Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer.
Photos by Elizabeth Sharpe – Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography Shot for Mojo Burning.
This year sees six years of the live magical musical experience that is Mojo Burning Festival. Brought to you by the legends at Beats Cartel who also run Mo’s Desert Clubhouse on the Gold Coast. Let me tell you, this team really knows how to put on a festival. This year’s stellar line up of 30 bands over 3 stages for 12 hours of rocking live music was brilliantly delivered and organised. The Hamilton Hotel was decked out to match the Mojo theme with recycled art and signs made from old car doors, cow skulls, plants and so much more. They even had an onsite artist painting a beautiful piece as the day went on and body art artists painting bodies and faces on request. The merch desk was packed to the brim with quality merch, making it hard to decide which shirt, album or stubby cooler to buy. Mojo shirts proving most popular and selling out fast. The energy and vibe from the minute I arrived was high from crew, hotel staff and punters alike.
The three stages included the Rock Stage, the Blues Stage and the Psych Room. One of my most loved local groove rock bands, Concrete Palms, graced the stage in the Psych Room to start the day off right. These three guys have not been around long but have soared to great heights from the very beginning because of the extreme amount of talent and passion shared between them. Alex Kosenko, Zane Nicholls and Rangi White are just brilliant to see live and are so clearly set for big things. This is confirmed by how many people were there early the catch them play. The guys have their debut EP coming out in May and I highly recommend you check it out.
Hell and Whiskey opened the Blues Stage; a powerful two piece who bring so much with their live shows. If you weren’t looking at the stage, it would be almost hard to believe there is only two of them up there. I mean, these guys can really play. With Benny rocking out on guitar and vocals and Sam (Captain Diklich) on guitar, vocals and foot drums, they played a hard, fast paced set, delivered to absolute perfection. With sweat glittered all over Sam’s torso from playing so hard, the pair shared lots of knowing looks at each other, they know they’re good; but they are humble about it too. They clearly love what they do and the passion shines through. Announcing early in the set “We are Hell And Whiskey and we are here to save your soul!”
Back to the Psych Room to catch some of Blue Savannah Underworld’s set. I stumbled upon these guys one big night out at Tomcat in the Valley and they took my breath away. Lots of bands perform with a lot of energy on stage but frontman, Bruno Lordao really pushes that to the next level. After playing a few songs he laid on the ground with jeers from drummer, Jordan Vasiliou making the crowd laugh. Lordao lay there for a minute stating “I always get really puffed about 15 minutes in ‘ya know!? It’s tough work!” Before jumping up and completing their set with the same level of energy from the start of the set to the finish.
Out to the Rock Stage to catch some of Smoking Martha’s set. Everyone knows how good these guys are, with the supreme and beautiful frontwoman Tasha Doherty leading the band of talented guys and with every performance being of high quality, it is easy to see why Smoking Martha are such a big deal. Minnie Marks was next, bringing her dirty sweet blues rock to the Blues Stage. Her solo acoustic set was beautifully delivered. I was somewhere near the stage but too far away to see her properly, listening to her performance. Hearing her ask early in her set “Who’s got a beer!?” *cheers from the crowd* “Who Doesn’t have a beer!?” *a few mumbles from the crowd* “Well GET ONE!” had me and others having a bit of a laugh in between enjoying her set.
I heard a few people hyping up the Sunny Coast’s surf/roots jam band, Band Of Frequencies, so decided to check them out next on the Rock Stage. Having not heard of them before I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first thing that caught my attention was their drummer, Adam Felton, this guy is good! In saying that, the whole band were superb, not missing a beat, despite some sound issues which were no fault of their own. In fact, as well as the whole event went, unfortunately the sound for the Rock Stage was an issue for several bands on several occasions. No fault of the bands or the organisers at all, but a real shame none the less. But I digress. Back to Band Of Frequencies. These guys kind of mesmerised me, I was hooked from the first song to the last. There is nothing I love more than discovering a band I have not heard of before that I instantly fall in love with. This is one of the reasons I love music festivals. You get to see bands you might not see otherwise. To be honest I feel like the Sunshine Coast has a lot of hidden gems up there that I am missing. More support for Sunshine Coast bands was noted as a side note for me at Mojo.
The Blues Stage then graced the presence of Brisbane’s local blues legend and king himself, Mojo Webb. His one man show captured the eyes, ears and hearts of all those watching. Sporting a Sponge Bob Square Pants shirt which caught my eye, he played track after track that had every foot in the house tapping and lots of people grooving along. The stand out song for me was one called Impossibly Beautiful; a beautiful heartfelt song.
Next up I caught Hammers tearing up the stage in the Psych Room. These guys are one of my favourite bands around right now. Forever delivering performances that grab you by the head and force you to watch and listen because they are just that bloody good. They bring a realness mixed with a heap of talent and a true Aussie feel. One of my favourite tracks is the opening track from their EP ‘Homeblokes’, Golden Gloves. The ending a very sing along moment and always a winner with fans.
A man of many talents, Organiser Christian Tryhorn also plays in a few bands himself. His most recent one being The Black Armada who were up next on the Rock Stage. Unfortunately, I missed a lot of their set as I was taking a short break to grab some food and chill for a moment but what I did catch was a taste of something so sweet I wished I hadn’t missed any of it. Very 70’s rock influenced, full of riffs and vocals on point. I felt like I had entered the set for the movie Dazed and Confused for a minute. The Black Armada’s music takes you to another place and transcends to another level.
Next it was an extremely hard choice between The Blackwater Fever, playing the Blues Stage and Stoker in the Psych Room. Having not seen them live before and being a big fan, I decided to start with The Blackwater Fever. The music is dark, heavy and sexy as hell. The bassline kind of hits your soul it goes that deep. I tore myself away from Blackwater to catch the last few songs from the Stoker boys. The first time I saw Stoker I kind of lost it all together. Honestly. Not even exaggerating. Stoker are a trio who have seemingly reincarnated themselves from another time, coming into the now from many moons’ past, likely from somewhere in the 60’s or 70’s bringing us their psychedelic rock and roll and deep-rooted passion for their music. Joel Zahner, Ethan Smith and Jarrah Thornell are Stoker and they are a perfect example of the pure and real talent we have here in Brisbane. The guys had fans packed into the Psych Room and the first crowd surf of the day that I saw was here. With Smith giving us his usual visual performance, playing his guitar with his teeth and behind his head without missing a beat. Zahner ended the set by saying “Thank you very much, we’re Stoker, you guys are f**king amazing!” But really, it is easy for a crowd to be amazing when the band they are watching is amazing, right!?
The Vasco Era. I am not even sure where to start with these guys. Their performance was certainly one that stands out! Hailing from Melbourne and with a loud and in your face sound reminiscent of The Vines, these guys blew the stage away, like really. Their high energy performance saw mic stands flying off the stage and they played with such an intensity that they had the crowd mesmerised. The stand out track for me being Rock And Roll Is The Only Thing That Makes Me Feel Good, because quite frankly, it’s the truth some days. They certainly were suited to playing the Rock Stage and I can’t wait to see them live again. What a show!
The band I was most eager to see, Tumbleweed, hit the Rock Stage next. Stoner rock at it’s finest. I have been a fan of these guys since I was about 14. Back in the early to mid 90’s, full of teenage angst, wearing my army cut offs and band shirts with my cherry red 10 hole Doc Martins, my fringe bleached and then dyed green or purple or red or whatever colour I had that particular week, I remember seeing them play live a few times, had their film clips and live performances taped onto videos from Rage and Recovery and had posters of them on my walls. Seeing them play Mojo brought back all the memories and feelings of a much simpler time in my life; a hazy time none the less. Tumbleweed performed as well as they did back then, if not even better. Guitarist Lenny Curley asking the crowd “How’s it going sweethearts!? What a bunch of spunk bubbles!” with both Curley and frontman Richie Lewis interacting with their fans through the set. Lewis’s trademark moves and grooves on the stage while pelting out classics like Sundial and Daddy Long Legs were so great to watch and the whole band showed everyone how it is done to deliver a stellar set of riff filled stoner rock served up with the essence and vibes of a band who has been doing this for quite a few moons now. They gave a shout out to our much loved Hobo Magic too saying “This one is called Lullaby and it’s for Hobo Magic who are gonna be on later and are awesome. They have got it all figured out!”
Melbourne’s Whoopie Cat played the Blues Stage next. After having the pleasure of interviewing frontman Dan Smoo recently, I have been hanging to see them play live. Playing Mojo as part of their ‘Gentle Goodbye’ Tour, they play with a grace and elegance mixed with heavy riffs and harmonising vocals that simultaneously gently caress whilst packing a punch. Raw, real and delicious is how I would describe Whoopie Cat. Songs that pull at your heart and have you feeling feelings perhaps previously untouched.
All the way from Chiliomodi, Greece, the much anticipated 1000mods were up next on the Rock Stage and they most definitely lived up to the hype. Their music is played with grunt and growls and riff filled clouds of psychedelic stoner rock all delivered on a tasty plate of tunes. Like some kind of flavourful blend of Clutch, Kyuss and Black Sabbath.
The Royal Artillery were on at the same time as 1000mods so I broke away from the crowd and made my way to the front of the stage in the Psych Room to catch some Royal Artillery. I arrived to find drummer, Matt Campbell sporting a lovely teal coloured bra and smashing out the drums as he does so well. Frontman and riff lord, Zed Charles playing his guitar behind his head and including fans in their performance through much banter which included a thank you to those choosing to watch them over 1000mods. For a two-piece band, these guys never fail to put on a massive show that encapsulates their fans every time.
The next performance for me was bittersweet. Hobo Magic really do have some kind of magic about them. The guys are set to move over the seas soon and this was their second last performance in Brisbane before the big move to Europe. Three of the nicest guys in the local music scene, Connor Mitchell, Jake ‘Greasy’ Bennett and Luke Hanson, all beautiful inside and out and all ridiculously talented, they are without a doubt one of my favourite bands ever. Every single live performance takes me away to another place, another time, another level of feeling. Hobo take you on a blissed-out journey of riffs, funky basslines and beats. The fans and crowd clearly loving every minute with most of them aware this was the last time in some time we will get the full live Hobo experience. “Sailing on heavy grooves into the universe…” Hobo Magic ended the night to perfection.
After 12 hours of amazing live music and catching as many of the 30 bands that performed this year as I possibly could, I was pleasantly exhausted if there is such a thing. I’m already looking forward to next year. I heard several people commenting that Mojo Burning just gets better every year and if that’s the truth then next year is going to be insane!