Why Powderfinger is making a comeback

 

For a band whose members were relieved to see the back of their internal conflicts when they called it quits 10 years ago, Powderfinger have a hell of a lot of meetings.

They may have disbanded to pursue divergent careers in music, venue management and media but maintaining the legacy of one of Australia's most worshipped and successful rock bands requires business meetings.

The latest round of catch-ups began last year to plot the 20th anniversary reissue of Odyssey No.5. the biggest album of their 21-year tenure as a recording and touring entity.

 

Australian rock band Powderfinger bid farewell in 2010. Now, they’re getting back together. Picture: Dave Hunt
Australian rock band Powderfinger bid farewell in 2010. Now, they’re getting back together. Picture: Dave Hunt

 

"We were meeting once a week on Zoom since a little bit before the lockdowns started," frontman Bernard Fanning says.

"We are the most 'over-met' band in the universe. That's the result of messy democracy, that's how it works.

 

"You've got to have enough time to be able to argue every side of every single point.

"It's actually been awesome, a really, really united time for all of us, we're all really happy to do it."

 

The One Night Lonely gig will be the first time the new generation of Powderfinger fans will see them perform live. Picture: Marc Robertson.
The One Night Lonely gig will be the first time the new generation of Powderfinger fans will see them perform live. Picture: Marc Robertson.

 

At some point during those conversations, their super-nerd quibbles over the quality of out-takes being considered for the Odyssey reissue later this year gave way to chats about the plethora of virtual gigs inspired by the global COVID-19 shutdowns.

Then the frontman or Ian Haug or Darren Middleton or John Collins or Jon Coghill or their manager Paul Piticco (Fanning doesn't share who "blinked first") raised the idea of Powderfinger doing a livestreamed concert.

It tickled their collective sense of wry humour to reunite to play together while unable to be in the same room because of social-distancing and closed state borders

 

Jon Coghill in action. Picture: Marc Robertson.
Jon Coghill in action. Picture: Marc Robertson.

 

Fanning lives in Byron Bay, Coghill on the Sunshine Coast, Collins and Haug in Brisbane and Middleton in Melbourne, so convening even in a huge studio space to play the gig wasn't possible.

"It just kind of became the best idea and we liked it because it was really unusual, the idea of us actually reuniting (after such a long time) without physically being in the same room," Fanning says.

The band ignited speculation they were up to something 10 days ago when they switched the profile photo on their social media channels to an image of them bowing to the audience, taken from the back of the stage at the end of their final concert in Brisbane on the Sunsets farewell tour on November 13, 2010.

It wasn't the first time fans and bloggers had whipped themselves into frenzied conjecture about a Powderfinger reunion.

 

When Fanning and Haug were announced a year ago on the line-up to open Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane, the new venue co-owned by Collins, rumours swirled about a potential meeting of Powderfinger members on stage.

Two years before that, fans were shocked when Fanning was joined by three of his former bandmates during his set to headline 2017 Splendour in The Grass.

Coghill was missing, due to a "bit of a misunderstanding". The band quickly sought to diffuse the unease of fans who thought Coghill had been snubbed with an Instagram post four days later of the five men gathered around the engine of a car.

"We're sorry we didn't tell Cogs we were playing at Splendour. It was so dumb he made us fix his Rolls Roy.....um … er ......'99 Ford Telstar. She's all running sweet now," read the caption.

 

Powderfinger on the red carpet at the ARIAs a decade ago. Picture: News Corp Australia.
Powderfinger on the red carpet at the ARIAs a decade ago. Picture: News Corp Australia.

 

A sign of their renewed sense of unity and bonhomie in 2020 came via another social media post on Wednesday night, ahead of One Night Lonely concert announcement on Thursday morning.

Fanning and Coghill uploaded a mock phone call, chatting about the media and fan speculation fuelled by the photo update.

Coghill says "if you hear anything (about a reunion), give me a call cuz I've got to practise" with Fanning reassuring his bandmate "No worries; it won't be like last time." You can hear the big grins in their voices.

"We do laugh about it," Fanning says of the ongoing hypefest stirred up by any hint of Powderfinger activity over the past decade.

"The idea that people get so pent up about this stuff is kind of ridiculous to us. We appreciate it, but we're in the middle of one of the biggest health, economic and cultural crises in history … I guess people want a happy story."

 

Renowned within industry circles for uncompromising pedantry regarding the quality control of their work, Powderfinger have individually recorded their live performance in their respective studios and had it professionally mixed to be livestreamed on their YouTube channel on Saturday night.

The setlist was one of the easiest decisions of the reunion process. But getting matchfit to perform their most loved songs to their exacting standards for the first time in a decade spiked some nerves.

"We played stuff we know and that people know. We weren't setting out to mount any great artistic challenge," Fanning says.

"It was going to be difficult enough going through the process of playing together apart for the first time in 10 years.

"Bands are a strange beast and sometimes it will take a while to wind into having the right feel for things.

"And for me personally, it's a completely different way of singing than what I've been doing since Powderfinger split.

"There's a lot of volume, just kind of yelling. Apart from yelling at my kids, I haven't really been doing that much of that."

 

Darren Middleton, Jon Coghill, Ian Haug, Bernard Fanning and John Collins at the Annandale Hotel, Sydney to announce their Sunsets farewell tour. Picture: News Corp Australia.
Darren Middleton, Jon Coghill, Ian Haug, Bernard Fanning and John Collins at the Annandale Hotel, Sydney to announce their Sunsets farewell tour. Picture: News Corp Australia.

 

When the five bandmates asked themselves why they wanted to do the gig, their answer became rooted in wanting to help their music industry peers whose livelihoods have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic and its infinite halt to live performance.

They are supporting Beyond Blue and Support Act with the gig and want to illuminate the economic hardship of music workers who have fallen through the cracks of assistance measures such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

"Support Act wasn't set up to deal with COVID-19, it was set up for people who had fallen ill or had an accident or were unable to make income. At the moment they are the best place for people to go," Fanning says.

"And their existence is beginning a conversation in Australia where the arts industry isn't taken seriously enough by our current government to the point that the Arts Ministry has been lumped in with communications and ditch digging.

"There needs to be a serious conversation about the people in our industry who are falling through the cracks."

 

As for the future, now the reunion has been confirmed, there are another round of rumours to bat away.

Is the band likely to headline the rescheduled Splendour in the Grass in October or the all-Australian line-up of the Falls Festivals over the New Year's holiday, both of which are curated by their longtime team members Piticco and Secret Sounds group co-CEO Jessica Ducrou?

 

Bernard Fanning recommends turning your stereo up loud for One Night Lonely. Picture: News Corp Australia.
Bernard Fanning recommends turning your stereo up loud for One Night Lonely. Picture: News Corp Australia.

 

"I will not be announcing that," Fanning says with a chuckle.

"Who knows if any of that is going to happen, whether we will be able to have more than 500 people together before Christmas?

"All I can say is that everybody is starting to grow accustomed to watching stuff online which is good because that's all we can really do at the moment.

"But there is no way the electricity of experienced a live performance happen right in front of you can be matched. It just can't be.

"I've heard a mix of (One Night Lonely) and I would encourage anyone who is going to watch it to put it on their TV and their stereo and turn it up really f … ing loud. Make it blast."

One Night Lonely will stream from 7pm via Powderfinger's channel on YouTube.

Originally published as Why Powderfinger is making a comeback



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