Against the Grain, Brisbane’s humble independent music festival, enters its third year. An ambitious expansion, the event moves outward from its traditional nook in Bakery Lane. Spotlighting some of Australia’s best underground talent, it sprawls across Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Friday night’s festivities also kick off at Barbara while Saturday and Sunday’s evenings include an additional stage at perennial live music venue The Brightside.
The minds behind Grain have also expanded the line-up. Pulling together 32 acts over these three nights, many performing have travelled from further afield than the previous year. Backing up a healthy collection of local up-and comers are large contingents from Melbourne and Sydney, a handful of regional acts and Canadian outfit The Courtneys.
Saturday breezes past. Performing with passionate intensity, Newcastle’s Vacations lay down sparkling and warped guitar lines accompanied by thudding low-end grooves. Minimalist Melbournians Sleep Decade follow. They’re slow moving to be sure, but hold a rare capacity to beguile, drawing listeners into an intimate headspace of smouldering solipsism.
YUUCA unleashes an expansive vision of sound and pop. Surpassing what they’ve delivered in the way of recordings, the group’s live set is a sight to behold. Hearing the natural timbres of their instrumentation and vocals suggests that there’s something within their sound that turns the mind to the sounds of indie outfit Warpaint. Stripped-down their soul and emotion is a little closer to the surface, but regardless these guys can really play. They turn out free-flowing arrangements with a sense of drifting momentum.
A returning act from 2016, Good Morning again treats their crowd to infectiously deadpan vocals and melancholic jangle. Their indie popcraft lends a sure-fire injection of energy into The Brightside’s hazy surrounds. The group are the perfect lead into Mossy. Known informally as Jamie Timony, Sydney’s creative dynamo seems to have undergone some reinvention since he last graced the venue’s stage at BIGSOUND the previous year. He cuts into his set without skipping a stride. Sporting a shock of jet black hair, Timony’s voice a cache of emotion, psychedelic whimsy courses over the top end with booming low-end beats. Judging by the crowd react, ‘Electric Chair’ remains an explosive fan favourite. Leaping with energy, the group’s shuffling set is a mesmeric descent into goodtime vibrations.
By no means a sombre conclusion, Sunday hits hard. Thigh Master may very well be Brisbane’s hardest working band, but even with the release of debut Lp Early Times there’s no hint of exhaustion. Sonically it feels like the group has made a leap, they’re sounding better than ever before. For an uncompromisingly underground outfit, Matt Ford and company resist commercial cliché, yet it feels like these Brisbanites have finally struck on to the elements within their sound that can both catch and win over the ears of a broader rock audience.
Live Melbourne’s Hollow Everdaze is something else. They’ve been kicking around for a decade this year and continue to combine ambitious string arrangements to their hard rocking undercarriage. Mid set vocalist Dan Baluch brings the band to a halt to recount an incident at a previous BIGSOUND where the possession of a meatgrinder in his bag led to an unanticipated ejection from the festival. This smack of industry rejection may have gotten the artist down, but it also led to the creation of ‘Flat Battery’, unquestionably one of the groups finest tracks. Here dissonant fretwork and attitude-laden vocals carry the song until it climaxes with a freak-out moment.
Closing things out Bakery Lane Canuck fuzz poppers The Courtneys pack an instrumental wallop. There jumpy fuzz pop riffers don’t disappoint. Even an unwelcome stage invader doesn’t seem to break their musical stride. They pause only to compliment the crowd, Australians, it seems, are snappy dressers.
Gold Class play with heart bursting ferocity. Let’s face it frontman Adam Curley is a true Morissite, but working the panache of Moz into his own primal bellow results in something both sonorous and overpowering. There's little pause between tracks save Curley sneaking behind the stage curtain to strip down the odd layer of clothing. As the set progresses, all those remaining at the festival pack inward. There’s a feeling that if there’s anything left within this is where it will find its release. This is where it all comes out… or off!
Baring a bit of flesh Curley cuts into ‘Twist In The Dark’ from latest Lp Drum. Taking the title and lyrics to literal heights a mass of bodies churn and twist within the venue’s gloom. Guitarist Evan Purdey pushes things forward with gritty guitar licks while the group’s rhythm section provides some serious brunt. This new material seems to hit home, surprisingly scaling the height and energy of impressive debut It’s You as it courses outward from the band and into the crowd. No small feat, It’s a powerful performance and fitting close to Grain’s third and finest year.
Review by Riley Fitzgerald
Photography by Claire Dalton