Spiderbait on what makes a great live performance

Primary tabs

What makes for a great live show? Spiderbait have at least some of the answers.

Since the late '80s, Spiderbait have been one of the most interesting and exciting live acts in the country. On the eve of their first tour in what they say is "a million years", they stopped by Double J to talk about what makes for a great live show.

There are five different aspects of live performance that the band believes set the best acts apart from the others. 

TRIP: Pond – 'Giant Tortoise'

"I put this in because I saw them live at the Falls Festival last year and they're a total trip," drummer and vocalist Kram says. "They're a fantastic live band. You go to a gig and you don't know what you're gonna get and you are sent off on a trip, from whence some never return. Pond epitomises this so beautifully.

"I remember, because it was searing heat and they all stripped their shirts off and played with no shirt. Then the sun started to go down so the second half of the set got a bit cold. But you can't be putting your shirt back on when you've already taken it off!"

FRACK YOU: Dead Kennedys – 'Police Truck'

"I can't say the f-word on Double J so I'll say frack you," Kram says.

"We were really inspired by this when we first discovered punk rock. The ideology that it wasn't about entertaining the audience, it was about doing what you felt needed to be done and you were compelled to say what you needed to say and do what you needed to do. It's an ideology that we still live with very strongly.

"We also loved the freedom in their playing; we were huge Black Flag bands and we loved the Sex Pistols as well. Punk was a really big thing for us and still is.

"They were an education," guitarist Damien "Whitt" Whitty adds. "Suddenly you realise it's not about being a pop star, it's about playing music and trying to get across what's on your chest."

SUPERSTAR: Judy Garland – 'Over The Rainbow'

"It's kinda the opposite of punk in some ways," Kram begins.

"I really noticed this is a major way when Lana Del Rey played Splendour a few years back. I watched her show and as soon as she walked out on stage it was like this goddess had come out. My girlfriend was in the audience, she got bashed and elbowed by all these girls trying to get in front of her. It was madness. Everyone wanted to hear her set and sing her songs, but they really wanted to see her."

But it's a song from 75 years ago that Kram chooses to best exemplify the power of the superstar.

"I thought I'd program this, Judy Garland's 'Over The Rainbow', because Judy is a great example of a 20th century superstar who unfortunately didn't make it due to the trappings of stardom itself. There's a lot more to music sometimes than the music itself.

"But judging by this song – it's a very old song, I think it was released in 1939 – it's a brilliant performance, they recorded everything live in this era, and you could see that she was destined to become a superstar. But nobody was sure if she would make it, and sadly she didn't."

FACELESSNESS: Pink Floyd – 'Time'

"One of the greatest live bands of all time that we would have loved to have seen," Kram says of the prog legends. "Me and Whitt were huge Pink Floyd fans growing up.

"The band itself, the facelessness of them, how the sound was projected well before the personalities, it's sort of like the antithesis of the Judy Garland concept."

"There was a lot of mystery," Whitt adds. "I didn't see any photos of them or know what they looked like for a long time. Back before the days of the internet and hardly any music TV or anything. All you had to go one was the album covers."

THE BAND: Midnight Oil – Power & The Passion

"I saw Midnight Oil play when I was very underaged probably in about 1982 at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground with Wayne Rollins," bassist Janet English recalls. "They were such a powerful live band, an incredible presence."

"It's all about the band really, isn't it?" says Kram. "There's no band before or since that sounds anything like them. They're completely unique. Peter Garrett is an island.

"They had kind of a macho underbelly but they really fought to subvert that and I really appreciated them for that," English adds. "They had that power but it wasn't masculine."

"They had such an amazing chemistry when you watch footage of them live, as a band," Whitt says.

"It epitomises what a band is," Kram adds. "A collection of individuals, but no two bands are the same. It's such a unique way of expressing yourselves."

POP JOY: Alpine – 'Gasoline'

"I really wanted to play Alpine because they're a great live act," Kram says. "Just pure joy. They've always been like this, I remember seeing them years ago at the Northcote Social Club at one of their first gigs and they had exactly the same joyous energy. They were just so happy to be up there expressing themselves and it was just so infectious."

Listen to the full episode of The Spot right here