Dream Setlist: DZ Deathrays

Dream Setlist: DZ Deathrays

article by Genevieve Peady, photo by Rei Kingsland

Brisbane-bred dance punks DZ Deathrays are one of Australia’s most beloved live bands. In the return of our Dream Setlist segment, Ausmusic guru and DZ superfan Genevieve Peady looks back from lockdown at one of her favorite pre-Covid gigs, and imagines what it’ll be like to be back in the mosh pit again soon. 

In September 2019, I was able to squeeze into Sydney’s tightly packed Manning Bar and see one of my favourite Australian rock bands, DZ Deathrays, performing for their most recent album release at the time, Positive Rising: Part 1. I scored a free ticket thanks to a meme competition held within the Facebook fan group, “DZ Deathrays Denzelposting”, where I made an impression with my comedic photoshop skills. This just made getting in even tastier. I mean, how often do you get to say “I’m on the guestlist” for one of your favourite bands?

Whilst in the thick of COVID-19 and prior to the recent release of Positive Rising: Part 2, I found myself often thinking back to that gig, thinking fondly of the bruises, and of the overpriced beer that was ceremoniously spilt down the back of my neck, while I stood reeling from an accidental elbow I’d copped to the temple. 

Ah, the mosh-pit. How I miss thee.

Being an album tour, there were a few songs on this setlist that didn’t make the cut at that gig, or songs that weren’t even around yet that I wouldn’t mind getting to hear. So, without further ado, here is my wistful attempt to revive the feeling that live music gives me, my dream DZ Deathrays setlist. 

Picture it. It’s early in the night, so the unmistakable smell of the moshpit, with all its beer and dude-bro sweat, hasn’t quite settled in yet, and the floor isn’t quite as packed as it should be, even though the support act is going absolutely ham and they sound incredible. What’s that? Who’s my dream support act for this dream setlist?

It’s VOIID, of course! The all-female fronted, no bullshit, no punches pulled, grunge rock band who I would do anything to see live just one more time. I’d leave my boyfriend for Kate McGuire in a heartbeat (sorry, Jordan).

VOIID fades, everyone gives them a deafening round of applause coupled with some light screaming, and it’s time to prepare for the main act of the night. And by that I mean, go and beg the bartender for some water, realise I haven’t packed my earplugs and say a quick prayer for my hearing ability, have a cheeky bathroom break, and plant myself at the rail, holding onto that bad boy for dear life and desperate to cop a setlist as it kicks off.

1. Hi Everyone

This was the song that DZ opened with that fateful day, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way the song slowly opens up, with the vocals of Shane Parsons and Lachlan Ewbank welcoming you gently with open arms, before greeting just about anybody you can think of, “hi to the undercovers, hi to the junkies”, while Simon Ridley’s drumming seeps in slowly, causing your heartbeat to race in anticipation of what’s about to come. “Hi Everyone” is absolutely ideal for an opener.

2. Less Out Of Sync

For me, song placement in a setlist is key. I want the setlist to build to a crescendo, get the crowd feeling antsy as they feel it come to its peak, before it absolutely dissolves into pure, manic chaos, letting everybody collectively lose their minds, and their ability to hear. “Less Out of Sync” is perfect for the second track in this sense, with its calmer, yet distinctively recognisable beginnings leading into something a little more frantic that has the crowd taken “right to the brink”. “Less Out of Sync” ebbs and flows into the chaos with ease, and leaves us breathless, wanting more, and slightly deaf. 

On a side note though, more people should invest in earplugs. Tinnitus is no joke.

3. Year Of The Dog

“Year of the Dog” is the perfect follow-up to “Less Out Of Sync”’s gradual spiral into chaos. It’s got punchy drums and shout-worthy lyrics that make it still somehow worth it when you can’t even croak out your drink order afterward. Even when your “body screams that it’s had enough”, this is the song that will have you leaning halfway over the rails with each shout of the title lyrics: 


4. Cops/Capacity

“Cops/Capacity” is the perfect throwback track for lovers of early DZ, and with its fast-paced rhythm and buzzing riffs, even the newer fans are sure to get jumping, beer-spilling, and elbow-swinging. Coming from their very first album release, Bloodstreams, in 2012, you can tell it’s one of DZ’s older tracks, as it has this early aggression and volume that I adore, which hasn’t quite been replicated in later albums. It’s harsh, it’s energetic, it’s punky, and it’s beautiful. 

5. Ocean Exploder

If you weren’t already sweating from the sheer energy building from the tracks prior, “Ocean Exploder” is just the thing you need. With its signature crunchy opening riff, the insanity has already begun, and you’re being swept into the crowd as Ridley’s energetic drumming kicks into gear, unrelenting. This is a track that will have you screaming your excitement, while simultaneously planting your feet on the beer-soaked floor and grabbing onto your mates (if you haven’t lost them in the chaos yet) out of a delirious combination of fear and pure joy. 

6. Gina Works at Hearts

Okay. Here it is. The moment everyone’s been waiting for. “Gina Works at Hearts” is one of DZ’s hit songs, and the second track off the well loved album Black Rat. It tracks in as one of their most played songs on Spotify, and for all the right reasons too. DZ Deathrays love to have that bit of crunch in their guitars, particularly during the Black Rat era, and “Gina” is crunchier than opening a foil packet of potato chips in a quiet room. You hear this opening riff, and it is game over. The drums tap in, and suddenly you’re sandwiched between some very sweaty people that you’ve never met before, but you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now. 

7. Reflective Skull

While “Reflective Skull” is still rather fast-paced and aggressive, it’s definitely a far cry from the BPM of “Gina Works at Hearts”. It gives everyone a second to breathe in the sweat soaked air, and maybe get some water or something, while still maintaining the vitriol built up over the course of the setlist.  

Hydration is key at a DZ gig! 

8. Run to Paradise

You know what every setlist needs? A cover. When the opening starts, everyone knows it, and everyone loses it. You know what else every setlist needs? A power-ballad, for that exact same reasoning. DZ have somehow conjured up the perfect combination of both of these things, with their cover of Australian pub rock band, Choirboys. Choirboys was formed in the latest part of the 70s, and while they threw out a few releases (and a few members), none of them quite stuck to the local population like “Run to Paradise”, which cracked in at No. 24 in a “most Australian songs of all time” competition. But as for why DZ Deathrays covered it? As the faces for an advertisement for Powerball, they put a call out to the people demanding to know: what exactly was the greatest power-ballad of all time?

And thus this cover was born.

9. Like People

The set is almost over, and you’re feeling a little weary, and a little lightheaded. But that’s no excuse if you don’t have it in you for this song. “Like People” opens with a fuzzy riff that instantly grabs your attention, before jumping into the lyrics that one too many lanky teenagers and awkward adults can absolutely resonate with. And while “I don’t really like people”, I’ll throw in some bonus points if Murray Cook, the original member of children’s band ‘The Wiggles’, turns up to do some shredding. He gave an absolutely stellar performance within the film clip for this song, and also an insanely golden appearance at Splendour in the Grass 2018, in which he performed AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on stage with DZ Deathrays. And also just because he’s a really nice guy. I had the sincere over-excited pleasure of meeting him at the gig I went to, because it turns out he and the DZ boys are pretty solid mates now! Man gives fabulous hugs also. But this isn’t a Murray Cook dream setlist (Hey, Editor Becker, side note, what are your thoughts on ‘The Wiggles Dream Setlist’ article?), so I’ll move on.

10. Black Rat

This is it. The final song, or so you think. Naturally, the show has to go out with a bang, and with “Black Rat”’s aggressive volume, crunchy, rolling riffs, the perfect drumbeat to break your neck to, and energetic lyrics that just makes you want to scream, it’s the ideal choice. “Black Rat” is the song that you will launch the last of your remaining strength into, pushing past the pain of your acquired injuries, and you won’t even regret it later.

11. The Mess Up (Encore)

Seeing as it’s my dream setlist, that means I can do anything. And so, for my encore song, I want VOIID to come up and play the instruments. The low growling riff is one easily recognisable to fans of DZ, and once the crowd realises what’s happening and comes over, that’s when it’ll happen. 

I want a LIVE RECREATION of “The Mess Up”’s video clip, with our darling support act VOIID jamming out the song while Shane Parsons is still on vocals that are bound to progressively get worse, as each of the guys charge shot after shot of Jägermeister.

What can I say? I like a little bit of chaos. And following all of the earlier injuries everyone’s likely copped, “The Mess Up” is the perfect slow roll of chaos to end the gig.

Now this is a set list I’d die for.

Will it change, after many nights of researching (AKA repetitive listening) of Positive Rising: Part 2

I guess we’ll have to find out.


Listen to “Positive Rising, Part 2” on Spotify and Apple Music.