Friday, March 3: the first Sunday of Lent. In Buffalo, that normally means every restaurant has their take on fish fries out and people are trying to better themselves through personal sacrifice. However, those attending The Waiting Room that evening found themselves in a very party-friendly environment. One that resulted in a lot of spilled beer on the floor.
But given that the band was from Australia, a country known for their heavy drinking, it seemed only fitting. And it also seemed fitting that the band, The Griswolds, named for the Vacation film series family often driven to their limits, was the main event.
The Griswolds hail from Sydney, Australia and were on tour behind their new album, High Times for Low Lives. The lineup, made of Christopher Whitehall on lead vocals and guitar, Daniel Duque-Perez on keyboards and guitar, Tim John on bass and Lachlan West on drums, claim to be inspired by the likes of 2000’s indie bands Vampire Weekend, MGMT, and Of Montreal along with Kanye West and the Beach Boys.
Whitehall definitely gives off the impression of an Australian man, with a scruffy head of long hair along with a somewhat trimmed beard. His thick accent when he spoke to the crowd was the common kind of slurred speech people often expect to hear from Australians. That sort of made his open attempts of getting the audience to party all the more amusing. His guitar sported the phrase “Love Trumps Hate” in a slightly more pleasant looking matter than if Tom Morello would’ve done it.
The music itself does bear the influences of the band on its sleeves. The walk-on music for the band was the same “In High Places” sample by Mike Oldfield, used in Kanye West’s “Dark Fantasy” before going into “Role Models.” The various tricks performed were often found in prominent 2000’s acts, like the weird synth vocals in “16 Years,” the psychedelic sounding keyboards of “Right on Track” and high-pitched chorus line of “Be Impressive.”
At one point, Whitehall asked if anyone in the audience had a birthday, and a few did raise their hands. He then told the crowd it was the drummer’s birthday and replied, “This is the best birthday ever” in a similarly thick accent. After a round of “Happy Birthday,” the band delved into their own song titled “Birthday,” one that played much slower and less joyous, but went in deeper. Compared to the much more upbeat, “If You Wanna Stay,” which probably got the most party-like reception the band wanted, The Griswolds really run a gauntlet of various tastes.
After ending with “Down and Out,” complete with Whitehall doing a guitar solo with the guitar strapped to his back, and a plainly obvious attempt at an encore, they played the very Vampire Weekend-esque “Beware the Dog,” another song where the drummer got into the hard rhythms. In a rather surprising move, Whitehall, after asking the audience if they wanted one more, invited one of the opening acts, Dreamers, onto the stage. The now 8-person band on stage, in one last bit of fun-giving, played the ever-classic “Hey Ya!” Whitehall and Dreamers singer Nick Wold traded verses and lines in the chorus, trying to channel whatever parts of Andre 3000 they could muster.
The Griswold’s music was plenty entertaining enough, with their odd mix of new wave, electronics, and funk rhythms. But at the same time, they didn’t make too much of an impression of me beyond that. I was interested in seeing this band because of the question, what would a band named The Griswolds sound like? And now that I have, I can say I’ve heard plenty of other bands trying the same thing. It’s not anything original, but it’s not anything to completely discount either.