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With Help From Sailor Jerry and Rolling Stone, Melbourne Band The Grogans Reminded Us of Live Music’s Vital Power

Garage rock trio The Grogans attracted an enthusiastic crowd to Melbourne venue Stay Gold for the launch of Sailor Jerry’s Road to Rolling Stone Awards live music series.

Image: Claire Warren

Stay Gold occupies the revamped venue space of the old Phoenix Hotel on Sydney Rd, Brunswick, in Melbourne’s inner north. It’s a late-night venue with an open plan design and just the right amount of hipsterfied dinginess. It was an apt location for the launch of Sailor Jerry’s Road to Rolling Stone Awards live music series. 

The live music roadshow—which includes free gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane—was conceived as a means of building momentum ahead of the late-March Rolling Stone Australia Awards, another event for which Sailor Jerry is the title sponsor. Melbourne psych-pop and blues rock trio, The Grogans, kicked the series off in style in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Stay Gold. 

The band weren’t on until a couple of hours after doors opened, but Sailor Jerry got the place buzzing early, with the Stay Gold bar serving up welcome offerings of Sailor Jerry’s Savage Apple spiced rum and Jerry and ginger mixers all night long. Neighbouring pizza joint, Ollie’s, were serving up Sailor Jerry-themed Hawaiian pizzas, garnished with Hawaiian smoked pork belly, Sailor Jerry’s pickled pineapple and pub squash and jalapeño hot sauce. 

From local gigs to major music festivals, Sailor Jerry has been supporting live music events for more than a decade. Sailor Jerry views live music events as opportune occasions for propagating their “all in” ethos. As brand ambassador, Lucille Rose-Hopkins, explained to Rolling Stone Australia, “basically everything that live music stands for, it’s also all the things that Sailor Jerry at its core stands for.” The “all in” ethos is obviously tied to the brand’s core offering—i.e., spiced Caribbean rum—but, in Rose-Hopkins’ words, “it’s more about creating and buying into a lifestyle.”

The Grogans appear to have bought in. “Mmm Sailor Jerry,” said singer Quin Grunden after the band’s opening track, “Dead Weight”. “Yummy,” he said, before acknowledging we were gathered on stolen land. “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land,” Grunden said.

Grunden and his band mates—guitarist Gus Vasic and drummer Jordan Lewis—have been an immensely prolific bunch since catching national attention with their 2018 single, “Lemon to My Lime.” Starting with “Dead Weight”—which sounded like Atlanta garage rockers The Black Lips had been lathered in surfboard wax—the band drew several tracks their 2020 LP, Day / To / Day

Courtesy of the poptastic “Pretty Dress” and the ode to getting smashed but fronting up for work the next day, “Woke Up Feeling Alright”, The Grogans got the Stay Gold audience on-side early. In fact, the crowd was pulled with apparent magnetic force to the stage area as soon as The Grogans jumped on stage. The collective physical reactions elicited by live favourites “Washed Out” and the Black Keys-meets-John Butler jammer, “Abando,” made for a surreal sight in a post-Covid world. 

It’s easy to interpret Sailor Jerry’s investment in the arts as self-serving, but the tangible buzz generated by an event like this washed those thoughts away. Both in practice and on reflection, Sailor Jerry, Stay Gold and The Grogans combined to deliver an affirmation of community and a reminder of live music’s vital power.