The Griswolds came onto my radar because I liked its tribute to the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies, but stayed there because its songs are just so dang catchy.
The Australian band brought an incredibly fun and high-energy show, to support its new — and slightly weaker — album to a sold out A&R Music Bar on Tuesday night.
The Griswolds forgot to thank first opening act Kid Runner, who was arguably the most memorable band to take the stage that night. If you don’t like “whoas,” “nahs,” “oohs” and “yeahs,” you’d probably hate this band, but I find it welcoming coming from the angelic mix of Drew Lizon and Fran Litterski’s voices. The band has transitioned seamlessly between its first and second EP’s, switching it up a bit without losing its identity. “Don’t Change Me” and “Keep Talking” are the standouts from the new EP for me, and older track “Flash Fashion” was a great addition to the setlist.
Stage presence was incredibly strong from all three bands of the night. I don’t think any of the lyrics from the second opener, Dreamers, are particularly touching or make a ton of sense, but they’ve nailed the kind of young rebellious attitude that teens and teens at heart can latch on to. An example of this attitude is in “DRUGS,” they sing “More, ‘cause it’s cheap, ‘cause we’re sheep looking for the rad life, fast, want it now, don’t want to think for ourselves we’re just millennials.” The CD102.5 regular rotation “Sweet Disaster” was the standout of the set.
The Griswolds had great energy the whole night, and repeatedly said it would be a night to remember for them. The setlist was about 50/50 between the first album, “Be Impressive,” and the newest album, “High Times for Low Lives.” “Out Of My Head” was a perfect choice for the single, as it is definitely the standout on the new album. Other than that, the rest of the new songs they played were simply not as good as the first album. They don’t stick with me the way the ones from “Be Impressive” did. But the show was fun, and the way the band members committed to the songs and interacted so emphatically with the audience was inspiring.
After jamming through about 12 tracks, The Griswolds left the stage. But I knew the show wasn’t over because they hadn’t played my favorite song, “Beware the Dog,” at that point. When the band re-entered, a slow ballad started to play in the background and lead singer Chris Whitehall put on his preacher voice, and I knew, unfortunately, things were about to get political.
I would argue that the best way to escape from the political issues in society through the arts, as we are so encouraged to do, is to not talk about it during a concert. Dumping on President Donald Trump has become a cheap and easy way for artists to get the crowd riled up. In Columbus, Ohio, and other big cities around the country, which almost always go Democratic, there is no backlash and only positive feedback to taking a hit on someone like Trump: He is a face and name alternative musicians have put with “the man,” which has always been a theme in such music. It has just become cliché more than anything.
He said the band believes in equality — that we are all one and should stand together regardless of gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. It’s a great message. But he’s really just saying that The Griswolds are not shitty people. Treating people equally is really the bare minimum of being a decent person, and while I’m glad the band believes in this, its nothing to scream about.
Whitehall acknowledge that he will not feel the effects of Trump’s policies like Americans will, but his whole lengthy speech felt pretty rich coming from a band of Australians.