There's always a certain sense of anxiety while making the walk from the train station to any venue in The Valley- and I was definitely feeling it on this busy Saturday night. Surrounded by your usual Valley folk accompanied by some very inebriated Saint Patty's day venue hoppers, I was more than eager to make it out of the bustle and into the open arms of Tomcat. Besides knowing they run one of the greatest meme accounts on Facebook (seriously, check it out), I didn't know much about the venue. I was welcomed by a room covered in colourful walls filled up with eager people all here to see some local newcomers, Matilda Red.
But before I get into what they're about, firstly, let me introduce you to act one of the night- Sheriff Sam. The band graced themselves with confidence; a set of 4 seemingly very seasoned performers. If they hadn't eloquently stated "Ummm... f*ckin' thanks to everyone for coming....This is our first set, we could've been sh*t", I would have never have guessed it was their first time gracing the stage. Their sound was a kind of fun mix between classic Nirvana and the laid-back styling of Sticky Fingers (without the controversy surrounding either, of course). Crowd and player interaction was excellent and general musicality and performance quality was fantastic. The only let down? Constant feedback from the sound, preventing bass player Jess from even making it through chunks of the set. This was unfortunately more noticeable in the slower, more downbeat track towards the end of their time on stage, however, this didn't stop the band at all from putting on a quality performance. Crowd interaction peaked through starting an impromptu clap-along, fitting perfectly with the lyrics "Together, we can change the world".
aNext on the bill? Flora Link. Their sound can be described as the perfect feature band in any American movie prom scene- you know the band that play right at the climax of the film. And that was only based on the very first song. Their set was high energy consistently, even if they were impacted by a few sound issues as well. Newbie from the boys ‘Detroit’ fit perfectly into the beachy indie aesthetic, I felt as if I was right in the middle of a beach party in the ‘70s. Their set was topped off perfectly with a cover of The Kook's ICONIC track ‘Naïve’. The crowd then made their way back to the bar while I made my way to solidify a spot right up the front to see headliners of the night, Matilda Red.
“Just waiting on our drummer, where’s he gone” were the first words Pat, the band’s vocalist, greeted us with, followed by “We’ve got a new drummer” as soon as an audience member jumped on stage. The band’s actual drummer came back quickly, beers in hand, ready for the set to begin (although a surprise drummer definitely would have made for a VERY entertaining set). From the get-go, Matilda Red sounded to me like Catfish and the Bottlemen except imagine they were fronted by Matt Corby. Basically, they were Brisbane's answer to Gang of Youths.
The crowd interaction these guys were able to get was incredible. There's nothing more special (or Australian) than standing in a room full of people yelling "You can just go and get f*cked" all at the same time. The vocals absolutely stole the show, complimented by what appeared to be a TC Helicon Voice Live 3, a popular piece of gear used commonly by major acts like Kimbra. Using his voice just like an instrument, Pat's already powerful pipes were able to be used textually within the band's sound, gelling perfectly into the instrumentation and setting Matilda Red apart from many other bands in the same genre and field.
The only let down in the set was the crowd. The tight alleyway facing the stage to the band was full, with a majority of the crowd at the front being female. Of course, with any great band who connects with the crowd, there's a room full of energy and, unfortunately, this energy was put into a... circle pit? And that energy soon turned into a fight, where a larger male seemed to be targeting some of thefemales at the front. Luckily the sense of community from the venue didn't go out the window, with this guy quickly being dragged out of the crowd by those previously enjoying the circle pit. This rapid escalation of events couldn't have been acknowledged better by the band, with Pat stating that hey, "these things happen" but "as long as he's gone and you're all here". The crowd energy was not at all affected by this, with Pat using this to crowd surf- ending the set on a high. Last track from the boys was the recently released 'Getting It' featuring one of my favourite opening lines to any song ever "They always say you've got a pretty smart mouth for a f*cker with nothing to say".
I left the night feeling the same way I always do after attending a local gig- and that is with a strong sense of community. But this time, it was a little bit different. I was reminded of one of the most important parts of a community- support. By acknowledging the altercation just the way that it was, Matilda Red quickly established that the care about the listener as much as the listener cares about them and their music. And that is the mark of a truly great band.
Let Matilda Red know what you think of their newbie 'Getting It' through triple j Unearthed HERE
Words by Emily Hollitt. Photography by Edward Cox.