Despite Brisbane’s reputation as Australia’s biggest country town, in 2016 the city boasts no shortage of musical talent. This said it’s a rarer occasion when so many of the city’s brightest artists come together under a single banner. Yet drawing together no less than 20 acts from Brisbane and further abroad local music rag GRAIN created one of these all too uncommon moments. Transforming the crawlspace of Brisbane’s Bakery Lane into a buzzing live venue, Against the Grain hosted three nights of live music with the minds behind the fledgling mag proving no slouches when it comes to curation.
Second on Friday’s bill, 5-peice Jack Thomas laid down their idyllic indie folk. Chorused to saturnine perfection, riff-driven bounce and crashing hooks were in ample supply. Their oceanic pop left the crowd wanting more.
With dreamy riffs and moody songcraft which could make Elliot Smith jealous, Alex L'Estrange settled into a more sombre mood. When not laying down indie ballads somehow slithering their way back to Oasis’ Gallagher brothers, L'Estrange seduced with spacey riffs and hazy textures born aloft devotional lyricisms.
But if there’s anyone to steal the Friday limelight it’s Simi Lacroix. Invoking a funked-up gloss which could only have come from the 1980s, Lacroix is putting the pastiche back into pop. Whether he’s crooning, hitting falsettos or purring like The Purple One (Prince), there’s some undeniable vocal talent beneath this glossy exterior. Clad in an orange top and dubbing over a backing track, a single-minded charisma had the crowd moving to Lacroix rhythmic whim. ‘80s gloss met blue eyed soul when he rounded out the night with The Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart of Mine is Weak For You. Amidst a sea of squirming bodies, it was clear that ‘80s melodicism had well and truly returned.
Saturday night boasted not only some of the biggest names of the bill, but also plenty of more emerging talents. PYNES’ rumbling low end, shamanistic yelps, ominous riffs and dissonant ur-sax melodicism cemented their status as one of Brisbane’s most talented newcomers. While their stygian swirls of psyche and structureless sonic sprawls could be likened to an extended Doors instrumental, it’s a psych sound worth checking out. A follow-up set by Vulture Circus saw a continuation of ominousity. They didn’t disappoint with a lo-fi rock buzz best described as an echo-laden existential crisis; like The Breeders on LSD. Despite an adjoining hens night leaked over into the Vultures' set, the group effortlessly managed to deliver an earth-shaking sonic assault.
The Jensens, Major Leagues and Twin Haus have all been going strength to strength in the last year, catching the three together was a real draw. The Jensens laid down their usual licks (the crowd loved it). Major Leagues rendered angst-ridden pop and despite some stifling technical issues tore into a blistering set. Live they cut a perfect melding of noise and pop.
Better than ever, Twin Haus concluded the night with unwavering rock grandiosity. Hip quotient aside, their rugged rock image and progressive riffs are nothing short of enamouring. There’s something ruggedly charismatic here.
Sunday boasted the most diverse line-up. McKiscko’s slow smouldering folk cast haunted vocals over sparse instrumental soundscapes. Erie minimalism, sombre melancholy and folkish lullabies pervaded this captivating solo set. Not even a well-lubricated bustle women's night out reciting of the lyrics of The Thong Song, could displace the entrancing atmosphere her sound invokes. Combining jazz leaning spontaneity and a towering alt rock sound, Big Dead traded bombast for a gentler warmth which one punter endearingly described as: “The sound from Radiohead’s Pyramid Song, but like a whole set.” Blending their lattice of musical elements the group craft something truly entrancing.
More solo sets followed in the form Emerson Snowe (The Creases’ Jarod Mahon) and Pool Shop (Major Leagues’ Jaimee Fryer). Returning from the previous night, the latter laid down hypnotic ambient swells and ambrosially textured noodling. While it felt like the weekend may have been slowly ebbing to an inevitable conclusion, this was far from the case.
Having shipped up from Melbourne to lend their talents to the event, Jess Locke and her backing band took things to another level entirely. With a seductively robust rhythmic undercarriage the group brought the audience into the web of what can only be likened to some kind of all-encompassing psychic flow. Using a live dynamic to full effect, Locke doesn’t just play songs but projects moods. This band makes people want to dance. Given the connection between both the band and the audience, this was a moment of rock in its most rarefied form.
Jess Locke may have been the standout act, but hazy festival finisher Good Morning proved an equally judicious choice. The presence of the group really added something to this line-up. Wrapping things up with a sound which effortlessly shifted from thundering sonic builds to drifting slow waltzes, the group capitalised on Locke’s energetic build to conclude things with some stunningly elevational moments.
Reviewer - Riley Fitzgerald