Immediately as the four-piece band stepped onto the stage and dove into their set, you wouldn’t realize that The Griswolds’ indie rock beats originated 9,000 miles away in Sydney, Australia.
This did not stop them from kicking off the night like it was 1999, as lead vocalist Chris Whitehall said. I could feel my body vibrating as the base reverberated off the walls and radiated through the floorboards of the small venue of The Frequency. Saturday’s sold-out show opened with “Role Models” and “Out Of My Head,” two heart-pounding songs on their recently released sophomore album, High Times for Low Lives.
The Griswolds’ sound is as memorable as their indelible name implies, one that sprung from quick desperation for a band name and a random comment about Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
“The hardest thing to do is come up with a band name,” lead guitarist Daniel Duque-Perez said.
“It can make or break you,” bass guitarist Tim John added. “We were at some point called 'We are the Greatest.' Now that is career suicide.”
The concert itself was different compared to the first time I had seen the band, which was at Summerfest in 2015 with flashing lights and festival vibes. The mood was simplified by mellow blue lights for most of the set, a reflection of the band’s homesickness, but the fun still resonated throughout the audience.
Whitehall led the audience in singing several choruses of their well known 2014 debut album, Be Impressive. From the hands waving through “Right On Track” in synchronization of the ocean to the iconic spelling of “Be Impressive,” the crowd jumped in at every chance, savoring the songs.
These songs expressed more of a tropical, summery pop tone, as John described. It was happy music and excited feelings that drove their inspiration for Be Impressive.
The Griswolds interspersed their newest songs with their oldest in the concert’s well balanced setup. The upbeat voices and dancing of “If You Wanna Stay” of the first album contrasted with their second’s tracks. One of their new favorites, “Rufio,” expresses a new low euphonious tone in addition to the techno rhythm of “Feels So Right.”
As heard in these sophomore songs and expressed in the title, High Times for Low Lives was a disparate album filled with sadness, according to both guitarists.
“We started touring and we got really depressed, so this last album is kinda depressing, sad music,” John said.
Their first tour with Be Impressive was thrilling because the cities they visited gave them inspiration. The album took off after the fairly young 2012 band made their American debut in New York in 2013, recording in Times Square. Duque-Perez recalled driving down Fifth Avenue, seeing the lights and towering building stretching for miles.
“The city was deepening,” he added. “It’s something we’d never experienced. The city kind of took over the sound of the record.”
Now longing for home and warmer, familiar weather while on the road for High Times for Low Lives, the guitarists claimed to have finally figured out touring.
“When you get to the end of the tour, fly straight back home and go to friends and girlfriends,” John said.
“Playing the shows [and] meeting the fans is cool. But the rest? It's just sad,” he continued. “It's work; it's more work than what our day jobs were before we quit [them]. [The] dream would be to be a one hit wonder. You write a song and sell 15 million copies and that's how you'll never have to work again.” This is advice the two guitarists would give to new bands.
Without much commentary, the evening flowed on with several thanks to their fans after nearly every song. The climax of the show hit with the audience’s strict clapping to the beat of “I Want It All,” and the prolonged vocals, “I bend my knees and pray to god” lyrics of “Thread the Needle.”
As their set came to a close, Whitehall said that rather than walking off for an encore, since there was no place to walk off to, The Griswolds lifted the mood with their hit track “Beware The Dog” from Be Impressive, preceded by “Down And Out.”
Despite yearning for Sydney, The Griswolds are not going to end here.
Concluding with a tribute to an old track from their 2013 EP, “Heart Of A Lion,” The Griswolds played out to jumping fans and a jamming drum session by Whitehall and drummer Lachlan West.
“It can be kinda stressful when you're making a record, but when it all comes together, that's amazing,” John said, who according to his Instagram, will be leaving the band after this tour. “When you're given the tools and the option to do what you're really good at, then you've just got to go in there and do it. It’s awesome.”