words & photos: Rick Clifford @rcstills
“Frank’s earnest way to tell stories that both lift you up and break your heart is what has garnished his wide mass appeal. Somewhere in his bleeding honesty and ability to string the visual element he connects.”
Walking up to the corner hotel nice and early I’m surprised to see a line stretching around the corner from the main entrance.. Actually, surprised is the wrong word.. expectant, yeah that’s the word! Generally when an artist has as much hype around them as Mr Frank Lopes Jr. does, on his first headline (or any) show in Melbourne, you would be expectant that the eagerness of people keen to get in early to secure their standing positions front and centre would necessitate such a line.
Once inside, the venue is almost at capacity as I struggle to weave my way through to the front photo/ security barrier, just in time for Melbourne local spit slinger Dexter Seamus. Hailing from the suburb of Viewpoint, Dexter is clearly stoked by the amount of bodies in the venue, a huge opportunity, no doubt, to get his music in the ears of some Hobo Johnson fans.
Making quick work of this, he slams through a 40 minute set filled with tracks from his 2016 release Young Zen. Throwing in a few standalone singles from 2017 & new yet-to-be-released numbers for good measure. Introducing his latest single Favourite Colour as a collab with Bliss n Eso’s, MC Eso, which generates a decent amount of shouts from the audience and is rightfully received well. Dexter’s set comes to an end with his 2016 single Viewpoint, named after his home suburb, as his self proclaimed “hype” track is queued up, a friend/ fan from the audience is pulled on stage to help close out the set, which gets ¾ the way through before its cut short due to something on stage feedbacking over the top of everything.
The lights dim ever so slightly and we’re introduced to the familiar voice of one Frank Lopes Jr. warranting screams to escape the mouths of some punters. Before appearing on stage, Hobo Johnson pays his respects to the traditional custodians of the land, a rare trait from a non-Australian artist to do. He follows this with admiration and gratitude, thanking Australia in general for being “So progressive” with such things, which I’m left wondering how bad things have become in the States for Australia to appear “progressive”.. but I digress.
Hobo Johnson appears on stage as you would imagine (if you have seen him or any of his live performances), a cheery and excited disposition is present, as the smile on his face never falters. He’s joined on stage by Jordan Moore and the two open with tracks Sex & The City, then to Romeo & Juliet before Frank then calls all members from The Love Makers onto the stage to the backing track of 2 Unlimited’s ‘Get Ready’. This change in pace is met with the audience losing shits left right and centre.
The instrumentation between Hobo Johnson & The Love Makers is very much at the forefront of what holds this live show together. As Frank weaves in and out of tracks, freestyling between spoken word, crowd interaction and the recorded music, its easy to see how this could all fall apart if not for the adaptability of The Love Makers musical fluidity.
Frank’s earnest way to tell stories that both lift you up and break your heart is what has garnished his wide mass appeal. Somewhere in his bleeding honesty and ability to string the visual element he connects. This happens ten fold during his live show, the dynamics going from the softly spoken to the screaming in your face. It is evident that everything is left on stage. This is a common factor with artist on the rise and something that the current climate or caliber of musicians is lacking.
The earnestness at times can feel all to real and you’re left wondering if you should be watching this at all. Like where does the line between performance and cry for help blur? Namely his latest single titled Shoot Me In The Face with the line “Part of being alive is wishing that you weren’t sometimes” and “If I don’t feel better in the next 10 years, I’m Sorry”. It feels weird watching these type of moments as “entertainment”, you can’t help but feel moved and give an audible sigh, trying to dissipate the lump in your throat.
Moments like these are quickly pushed to the back of the brain as the show goes on and songs make way for the more uplifting and at times outright quirky. His track Cockroaches about the evolution and destruction of man being superseded by a cockroach race after nuclear fallout, again sounds bleak but is delivered in a neat little comical spoken word package.
As expected, someone as down-to-earth as Frank has no time for such formalities as an encore and punches right through to his final song the biggest and easiest to sing along to single - Peach Scone in which he dons the cheeky(read nervous) smile and jumps down to the security barrier to sing along with the loud punters.
Before the night is out, Frank promised to do a “Shoey” if people stopped shouting it out during the show, a solid sacrifice indeed. A man of his word, he performs the task of drinking beer out of a shoe. I honestly have no idea why it’s a thing, but it is, and for the foreseeable future any touring artist making their way over to Australia will get word of this weird and disgusting tradition and either embrace it or be shunned.