened by Coldplay, the biggest-selling act in the world last year.

“I am truly proud and honoured to be a small part of such an incredible event,” says Gibb. “I shall be there with wings on my heels to help in any way I can the victims of this terrible disaster, let’s make it count for all of them. I’m coming home.”

Closer to home, country performer Troy Cassar-Daley was one of the first musicians on the scene, travelling to Whittlesea to entertain fire victims.

“It was amazing seeing the impact that the fire had on this tiny town,” he says. Cassar-Daley has played the Whittlesea Country Music Festival and will perform at the MCG with Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson.

“These people had lost their homes and were living in caravans so I went to the meeting point and played a few songs. It was great to see kids with smiles on their faces. Music is the healer.”

Hunters & Collectors’ Mark Seymour believes that such a tragedy taps into the nation’s psyche and has cultural ramifications. He has written songs about the 1970 West Gate Bridge collapse and imagines Black Saturday will inspire more laments, but it will be too soon to play them at the concert.

“There’s an amazing cross-generational mix of groups – it’s like the biggest Big Day Out you can imagine.

Despite the circumstances that brought the show on, I think it’s a fantastic showcase for the Australian industry. It will be the first time my kids see Hunters & Collectors, and I think that that signifies a great deal.”

Footage of each concert will be shown at the other stadium, linking the two events. All proceeds from the Melbourne event will go to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal. The show will be broadcast on Channel V.

And Gudinski is promising a few surprises. “I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

Michael Chugg says it is the type of event that “you’ll be telling your grandchildren about”.

While it would usually cost millions to stage such an event, the hundreds of people involved in the concerts – musicians, promoters, roadies, cleaners – have waived their fees. The Victorian cricket team had to move its home final against Queensland to St Kilda’s Junction Oval, and online auction house eBay took the rare step of refusing to let scalpers sell tickets at inflated prices on the site to avoid the problems that afflicted previous fund-raisers Wave Aid and Make Poverty History (although the occasional ticket has still popped up).

It’s not often that music and politics mix in Australia, but even Premier John Brumby was singing the industry’s praises at the press conference at the MCG on February 24, for being there in times of need.”

They’ve always been there, our music industry, when times are tough, and we’re seeing it again this time, bigger probably than ever before.”

He expected that the concert, as with the Day Of Mourning service at Rod Laver Arena, would help with the healing process.

“Victorians and Australians want to be together, they want to be there, arm in arm. They want to express their feeling and their grief and they want to help, and this is a great way to do it.”

In Melbourne, all eyes will be on Peter Garrett flailing around the stage with his band Midnight Oil. Many younger fans, who will be seeing the band for the first – and probably last – time, will be wondering what the gangly bald guy from Parliament House is doing closing one of the most significant concerts ever held in this country. (Others may well be smirking as he sings politically charged or environmentally friendly lyrics at odds with his recent decisions as an MP.) But Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst, who wrote many of the band’s songs with guitarist Jim Moginie, says the band has a right to play any of their material.

“It’s important to remember that these are Midnight Oil songs,” says Hirst.

“They were written by members of the Oils – usually by myself and Jim. They were rehearsed and recorded and performed all around the world and this is our catalogue as a band. So although some people might have some issues with some of Pete’s decisions as Environment Minister, I think we have every right to play any of our 165 songs.”

Narrowing it down to 30 minutes worth will be the hard part – for all of the bands. There are many iconic anthems that will inspire the crowd to sing as one – Paul Kelly’s Leaps and Bounds, Hunters & Collectors Throw Your Arms Around Me and Midnight Oil’s One Country.”

Even before we knew we were playing, I had been thinking about One Country,” Hirst says. “It has a unifying quality to it that would sound amazing in a stadium.”


10am Gates open
12.10pm Jet
12.55pm Gabriella Cilmi
1.40pm Kings Of Leon
2.20pm Paul Kelly
3.05pm Augie March
3.50pm Bliss N Eso with Paris Wells
4.35pm Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson with Troy Cassar-Daley
5.30pm Liam Finn
6.20pm Jack Johnson
7pm Wolfmother
7.45pm Special announcement and a minute’s silence
8pm Hunters & Collectors
8.55pm Split Enz
9.50pm Midnight Oil
10.30pm Finish


Are You Gonna Be My Girl? – Jet
Sweet About Me – Gabriella Cilmi
One Crowded Hour – Augie March
Woman – Wolfmother
The Captain – Kasey Chambers
Sex on Fire – Kings Of Leon
Leaps and Bounds – Paul Kelly
I Hope I Never – Split Enz
Throw Your Arms Around Me – Hunters & Collectors
One Country – Midnight Oil