Updated: Aug 15, 2019
You could sense something in the air last Thursday night in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. That something was a mixture of euphoria, anticipation, and marijuana smoke. Opening support act Golf Alpha Bravo (aka Gab Winterfield from Jagwar Ma) had just finished his set – his second ever performance in Australia under that moniker. While the stage was being adjusted, the streets and alleys surrounding the Tivoli Theatre were now speckled with small circles of punters out for a breath of "fresh air". The aroma carried all the way through the foyer doors, past the bar, and up to the front row of the crowd. Everyone was ready. Dope Lemon were about to grace the stage.
Led by front man Angus Stone, the show was part of the tour for their freshly released second LP Smooth Big Cat. Written, recorded and mixed entirely by Stone himself, this collection of songs are a distinguishing step in another new direction for the multi-genre artist. The loved up soft folk of his early Angus and Julia Stone days now replaced with Dope Lemon’s very unique brand of indica rock.
The band’s outfits seemed to fit a “cowboy-chic” theme, all wearing matching beige suits and desert style headwear. Stone, with his wooly beard and long hair, exuded the chilled out aesthetic that defines Dope Lemon – of a carefree, leisure seeking, laid back attitude. He also effortlessly showcased his maturing swagger and class with a velvet jacket and wide brimmed hat adding to his characteristic ensemble. Perhaps the only thing missing was a cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth.
Starting with 'Stonecutters', from their first album Honey Bones, the intricate guitar sounds and psychedelic crooning were the perfect way to ease the crowd into sharing Dope Lemon’s vibe. ‘How Many Times’ (again from their first LP) followed with a singalong chorus, and rolling synth lines that vibrated loud and hard enough to knock a microphone stand over. Most of the songs played during the show would be favourites off that first album, such as ‘Marinade’, which successfully brought Dope Lemon into the public consciousness.
“It’s been three years since we last played,” said Stone during their early stages of the set and it was clear that things had only changed for the better. They were now playing much larger venues to sold-out crowds, as part of an almost sold-out tour (nice one, Adelaide). A massive neon yellow sign reading Dope Lemon hung above the stage, occasionally accompanied by a bright rainbow light-show that would sweep across the backdrop. These were a stark change to the solitary, human-powered disco ball chandelier that Angus used to wind up himself onstage during their last tour.
For the big single off the newest album 'Hey You', the band were joined onstage by a number of "big cats" – lucky fans wearing giant cat mascot heads made famous in the song’s film clip. Two cats in matching lemon yellow dresses came out for throughout the rest of the performance, showing off sultry and feline dance moves in and around the band members.
The crowd were treated to another surprise during ‘Coyote’, with Delta Riggs frontman Elliott Hammond (who worked as a collaborator with Stone on Honey Bones) gracing the stage with harmonica in hand. His culminating solo, while impressive, was hard to hear through the mix and thus hard to fully enjoy.
'Salt & Pepper', the band’s latest single, was another highlight. With the final peaking guitar solo bringing many cheers and applause from the audience, it’s sure to be a new addition in at least a few playlists.
After a short break while the crowd patiently chanted for the inevitable encore, Dope Lemon were back to play their biggest and most upbeat tune of the set ‘Uptown Folks’. The entire crowd, from Byron Bay baby boomers up the back to the triple j textline tag-a-longs on the shoulders, roared in excitement, and sang along to every word. Not a bad way to end a Thursday night.