Review: celebrating 40 years of Triple J at Beat The Drum

At Beat The Drum, announcers and musicians from the 40-year history of Australia’s youth broadcaster took to the stage. Liz Guiffre

Today, Triple J celebrates its 40th birthday. Over four decades, the youth broadcaster has built up a proud history of outside broadcasts and regional concerts. As Double J the station staged some of the country’s finest events for 1970s rock fans in Western Sydney, while in the mid-80s the station celebrated its tenth anniversary (and new FM identity as Triple J) with the help of Midnight Oil for the memorable Oils on the Water event staged on Goat Island in Sydney.

Midnight Oil plays The Power and the Passion at Oils on Water in 1985.

On Friday, Triple J took over Sydney’s Domain for its 40th anniversary celebratory concert, Beat The Drum.

Midnight Oil’s frontman and former federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett appeared as a guest host rather than musician, introducing a cameo cover performed by Silverchair’s Daniel Johns (a cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit). Played at near a quarter of original speed on a baby grand piano and harp, Johns might have been having a little joke at his own expense. In the early days of Silverchair, some Triple J types used to call the then very young Newcastle band, Nirvana in Pyjamas.

Daniel Johns plays Smells Like Teen Spirit at Beat The Drum.

Over seven-odd hours a series of contemporary and classic Triple J musicians and announcers appeared, each paying their own tribute to the station’s contribution to their success. When Grammy award-winning Victorian musician/ songwriter Gotye appeared for an extremely rare live mini set, he was introduced merely as “that young boy that used to send us in demos in the early 2000s with hand written notes and burned CDs”. He played song Thanks for Your Time, a crowd-pleaser, and no doubt, an ode to the station.

Gotye plays Thanks For Your Time at Beat The Drum.

Most of the performers mixed their own music with covers. The pattern made a great novelty for trainspotters in the crowd, but also rewarded long-time listeners with fun trips back through the songbook.

Solo performer Sarah Blasko and Something For Kate frontman Paul Dempsey performed a sweet duet of Crowded House’s Distant Sun, while The Cat Empire covered Kylie Minogue’s Confide in Me with Owl Eyes on guest vocals. The Preatures covered At First Sight by The Stems and The Diviynls All the Boys in Town.

Powerfinger’s Bernard Fanning also did a stellar job of the vocals for a cover of Australian Crawl’s Reckless early in the day with Vance Joy on Uke and Big Scary’s Tom Iansek to support. The only complaint was that his diction made the lyrics almost comprehensible – not at all like James and the boys originally intended.

As night fell, Beat The Drum turned to an outdoor dance party led by The Presets and The Hilltop Hoods. They were almost outshone by the early-evening performance from indie icons You Am I. Now two-and-some-decades old themselves, You Am I are one of the most enduring, generous and least obviously commercial bands in Australian history, the type of outfit who could have easily fallen by the wayside and never found its place had it not been have been championed by Triple J and its offshoots.

Introduced by former Triple J, now Double J, announcer Myf Warhurst and comedian/ writer Wil Anderson (also former Triple J breakfast host), the band gave their own catalogue a good flogging as well as championing newcomers.

They launched with single Rumble, complete with its chorus “R-A-D-I-O, Hit me hard or hit me low” as tribute to the medium of the moment, then proceeded to play backing band for fresh local hip hop artist Joelistics as he performed his single Say I’m Good. It was a killer collaboration.

You Am I and Joelistics and Adalita at Beat The Drum.

Listen closely – separated by a couple of decades – the musicians share a love of clever lyrics and a catchy chorus. Immediately after frontman Tim Rogers introduced Australian rock goddess and front woman of Magic Dirt as “his little sister Adalita”, who sang You Am I’s Jewels with Bullets before a brief bout of crowdsurfing.

Anybody picking a favourite moment from the day would reflect the bias of their generation and what genre first drew them to Triple J. When You Am I proved they could still kick out their own jam, performing the hell out of their own tunes like it was still 1997, I have to say my time had come.

As Myf Warhurst simply tweeted: “You Am I just did Berlin Chair at #BeatTheDrum. I’m a bit teary”. Happy Birthday, Triple J.