After a solid outing by Miami-based psych-rockers, the Similar Prisoners, the Aussies were up first and wasted no time in laying the foundation of what was to be a raucous set of pure energy and entertainment. Although Magic Man, the final band to play, had their fans and a couple of neat tracks, they were just okay. They were pretty and clean cut and some of the songs had a nice, glitter-meets-8-bit-video-game pluckiness to them, Magic Man just were not in the same fun level as their predecessors.
The crowd was young and attractive. It was an even mix of college and high-school kids (with some of the teens bringing their fishing-shirt-wearing dads.) The Griswolds announced their presence with Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” and the crowd went nuts, singing along to a track about female empowerment moments before four dudes took the stage. This was the same crowd that enthusiastically sang every word of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” just ten minutes earlier. In other words, there was no pretension and no sense of snarky irony; these people were ready to enjoy the hell out of some well-written pop songs.
And that’s precisely what they got from the Griswolds. The evening was “bittersweet” according to lead singer Christopher
The Griswolds kept that tradition alive, immediately firing up Fort Lauderdale with “Down and Out,” a track off of their debut LP, Be Impressive, which is impossible not to jump up and down to. Whitehall, crooning through his messy, fuchsia-colored hair, was joined in three-part harmonies throughout by his equally odd-looking partners. Guitarist and keyboardist Daniel Duque-Perez, who could be Joey Fatone’s younger, frosty-haired brother, and drummer Lachlan West, with his almost albino hairdo and matching pornstache, harmonized with both Whitehall’s vocals and frenetic energy. Playing bass for the missing Tim John was Magic Man’s own Sam Lee. Even he got in on some of the action a few times, inspired by his temporary bandmates.
“16 Years,” “If You Wanna Stay,” and “Right On Track” all followed to the delight of an audience that seemed something out of the TV series Freaks and Geeks. The Griswolds are the sort of band that unites the cool chicks and the awkward shy guys for one glorious night.
They shared two new tracks, “Out of My Head” and “Role Models,” from their forthcoming sophomore album. The former was another anthemic and brash pop rocker except this one had several more layers of aggression and testosterone that their usual fare. Whitehall melodically shouted the chorus and title of the song, attempting to escape the ghost of someone from his past. The latter had a hip-hop beat and touches of blue-eye soul that fell somewhere between Maroon 5 and Twenty One Pilots.
They closed their set with “Beware the Dog” and their very first hit, “Heart of a Lion,” but it was during the encore that their personality truly crystalized. Good, successful bands have charming, and enthralling frontmen. Whitehall is just that. He ate up all the attention and the cheers from fans, grinning maniacally the entire time. And, when The Griswolds brought out most of Magic Man to join them for a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump,” he became the 21st-century incarnation of the legendary “Diamond” David Lee Roth. Similarly, the Griswolds mirror the party hard aesthetics of their American counterparts in guitar-crashing, drum-bashing ways that will serve them well for a long time to come.