Friday, 22 October 2010

Rant in B-Minor

This past week I've been spending my time in the trendy inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. Last weekend I flew down with some bands I play in for a show at a bar in musical hotspot Fitzroy, and tonight I'll be seeing the second of two shows at The Forum as part of the Melbourne Festival - last night was Low, tonight is The Drones. In between I've been enjoying the city's many cafes, restaurants, record stores and scenery (not to mention the cold weather, God how I love the cold weather). Tomorrow morning I'll be flying back to Brisbane to get ready to return to work on Sunday.

Melbourne is a city that tends to make young Brisbanites go green with envy. Most culturally aware people from Brisbane can expect to have about 20% of their friends leave town for the southern city during their early 20s - it was my own 20% who loaned me their spare beds and couches this past week. Common wisdom has it as an inarguable fact that Melbourne has a far greater array of things for a young creative person to entertain themselves with than Brisbane.

Or does it...?

Superficially, yes, it does. There are about 3 times* as many venues in Melbourne as there are in Brisbane, partly due to a fortuitous set of licensing laws and partly to do with a culture that supports a multitude of small venues. However, if you compare our little city to the rest of Australia we're doing fairly well. We're probably about on par with Sydney, even though that city's population is greater than even Melbourne's. But for argument's sake, let's say that Brisbane suffers from a lack of venues (even though the recent opening of places like Woodland, The Alley and The Nest more than makes up for the upcoming closure of The Hangar). Does this mean we suffer a lack of gigs? As someone who puts together a weekly gig guide** for this very website I say 'absolutely not'. There's rarely a week where I can't find a whole bunch of gigs that I want to attend. Clashes between competing gigs is the norm, not the exception. There always seems to be some interesting art exhibition at Nine Lives or Bleeding Heart or some other gallery. There are young people getting out there putting on events of all shapes and sizes week in and week out. People like the crew from Lofly & The Hangar, people like Lawrence English (Room40), people like The Fans Group, Andrew Tuttle (Peer Pressure), Dan Lewis (Making Hey / Bon Voyage), Ian Rogers (God Hates Brisbane), the Browning St Studios crew, Will from Burst City, Tom Hall (Sonic Boom etc), Nick Smethurst (In Finland), Bedroom Suck. There are more that I've forgotten, many more, and that's just sticking to the indie rock & 'experimental' community that I'm most familiar with. Move outside that and things open up exponentially.

And yet I constantly hear people complaining that there's nothing to do in Brisbane. I hear people complain that there are no shows to go to, no good bands, that Brisbane is a cultural wasteland. These people then often admit that they've never made it out to The Hangar, don't know many Brisbane bands outside of the few that get played on JJJ, have never even heard of Burst City. I'm going to put this bluntly. If you are one of these people, then here's my message for you: You Are Lazy. Yes, you. You are lazy in at least one of two ways. Firstly, you are lazy if you complain about there being nothing to do in this town but have never actually put in the effort to search out the interesting venues / bands / events. This is the most inexcusable form of laziness, and the most common. However, maybe you have actually put in that effort and not been able to find anything that satisfies your interests. Oh no, all hope is lost! Or alternatively, you could get off your arse and do something about it. What, you think that awesomeness is just going to fall into your lap? You think that all of these fantastic, interesting venues and events just happen? No, someone out there thinks of something cool that doesn't exist and then puts in some time and effort (and yes, maybe an amount of money) and makes it happen. Yes, it's often difficult and usually thankless, and definitely disheartening when a bunch of people tell you later on that they didn't come because 'it was on a work night' or 'it was raining' or 'it was too hot' or 'West End is too far away, you should have done it in The Valley'. But so what? It's also fucking awesome. If you ignore all of that bullshit you get a night like God Hates Brisbane back in June of this year, where you could see 8 fantastic local bands in one night, on two stages upstairs at The Step Inn. It was, without any hyperbole, one of the best nights of music I (and a few dozen other people) have ever seen.

Ok, maybe I'm being *slightly* harsh with that second part. Not everyone has the resources required to put on a show, let alone open a venue or art gallery. Still, a lot of people DO. And those that don't shouldn't be allowed to use it as an excuse anyway. Do you think that all of those people I listed before knew exactly what they were doing when they first started out? Of course not! They were stumbling in the dark, figuring out exactly how you book a venue, a bunch of bands, get some promo out, get someone to do sound, run a merch stand, and at the end of it all try to not lose a fortune in the process. But they did it anyway, and now we thank them for all of the effort that they've gone to (or at least those of us who went looking for something interesting to support do). There are so many people doing so many amazing things in Brisbane that I find it personally offensive to hear someone complain of there being nothing interesting to do here. Brisbane doesn't suffer a lack of activities, it suffers a lack of support for those activities.

This isn't just for the arty, outsider crowd too. I'm not just talking about experimental noise shows (actually, I don't need to because the people involved in that community tend to be pretty great at self-organising, since they're not likely to get booked at The Zoo or The Troubadour any time soon - no criticism of those venues, either). I'm talking everything. I'm talking slick pop bands through to weird little folk things. Just get out there and do it. Ask people who've done it for advice if you want. They will give it to you. They're the people who want to see interesting stuff happen, after all.

Basically, this whole post could be summed up with 'stop being lame retards, start being awesome!'. There you go Brisbane residents, there's a challenge for you. Be awesome. I freaking dare you.

* Ok, so I just pulled that figure out of the air. You get the idea.
** Sorry for not doing one up this past fortnight, but being out of town made it a bit more difficult than usual.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review: BigStrongBrute - We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning

Paul Donoughue (aka the man behind indie-folk 'band' BigStrongBrute) is a son of a bitch. He makes things look so easy. First off, he was part of the great band Tragic/Athletic, a band that started out as a snot-nosed noise-punk band seemingly highly indebted to Turnpike (no bad thing) before maturing into something much more 'adult' and yet somehow just as - if not more - interesting. Now he's continued that musical growth even without the help of his old band. BigStrongBrute has existed in some form for many years now, but its original incarnation as a mid-naughties electro-clash performance piece has now been completely replaced by exquisite folk-pop songcraft. Donoughue takes the same simple song structures and basic open guitar chords that thousands of people have used to create a million songs, and yet manages to create songs that are not only memorable, but somehow unique and individual. Paul Donoghue is a son of a bitch.

I suppose a large part of the reason for the success of We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning is the maturation of Donoughue's voice. It's always been a rough instrument, straining for pitch and range, but these days it's managed to strike that wonderful balance between roughness and musicality. The notes might be slightly off, but it's always in a way that makes things sound better, not worse. Donoughue's voice is full and rich and warm and contains a weariness beyond his years. It's the same kind of perfectly flawed voice that makes people fall in love with singers like Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum or Okkervil River's Will Sheff, acts that BigStrongBrute are often compared to. Those are comparisons that are understandable: all three bands feature strong frontmen with 'rough' voices surrounded by a slightly tweaked and modernised version of traditional folk instrumentation. The passing similarity is just that though, there's no simple aping of a somewhat popular sound. Even if there was, there are worse musical ideas to steal; thank God that Donoughue didn't attempt to create yet another over-rehearsed, bloodless 'folk' act like the Mumford & Sons of the world (as an aside, I must have heard that band's hit song - whatever it was called - a bunch of times, and each time it's ended I've been completely unable to remember a single thing about it). We already have too many dudes who thought it would be a cool idea to grow a beard, strap on an acoustic guitar and get half-a-dozen other musicians to fill out the sound with a bunch of 'obscure' instruments. I'm sick of supposed 'folk' bands who are all slick, filled with multi-part harmonies and super fast finger-picking. Be raw! Be out of tune! Stop trying to be Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes! Anyway...

Of course, the songs are what make any record. My personal favourite here is the closing title track, a 3-minute song that feels as though it's a 1-and-a-half-minute song. When it finishes I find myself wishing it were a 6-minute song that felt as though it were a 3-minute song. The final wordless refrain leaves me completely devastated in a way that few local acts can manage (the dearly missed Ambitious Lovers being the only other that immediately springs to mind). 'Supply & Demand' is the obvious radio single (well, obvious to me. My friend thinks that the upbeat penultimate track 'You Were Always Right' holds that title), but even it can create a lump in the throat in its final, solo bridge before the band kicks back in for the rocking outro. Then there's the beautiful build of opener 'Hands', the minimal 'In My Own Mind' and the epic centrepiece 'Industrial Town'. As you'd hope from a 6-song record, there's not much fat on here.

Engineer Todd Dixon has given the record a somewhat timeless quality, doing a commendable job of mixing together the wide array of instrumentation; flute, trumpet, piano, organs, guitars ranging from nylon stringed through to distorted electrics, all manner of vocals. Some might call it lo-fi. It's not, but neither is it a modern, polished stitch-job. Like many things with this record, it's wonderfully balanced but not hyped. I wonder if this balance might actually end up being to its detriment, as the record's lack of immediacy in both sonics and songwriting gimmicks might mean that it doesn't grab ears in the same way that, say, The Middle East did last year. BigStrongBrute just don't have that show-off element that the more hyped 'folk' acts do (which isn't to say that they lack a sense of drama). It's a shame, because Donoughue's songs are as good (I'd say better, in fact) than those of that band; they're just simpler, rougher and more subtle. Hopefully this means that they'll have more staying power.

I want to say something vaguely negative about the record so that this isn't a glowing puff piece, but I can't really think of much. It's the best local record I've heard in some time, certainly the best folk record to come out of Brisbane for a while (right up there with McKisko's debut and the previously mentioned Ambitious Lovers' farewell EP, Winter Got Warmer). It's not perfect, but anything I can think of to criticise sounds exceptionally petty (eg: sometimes the backing vocals are mixed higher than Donoghue's lead vocals). I know it's a cliche to say this when reviewing an EP, but I really hope we don't have to wait too long for a full-length. Actually screw the rest of you, I just hope *I* don't have to wait too long for a full-length.


Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I thought that I should perhaps post an update on what's happening with Before Hollywood, as I've recently received a few questions about the future of the blog since posts have been fairly sparse as of late (ok, non-existent for the last few months).

Late last year / early this year I became rather busy with a recording studio that I run, and didn't have the time to sit down to write a review each week. I'm now doing that as a full-time business (instead of something I did in my spare time from my 'real' job), so I now have the time to write again. Therefore I might start updating the blog again. There were lots of good releases that we missed in the downtime (Slug Guts' debut, Ambitious Lovers' Winter Got Warmer EP, heaps more), so maybe we'll start with a retrospective of the best releases from the last six months.

Oh, and we still have lots of Strandeds, so feel free to get one from the link on the top right.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Tragic/Athletic video clip

To celebrate a new year, here's something that doesn't require much effort from me to share. It's a video clip for Tragic Athletic's 'We Set Sail When The Wind Came', from their rather awesome 2008 10" EP Brakes. Apparently they have a new EP in the works.

I have a whole stack of records I'd like to talk about sitting next to my computer, so if I can motivate myself I might do a big roundup of a heap of newish releases from the latter part of 2009.


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Gigs of the Week - December 3rd

Thursday 3rd:
Ernest Ellis (NSW), Carry Nation @ The Clubhouse
Skinny Jean @ Musgrave Park (10:30pm) - Free & All Ages (with guardian)

Friday 4th:
Incremental Records Xmas Show: Velociraptor, No Anchor, Lion Island, Mt Augustus, Ambitious Lovers (EP Launch & final show), Monster Monster @ The Clubhouse - Free, with Little Scout and Running Gun Sound DJs
Hits, Giants of Science, Sweet Dreams, Daddy Long Legs (Vic), Lords of Wong, Mercy Beat, Pretty Boys @ Step Inn
Anonymeye (Tape Launch), Thankless Plum (Vic) Nova Scotia, Ambrose Chapel, Brutal Hate Mosh @ Book Nook (West End)
Loomer, Kitchen's Floor @ Ric's Bar
Texas Tea @ The Powerhouse
Tara Simmons, Scott Spark @ The Powerhouse Visy Theatre
Scott Matthew, Heinz Riegler @ X&Y Bar

Saturday 5th:
Idle Cranes, Carry Nation, Mr Rascal, Moon Jog, Restream Vs Aheadphonehome @ Jugglers Art Space (4pm)
The John Steel Singers @ Gossip (Club 299)
Mt Augustus @ Borders CBD (1pm)
Browning St Garage & Bake Sale @ Browning St Studios - Raising funds for Browning St Studios to take their music education program to remote areas.
The Boat People, The Paper Scissors (NSW), Dan Parsons & Band @ The Clubhouse
Ball Park Music, Sweet Fawn @ Ric's Bar

Sunday 6th:
DIY Turnstyle #2: Ghost Notes @ 10 Laura St, Highgate Hill
Andrew Morris, Timothy Carroll, The Sunburys, Scott Spark, Georgia Potter, Lucie Thorne, Sean Sennett, Jody Haines, Madeleine Paige, Chloe Turner, PJ Weston, Steve Grady @ The Powerhouse (3:30pm)

To farewell the (imo amazing but somewhat divisive) Ambitious Lovers, here's the full set from their show last month. They're playing for the final time at 8:30pm on Friday at The Clubhouse for free:


Friday, 27 November 2009

Gigs of the Week - November 27th

I wasn't go to do one of these up, but there's so many great gigs on this weekend that I thought that perhaps I should. I think I'll only do one more this year, since things tend to die down in December.

Friday 27th:
No Anchor, The Rational Academy, Yout Dem, Whyte Lighting @ The Step Inn (Front Bar)
The Swamplords (Album Launch), Sulphur Lights, Velociraptor, Running Guns @ The Troubadour
Fergus Brown (NSW), McKisko, Mr Maps, Cowper @ Lofly Hangar
The Gin Club, Edward Guglielmino, Mexico City, Lion Island @ The Zoo
Toy Balloon, Cardhouses @ Ric's Bar
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.

Saturday 28th:
At Sea, Lion Island, Smokestack Orchestra, The Videomatics @ The Troubadour
4zzz's Dub Day Afternoon: Kingfisha, Rhythm Collision Sound System, Darky Roots & lots more @ The Jubilee Hotel
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.

Sunday 29th:
Lion Island, Pensive Penguin, Hello Yoko, Tom Eggert @ Ithaca Pool - just in case you thought there weren't enough opportunities to see Lion Island this weekend.
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.
Assassins 88, Kitchen's Floor, Sleepwalks, Loomer @ Browning St Studios (6pm)

Wednesday 2nd:
Browning St Goes Bush Benefit: The Rooftops, Stop It I Love It Cabaret, Kay Orchison, Peter B & The Homeless Souls, Sarah Gall & more @ Brisbane Arts Theatre (Petrie Terrace) - a benefit for the music teachers from Browning St Studios to take their music education to remote areas. There's also a student recital occuring at the venue at 6pm.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Turnpike @ Mere Noise Meltdown, Step Inn (14.11.2009)

I saw a lot of local bands play over the last weekend. The sounds coming from these bands included cool garage pop (Running Guns), overwrought radio-rock (The Gallant), awesome Bardo Pond-esque drone-pop (Loomer), K-Records-meets-SST sludge (Manic Eyes), affected yet entertaining noise punk (White Cop), the gradual evolution and coming of age of an already pretty great new band (Slug Guts), the farewell of a local phenomenon (Secret Birds' final show), a beautiful yet far too brief set of quiet folk (McKisko), and an experience of a band I missed during their heyday (El Borracho). Most of it was actually pretty damn great, a somewhat rare run of consistently quality music. Some of it was not so good. All of it was worth writing about in some form. However, when the time came there was only one band I really wanted to write about, and they're a band I've written about (and fawned over) before: Turnpike.

Turnpike, for me, are that band you go and see at every opportunity that presents itself, where you stand in the front row with a handful of people and wonder why so many others seem to pay so little attention. They've been one of my favourite bands (note: favourite bands, not just favourite local bands) almost since the first time I saw them. Their music is simultaneously clever, boneheaded, technical, lacking in technique, ear-splitting and aurally orgasmic. Song structures are merely loose recommendations on where a particular piece of music should lead - each player is free to head off on a whim at a moment's notice, or to attempt to play a particular part completely differently to how they've played it previously. And yet the songs are complex, twisting journeys that are unpredictable and yet always hit their marks.

In the last year or so there have been rumours that Turnpike would break up and transform into some other band. Thankfully that plan seems to have been abandoned, but the idea of changing direction somewhat seems to have been retained. New songs have been introduced recently: the first one was introduced a few months ago and is by far the most schizophrenic song the band have yet written. Starting with a bubbling bass riff in 5/4, it eventually builds up and explodes into a rudimentary sort of thrash metal before falling back to where it began. The second new song was unveiled at the Mere Noise Meltdown on Saturday evening, and was in huge contrast to the retro-tinged garage rock performed by most of the other bands on the bill. Featuring more twists and turns than... well, something very twisty and turny, it displayed guitarist Adam King adding a bit of Ian Williams to his usual Steve Albini meets Ash Bowie guitar stylings. Individual notes and melody lines are clearer than they have been for years in Turnpike's music, although still delivered in a highly twisted, clanging fashion. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Chris Bryant and Tim Evans provide their usual mix of solid anchorage mixed with appropriate levels of chaos, except now with double the number of 90 degree turns in the music and greater flow than ever before. The total effect is mind blowing, throughout the song I found myself being more and more astounded with every newly introduced riff.

Older songs were also performed on the night, both released and unreleased (though familiar to anyone who has seen the band since their debut full length dropped in 2006). They were similarly impressive, and performed as well as I've ever seen them (despite some occasional problem with guitar leads being disconnected due to the Step Inn Front Bar's limited stage space). Although the set was a short one at only five songs, it was packed to the brim of explosive, exciting music. Turnpike may well fall within the confines of 'math rock', but they also display a vitality and energy that bands in that genre often lack, who instead getting lost in studiousness and the search for perfection in performance. Turnpike dismiss that aspect of the genre, and hence are able to comfortably fit into a night such as the Mere Noise Meltdown, where attitude and perceived authenticity reign supreme.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Gigs of the Week - November 12th

Thursday 12th:
Secret Birds (Album Launch), Slug Guts, White Cop, Manic Eyes @ The Clubhouse
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse

Friday 13th:
2high Festival: Tin Can Radio, Villains of Wilhelm, Sunflower, My Fiction, Running Guns and more @ The Powerhouse - see for the full list of bands and times. Free entry.
The Stabs (Vic), Witch Hats (Vic), Loomer, The Deadnotes @ The Clubhouse - Free entry.
Mr Rascal, At Sea @ Ric's Bar
Princess Rodeo, Blue Trial Records, The Bloodpoets, Boss Level Monster @ The Globe
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse
Wagons (NSW), Texas Tea @ X&Y Bar
Illage @ Checocho Cafe, West End

Saturday 14th:
Mere Noise Meltdown: The Horrortones, Turnpike, El Borracho, Vegas Kings, Butcher Birds, The Sips, The Hymies, The Dangermen, The Keep On Dancins @ The Step Inn
Texas Tea @ The Troubadour (1am Late Show)
2high Festival: Black Market Rhythm Company, Richard In Your Mind (NSW), Mr Maps, McKisko, Dot.AY, Mt Augustus and more @ The Powerhouse - see for the full list of bands and times. Free entry.
Little Lovers, Extra Foxx, Feathers @ 4zzz Carpark (2pm) - All ages, donation entry.
Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers (NSW), Little Lovers, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ X&Y Bar
Hungry Kids of Hungary, Deep Sea Arcade (NSW), Ball Park Music @ The Zoo
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse

Sunday 15th:
Shit Life: White Cop, Blank Realm, Tidy Kid, No Guru Trio, Extra Foxx, Loomer, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Sounds From The Ward, Cured Pink Radio, Swamplords, Loose Grip, Science, Kitten Party, Baglady & Walter P. Cronwiegn, Brutal Hate Mosh, The Harpy Choir @ Dutton Park Cemetary (or somewhere near it, 3pm)
Hungry Kids of Hungary, Deep Sea Arcade (NSW), Ball Park Music
@ The Hive
Live Spark: Steve Grady, Crystal Radios @ The Powerhouse
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 29th

Thursday 29th:
Heinz Riegler, Microflora (Vic) @ Jamie's Espresso Bar (7:30pm) - Releasing a new cassette of various recordings from the past few years, limited to 60 copies (featuring hand-printed artwork from Alex Gillies).
Luluc (Vic), McKisko, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
Toy Balloon (Album Re-Launch), Tin Can Radio, Moon Jog, Doom Doom @ The Zoo

Friday 30th:
Gig-Antics: Skinny Jean (Album Re-Launch), Megastick Fanfare (NSW), The Parking Lot Experiments (Vic) @ Uber
The Estates, The Oyster Murders, Plastic Palace Alice @ The Troubadour

Saturday 31st:
Tigermoth, Sweet Dreams, Purity Device, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Big Dead @ Lofly Hangar
Monday Heart, Grids/Units/Planes, Music For Slow Dancing @ Blackstar Coffee (West End)
Wind & Brackets, The James Wright Experience @ The Clubhouse
Finders Keepers Markets: Pikelet (Vic), Mr Rascal, Kate Jacobson, The Cardboard Kids, The Fox And The River, Erin-Louise @ Old Museum (12pm - 9pm)

Sunday 1st:
Finders Keepers Markets: The Bell Divers, Lion Island, JuliaWhy?, Edge of Colour @ Old Museum (10am - 5pm)


Monday, 26 October 2009

Fiesta Roundup

Three days of predominantly local music this past weekend made up the best Valley Fiesta I've had the pleasure of experiencing, bolstered by some fantastic sets from Japan's Limited Express (Has Gone?) along with Jack Ladder, Alex & The Ramps and more from interstate. Some prior years have featured lineups that haven't quite justified the bother of dealing with the crowds associated with the event; this year not only was the lineup pretty damn strong throughout the entire weekend (it was a rare moment when there was nothing of interest to see), but the crowds seemed to be more pleasurable to be a part of. I can barely think of a set that I didn't enjoy. The following gives some brief thoughts on most of the local acts I managed to catch.

Early on Friday evening, Monster Monster started the festivities with a set of his usual indie-rock inflected hip-hop. Joined by frequent collaborator Saint Surly, the two traded brief snippets of music back and forth throughout their half-hour set. It's an act that they've been performing for about 6months now, but this Fiesta slot was certainly the most natural they've made it sound. Previously they've had some difficulty pulling off the transitions between each act's turn in the spotlight, making their sets somewhat erratic at times (though the actual pieces of music they've played individually are usually pretty great). They must have been working hard on the flow of their set, as the changes generally seemed very natural on this particular evening. At times it was actually difficult to figure out which of the two artists was providing the basis of the track and which one was providing accents. This was probably furthered by the fact that neither act played many of their recognisable songs, which would indicate that the set contained mostly new material (perhaps from their upcoming collaborative record).

Lion Island have been building up a bit of a buzz over the past few months. Having recently released their debut EP, Berlin, the band have been expanding their sound from its somewhat Beirut aping beginnings. Many of the newer songs in their repertoire add an almost post-punk rhythmic quality to their gypsy folk, without turning the band into yet another Arcade Fire wannabe (so far). Some of their earlier songs hinted at this mixing of influences, most notably the EP's title track with its delayed electric guitar and soaring arrangement. Now the band is taking these ideas further, with more varied instrumentation and more complex arrangements. While you can still hear the band searching for their core sound, they seem to be getting closer with each show.

Having recently gone through some fairly significant personnel changes, Mr Maps returned on Saturday from a few months' worth of downtime with a slightly different slant on their kaleidoscopic version of post-rock. Gone are unpredictable drummer Sangdae Yang and guitar effects guru Nick Smethurst, respectively replaced by Jacob Hicks (otherwise known as the frontman for Re:Enactment) and Shem Allen (of Skinny Jean, although his was apparently a one-off appearance, with Smethurst's full time replacement being cellist Briony Luttrell). The end result is a leaner, rockier sound - at least for this show, things might change again once the cello is introduced. Most significantly, Hicks is a more traditional and harder hitting drummer than Yang, although he shares the previous drummer's frenetic style. The band are every bit as entertaining as they used to be, and have thankfully used the downtime and lineup changes to introduce some new material into their set.

DZ earned a place on the Fiesta bill via TripleJ Unearthed (along with Drawn From Bees whom I missed because... well, I'm not really much of a fan). Having last played in Brisbane at the launch of their Ruined My Life EP last month, at Fiesta the two young men were in substantially more cohesive form (thanks to a 3pm start time at an alcohol free event). While they were still probably the most ragged band to grace any of the three Valley stages over the weekend they have their own form of tightness, careening along with their groove-punk riffs, threatening to fall apart but instead crashing back together when the big moments come. And boy, do those big moments come. Every single song has at least one point when that immense riff enters and the drums start pounding even harder than before. They're an incredibly entertaining live band, but the songs are catchy enough to remain in your head after the live spectacle has been forgotten.

Having recently released their debut full length Set Your Bones, Butcher Birds took to the SAE stage around the middle of Saturday's festivities. They started their set with the same one-two combo that opens their album, displaying their muscular 'sludge-pop'. I haven't seen the band very often since their new drummer, Donovan, joined their ranks, but it's clear that he gives the band an extra degree of punch. His brief cameo on lead vocals halfway through the set also helped to break up the rest of the sludgier material, providing a welcome blast of punk rock. The rest of Butcher Birds' slot was filled with their usual slow-burning riff rock, with Stacey Coleman's gruff, smokey vocals meandering around the edges. Most of the time their music isn't especially melodic or hooky, being mostly reliant on the physicality of raw volume and the sluggish mood that it all creates. As such, late-afternoon on a bitumen street probably isn't the most conducive of settings for the band to be performing. Still, they put on their standard solid performance.

Although they've been around for a decent amount of time I'd never actually seen White Mansions before, despite the fact that I'd heard a lot of positive things about the band. I figured I should remedy this, and so I made sure I was in attendance for at least part of their Fiesta set. I'm glad I did, as they're a good band - classic sounding songs that remind one of 70s AM radio, but played through distorted garage rock and with a vocalist (Dave Ross, ex-kt26ers) who splits the difference between John Darnielle's stand-and-deliver approach and Dave Grohl's recent full throated bellow. A friend of mine mentioned The Replacements as a possible reference point, and such a comparison makes as much sense as any other.

Disco Nap is the new vehicle for ex-Iron On co-frontman Ross Hope, and much like Kate Cooper's An Horse (and very much unlike Ian Roger's No Anchor) his new music sounds a lot like his old music, with a couple of minor tweaks. Where Cooper paired things back for her new project, Hope has gone in the opposite direction, adding a handful of new textures to his fairly comfortable indie-rock. I must admit that for the first few songs I wasn't really into Disco Nap, it felt like a less successful rehash of Iron On that kept many of that band's more annoying aspects but without the quality of songs. As the set went on this feeling gradually eased and I began to enjoy the music, though it's certainly true that Hope is yet to write anything for his new project that is as good as 'Playing Hard To Want' or 'Fifty-Four Equals Two Hundred' (though there were some songs that showed some promise). It's only early days for Disco Nap so we'll see how it all develops.

Returning that morning from a show in Sydney, Little Scout launched their new EP Different From A Distance as the sun set on the valley. It was an enviable time to be performing, with the low ambient light mixing with the colourful stage lighting to wondrous effect (although the possibility of rain threatened to cut things short at any moment). It suited the recent developments in the band's sound, with their old pseudo-folk pop gradually giving way to a slicker indie rock sound, positing them as the middle ground between twee-indie bands ala Belle & Sebastian and the stadium sized atmospherics of U2 (or, if you were inclined to be less kind, Snow Patrol). They played a largely laid back set that drew equally from both of their EPs, finishing with their JJJ hit (and still best song) 'Dead Loss'.

There's very little to say about SixFtHick that hasn't already been said. The twin vocal attack of the Corbett brothers generally makes a strong initial impression, but it's the music behind them that holds your attention. The label they've given themselves, 'cane punk', is as apt a description as any, appropriately conjuring thoughts of Queensland's deep north. The music has a rough, brutish post-punk edge, calling to mind bands like The Birthday Party and The Jesus Lizard. The Corbett's don't have that same tortured howl of those bands' Nick Cave and David Yow, but they certainly attempt to create the same level of on stage intensity of the aforementioned frontmen (or at least as close as they can get at an outdoor, family event).

As the night closed on the outdoor stages, inside The Troubadour newly formed folk group Epithets provided a bit of a comedown for those present. Rising out of frontman Nick Smethurst's solo act Let's Not (But Say We Did), the new band presents the singer's songs in a more fully fleshed form. The added strength of the band suits Smethurst's music, as the restrictions placed on him by having to interact with three other musicians seem to give him direction and confidence. No longer are songs interrupted by apologies, while both the guitarwork and singing are stronger. The intricately finger-picked folk is given more weight and a clearer structure by the addition of bass guitar, Simon Reynolds' drumming finds the perfect blend of complexity and understatedness, and the violin fills in any remaining sonic gaps.

Playing under the Sunday midday sun (and wind), Carry Nation perform their threadbare folk to a small crowd who are mostly standing in the shade provided on the sidewalks. Starting out as the solo project of Jessie Warren, they've gone through a couple of incarnations before arriving at their current point of a second guitarist and two doo-wop style female backing singers. It's about as minimalist a sound as you can get from four musicians, leaving the songs as the central focus. Jessie's songs are memorable enough to be able to withstand this spotlight, with her voice coming across as a blend of the breathy Holly Throsby and the 'quirky' sultriness of Beth Gibbons.

Texas Tea are probably Brisbane's most recognisable country act and genuine local favourites, and so returned to a similar slot as the one they played at last year's Fiesta. They mostly stuck to their more upbeat numbers, such as 'Billy' and single 'Macy & Me', ignoring more introspective tracks like 'The Daredevil's Lament' and 'Cane Farmer's Song'. Generally I prefer their darker songs so I was slightly disappointed, but I can understand why they chose to do such a set when large portions of the audience would have been unfamiliar with their music. Still, a few more downbeat songs might have helped to provide a little bit more variety to their performance, which was a little bit monotone. Despite that, their songs are always strong and Kate Jacobson's voice is always a joy to listen to.

Dot.AY was certainly one of the more 'out there' acts performing at Fiesta this year, with his Gameboy created chiptune music. I was looking forward to hearing Alex Yabsley's 8-bit beats blasting through a sizable PA, and for the first half of the set this is what the crowd was treated to. It was effective and the gathering crowd seemed to be enjoying it, with a healthy amount of dancing occurring in front of stage. Unfortunately in the second half of the set things started to fall apart, with the penultimate song featuring vocals that were mixed at about double the level of the backing track, robbing the song of its energy. This was followed by a long break caused by both of Yabsley's Gameboys crashing when trying to load the sequence for the final song. By this stage a good percentage of the crowd had lost interest, resulting in a frustratingly lopsided set from one of Brisbane's more interesting musicians.

Playing the final slot of the Fiesta, Brisbane's garage soul supergroup The Horrortones brought an appropriately fun filled close to the weekend. By this stage I was almost dead on my feet, and I was likely not the only one. Something special was needed to get the crowd's attention at the end of Sunday evening, and The Horrortones did as good a job as any at providing it. With a set consisting solely of covers, the band ploughed through the songs with infectious enthusiasm. At that point of the weekend their music was the perfect blend of familiarity and celebratory energy.

Thanks must go to the organiser's of this year's Valley Fiesta. It was without a doubt one the most enjoyable event of its type that I've attended. With any luck they'll be able to reproduce it next year.