Moore Park - Sydney, Australia (Freak Show Launch)

THE iZINE, January 1997

The event had already been described weeks earlier as "the must-have ticket in Australia today"; the venue: a peculiar tent and paddock arena where the Circus Oz gymnasts set each other alight each night; the cost of it all: the gross national product of several African states.

The media launch of silverchair's "Freak Show" was receiving the full attention of the world's ruck makers -- MTV, Spin, right down to the local community radio stations. Flown in from all over the cosmos for a peek at the follow-up to the unit-shifting "frogstomp" -- double platinum in the US (2 million), Canada (200,000) and Australia (210,000) -- the media contingent spoke quietly and rumour-natingly of eating disorders, leprosy and their own writing competitors' cocaine habits... a braying swoop of asses punctuated by the tight little butts of the record store girls and their goateed store managers. The expectation was electric, the magazine front cover pics already shot months ago, the still-embargoed album (it comes out February 3rd) talked about lovingly by the Sony crew. The beer was chilled and free.

Shuffling into the circus bigtop one could not ignore the rocketship surrounds, a la launch grande. The record heads and taunt bodies wiggled on their tiered seats as a sword swallower jammed some mighty big weapons down his gullet. Then the arrival: Newcastle's wunderkinds smashing loudly and perfectly into an opener which was to orientate the evening, unabated and for an hour. The lighting shadowed their every motion, the small talk from Daniel Johns belying, with great natural insight, everyone's place in the universe for this event and its consequences. His eyebrows were dyed black, Gillies and Joannou looked a little heavy. But this was still going to be huge today, tomorrow and at the end of several financial years.

They were as a unit, one: silverchair held together with the enormously lengthy and luscious hair of Ben Gillies sweeping his drum kit, Chris Joannou prowling the side-of-stage with unerring rhythmic basslines, our lad Johns, the gifted, golden and grotty-mopped superstar kicking in the hateful skulls of his distaste of being the chosen one. For as the Freak Show-case unravelled the topics were scary, borne by an already-hardened 17 years old whose cadetship in economics and entertainment has been the fastest, wildest ride in many observers' living memory. As "Abuse Me" and "Roses" surged brutally from the mouth of Johns, everyone's suspicions of his supernatural insight came true again - "Tomorrow" and "Pure Massacre" were now truly relegated to the pubescent noodlings that they were born from. And the darkness seemed to be aimed straight at his gathered guests and their uncertain tasks which involve his future -- a lyrical and incantated mania which seemed to personify a view on his own and others' feelings on him. How do we know this guy? He certainly knows our deeds.

A climax, the end of the show. Sony's ubermanager Denis Handlin announces a No. 1 chart placing by another act and a continuing fight to stop censorship -- the crowd assumes the silverchair album may be in a little danger. Can we still assume that those stickers "help" sell units? A grey area, not good economic rationale in the inevitable statistical assumptions. It's tough to not think of Johns' head, the game is about to get a lot crazier.

By DUANE DOWSE, Chairpage Newcastle correspondent
Photos courtesy of The Buzz magazine

The silverchair Freak Show launch was held inside two reasonably small circus tents, one larger than the other, at Circus Oz in Moore Park, Sydney on Monday, January 20th. I arrived in a cab about 10 minutes before the scheduled starting time of 7 p.m. There was already a large crowd gathered at the entrance to the smaller tent. The fairly young crowd appeared very happy, excited and eager to hear the new songs.

I announced myself to the people at the main entry and received a pass which allowed entry to the smaller tent. Inside to the right was a small stage (for speeches later) and food stalls. In the centre was a can and bottle bar.

The very friendly and helpful security staff gave me a look at the evening's itinerary -- band due on at 8:10 p.m. -- time to digest more of the offerings and to talk with some of the other guests.

By this time the crowd had swelled considerably. Between 900-1000 people were expected depending on who you asked. About 800 of these were invited guests and the rest were fan club members. The fan club members were permitted to see the show but not allowed access to the hospitality tent. The atmosphere at this point I could only describe as concert-like but electric -- people standing around all trying to talk over the top of each other just so their friends could hear them, laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. I felt at this point we were in for a great evening.

Most people in the hospitality tent had a story to tell about their connection to silverchair which allowed them access as invited guests. There were magazine, newspaper and television representatives as well as quite a few from Sony and Murmur. I even got to meet silverchair's school friends from Newcastle High.

An announcement suggested it was approaching time for the band to come on. Everyone moved inside the larger tent which was where the band would play. It was set up with the stage on the far side with seating in a 3/4 circle around the inside circumference of the tent, like a small ampitheatre. There was room for a small dance floor in the centre.

Pre-band entertainment was a guy that swallowed swords -- three at once, a couple of times. It made me want to puke. Talking with him later I learned that it took him five years to be able to swallow the swords and another three years to make it entertaining. It really fit in well with the theme of the night.

I sat to the right of the stage next to the band. The setup of the smallish tent ensured all had a great view. I must admit that having heard about silverchair's "new" sound, I felt a little apprehensive. The release of their second album is very important to the future direction of the band. My fears were soon to be blown away!

The band came on at 8:20 p.m. with a very energetic version of Slave. Daniel and Ben did the "air head butt" a few times. Daniel wore a T-shirt which read, "Nobody knows I'm a Lesbian." Cool shirt! Ben had on only a pair of long shorts.

Next came Freak, which has rocketed to number one in Australia in its first week of release, then Abuse Me (which hasn't been released in Oz yet). Both the new songs played live sounded great. Then came one of my favourite songs, Pure Massacre, followed by Suicidal Dream. Next was Cemetery, brilliantly played by Daniel. This song really blew me away. I had heard it before on the Internet but played live with the emotion Daniel put into it made me tingle all over.

The next song was introduced as a song for "the old people" -- yes, you guessed it, Tomorrow. Having been blown away by Cemetery, the next two songs put me into orbit. The first introduced by Daniel as a song for the young people was The Door, followed by No Association. These two new songs were simply brilliant. I absolutely loved No Association. The band finished off with Madman and Israel's Son to rousing applause after nearly an hour of non-stop music. I managed to get a stage hand to acquire Daniel's song list from the stage for me:

Abuse Me
Pure Massacre
Suicidal Dream
The Door
No Association
Israel's Son

After the show, many of those present returned to the hospitality tent and discussed the show and the new songs. I met a great guy named "Snaz," who is the guy on the cover of the Freak single and is featured in the Abuse Me video. He is tattooed from head to toe and can tie himself in knots. He had his head shaved and tattooed for the picture. He taped a commercial on Sunday for the public release. I also met Daniel Johns and John Watson, among others. Great people.

The head of Sony Music Australia made a rousing speech about protection of copyright in Australia. Loss of copyright in this country would mean a dramatic reduction of income for the industry which would be devastating for up-and-coming Australian bands. He also said he spoke with Epic Records officials in the U.S. the day before who said silverchair's new music had received a very big response over there. They were both very excited about the prospects.

He also pointed out that some Australian celebrities, namely Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson (Aussie cricket heroes), had turned up for the release. The crowd immediately started chanting "Lillee, Lillee, Lillee." Dennis Lillee is one of the greatest bowlers the world has produced and that was how the crowd used to spur him on during his cricket career from which he retired many years ago. It was one of the many highlights of the night for me.

After that I continued to mingle and met some interesting characters until the security staff kicked us out at midnight. A great night was had by all, I am sure.

The theme for the evening was obviously in line with the name of silverchair's new release, from the venue (circus tents) to the sword swallower, to Snaz the tattooed man and a few other freakish characters. I for one loved it and will remember it for a long time.

I was blown away by the new sound which is heavy and dark but contains a lot of heart and passion. Well done, silverchair -- Freak Show is something special.

The Freak Show launch
The Buzz magazine, January 1997

On board the bus load of industry types we were all handed out press passes and told "Don't let this pass out of your hand, or you won't get in."

Yeah right, I thought.

Arriving at the venue, I was surprised to see two massive Circus Oz-style tents on the edge of an oval in central Sydney. I have heard of a media circus, but this was taking things literally. It was wall-to-wall neckless men in black polo neck shirts.

We moved toward the tight security, and after passing through check points Baker, Charlie and Foxtrot, the somewhat disorganised stream of journos headed straight for the refreshment tent. It was mustering time and boy did some of us "muster."

Most people seemed to know someone else; if they didn't, they generally pretended and there was much chatter. The bee knew which side his sweetcorn was buttered on and munched away happily in the corner, while the wild Sydney wind did it's best to whip the tent and its occupants back to Oz (Oz... Dorothy... Circus Oz... ah, well, forget it).

There must have been nearly a good hour of munching before we mustered again at the second tent for the official launch. Once more, gruesome security types passed the seething mob of press and Llama Appreciation Society members into the circus bleachers.

The silverchair launch had begun. Plenty of freaks, but sadly the pre-show entertainment was a little thin if you weren't looking into the bleachers. The sword swallower did a pretty vicious thing to a hapless passing zuccini and no doubt his own guts as he heaved the nasty metal, pointed thing down his ever widening mouth.

The crowd scented blood and waited for silverchair. If the sword swallower had pinned himself to the stage it would not have really mattered.

Then the man in the dangly blue tights said something or other, the lights died like when Solaris or United Energy have that "unexplained" third-world power brownout and it was into pure silverchair.

OK, it was a captive audience; most everyone there was keen to see silverchair. The band did their stuff. It was great. Hey, it was a launch! silverchair were on stage for some 50 minutes and did the usual silverchair on stage thing. Chris didn't moon, Daniel chucked some sort of wobbly and violently attacked a speaker box which he recklessly toppled over onto his feet, the lights went out again and that was that.

Back to the hospitality tent, a few ales, no popcorn left, ah well, that was that!

Highlights: Talking with the tattooed guy, Daniel's aunty, the two prize winners from Holland seeing Chris Joannou saying hi in the refreshment tent and C.E.
Lows: None, had a great time. Memo to my mate Brendan. Sydney's a great place for a launch. We ought to "do launch" more often.

Strangest: The hotel lifts were made by Schindler's Lifts. Nothing more should be said.