Brisbane, you got a mini-festival

A More Perfect Union – Riverstage Brisbane

Saturday 24 November 2018

Gang of Youths - photo Bec Harbour
Gang of Youths – photo Bec Harbour

A collective howl went up from Brisbane earlier this year when Gang of Youths announced their Australian tour and there was no date for Brisbane. It was quickly followed with a message to wait as there was something special in store for Brisbane.

Then we waited, finally on August 8 Gang of Youths announced they would be doing a mini-festival, A More Perfect Union at the Riverstage with Publique, Charlie Collins, Thelma Plum, Luca Brasi and Jack River. It predictably sold out in about an hour.

Publique kicked off the festival. They were a great opener, with an urgent jangly guitar sound. You should always get and see opening bands, you might just see something you like.

Charlie Collins played a great set, her easy-going country-tinged music a great soundtrack to kick back with on the Riverstage lawn and enjoy some food and drinks.

Thelma Plum gave us lovely anecdotes about growing up in Brisbane and going to gigs among other things, her amazing belter of a voice filling the amphitheatre.

Luca Brasi took us into the late afternoon, with their usual high energy offering, this is a band that enjoys what they are doing and it shows with the audience pressed up against the barrier trying to get closer.

Jack River has just released her new album, Sugar Mountain. The crowd lined up to hear favourites such as Ballroom. As with all the acts on for this festival, people were lined up at the stage singing along with whoever was on stage at the time.

The crowd was getting excited to see the headliners Gang of Youths and it was all too much for some (saw several people carried out of the crowd by security). Dave Le’aupepe is an amazing frontman, as Jack River said, you’re all going to see some sexy dancing next.

They dedicated “Heart is a Muscle” to Dave’s recently departed father and zipped through a ‘best of’ set that kept the crowd engaged and singing at the top of their lungs.

It was a different innovation to have a mini-festival and one wonders if the lack of a larger venue in Brisbane contributed to that. The line-up was great, once again get there early you might just see something amazing and support acts work just as hard as headliners and deserve your support. Gang of Youths are the ultimate live band and have honed their craft since I saw them last at Splendour in the Grass in 2016. Go see them, they are also a band with a social conscience (see their anti-Via GoGo posts on social media) as well as a band that puts on a great show.

Brisbane, you got a (mini) festival, the opportunity to see some great up and coming artists and some amazing established bands thanks to Gang of Youths.

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East Brunswick All Girls Choir

Friday 16 November 2018 – Greaser

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East Brunswick All Girls Choir – photo Bec Harbour

Once again a gig has been moved due to noise complaints about the Bloodhound Bar. Greaser was business as usual with their restaurant trade continuing around the bands. I quite like the idea of going out for a burger and seeing a great band so hopefully, they can continue this.

First up was Gold Stars giving us a nice serving of noise. The narrow stage seemed too small for them and they spilled out onto the floor in front.

Jack Spider was next, borrowing musicians from other Brisbane bands (I see you Dougal you busy bass player!) dropping an energetic set that had people coming from their tables where they were eating their dinners to have a look.

This prepped the way for East Brunswick All Girls Choir. Touring on the back of their latest release Teddywaddy, East Brunswick All Girls Choir had made a decent splash at BIGSOUND this year (I was impressed enough to see them twice).

The band showed the casual banter that makes them a really great band to watch, Marcus and Rob filled up the tiny narrow stage area with their energy on songs such as “Essendon 1986” and Jen was in the middle with Rie tucked away in the corner. A young punter had his first band experience with them (great way to start) and Marcus offered him his glass of red in tribute to the occasion.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir played a great show, pulling out all the stops, engaging with their audience and pushing the tiny venue to its limit. 100% will see them next time they play in Brisbane.

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East Brunswick All Girls Choir – photo Bec Harbour

Against the Grain Festival

Fortitude Valley – 3 November 2018

This year was Against the Grain’s 3rd year, a truly boutique festival in a landscape of festivals being incorporated and going big, and often going broke. The choices of venues (The Brightside, The Valley Drive-In and The Foundry) and proximity were excellent choices and while I’m sure there were things going on behind the scenes, the experience seemed very seamless from an attendee’s point of view.

Created by Chris Langenberg, the third instalment of this festival sees him joined by Brodie Popple to create a festival experience that could really only happen in Fortitude Valley with the proximity of venues. The line up was thematic, covering no wave to dream-pop/shoegaze, for lovers of a distorted or jangly guitar with melody, this year’s line up was stellar.

The day was one of the first stinkers of the Brisbane hot season (let’s face it we really don’t have a summer or a winter here) and the thought of traipsing up and down with 8 kilos of camera equipment the block from Warner Street to The Foundry in Wickham Street was a bit daunting. Thankfully it was shaded, and a cool breeze kicked in for the afternoon.

A video production company had set up in the courtyard and invited me to capture some stills of the 2 bands they were interviewing, Blonde Tongue and Eliza and the Delusionals.

I caught Blonde Tongue’s set, it was nice to listen to some dream pop in the airconditioning. Blonde Tongue posted on their Facebook that they had not played a gig in about 3 years, no one could tell, they sounded great, and The Brightside’s acoustics kept their sound clear and unmuddied.

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Blonde Tongue – Photo Bec Harbour

Next up at The Valley Drive-In was Concrete Surfers, guitar-driven and danceable – although no-one was dancing just yet, the heat was still present. Then it was off to The Foundry for Sleepclub, another dream pop entry for the festival, there was a sizeable crowd for them. It was also my first encounter with the helium balloons used as decoration (please don’t).

It was then back to The Valley Drive-In for Eliza and the Delusionals. They supplied a giant slice of fun fuzzy guitar pop. Then it was quickly inside The Brightside to catch the first few songs by Candy, then back over to catch Pool Shop, who I was very keen to see after catching their Big Sound performances. Pool Shop has lovely whimsical music sung by Jaimee Fryer of Major Leagues, that will make you smile and nod your head along.

After Pool Shop, I stopped in for a food break at Blute’s in the Brunswick Street Mall. Blute’s has one of the best bar snack menus I have come across (go the fried mozzarella sticks and the Dorito crumbed popcorn chicken, you will not be disappointed). Then it was back to The Valley Drive-In for Sweater Curse.

Sweater Curse is one of my favourite Brisbane bands, and the Against the Grain festival is only here because of their guitarist Chris Langenberg’s vision and hard work, along with this years co-conspirator Brodie Popple. I had caught Sweater Curse the previous weekend supporting Horror My Friend on tour (which explains why Chris was hard to get hold of – he is a super busy person with a tour AND organising a festival). Sweater Curse is an amalgam of no wave influences as well as shoegaze to form their own beautiful noise. The recently released “Mon’s Song” is an already established crowd favourite as well as “Can’t See You Anymore”.

First Beige is anything but beige, on entering The Brightside there were people jumping around everywhere to their dance-inflected sounds. This is a band that looks like they are playing hard but having a really good time, the crowd are on board with this and were dancing hard and having a great time. It was then off to The Foundry to catch Totally Mild.

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Totally Mild – Photo Bec Harbour

Totally Mild were having sound issues, but once they were sorted they launched into their sweet dream pop sounds. After Totally Mild, it was back to The Brightside for the tail end of Maddy Jane.

The crowd was packed in at The Valley Drive-In ready for City Calm Down. The last time I saw City Calm Down was at Splendour in the Grass in 2016, they played late afternoon and did a fantastic cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance (which was very apt for that time). The crowd sang along with favourites such as Pleasure & Consequence, lead singer Jack Bourkes ability to draw the crowd into the moment evident with the sea of outstretched arms across the D barrier.

Then the secret, not so secret, after party act, Raave Tapes at The Foundry. Thank you for booking these guys, they are my new favourite thing right now. Raave Tapes are from Newcastle, like several of the bands on the line up (there was even a joke made that Newcastle was a suburb of Brisbane). From K Bye to Suds, they played everything that made you want to dance, they are an amazing and entertaining live act. About halfway through their set, they pulled Chris Langenberg and Brodie Popple up to do a song with them. Raave Tapes were a great end to a great festival.

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Raave Tapes – Photo Bec Harbour

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