What would you do with $49,000? That’s the amount Jack Daniel’s and Secret Sounds raised for music industry charity, Support Act, via last month’s Jack Daniel’s Live At Last concert tour. Support Act have had their work cut out for them over the last two-and-a-bit years, ever since COVID shone an ultraviolet light on the pervasive job insecurity in the music industry.
Support Act is set up to provide crisis relief services for music industry personnel experiencing sickness, injury and mental health challenges. Since its launch in 1997, Support Act has depended on donations, sponsorship and fundraising initiatives like Jack Daniel’s Live At Last to ensure music workers have access to adequate support.
Jack Daniel’s and Secret Sounds envisioned Jack Daniel’s Live At Last as a celebration of live music’s return to prominent local venues around Australia. The series began with Fremantle psych-rockers, Pond, at Solbar on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Next up, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets rattled the foundations of a sold-out Factory Theatre on their return to Sydney after two years in the Western Australian wilderness.
Fellow Perthonalities, San Cisco, brought their catalogue of peppy indie-pop with a squeeze of yuzu to Brisbane’s Fortitude Music Hall for the series’ penultimate gig. Jack Daniel’s Live At Last wrapped up at The Espy in Melbourne, where Ruby Fields and Adam Newling kept the sold-out venue in a state of rapture from top to drop.
Never mind that it was a weeknight. Never mind that Fields and co. had played another Melbourne gig fewer than seven days previous—Fields had the audience in a frenzy from the moment she walked on stage and announced, “This song’s called ‘Kitchen’.”
Ruby Fields has the knack. Her songs aren’t inventive in a showy way. You’ve doubtless heard the chord changes in “Kitchen” and the crunchy guitar tones in “R.E.G.O.” before. You can anticipate the dynamic crests and plateaus of “Trouble” and hum along, wistfully, to “Airport Café”. But Fields’ debut album—last year’s ARIA #1 Been Doin’ It for A Bit—demonstrated the Cronulla-born artist can do sobering and intimate as effectively as loose and angsty.
“Kitchen” is a contrast to Fields’ earlier single “Trouble”. The latter is the most rock-centric song in Fields’ repertoire; “Kitchen” remains insistently melodic, but the presentation is more subdued, and the arrangement carries an alt-folk saunter. At the Espy, “Trouble” and “Kitchen” proved equally capable of compelling audience members to belt out every word at the top of their lungs, often directly into the faces of kindred strangers.
Fields didn’t try to reinvent the wheel on Been Doin’ It for A Bit, but the album cemented her as a songwriter with a knack for making a deep impression on her audience. A feeling of familiarity permeated the Espy throughout Fields’ performance—whether Fields was singing of physical and emotional abuse (such as in “Bruises”) or laughing at the memory of accidentally eating weed-laced cupcakes before a show at The Espy three years ago, the crowd was with her every step of the way.
The show crescendoed with “Dinosaurs”, Fields’ single from 2018 that remains her best-known song. “Dinosaurs” is accredited ARIA Platinum and made the top ten of triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2018. But a truer indication of its success was the way the Espy crowd took ownership of it, singing about the “charmless” eyes of huntsmans and “acting blokey” as though reciting their own teenage poetry.
The accrual of $49,000 for Support Act is enough to deem Jack Daniel’s Live At Last series a grand success—without ample government support for music industry workers, charities such as a Support Act are indispensable. But beyond that, as everyone who came to The Espy to see Ruby Fields would attest, getting the opportunity to experience our favourite music in the flesh is something worth celebrating.