It’s hard for me to pinpoint where my obsession with music started. I can’t play a single note, but for reasons that I can’t fully understand for myself, the great noise has become this force that’s almost entirely consumed my life at this point. Right now, aside from my other writing of course, my life quite literally is music. It started with just going to gigs heavily but it very quickly became much more than that. Nowadays, I find myself rather involved with promoting shows and helping run them, as well with the artists themselves in both my professional and also personal life. Two years ago I reckoned that I’d do nothing more than just dip my toes in the musical ocean, yet now I’m being pulled further and further out to sea by the tide.
It’s like a disease really. This mania that I can’t shake even though there are other ways I could be spending my time. There’s no money to be made in this industry unless you’re a major label bigwig and there are so many sharks out there that’ll chew you up and spit you out in an instant once they’ve taken what they want from you. Yet I’m not unique. Right now, there are a thousands of other people who feel the same way that I do and who most likely do even more. Which I suppose brings me to what I’m here to regale you all about this time.
Last weekend, I went on another one of my three-day assaults on the Brisbane scene. But this time, all the gigs I went to were organized by people that I know personally. People who live and breathe it just like I do and have been in the game even longer than I have. Who have so much passion for our music scene, which is only growing by the day at a time where many other scenes in Australia are starting to shrink or stagnate for one reason or another. Through it all, I was exposed to the soaring highs and crushing lows that come with being a part of it all and emerged out the other side with some lessons learnt but a strengthened resolve to continue doing what I do for as long as I can.
Night One: Wavevom, WALKEN, Garage Sale (The Zoo)
It’s a Thursday night when my weekend starts out and it’s unseasonably hot and humid for this time of year even as the sun sets and night falls over Brisbane. I’m heading to The Zoo as well, which is one of the few places in The Valley with no air conditioning inside, so things a little sweaty even when I’m just standing around. I’ve been following every band on the line-up tonight for a while and vice versa, so it’s all hugs and handshakes as I make the rounds and say hi even if it’s our first time meeting in person.
Kicking things off are a grungy indie rock trio named Garage Sale, three fairly young blokes who hail from the surf town of Lennox Head. Their bassist Ben, is the mind behind Lennox Groove and the Beach Sounds festival, which are starting to make some waves even all the way up here in the sunshine state. They’re filled with great energy despite opening to a less than packed venue and their latest single “Home” gets all of us cheering for them to play more songs in short order.
Next up are Brisbane band WALKEN, a grunge-pop trio who have a similar set up to DZ Deathrays, with two guitarists who make up for the lack of a bass through a truly terrifying arsenal of effects pedals. They start out their set with their 2017 single “Eagle Eye”, a song which gives off mad early Violent Soho vibes. It was no surprise to me when I found out that it was in fact recorded at The Shed and produced by Bryce Moorhead just like the last two Soho albums were. WALKEN’s first EP “What’s Your Environment?” is definitely very nineties revivalist but many of their new songs they play definitely move in a different direction. Their frontman Matt reckons that they’re starting to get over their grunge rock days when me and my mate ask him later on why they didn’t play “Raygun” or “House On The Hills”. They do however play “The Great Noise”, the title of which I later rip-off (with Matt’s permission) for the title of this very article ha-ha.
The headliners tonight are the (nominally) Wollongong act Wavevom, who are currently the solo surf-punk project of their frontman Jed Kirbyshire with help from his mates currently scattered all across the east coast of Aus. If you catch them live sometime, you might recognise their drummer as Marcus, formerly of the White Blanks. Wavevom have a noisy, lo-fi, chaotic surf-punk sound and tonight they’re playing as a five-piece with three guitars because they’re unable to assemble their usual line-up, something which only adds to the chaos as they all thrash their heads and jump about wildly onstage during every song.
They play all their hits including the creatively named tracks “Songs About Being Inappropriately Drunk” and “Durries R Good 4 u”. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify that Wavevom are not medical professionals so please don’t follow their advice in the latter song because you’ll only get lung cancer if you do. They have a very long set list but most of their songs clock in at about a minute and a half on average. Jed keeps making jokes about how they’re gonna play a heaps long one or a slow love ballad next before of course launching right into another high-speed thrasher. Their second last song “Monday” is quite literally thirty seconds of Jed screaming about how he hates Mondays.
Afterwards, we all hop backstage to witness the band be video “interviewed” by local comedian Shaggy Knees, who also did a very short song with them before filled with indistinct yelling. It’s an interview that features them shirtless for half of it as they iron their shirts on camera and is filled with many creative questions such as “Who would you fight for twenty bucks?” to which Marcus replies “Baby Hitler”. I don’t stay around for much longer after saying my goodbyes as much as I want to because I have to be up bright and early for tomorrow’s gig…
Night Two: Alley in the Valley (Peach Fur, Georgie Nielsen and The Growing Pains, Strange Seed) (California Lane)
Alley in The Valley is the brainchild of a good mate of mine, Levi Wilson, and I was volunteering for it after doing promo work for it in the lead up. It’s wasn’t their first rodeo but it was definitely the biggest gig they’d organised so far and I spend most of my time running about like a headless chook alongside Levi and my fellow volunteers trying to make sure that everything is in order. We’re already short-staffed and the minute I get to the location, it’s out of the frying pan and in to the fire. California Lane is a narrow, restaurant-lined laneway on a corner in Fortitude Valley and most of my duties that day consist of being an amateur furniture removalist because it’s filled with seats and tables that needed to be moved away upstairs so the crowd wouldn’t damage them.
We have only a very small space for the bands to play and not a lot of power outlets which makes our schedule quite strict and logistics a real challenge, so I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Daniel and Edward for getting all the sound stuff ready in time for kick-off. All the bands tonight are fairly similar in genre however which is a good thing because it helps the changeovers go smoother than if we’d booked a more eclectic line-up. The gig is free entry and all ages so I see a lot of young grom’s around who are clearly very excited at the prospect of being at gig that’s not in someone’s backyard or garage for once ha-ha. It’s so all ages in fact that someone brings their five year old to watch, although he falls asleep after about half an hour.
Strange Seed, a six-piece Brisbane shroom-folk band, start out the night to a fairly relaxed crowd. Befitting a band with so many members, all their songs are quite multilayered but you can still hear all the little intricacies even in the cramped yet also outdoor space that we’re in. Unfortunately, I’m bashing ice loose so we can put a bunch of drinks into an esky at the time so I can’t say much more about them. I’m still busy with work during Georgie Nielsen’s set too so unfortunately I do miss most of that as well. She’s a bluesy, folky, indie-rock singer-songwriter and is backed by her band The Growing Pains. I think she’s only a touch younger than me and has already been gigging around Brisbane for a while now and making some serious waves in the local scene.
Things take a step up once the headliner’s Peach Fur hit the stage. They’re a four-piece surf-psych-funk-indie-rock melting pot from the Gold Coast who’ve just dropped their debut album “Doreen Drive” and have been touring it around the place very recently. They might remind you a bit of Ocean Alley and Lime Cordiale if you’re a heavy listener of that sorta genre. Most of the crowd were there to see them predictably and were all fairly tardy, only fully arriving after the first few songs had finished. But once everyone packed in and Peach Fur upped the tempo, the kids went absolutely wild for it. Middle of the crowd is mostly teenagers who slowly but surely started a mosh as Peach Fur transition into their much heavier, more lively songs.
I’m watching from the raised level overlooking the crowd and one of my mates starts geeing me up to climb over the railing and crowd surf but considering all the OH & S stuff that Levi worked tirelessly on to get this gig approved and the fact that someone in a volunteer shirt leaping into a crowd full of kids wouldn’t be a good look for venue management to see, I was forced to stay put (regrettably). I’m envious of the crowd and their youthful fervour but I’ve already had my fun at many previous events like this one. It was a time to be responsible for once I suppose ha-ha.
It’s a fucking monumental effort to pack the gig up at the end considering we’ve been there all day and are running severely low on energy and volunteers, but we manage it eventually after another two and a half hours. Due to unforeseen circumstances, all logistical stuff behind the scenes didn’t go nearly as well things with the crowd and the performers did. Shit happens though and we all learnt some things from experience for next time hopefully.
Even after sleeping for ten hours once I get home, I’m absolutely wrecked the next day from all the running around and shifting shit, yet I’m still far from regretting the experience. It was the first time I’ve ever volunteered for well… anything really and I still wouldn’t do it for any other cause as bad as that sounds. It’s just never been in my nature to make sterling contributions like that. But volunteering for music though? Well, while I might need another ten hours sleep still, I’m already itching to give it a go again.
It’s all for rock n’ roll as they say…
Night Three: Sesh in the City (The Brightside)
I’ve been awake for all of four hours the next day by the time I stumble in to Sesh and the City and I immediately start drawing heavily from the backstage tub of beers in order to dull the pain of yesterday. A huge thanks to Nick and Pri the organisers of Sesh for their hospitality because I definitely needed them. I’m here with my boys Pandamic but they’re not on ‘til a lot later and most of the night for me is spent sitting around and serenely watching the acts in complete contrast to the frantic pace of yesterday. It’s no ones first rodeo here at the Brightside either so it all goes smoothly for the most part.
Solo, acoustic singer-songwriter Kaypo starts the gig out to a small but dedicated crowd. Following up is Aerborn, the dark-pop solo project of Ebony Bowen-Saunders. Her music is like a more downbeat and darker version of Mallrat and Eves Karydas, if you’re familiar with them then you’ll find a lot to love. Kurilpa Reach are the next on and sound very similar to many of the bands on the line-up yesterday, although they have the added addition of a saxophone which they make very good use of.
They’re followed up by Nelipot, who travelled all the way up from Cenny Coast to be there. They’ve got a great eye for eccentric stage costumes which give them a powerful glam-rock-esque presence coupled with how confidently they take to the stage. They mix it up between slow, electronica heavy tracks and more guitar-driven indie rock like a lot of their brit-rock influences such as Foals do. FeelsClub, a self-described “trash pop” sextet, are next to jump on and draw more of a crowd with some pounding, dance-punky bangers in a similar vein to LCD Soundsystem. Their frontman St Jonnie probably has the most energy of everyone in the room and he isn’t afraid to make his presence and thoughts about tonight known to the crowd.
Jeremy Neale is the headliner tonight and tows the line between the two extremes in sound on the line-up. He plays what I’d call garage pop, very sixties sounding pop-rock but with a layered wall of sound approach to it. His sound has some great melody and poppy hooks, which very quickly gets everyone grooving on the dance floor. Both him and most of his quite substantial backing band are members of Velociraptor as well, a band that quite literally has fourteen members including the likes of DZ Deathrays once in a while. I like his music but it’s his aesthetic that really drew my attention. He draw’s a lot of influence from the comic Scott Pilgrim, which despite being mostly about fighting Evil Exes, is also about being in local bands much like the one’s I’ve been seeing all weekend ha-ha.
Kirsten Roe Photography
Most of the acts are on the softer side of indie so my mates Pandamic stick out when it’s time for their turn. They’re on the other much heavier and louder side of indie rock and play with a relentless punk ferocity that no one else here tonight has. The crowd overall has been a bit thin so the mosh doesn’t get going too hard unfortunately. Although I’m almost out of puff by the third song myself after everything I’ve been through so maybe that was just as well, at least for my health ha-ha. Everyone is a bit unfamiliar with them at the start but seem well acquainted enough with their biggest single SAM at the very least. They do however win over a few new fans afterwards and they build great rapport with Nelipot too so things work out alright enough in the end.
Kirsten Roe Photography
I hang around with Pandamic for a while afterwards and get chummy with the crowd but eventually I make a move to go home. But as I’m passing the Crowbar on the way to my bus however, Brett from Dune Rats wrangles me into staying there for another hour to talk some business. Danny is fairly sauced and very happy to see me, he picks me up and quite literally bites the middle of my jumper once he realises it’s Dunies merch. Somehow, BC is the most sober of my favourite stoner trio which I always thought would result in a cold day in hell if I ever saw it ha-ha.
As usual, I feel like I’ve been hit by a train as I write this but probably not to the usual extent considering I didn’t mosh nearly as much as usual. I’ve been going to a lot of bigger gigs lately so I’ve become habituated to seeing the crowd absolutely pumping and a thousand other people around. That weekend, the turnout was definitely on the lower side because there were a lot of other competing gigs on at bigger venues at the time, so the lack of people seemed to have sapped my own energy as well.
That said, the more intimate nature let me have a more personal look at both the artists and how gigs happen as a whole. There are so many artists out there right now playing their hearts out to crowds of five people. So many of the support staff too will work tirelessly to make sure everything goes to plan or at the very least that none of the punters know that something has gone wrong. Both groups will often make a loss no matter how hard they pour their minds and souls into it. Live music is hard to pull off at the end of the day and it’s impossible to get everything absolutely right as I witnessed for myself.
So that’s exactly why I’m proud of everyone I worked with and saw perform over this long weekend of mine for soldiering on despite all the bumps in the road. People want something to believe in and there’s definitely something about live music in particular that brings out a level of emotion in everyone that’s almost unmatched. I could see that every crowd member was giving every act their full attention and that there was nowhere else that anyone would rather be. So that’s why I think we should all remember that whether it’s for five or five hundred people, success here is just being able to do it and be a part of however small or large, of the great noise.
Enjoying the content? want some more?
We are starting a members only podcast alongside our new podcast series, (Filmed before our interviews and including guest cameos from time to time), over on our website as well as a few other goodies for ya in terms of our content and video. Click through to see what's up.