2016 MOUNTAIN GOAT VALLEY CRAWL
We were each a six-pack deep and already in the Valley before the sun had set. Spoilt for choice but not for time, we hastily decided on a plan for the evening, mildly aware that we would probably not adhere to it. The first stop for the Mountain Goat Valley Crawl was the Foundry where, upon entry, I found myself amidst an unexpectedly large crowd watching the indie-pop stylings of Sydney’s FLOWERTRUCK.
FLOWERTRUCK have been circulating the radio waves since the release of their latest EP Dirt, and bringing their infectious play-school pub-rock to local dives up and down the east coast. Despite the traction they’ve been gaining in the music scene, I was still not prepared for the impressive turnout I was standing amongst; the Foundry had never looked so alive before 6pm on a Saturday. The four-piece played twangy, upbeat tracks to a growing crowd, sitting somewhere between early Modest Mouse and New Order. They started the fire, kicking off what was shaping up to be a great night for music. It wasn’t until after Sunshower, their latest and greatest, that I could pull myself from the Foundry stage and mosey on over to the Brightside.
If FLOWERTRUCK started the fire, Bugs held an aerosol can to the flame. The sun was still out when I arrived to see the local two-sometimes-three piece play their uniquely Australiana pop-punk to an initially small crowd. But it took no time at all - two or three songs perhaps - for the room to pack out; something that apparently excited the bassist as he ripped his shirt off. Front man/all-round heartthrob Connor Brooker proved time and time again that he knows how to write catchy tunes that are instantly relatable and worthy of a sing-a-long. It’s nothing overly complex or diverse but it takes genius to make such simple but brilliant pop gems, which why I consistently sing the praises of Bugs and just about anything Brooker touches. We were given a tasty take on Believe by Cher that only catapulted the non-stop, rip-roaring good time that couldn’t be hindered by a broken A string or fallen drums. I look forward to the day when the rest of Australia catches on, undoubtedly in no time at all with their first album Growing Up set to be released early this year.
The night had come into full swing, bringing with it an entirely different vibe and genre of live acts. People began to walk in different directions but for me, it was the Sophie’s Choice of the evening: Baskervillain or Good Boy? Both had become local music mainstays; a solid live show and a guaranteed good time. In the end I headed to Baskervillain, trying hard not to dwell too much on the decision because #fomo attacks are real things I suffer from.
Of the four venues participating in the crawl, it was not hard to see why Baskervillain were playing here. An unassuming door between two clothing stores by day; a roaring hole in the wall for live music by night, the Zoo was the first place I had seen the Brisbane four-piece earlier in 2015 for the launch of their Modern Lows EP. Just as it had been that night, there was no particular demographic in attendance as mums and dads lined the back walls, eager for the nostalgic 60s and 70s blues-rock that Baskervillain do so well. And just as it had been that night, no one waited for the music to start to hustle closer to the stage. Amidst the madness that a Baskervillain show brings - the music, the lights, the crowd, the awesome solo faces from Tom Spurgin - the band was kept grounded by human metronome Lachy Giddings on the drums. Afterwards, we walked/ran/danced over the Foundry, arm in arm, shouting ‘the Crawl is for all!,” pumped full of beer adrenaline with a no-man-left-behind mentality and singing Baskervillain’s It’s A Love loudly in the face of it all.
By some miracle that I did not fully appreciate at the time, we waited only a minute or two to get inside the Foundry; I was later told of hour long waits in a line that stretched down Wickham and wrapped around the corner. Inside, there was an exciting sense of rebellion in the air that screamed ‘fuck the man!’ louder than the FUCK LOCKOUT LAWS written on the t-shirts of every bartender across the crawl. The green room was packed with musos congratulating one another on the success of their shows that were mostly on at the same time, revelling in the idea that perhaps we had more control over our music scene than we thought.
The air in the room was thick with body heat and anticipation as Twin Haus strapped on their instruments; the crowd shoulder-to-shoulder and backed up to the bar, something I had only seen once or twice here before. Early on in the set, Twin Haus brought a cover of Hells Angel’s by a now disbanded Brisbane band Comic Sans; a decidedly more punk-influenced track than the alt-rockers had ever touched on and which I hope they continue to do more of. Twin Haus consistently bring a different live show, changing delicate details that keeping the interest of both dedicated fans and newcomers. Like other punters, I found myself struggling to keep up between mild mosh pits, slow synchronised head-banging, and staring up in awe at the band and their bodily reactions to their own musical expressions. The usual innate complexity in their tracks had them alternating from atmospheric shoe gazing to sending the room into rowdy raptures. A Twin Haus show is a ride you take without knowing where it’s going, but you take it anyway; a body-and-soul separating, all-consuming display of rock, indie and whatever the fuck else Twin Haus wants to be. One must assume that they get a kick out of the ambiguity.
“Where to next?” was becoming less of a question in everyones minds as it became apparent that any venue you walked into would deliver grandly on the musical goods. Some stayed put to wait for The Creases, while others were going to Black Bear Lodge for Brisbane’s dreamboat Jeremy Neale. Then there were those who were not going anywhere in particular, just going. Regrettably, the crawl was not for all in the end and I didn’t make it to any of the headline acts. A combination of Mountain Goat Summer Ales and the too-good-to-be-true Sailor Jerry’s slushies had me happily trapped in a tight little smoking area you could hardly roll a cigarette in. But I was content (at that point in time; less so now) in knowing that the night had been everything I wanted and more, even though I would only see twenty percent of the acts on offer.
In one evening, all across the Valley, everything we knew had been turned on its head. Bands weren’t worried about turnouts, venues weren’t worried about drink sales, punters did not have to worry about entry fees. It was a breath of life into a scene we hold so near and dear, and an example of what can happen when creative minds collide. In the end we drank stupid amounts of Mountain Goat beer, toasted merrily to the local scene and laughed loudly in the face of the lockout laws. We’ll call this one a victory.