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Great southern band returning north to headline Qld festival

Culture

With a career that has spanned more than four decades and 10 million album sales, few Australian musical acts have experienced the enduring success of Icehouse, with the band returning to Queensland to headline the inaugural Trip the Switch festival later this month.

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Trip the Switch, which will be held at Ipswich’s Willowbank Raceway on February 27, also includes James Reyne, The Angels, Killing Heidi, Shannon Noll, Boom Crash Opera and Blues Arcadia.

Since releasing their debut album Icehouse – under the group’s original moniker Flowers – in 1980, the Iva Davies-led band have had eight Top 10 albums and dozens of ARIA-charting singles, including ‘We Can Get Together’, ‘Walls’, ‘Hey Little Girl’, ‘Great Southern Land’ and ‘Electric Blue’.

The band has worldwide sales of 10 million and their 1987 record Man of Colours, which featured the singles ‘Crazy’ and ‘Electric Blue’, has sold more than a million copies nationally alone and remains the best-selling album by an Australian band of all time.

Icehouse still draw massive crowds and after being off the road since last March, Davies can’t wait to start touring again. The band already has a series of headline performances at festivals planned throughout the country in the coming weeks.

“A lot of focus has been on getting this show on the road, as it were, and for very good reasons,” Davies told InQueensland.

“We have a touring party of something like 24 people – we’ve been working with the same crew for 10 years and some of the band members go back 35 years,” he told InQueensland.

“Two of the members of the band teach, but as for everybody else, all those 24 people, they are entirely dependent on live work, so, as a result, all of the crew – and most of the band – have been completely, 100 per cent unemployed since our last show, which was in New Zealand on the 8th of March last year.

“They’ve been sitting around occupying themselves with whatever they can, but none of it earning any money, so, it’s been incredibly sort of pressing situation of course – it’s no mystery that all of us have been kind of focused on when that first show going to be.”

That first show will take place this coming Saturday, with Icehouse headlining a bill that includes Reyne, Baby Animals, Killing Heidi and Motor Ace in Adelaide for the By the C festival.

Despite the band’s first album being released more than 40 years ago, Icehouse still attract a lot of young punters at their shows, something Davies has put down to the changing manner in which younger fans consume music.

It’s something he said he has observed in the way his own children, including his guitarist son Evan, “which is a pretty direct way to see how a 24-year-old for example can engage with the world of music these days”.

“It’s kind of led me to be able to understand why it is that there are so many young people in our audience now because they are able to cherry-pick from any generation of music and not only that but sort of go down massively weird rabbit holes in their research.

“In one moment, my son will be playing a Jimi Hendrix song on his guitar, then Nirvana or whatever and sort of jump generations and decades without missing a beat.”

Over the past year, many people have found comfort in nostalgia, and Davies is no exception but rather than watching old films or reacquainting with old records by other artists, a live album Icehouse released provided the catalyst for Davies to reacquaint with his old self.

“Just to give you the background of that, last year was the 40th anniversary of the very first album and we were operating under the name of Flowers then – we were forced change our name, and we chose the name of that first album, Icehouse, to continue operating.

“We were approached by the St Kilda Festival because they were having their 40th anniversary last year and it turned out that Flowers had played at the very first St Kilda Festival, which I couldn’t remember, to be honest.

“They said, ‘we’d like you to play again and we’d like you to play the Icehouse album, or be Flowers for the night’.

“For example, you’d be surprised at the number of guitars that I’ve had repaired over the past 12 months and I’ve done quite a lot of retracing of steps, actually, because in October we released a live album,” Davies said.

Unbeknownst to the band at the time, their front-of-house engineer had recorded the show – which included covers of songs such as the Sex Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’ and T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’ – and the resulting live album was released as Icehouse Plays Flowers.

Davies said the energy of that show had inspired him to analyse everything from the guitar tones to the amplifiers they were using at the time.

“It was glorious learning some of those songs for that set after 40 years and it was an incredibly frenetic, energetic, 23-year-old type punk set as well and it did cause me to retrace my steps a little bit.

“The last 12 months have been interesting because I’ve rediscovered a Les Paul which I haven’t used for probably nearly 40 years but I also rediscovered an amplifier that I used back in 1981, and it inspired me to revisit that and I tried to find a couple of backups, which I need for actual live work.”

Some of those guitars and amps will be joining Icehouse on the road for this tour – and perhaps even a couple of the covers.

“I’ve got to say, you know, it’s also tempting to do some of those covers and those covers really kind of shaped the style of the band.

“I felt equally at home putting [The Kinks’] ‘You Really Got Me’ next to ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by the Sex Pistols. Rock ‘n’ roll to me has been kind of weirdly consistent to me over the decades in so much as what drives good rock ‘n’ roll is kind of in common to each of those decades so I think that’s how we got away with it, is how I would express it.”

Trip the Switch Festival tasks place at Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich, from noon on Saturday, February 27.  Visit the website for tickets and more information.

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