I arrived at The Tivoli one hour before the Cub Sport gig was supposed to start. The line to get in was long, the longest I had seen for any gig I had ever attended in the area. I was nervous.
I never usually go to concerts alone, particularly not in Fortitude Valley (anyone who has ever read one of my reviews would know just how uneasy this place makes me feel). The demographic of people around me was diverse, mostly girls my age however plenty of middle-aged people and same-sex couples were their too. Others dressed outside of any social norm or gender stereotype.
The vibe overall was welcoming, accepting. And not surprising, we were all off to see possibly the most important and socially progressive Australian band in the scene right now, Cub Sport. With the release of their highly anticipated self-titled album earlier this year the band detailed exactly what this demographic needed to hear. Their music tells stories of acceptance, self-love, and freedom from identity. Cub Sport is an album focused around finding yourself, accepting yourself, spirituality, open sexuality and self-discovery. Their album is a staple for anybody struggling with repressed identity. The line was filled with people who this idea meant everything to.
The Tivoli is one of my favourite venues in Brisbane. The old-style building has a beautiful burgundy colour scheme. it feels less like a live music hall and more like some kind of old mansion. Having ordered my first beer of the night and some Twisties, I made my way upstairs to the second-floor viewing area with a full view of the stage. I made light conversation with those around me as I welcomed the first act of the night, Two People.
I had never heard of this act before but was instantly blown away. The stage was dowsed in a red light which looked beautiful in the burgundy space (seriously, props to the lighting guy). From the staging to the sound to the arrangement I was nothing short of mesmerised. The group had strong similarities to The xx. Even with some technical issues leading lady Phoebe Lou took the reigns doing an acoustic version of ‘If We Have Time’. It left the entire venue mesmerised.
Next on the bill; Wafia. The room began to really fill out this point (as made evident by the ever-growing bathroom line but hey, sound in the venue was so good, you could still hear everything clearly). Tonight Wafia was accompanied by one guy on drums and another working tech. It was a simple but effective setup, you could literally feel the bass through the floor.
Although the room full of people disagreed, something about the performance felt underwhelming. Maybe it was just the fact that ‘Better Not’ has been played to death on my work playlist (still a BOP). Something about the set wasn’t engaging me fully. I did, however, get completely behind her Frank Ocean cover mid-set. She owned the stage, although it took her a little while to, get there. A good set, but I guess Two People had just set the bar too high.
After another drink break, Tim Nelson entered the stage. As per the album from which it came he performed ‘Unwinding Myself’ completely solo. The room was at a standstill. Dressed angelically from head to toe in white, his vocals were mesmiric. Soon enough he was at the top of a platform on the stage and Mallrat collab ‘Video’ began. The crowd came alive.
“It’s been a dream for so long to play a sold-out tour,” Tim shared, and I couldn’t think of an act more deserving of one. During ‘Light Me Up’ the screen photos from Tim and Sam Netterfield’s August wedding (as well as pictures of their two dogs) displayed. It was clear that this set was celebrating the legalisation of same-sex marriage in December 2017. This theme was particularly strong on their recent album with tracks like ‘Party Pill’ and ‘As Long As Your Happy’, which Tim said was the closest representation of his and Sam’s relationship. The set included tracks from all of their albums, ‘Good Guys Go’ (my favourite of theirs to see live), ‘Look After Me’ and ‘Hawaiian Party’ before finishing on the track that started it all ‘Come On Mess Me Up’.
Or so we thought.
As the last chord rang out as the crowd screamed for an encore. The band returned to the stage and, as I was hoping they would, performed their completely entrancing cover of Billie Eilish's ‘When the Party’s Over’. The applause after this track was deafening. I had never heard anything like it before. Once this was done, security quickly led everyone out of the venue, which I thought was strange for such a huge event, potentially minimising merch sales for the artists. This abrupt end didn’t ruin the atmosphere though, I left even more inspired than I had been coming in.
And as I exited I realised how much I love this band and everything they do for this community of fans. Seeing this band now and hearing Tim’s point of view on all of his growth, the growth in his relationship and how he has grown in confidence and into accepting his identity as well as a sense of self was nothing short of beautiful. I cannot think of a better word. The community Cub Sport brought together was amazing. I hope they know the impact they’ve had and how important them sharing their story so authentically has been. It has and will continue to help so many.
Thanks to this band and the welcoming people that support them. I felt safe, even though I was alone in a large crowd. And that is the mark of a truly impactful band.
Words by Emily Hollitt
📸 Dom Gould