Live Review: Ball Park Music + The Jungle Giants – Twilight at Taronga, Taronga Zoo (11.02.17)

The great philosopher Carlos Santana and his colleague Rob Thomas were once quoted as saying, ‘Man it’s a hot one’. And while they were seven inches from the midday sun when they said it, this duo must have been in attendance at this Ball Park Music headlining show as part of the annual Twilight at Taronga series when they were quoted.

With temperatures hitting 47 degrees in Sydney earlier in the day, as openers The Jungle Giants hit the stage, it was still a balmy but surprisingly pleasant 36 degrees. It’s a pretty unique setting at Taronga Zoo. With the stage back-dropped by central Sydney and the Harbour Bridge, you come to realise there’s definitely plenty of other worse places to see live music.

Opening with “Anywhere Else”, it was great to see the band throw things right back to the start of their existence as they followed it up with early fan favourite “Mr Polite”. Politely asking the young and varied crowd to jump along, the four-piece swiftly moved into new single, “Feel The Way I Do”. An alt-disco banger, “Feel The Way I Do” is showing a great progression for the band since their early pop days.

With the sound for the venue holding up well, the set progressed with “She’s A Riot”, “Kooky Eyes” and “I Am What You Want Me To Be”, the latter being the set highlight from my vantage point on the hill. With the eager mosh down the front losing their minds, the band closed on “Every Kind Of Way”. Their forty-minute set was tight and served well for the night’s headliners.

One thing you have to realise about the Twilight series is that it kind of looks and felt much more like a mid afternoon festival set. Where headlining shows in indoor venues can become quite cramped and intense, the outdoor surrounds of the zoo allowed the punters to kickback, take the shoes off and enjoy a picnic with their friends and families. With many families in tow, it’s the kind of environment that promotes positivity and good vibes.

Opening with “Feelings” off newest album Every Night The Same Dream, it wasn’t the opener I’d have expected, but it definitely hit the spot. ENTSD showcased the bands more experimental side, as was to be seen later in the set. Moving into “She Only Loves Me When I’m There”, it was a mad track to get the groove of the night going. Thanking the staff of Taronga for treating their animals so well, they segued into “Alligator”; a track 19yr old me never really gave the time of day to. 24 year old me bloody loved it.

Up next was my all time favourite Ball Park track, “Coming Down”. Upon hearing the opening piano chords my mate thought they were about to bust out a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song”. While that would have also been great, I was pretty stoked they played “Coming Down” instead. Following up with the double punch of “Leef” and “Whipping Boy”, front man Sam Cromack spoke about feeding the giraffes and being a little envious about how good those three giraffes’ view is.

I still remember the first time I saw BPM play “Surrender” live. It was at Splendour In The Grass 2012, and their set was one of the best from that weekend. Nearly five years later, they still crush it live. Sans band, Cromack played an acoustic version of “It’s Nice To Be Alive”. He also played the track acoustically at Splendour 2016 and that will forever go down as one of the best live music moments I’ll experience.

Staying with tracks from their debut album, they followed “It’s Nice To Be Alive” with “Literally Baby”, “iFLY” and “Sad Rude Future Dude”, before moving into “Trippin’ The Light Fantastic”; an absolute party anthem. With the set starting to enter the closing stages of the night, you felt the perpetually aged 19 year olds in the band still had plenty to offer.

With “Nihilist Party Anthem” making a pleasant appearance, the five-piece followed it up with “Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You”. The thing about the surrounds and concept that is Twilight at Taronga is that it would pretty much make the perfect date night (in my opinion at least). Admittedly, I don’t have a girlfriend, but surely you’d be kicking goals if you could go see a band like Ball Park Music, see some animals, overlook the best harbour in the world, have a couple beers and enjoy the surrounds?

Closing out the main set with “Fence Sitter” and their scuzzy masterpiece “Pariah”, the band thanked the crowd for coming along and promised to see them soon. Returning to the stage one minute later, Cromack and bassist Jen Boyce returned for a couple acoustic tracks together. Opening with a new and unnamed track, it was utterly beautiful, tear-your-heart-out stuff. I’ve never really taken notice of Jen’s vocals, but gee she’s great. Following it up with “Glass Jar”, if these two went on tour and just played acoustically, they’d almost definitely sell out immediately. I’d go.

Welcoming back the band to close on “Cocaine Lion”, Ball Park Music successfully finished one of the best headlining shows I’d seen in quite a while. And while the air temperature was bullshit hot through out the day, it didn’t stop the fire on stage. I hadn’t been to the zoo in more than 10 years until this set, but if Twilight at Taronga continues with sets like this, I’ll be back much sooner. So too will Santana.

Photos by Maclay Heriot.