REVIEW & GALLERY (pt.1)
Remember, remember, the fourth of November.
It’s eight-thirty p.m. and I’m sitting at the Brightside at a table with Hunter S. Thompson and Kim Kardashian. I’m cursing under my breath after having spent $8.50 on my first drink of the night, wishing I’d drank a little before coming out because tonight is going to get weird and I’m gonna need all the freak fuel I can afford.
The event is Deadlam, curated by Bedlam Records, now in its third year of being a good excuse to dress up and throw a party of ghoulish proportions. The dead come to shred and creatures crawl out from the shadows for an exceptional lineup of Australian musicians stretching across three venues. The night is still young yet already in full swing with White Blanks, Muddy Chanter and Bugs having already kicked things off. Outside in the Brightside carpark, two mammoth-sized robots stand guard either side of the stage. A UFO hovers above the crowd. The air is literally buzzing; some dude has a weird sound effect on his alien costume. It’s all very Mars Attacks! I buy another drink.
Bedlam’s own Twin Haus make their entrance in Silence of the Lambs garb. Hannibal Lecter sings effortlessly through the gaps in his mask, and Buffalo Bill shreds the guitar to his right. The local four-piece are a staple at Brisbane events, having built a solid reputation with their electric live shows and complex musicianship that often has them compared to Foals and Radiohead. Starting my night off with their set, rather than finishing with it, is a telling sign of what kind of evening I’m in for. I’m told that they covered Doused by DIIV to which I said “YOU GOTTA BE FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME” and questioned my priorities because yep, you guessed it, I was in line for a drink. But the 11-minute epic that is The Revue from their recent Nothing Lavish EP and some new material more than make up for it and they finish their set with dutiful fans head-banging at the front.
The final chords are still ringing as we head to Black Bear Lodge to see Astro Travellers, a name fitting for the jazz/hip hop outfit whose music induces euphoric outer-body experiences. ‘Cause, goddamn these guys are smooth! Astro deliver a plethora of soulful instrumentals featuring poetical raps from MC Rui and vocals from the sensational Tiana Khasi. They’re the kind of band that makes you think your dancing is cooler than it actually is. We smoke a celebratory jazz cigarette afterwards and I decide that tonight is the night for letting your freak flag fly. I steal a pair of Shrek ears off someone’s head and watch the drummer of Bugs drink a candle and glue his mouth shut with wax.
Regrettably I catch only moments of Melbourne’s Romeo Moon, just long enough to notice the men of Twin Haus in place of absent members. I had been keen to see their set as a big fan of their Live at Bedlam video, but somewhere a far-off cry of “the fucking Drones are starting!” tells me it’s time to head back to The Brightside.
I squirm through the crowd, now a heaving entity, getting less than impressed looks from a couple of geishas. The Drones have already toured their latest album Feelin’ Kinda Free earlier this year, and Deadlam will be one of their last. As Gareth Liddiard’s lips touch the microphone, its a summoning to his army of undead followers; their heads twist to him, they crawl out of the dark corners of the room, clamouring eagerly to the front. Right off the bat is the chilling Private Execution and already their set is an epitome of Deadlam’s ethos. It’s vaguely a soundtrack to a B-grade horror film, but with incredible musicianship and a hauntingly raw delivery of prose that packs a punch.
Gareth the Goblin King continues to twist and contort front of stage, whipping his hungry followers into a hypnotic frenzy. But for me, the memory comes in slow motion - flashing lights, hair flailing in the mosh, the empty stare of a pupil-less zombie. The crowd is awash with anticipation that lasts long into The Drones’ set - always on edge, always moving, an aura of urgency thick in the air. Fan favourites like Taman Shud, Shark Fin Blues and I See Seaweed are peppered throughout the set as they emotionally charged, pensive poetry of Liddiard drives the night to its highest point.
Also from the latest album, To Think That I Once Loved You falls on the crowd like a ton of bricks. Everyone is still for the first time, possibly, all night. A remarkable thing to achieve in a room full of mind-altered drunks, but it is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. They end a set that spanned seven studio albums (almost twenty years), and the party kicks on to the Foundry where Sydney’s You Beauty throw us a second wind with some pop-tinged pub-rock.
It was a night of ping-ponging between stages and venues, of drinking Bugs’ rider (oops), and helping girls in the bathroom fix their bloodied makeup. It was dancing with a big furry something-or-rather, zoning out to Shining Bird and talking absolute garbage in the smokers area. My night ends as the sun rises and everything is somehow scarier in the daylight.
A tip of the hat Shrek ears to Bedlam’s faithful leader Duncan Cambell - tonight a gruesome doctor with a chelsea grin - and his exceptional team for a nightmare of night we won’t soon forget.