Live review: HOLY HOLY + Fractures + Big Bad Echo – The Zoo, Brisbane – 22/8/15

SOMETIMES I think I’ve had enough of all these bleedin’ indie bands and the whole damn scene. I mean, how am I meant to feel good about myself when they’re making looking cool appear as easy as flicking on a switch, while I’m four beers in with a self-conscious sweat on my back that’s making me want to pack in this gig lark for good?

It’s probably a good idea, therefore, to be reminded of what a great guitar band can do and what an indie-rock gig can be from time to time. The warmth, the uplifting fervour, the sheer bloody majesty of it all. It’s good to be reminded of these things, and HOLY HOLY (augustly capitalised, if you please) seems the type of band capable of doing it. A sold-out Zoo is, as always, the prime venue for the occasion.

Two support bands set the scene for tonight’s show. First up is Brisbane quintet Big Bad Echo, who will have won a plethora of new fans with this performance. Part The National, part Jesus and Mary Chain, part “huh?”, their dark and trippy jams are mesmerising and intense. Eyebrows were raised as a saxophone was produced at one point, but it was a move that only served to make their strangeness more daring, and as a result, endearing. Consider this reviewer converted.

big bad echo

Fractures is Melburnian Mark Zito, who delivers a collection of dark and often melancholy songs from his debut, self-titled EP. ‘Unwind’ and new track ‘Noise’ sound particularly good and go over well with a swelling audience bursting with anticipation.


And so, time for that aforementioned majesty. HOLY HOLY are a band on an upward trajectory that has recently seen them tour overseas, play Splendour in the Grass and release a well-received debut record. Singer/guitarist and songwriter Tim Carroll’s Brisbane roots make this particular show a little bit special for the band and audience, and the boys deliver in fine style (and yes, there was dancing).

holy holy brisbane

‘History’ and ‘Sentimental and Monday’ are top tunes to start with, as Carroll’s controlled, masterful vocals compliment Oscar Dawson’s slick licks. ‘Wanderer’ quickly follows in what is a largely laidback and comfortable set so far, before a Terminator 2: Judgment Day theme cover pops the balloon of earnestness in unexpected and compelling fashion. ‘House of Cards’ and ‘A Heroine’ further cement the band’s skills as not only top songwriters but performers too, and as ‘Impossible Like You’ leads into the soaring ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like a Dog’, some sort of symbolic wall is kicked down and the mood in the room instantly feels elevated by several levels. It’s a song good enough to remind even the most weary gig goer of the joys that drew us in in the first place; all soaring dual guitars and singalong lines that demand facial contortions from everyone who wants to sing or air-guitar along.

An encore of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ rounds off what is a fantastic night of rock music, provided by an Australian band who have come of age in recent months. As I take the first steps along Ann Street towards the chaos of Brunswick Street Mall, I can’t helping feeling my faith in indie-rock is restored.

Live review: Wire + Per Purpose + Multiple Man – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19/2/14


Writing about Wire is hard, just like listening to a lot of their music. Just like spending a couple of hours in the sweatbox we know as probably the best live music venue in Brisbane. Just like waiting for support band Per Purpose to warm up. Just like, well, just like anything about now; I’m listening to Wire as I write this.

Getting together in 1976 just after the first year’s worth of English punk had reared its ugly head, the quartet of Londoners that made up Wire were never a bunch to follow trends or fashion; instead being intent to walk their own path and be one of the original instigators of post-punk. Often credited for expanding sonic boundaries in new and brave ways, they have influenced just about everything that has ever been labelled post-punk.

Now: maybe it’s the heat, but tonight’s lesson in crushing electronic noise doesn’t have the desired effect, except I don’t know what that effect should be. A sense of stark destruction, perhaps? I arrive just as openers Multiple Man are finishing, but don’t get a sense of what they’re really about. Per Purpose, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re about; droning jams, intense cheekbone-framed stares and wailing, shattered guitars. Towards the end of their half-hour set they finally get going and produce some quality The Fall-esque jams.

Wire were innovators in the ’70s, so I’m not sure why it feels odd to see singer-guitarist Colin Newman using a tablet and USB, but as their songs morph from one to the next without much of a discernible difference except perhaps the cacophonous volume of drone, it’s more the lack of a tune that is most frustrating. Something about the performance feels great; dark and enveloping in a brooding way, but in other ways it falls over; a lack of connection to the audience or any showing of emotion, perhaps.

Some bands make great records and others were born to play live, and I think Wire fall into the first category.

Live review: Misfits + Graveyard Rockstars + The Wrath – The Zoo, Brisbane – 16/1/14

New Jersey horror-punk legends the Misfits may have had more line-up changes than Kiss, Thin Lizzy and The Ramones put together (possibly), but with founding bass player and vocalist Jerry Only still at the helm of the iconic band, they seem to be in just as good a shape as ever.

Brisbane’s The Zoo is packed and humid as a sell-out audience takes position to catch the make-up toting trio, with almost as many skulls on T-shirts as tattoos and chains hanging from a variety of facial features. First up is Sydney quintet The Wrath, who put in a strong opening set as the venue fills, followed by fellow Sydney-siders Graveyard Rockstars, whose performance is a mashing together of white horror-punk make-up, head-banging dreadlocks and foreboding tales about death and what might be lurking “six feet under the floor”. “This next song is a doomsday anthem,” says frontman Ash Rothschild. “You can take it how you will. That sounds a bit gay, doesn’t it?”

With a stripped-down stage show for their Australian jaunt, the Misfits themselves don’t take long before lowering the lights and appearing before an audience now collectively losing its marbles. Almost from the second Jerry, Dez and Eric take to the stage a mess of frenzied moshing breaks out front-and-centre, and the energy doesn’t let up for ninety minutes. Jerry Only is the focal point throughout; his trademark devilock hairstyle hasn’t changed a bit since 1977, and his spiked shoulders and skull-encrusted bass head reflect spotlights and drip sweat in tandem.

With Ramones-like speed the songs are reeled off, from ‘Land of the Dead’, ‘Scream’, ‘Attitude’, ‘Angel Fuck’ and ‘She’; the latter written when Only was seventeen, and seemingly about a hundred others. The inevitable crowd-surfing breaks out during ’20 Eyes’, and the band continue unperturbed as a sea of elbows, knees and beer bottles bubbles and boils beneath them.

Almost as quickly as it started the set is over, and I’m left with a feeling that despite the horror-punk label the band is given, there is so much more in their arsenal; from punk, speed-metal, rockabilly, and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. They just don’t make ’em like this any more.

Live review: Pond + Doctopus + Peter Bibby – The Zoo, Brisbane – 14/12/13


In the future, when I think back to the time I saw Pond just before Christmas 2013, the main memories I’ll have – besides the outstanding performance of the bands themselves – will be ones of sweat, perspiration, humidity, and even more sweat. That’s what happens when Brisbane’s aircon-less The Zoo is sold out in summer, but what the hell; it’s Saturday night, the cold beers are flowing, and everyone’s getting loose in preparation for Pond.

After a set of folky, charismatic songs by Peter Bibby, the ramshackle trio of Doctopus take to the stage and batter their way through a fantastic collection of sweaty, lairy and hairy tunes, complete with sometimes unintelligible banter between. Theirs is a straight-up, fire-’em-off approach that is both exciting and catchy at once; a coarse but finely-executed set of rough-at-the-edges garage rock. Any band with an instrumental song called ‘QI/Stephen Fry’ and who fly-kick each other in the middle of songs is okay by me. (TIP: their album Buddies is free on Bandcamp – get on that thang).

The Zoo is heaving long before Pond is due to take the stage, and it’s refreshing to see that the crowd is seemingly entirely full of good vibes and enthusiasm for the head-liners, and there’s a generally great atmosphere despite the amount of perspiration going on. The Perth six-piece are in fine form, as they power through ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide’ and ‘Xanman’ early on, before moving through a set heavy with Hobo Rocket numbers. I’d seen Pond previously (at Laneway Festival last year) and while they put on a good show on that occasion, something about being enclosed on the smaller stage makes frontman Nick Allbrook a more engaging and entertaining mix of rabid posturing, banshee-like wailing, and clear enthusiasm for everything the band is doing.

‘Fantastic Explosion of Time’ is an obvious highlight, but it’s the pulsating juggernauts of extended jams throughout and a manic finish (including the expected level of crowd-surfing) that make the gig – and the band – such a unique one.

Live review: British India + Lunatics on Pogosticks – The Zoo, Brisbane – 22/11/13

British India

In town to play a brace of dates in support of their ‘Blinded’ single launch from their successful fourth album Controller, Melbourne quartet British India – like the rest of us – would endure the stifling humidity of Fortitude Valley’s The Zoo to once again prove they are still one of the best young rock bands in the country.

With multitudes of scantily-clad young punters sinking Smirnoff Blacks and playing pool at the back of the sweaty venue, up-and-coming Triple J Unearthed High winners Lunatics on Pogosticks get the crowd up front even more warmed up with a set of noisy and energetic pop-punk tracks with hints of the more raucous side of Sonic Youth.

British India waste very little time in getting right into the action; starting their set with the always-excellent ‘March Into The Ocean’, before running through a near-perfect mix of songs from Controller, classics like ‘Tied Up My Hands’, ‘Run The Red Light’, and a cover of Blink-182’s ‘Dammit’. While there is plenty of energy, suitable amounts of jumping around on-stage, and a decent level of audience banter via frontman Declan Melia, the best thing about British India is that they can really play; there is proper musicianship under their appropriately gimmick-free exterior.

Finishing up with the rousing ‘This Ain’t No Fucking Disco’ in front of an audience by now losing their collective marbles, British India prove they have lost none of the strengths that have been their trademarks for nearly ten years.

Live review: The Cribs + The Ninjas + Filthy Jackal – The Zoo, Brisbane – 25/10/13

Gary Jarman

Gary Jarman

Reading articles about Wakefield indie guitar trio The Cribs recently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that this current tour marks their tenth anniversary as a going concern. When the turn of the millennium brought the downfall of Britpop and a resurgence in New York hipster bands influenced by the lo-fi guitar lines of Television and street threads of Johnny Thunders, certain U.K. music press – panicked by the thought of their watery scene being left behind – sought to crown a new generation of bands as the great white hopes for British guitar music. Enter a thrown-together group of bands of varying quality and style, consisting of The Libertines, Razorlight, the Jarman brothers of The Cribs, and others. Amid the haze of a million indie bands, the time has passed quickly since their 2004 debut, but are The Cribs still a force, or should they fade into the dark, as so many of their contemporaries have done? Today’s gig would be the only way to tell.

First up in Fortitude Valley’s The Zoo is Filthy Jackal, who despite seeming quite isolated in a sparsely-filled venue put in a decent effort, culminating in their heaviest song of the set, ‘Bereft’.

Following them is Brisbane garage rockers The Ninjas, who immediately up the quality many fold with a quality set of groovy, sleazy, danceable, fat-riffed tunes. Sounding tight rhythmically from the off, their swagger-y songs – including the excellent ‘Yeah Yeah’ – ooze globular hints of Manchester circa 1990 (think Happy Mondays if they could play) and early 2000s indie like The White Stripes; making them a perfect choice for what is to come next.

Releasing a greatest hits record and embarking on an anniversary tour are indulgences for many over-the-hill bands, but within seconds of The Cribs taking the stage, it is clear that the three Jarman brothers (plus touring member David Jones) are anything but past it, and they are pretty damn tour-tight for guys who now live thousands of miles apart. The obvious focus is on singer-guitarist Ryan, who these days could pass for a Dee Dee Ramone look-alike, and bassist-vocalist Gary, but it’s their solidity as a unit and energy that are most impressive throughout the set. Taking songs from each of their five albums, including the excellent ‘Hey Scenesters!’ from Hey Fellas and ‘Come On, Be a No-One’ from In The Belly of the Brazen Bull, the band slash, bash and crash their way through an hour of top quality guitar rock, before heading off stage amid a maelstrom of belly-up drum-kits, dropped guitars, and sweat.

The lesson learned here tonight? The Cribs are in no way a spent force; no f**king way.

Live review: Peace + Millions + The Creases – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19/9/13


I recently interviewed Peace frontman Harrison Koisser and he told me how much the band was looking forward to coming to Australia for the first time. “I’ve heard the lifestyle is different but the ideas are the same. It sounds like something we can get along with. I want to feel it,” he said. Tonight, in Brisbane’s best venue, the young English quartet will get a taste of that feeling, which probably involves a lot of heavy sweating in their leather jackets while blasting out a series of more-than-decent indie-rock tunes.

As I make my way from the traffic lights outside The Royal George towards the welcoming stairwell at The Zoo’s entrance, gladly escaping the god-awful blare coming from the Kaliber Lounge, the four lads of Peace are ambling along just in front of me, all shabby Converse and stick-thin legs, looking nonplussed and generally pretty cool with life, and like me they grab a spot to watch the support acts. Local indie-shoegazers The Creases are first up tonight, and they play a set full of heavily-distorted guitars, plenty of fuzz all round, shared vocals between members, and a bit of jangly pop thrown in for good measure. With support slots coming up soon for some bigger bands, these guys are worth keeping an eye on.

Next up is Millions, who have a different but equally good vibe, and a higher level of musicianship. The audience responds well as the band work through some new and unfamiliar songs throughout the set, and despite there not being much crowd interaction – as with all the performances tonight – the band, and particularly guitarist Ted Tillbrook’s impressive riffs, keep the top quality tunes coming; a highlight being ‘Stone Roller’ from last year’s Cruel EP.

Peace have recently toured with Mystery Jets, The Vaccines, and Palma Violets, so it’s tempting to lump them all together by describing their existence as some sort of resurgence in English indie guitar bands, but in truth, they play a style of music that has been around the block several times. Their sound is almost like a Brit-pop revival with more than a hint of psychedelia, and probably quite apt for this place and time, given that a large percentage of the Australian music-loving community is pissing their pants about Blur making their way Down Under very shortly. In saying that, they are a talented bunch of guys who aren’t into rehashing riffs, sounds, or styles from any previous era, and can put on enough of a show to make you forget about all the blog buzz and hype surrounding their debut album. Such attention has probably done them a disservice, as they’re a kick-ass live band first, bunch of pretty indie-boy pin-ups second. The quartet launch straight into their up-tempo set, only pausing to say hello before fifth track ‘Float Forever’, which Koisser introduces as “a slow one”, and the big choruses of ‘Toxic’ have heads nodding venue-wide, after he begins the track with just his solo guitar and voice. ‘California Daze’ is still probably their best song and would sound amazing at an outdoor summer festival, as it does in a small venue, and despite the ‘next big thing’ tag a large section of the music media has tried to force on the band, tonight’s gig is definitely a triumph of substance over style.

Live review: Labours of Love #2 – The Zoo, Brisbane – 17/8/13



It’d be reasonable to assume that the prospect of a night of country music and the proximity of the Ekka might be enough to attract a few out of town punters to the banjo-twangin’, boot-stompin’ events of the evening at The Zoo, but this wasn’t to be the case on Saturday night, with only around forty to fifty hardcore fans showing up for the second instalment of Labours of Love at the beloved venue.

The bands didn’t seem to be put off by this, however, and after a short set by local quintet Bandito Folk, and much fiddling with electronics and synth cables, Seja Vogel and her three band members take to the stage. “Hi, I’m Seja and I’m going to play some not very country music,” she explains, before running through a series of synth-heavy tracks from her new album All Our Wires, including the excellent ‘Like Fireflies’ and German number ‘Die Wolken’, followed by a sublime acoustic cover of cult Gold Coast band Arbuckle’s ‘Love Vacation’.



Halfway take to a stage now adorned with a projected backdrop of various pictures of country Queensland, and coolly work through a set of songs taken from their upcoming fourth album Any Old Love. Despite all the new songs being totally unfamiliar to the audience, they receive a warm response after each tune; from the slower country numbers to the more up-tempo rockers. There are hints of The Band throughout, and even touches of Warren Zevon in parts, and the sporadic dancing that breaks out by the third or fourth song among the loyal fans in front of the stage keeps up until the final chord is struck. Surely this is a better way to spend an evening than watching fireworks and eating ice cream?

Live review: Local Natives + New Gods + Texture Like Sun – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19th May 2013

Local Natives have been wowing fans up and down the country of late, and hot on the heels of their second album Hummingbird, they’re in town with the aim of doing the same to Brisbane. Drawing favourable comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, the quartet are well-known for their multiple harmonies and classy song-writing. The Zoo’s stage awaits their talents.

First up for tonight’s gig is Melbourne indie-folk duo Texture Like Sun, who provide an understated but increasingly attention-grabbing performance with a series of ominously-haunting piano melodies and soaring vocals. Their song ‘One Great Prize’ is a good starting point for checking these guys out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Texture Like Sun

Texture Like Sun

The second support for tonight is Melbourne indie-rock quintet New Gods, who will possibly forever be described as featuring former members of Little Red; that once omnipotent but ultimately substance-free band of pop-lite not-quite-pretty boys who released a couple of chart-bothering tunes a couple of years ago. I immediately have flashbacks of a tragic night at The Hi-Fi in Brisbane, watching baying hordes of over-privileged teenage girls try to levitate their virginities in the general direction of any or all of the relatively unskilled band members, as the objects of their affections alternate between blushing under the swell of pheromone-fuelled adulation and jostling each other for a slice of the limelight and pick of the skirts.

Thankfully, New Gods aren’t like any of that – for the most part – and as I write a quick note by which to remember their set, a satisfying rhythm falls across the paper: “The little boys from Little Red… have become men and learned to shred.” While elements of dreamy pop inevitably slip into their set from time to time, they are at their best when guitarists Adrian Beltrame and Dominic Byrne let rip with the riffs, which they do really well; although writing a song about Bill Hicks and throwing your guitar gently and politely to the ground with an “I’ll-fix-it-later” look on your face doth not a rock star make. Next time, I want to be picking shards of your fretboard out of my eyeballs (with bleeding fingers) for a month, if you please.

New Gods

New Gods

And so: California’s Local Natives. When Hummingbird came out earlier in the year, I was quick to hassle people in relation to its greatness, claiming it to be one of the albums of 2013 already; and I stand by that. Top-notch tuneage seeps from every pore of that record – it’s a exquisitely crafted piece of work that will still sound great when we’re all just a bump in the graveyard grass. Alas, this is a review of a live show, not an album.

I was recently chatting to a friend about seeing Wild Beasts at Laneway Festival in 2010, and how totally disappointed we were with their show, especially considering they had just released such a top album in Two Dancers. It was tame in almost every sense of the word; all the right songs were there, played to perfection, but where was the performance? Every ‘T’ was crossed and ‘I’ dotted in terms of how the songs sounded, but where was the heart? Where was the soul? The audience engagement? It was as fun as being in your bedroom with their record playing in the background, and a couple of hundred random people along for the ride. The same could be said for tonight’s show.

Local Natives

Local Natives

“Hello, how are you? This is our last night in Australia, and we have a lot of songs for you tonight,” offers Kelsey Acer to a half-filled Zoo, before the band kick into ‘You & I’, with plenty of exaggerated arm-swinging on the down strum, and a range of well-practised facial expressions to show just how serious this band takes itself. As with Wild Beasts, the songs are all there; and are replicated in a note-perfect manner, including ‘Ceilings’, ‘Mt. Washington’, ‘Airplanes’, ‘Colombia’, and the sublime ‘Heavy Feet’, but despite unquestionably great musicianship and a fine range of facial hair, there’s something missing from this show that leaves me feeling – dare I say it – bored.

A mid-set cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’ provides some relief from the earnestness, and when it’s time for an encore The Zoo’s audience doesn’t exactly put up a fight to get the band back on-stage. Watching them pick up their instruments and strike up another couple of indifferent chords is enough for me, and I’m down the stairs to freedom in a matter of seconds. Disappointing.

Live review: Matt & Kim + Citizen Kay + Tiger Beams – The Zoo, Brisbane – 9th May 2013

Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim

Tonight’s show at The Zoo would be one of duos, with no less than three of them performing for the listening and viewing pleasure of Brisbane’s music-loving public. Call it a Groovin’ The Moo sideshow or whatever you like; one thing that can be guaranteed when seeing Matt & Kim is rock-solid, class A entertainment; and tonight would be no different.

First up is well-known Brisbane duo Tiger Beams, consisting of local soul brother Jeremy Neale on guitar/vocals and his Velociraptor partner-in-crime Jesse Hawkins on vocals/drums, seemingly taking part in a how-many-bands-can-you-be-in-at-once competition (and undoubtedly winning). Their set is messy and charming in equal amounts, and culminates with Hawkins announcing “we’ve never played this last song live before and we’re quite drunk – a good combination,” before taking to the stage front and centre for a ridiculous (and in many ways, brilliant) electronic number featuring robot dancing and intergalactic synth loops.

Citizen Kay

Citizen Kay

Next up is Citizen Kay from Canberra; a young artist whose music has been described as hip-hop, but in reality consists of so much more. The singer runs through a highly energetic set of fantastic rap/dance/pop tunes with a socially-conscious heart, including the excellent ‘When I Was Up’ and ‘Free Doom’ (or was that ‘Freedom’?), including lines about Malcolm X and JFK: nice. ‘Villain’ is a groovy rap track that allows the drummer to flaunt his considerable skills, but it’s Kay’s stage presence, charisma, and endless grin that holds the audience in the palm of his hand for the length of the set. Well played, young sir.

And so, it’s time for Matt & Kim, who bounce onto the stage in a a flurry of flashing lights, bubbles, and screams, have a quick dance on the bass drum and various parts of the stage, then exclaim “we’ve been hanging out over by the Kangaroo Point cliffs, and we’ve learned that there are no rules in Brisbane; you can do whatever the fuck you want!” Cue colossal screams and the audience is theirs. The punchy ‘Overexposed’ follows before Matt introduces Kim as “my partner-in-crime and my partner in sex,” with Kim responding with “You are gonna fuck tonight Matt – our foreplay is me telling you I’m gonna fuck the shit out of you tonight!” as the audience eats up every word.

‘Silver Tiles’ is next, and is introduced as “pretty much the first song we ever wrote”, followed by ‘Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare’ as the crowd bounces in unison, before the slower ‘Turn This Boat Around’ follows Kim standing on the drums slapping her ass in the general direction of the audience.

At this point handfuls of balloons and cock rings are flung into the audience to add to the manic party vibe, before ‘Now’ and a cover of ’90s Dutch Euro-pop anthem ‘Better Off Alone’ by Alice Deejay sees an outbreak of bare-breasted crowd-surfing by one girl and a lightning-quick grab for iPhone cameras by the entire rest of the audience (I was too slow, damn it). Matt confesses to having “missed a couple of notes when that bra came off”, before Kim delights us by confessing “every night I juice myself up here playing the drums.”

By now everybody is exhausted but exhilarated, so an encore of ‘Lessons Learned’ fits perfectly, with Kim suggesting “If you sing along with me on this song, you will get laid tonight.” While the truth to this claim can’t possibly be confirmed, one thing is certain: Matt & Kim are one of the best live acts around right now, and every member of the audience left The Zoo feeling better than when they arrived.