The Brisbane Lions might not have been able to match the might of Geelong on the weekend, but there will still be a wealth of talent waving the flag for the Sunshine State when the Cats take on the Richmond Tigers at the Gabba on Saturday night.
With the notable exception of Sydney band DMA’s, it’s a mostly Maroon musical line-up, with Brisbane bands Cub Sport and Sheppard, Wolfmother singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale, Electric Fields featuring Thelma Plum and Busby Marou, and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra all playing a part in proceedings.
A special welcome to country will also be performed by Brisbane group Tribal Experiences, from Yuggera-Toorabul Country, and Mike Brady will perform ‘Up There Cazaly’ from the MCG, accompanied by the QSO live in the Gabba. The national anthem will be sung by Brisbane local Tim McCallum
For footy-mad, Rockhampton-bred blues-roots duo Busby Marou, the chance to perform at the AFL grand final is a dream come true, and although singer and guitarist Tom Busby admitted his first love was rugby league, he said and his musical partner Jeremy Marou were “just huge sports nuts” who watched “everything”.
“Growing up in Rocky, we’d watch flies racing on the wall,” he told InQueensland, “but Jeremy in particular, he’s got a really close association with AFL now, because his son has kind of defected away from rugby league and now plays Aussie rules.”
Busby said their passion for footy had sometimes got in the way when it came to juggling their obsession with the logisitical headaches of life on the road and recalled one instance when it had cost them the opportunity to meet one of the world’s biggest musical artists.
“We were supporting Elton John in Queensland during the  football finals, and we were stoked that we were playing so early because it meant we could actually walk off stage and watch the game,” Busby said.
“They had a huge screen backstage for the footy for all the crew, and of course all the crew were from Victoria, so the NRL would be on when we’d leave and then as we would come back from our set the AFL would be playing.
“There were no Brisbane Lions or any of our teams in that and we were trying to watch the Broncos so in the end we had to give up. We obviously didn’t definitely want to cross the roadies when they’ve been doing all the hard work but we just kept having to take off straight after our gigs, which was sacrilegious, almost.
“During the time we were gone, Elton had come to our dressing rooms and kept trying to meet us to say g’day, and it just never worked out because we’d snuck back to the hotel to watch the game and then we’d come back to the gig to watch him play and find out he’d already come to say hello and thank you.”
Busby said he and his family were having dinner with his parents when he got the call from his manager Graham Ashton to let him know they would be playing a role in the AFL grand final entertainment.
“Asho, our manager, called and said, ‘stay on the line, I’m going to loop everyone in’, and it was like seven o’clock at night and I was like, well, something good is happening here.
“Then he told us and I honestly couldn’t believe it, I thought, what is going on here? It felt like we’d sort of disappeared because of COVID and maybe we’ve got a bit of work to do when we get back when we feel like it but the good news keeps rolling in, so I feel like we are doing something right.”
Busby said he was looking forward to audiences witnessing what they had in store for the pre-match entertainment, labelling it “something very special”.
“There’s an orchestra involved and Electric Fields are going to probably take the lead and Thelma and Busby Marou will add a bit of colour and flavour.
“We’re really excited … I don’t know if I can go into it too much but the song’s a cracker and when you find out about what we’re singing, I’m sure you’ll understand it, as we did.
“I’m not sure we’re quite big enough to hold the fort being able to perform one of our own songs – I don’t think we’ve had a major hit that big to do that just yet. But it’s such a diverse group of artists and everyone just seems pumped and thrilled so hopefully – and I’m pretty confident – it’s going to be something special.”
Tim Nelson, singer of Brisbane pop group Cub Sport, said his band had the self-belief to know they would be able to put on a stadium-worthy performance but admitted he and his bandmates “were also really surprised” to receive the call-up.
“We believed that we could do it and we know that we will do a good job but to actually have the offer come through was pretty incredible,” Nelson told InQueensland.
Promoter Michael Gudinski, whose Frontier Touring group helps plan the AFL grand final entertainment, had previously told InQueensland he was impressed by Cub Sport when they performed on ABC television show The Sound – which is produced by Gudinski’s Mushroom Vision – earlier this year.
Nelson said he and his husband and bandmate Sam “Bolan” Netterfield had “just been doing a kind of manifestation mantra thing, saying, ‘an offer to play the AFL grand final is on its way to us’,” when they received a call from Gudinski to let them known they would be performing.
“We were just chilling in bed, manifesting the AFL grand final offer and then it came through,” he said. “We’re all buzzing, we’ve basically been buzzing for the last two weeks and we’re just hanging out for it now.”
Nelson said the band – which is also comprised of multi-instrumentalist Zoe Davis and drummer/keyboardist Dan Puusaari – were “really honoured to get to be there, representing queer artists in such an enormous arena”.
“I feel like people do kind of separate queer culture and sports a lot and I know that there are a lot of people who are really invested in both worlds,” he said.
WE’RE PERFORMING AT THE @AFL GRAND FINAL!!!!! Catch us at the Gabba Oct 24 ❤️ Gonna be HUGE #AFLGF pic.twitter.com/HvmHuXE3Uq
— CUB SPORT (@cubsportmusic) October 12, 2020
“I guess maybe it’s a sign of the times and like where society is heading where there is space for queer artists and that sort of thing like in these places now.”
Cub Sport have had a massive couple of years – pre-COVID, the staunchly independent act had been booked to play some of the biggest music festivals in the world and their most recent album Like Nirvana debuted at No.2 on the ARIA charts being Taylor Swift.
But despite their success, Nelson said: “I think that this is like the biggest thing that’s happened for the band in my dad’s eyes”.
“He is just so excited about it,” he laughed, “whereas I feel like there are other things – like we’re getting played on BBC Radio One and playing Splendour in the Grass and getting booked on festivals overseas – that are massive milestones for us and I think those sorts of things kind of go over his head sometimes. But this is one milestone where he was ecstatic.”
Nelson was remaining tight-lipped about exactly what Cub Sport would be performing but said it was “going to be a bit of a full circle moment for me personally”.
Brisbane band Sheppard will be performing two of their biggest hits during the half-time interval, with George Sheppard telling InQueensland, “We’ve been asked to play ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Geronimo’.
“We’ve been told we’ve got a full 10 minutes and we feel pretty lucky about that. ‘Coming Home’ is like a theme song for the Gold Coast at the moment and ‘Geronimo’ was the first number one single to be recorded in Brisbane, so I guess they wanted those two songs for those reasons, but I would’ve sung ‘Humpty Dumpty’ if they’d wanted me to sing that.”
George said the band had expressed their interest in performing with their manager, music industry veteran Michael Chugg, as soon as a Brisbane AFL grand final had been confirmed.
“I feel like it was definitely a case of, you know, because of that whole Queensland flavour and, yeah, they just they got in contact with us. I mean I had messaged Chuggy about it, saying ‘what do you think, do you think it’s possible?’ He was like, I don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It wasn’t until about three weeks ago that he called up and said, ‘Mate, keep the 24th of October free because you’re playing the grand final. I almost dropped the phone – it was such a shock.
“We’ve got a pretty amazing show planned, with concert lighting, dancers and a drumline joining us for ‘Geronimo’ – we’ve put all these extra guitars into that it’s going to be pretty epic.
Queensland Symphony Orchestra chairman Craig Whitehead said the company was still working through some of the details of what their performances would entail but said “we won’t be there purely in a support role”.
“We will be in a support role for some of it but there’ll be some major pieces that we’re playing in our own right,” he said. “We want to see the QSO so featured in some way as an orchestra in that venue performing with a high compliment of maybe 50 to 60 musicians.”
The QSO had already forged a relationship with the AFL when its musicians filmed performed the Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions theme songs earlier this year.
“I think off the back of the work that the orchestra had done with the AFL anthems I think it just, just rolled into a really good position. But even think that we could be playing an AFL grand final … It’s a very exciting experience and the musicians will love it.
“I’m very comfortable about our ability to create a wonderful impression on the night.”
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