Since the monolithic launch of their ’98 debut (an eponymous affair that any self-respecting punk would have in their collection), The Living End have worn the title of Australia’s answer to Green Day. Lovingly so, of course – the Melbourne trio had (and have) plenty of idiosyncrasies, but it’d be just silly to ignore the influence they drew from their North American counterparts. So, when frontman Chris Cheney, drummer Andy Strachan and double bassist Scott Owen linked up with Billie Joe Armstrong’s own label, Adeline Records, it was a pretty big deal. Like the collision of caramel and chocolate, The Living End on Adeline just made sense.
The sole record they dropped together (before The Living End went on to sign with Aussie indie Dew Process) was 2006’s State Of Emergency – an undeniable classic in the trio’s discography best known for its lead single ‘What’s On Your Radio’. The record not only smashed it Down Under, topping the ARIA Charts and racking up enough sales to score Platinum status, but it was also lapped up by punk-rock devotees over in the States – where, in June of ’06, The Living End would make their assault on the iconic Vans Warped Tour.
It was their fourth (and final) time playing the revered touring festival, coupling it with their own run of headlining dates. BLUNT head along to three dates on the journey, following the band closely on their adventures in Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco…
LIVING IN OBLIVION
BLUNT caught up with The Living End for several dates as they travelled across America on the 2006 Vans Warped Tour.
Words by Simon Nott.
“We don’t really fit in on this tour, we’re far too pale and we don’t have any tatts”, The Living End guitarist and frontman Chris Cheney sighs after a sweltering day at the Phoenix leg of the Warped Tour. He has a point about being in the un-inked minority but as far as being out of place in the world’s greatest punk rock show, he is way out of line.
Time travels fast In the disposable American music scene, and the two years or so since they last played a US tour really is a long time, especially when the average age of the Warped Tour punker is probably around 19. Modern Artillery and Reprise Records may seem ancient history but things are looking good for the new relationship with Adeline, who are running TV adverts for State Of Emergency. The Living End know the quality of the product, having topped the charts back home, but accept they have to almost start from scratch winning over the Americans. Speaking just before their 2.30pm slot, Chris admitted, “I’ve accepted that we have to grab their attention all over again. It’s a challenge, but one that we’re up for. It makes it a lot more interesting knowing that you only have 30 minutes to hook them, keep them there and win them over.”
If that was the Living End’s game plan then the Phoenix gig, only the second of their 22 date stint on the Warped Tour, went off in style. With temperatures over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) the audience were being pretty selective. And with NOFX due to follow up on the neighbouring stage the crowd was a bit thin as the first note of opening number “Roll On” pierced the desert air. 30 minutes, new songs, old songs, bass standing not missing a note and an e-boogie later, the crowd had swelled to a better than respectable number and were screaming for more as the final bass slapped note of “Second Solution” ended the set.
Job done, it was “hurry up and wait” to move on, the only place to be being the air-conditioned the desert heat though the band bus to escape did venture to the bar and the fabled Warped Tour Barbie before hitting the sack Sometime during the night the bus set off and by the time anyone peered out from their bunks they were parked up in San Diego ready for a day off.
Not so glamorous the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, not playing meant an opportunity to get mundane tasks like laundry done. But this is The Living End we’re talking about here, a band with a definite “work hard-play hard” ethic, though in their case it’s surely “play hard-play even harder”. Even a trip to the laundry turned into a day out visiting the bars of Mission Beach, which eventually resulted into some impromptu naked swimming. It may have seemed a good idea at the time but didn’t go down too well with a security guard who informed The ‘End and their skinny-dipping sound guy, Jimmy, that there was definitely “No swimming in the goddam pool, which confused everyone, but rules are rules. Aquatic frolics thwarted, the rest of the evening’s entertainment was highlighted by some boxer short and hat-clad on-bus karaoke, the video of which will definitely not be on the next Living End DVD.
The day off sort of blended into a day on, and, even more alarmingly, an early start. The not ideal, but at their request, second slot at 12.45pm saw hangovers and fuzzy memories of the night before quickly shaken off at the prospect of another crowd to win over in just 30 minutes. The result was even more pronounced than Phoenix. When the band kicked off with Scotty Owen standing on his bass for the first song, the crowd could have been no more than two or three lines deep at the stage, but it didn’t take long for a new Living End Warped Tour phenomena to kick in. They seem to have gravity, anyone walking past the stage is drawn to it, and more often than not they stay for the rest of the show. Many are mesmerized at first by the band that has a bloke that stands on a “big violin”, but are quickly transfixed by the songs and The Living End energy.
After the set and signing session the band were on the move again, this time to appear on KROQ radio in Los Angeles on what has to be one of the strangest promotional slots ever on the hugely popular “Loveline” talk show with Dr Drew. The imminent release of State Of Emergency was frequently mentioned and a couple of tracks played, but for most of the two hours the band were invited to advise callers on their various “problems”, many of which were of a sexual nature. The ‘End were more than happy to offer their advice, though were slightly dumfounded by some of the questions, especially the girl who claimed her favourite thing was giving oral sex but her guy didn’t like to receive it! Luckily the good Dr. was able to impart his expert advice while the guys were briefly lost for words. It could have been a genuine concern for the caller, but the band weren’t swallowing it.
The last gig of the first week of Warped, San Francisco, 400 odd miles up the road. It wasn’t expected to be as good as Pomona. Northern California has not been a hotbed of TLE support in the past. But set with the Bay Bridge as a backdrop, the gig surprised everyone, especially given the 12.45pm slot. There was a huge crowd waiting for the band as they came on stage, the biggest yet. In the set itself, the addition of “End Of The World” went down a storm, the circle pit presumably responding to the fact that it had been used for a Tony Hawk game soundtrack. As the gig was kicking like no tomorrow, another buzz went up when Tre Cool of Green Day fame appeared side of stage to watch the action. “Roll On” brought things to an ending of epic proportions. Job done, there was no time to celebrate apart from a quick beer and chat with Mr. Cool. The Living End were straight off to a signing tent with a never-ending queue. The ‘End signed, posed and chatted with each and every fan who loved them for it.
With only 5 days 5 of the 22 of Warped gone by and 15 headlining shows to follow, things are looking good for State of Emergency. Far from being The Living End in the USA, this is only just the start.
This story was originally featured in BLUNT #52