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Words by Steve Shelverton

Photography by Samantha Townsend@meltingwax_photography

View the full gallery HERE

As a proud (born-again) Queenslander, with a heavy emotional investment in the local music scene in Brisbane, it is with confidence I state the river city punches well above its weight with groundbreaking acts. Radium Dolls and Full Flower Moon Band are winning by knockouts everywhere they go, delivering style relished with ingenuity. I’ve observed their listener numbers soar on Spotify as a quantifiable measurement against the qualitative climb in dedicated fan base. They’ve got talent, they’ve got grit, artistic endeavour all with a deadly right hook and its only round one!

The list of Brisbane acts that you have just got to see are expanding on a monthly basis, (as we’ve been stockpiling them since pre-COVID) with: Bean Magazine, Square, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Concrete Surfers, Dad Fight, Prink, My Friend Chloe, Total Pace, Sacred Hearts, Chemical Prisoner and Nice Biscuit to name but a sliver of them (apologies for the many other bands that I have in my heart). Radium Dolls and FFMB are pressing the nation to be ready for a maroon musical invasion marching towards the Southern states, and its coming like a mechanised cane toad army.

During the the recent QOTSA fuelled Lookout Festival in between punk phenomenon Gut Health, and the current Aus punk kings The Chats, I spoke to Caleb Widener, who happens to be the axe-wielding freakazoid from the most enigmatic band in Australia at the moment- Full Flower Moon Band (FFMB). Caleb and I chewed the fat on my favourite topics (DZ Deathrays of course) Radium Dolls, the gradual pickup in post-COVID gigs, and some huge FFMB news you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer to hear about.

FFMB are a crawling monster of growling hooks, tasty blues roots and razor-sharp teeth of grinding guitar feedback, straight out of the swamp, hungry and nasty. Don’t stand too close to the enigmatic Kate ‘Baby Shakes’ Dillon, she might seem sweet, but if you get within striking distance of her luring vocals, electrifying guitar skills and savage stage presence, you are in mortal peril. Her strike is lightning-fast and deadly as fuck. Be warned, there is no anti-venom for what FFMB are biting you with; you are now hooked in a death roll of solid rock showmanship.

The off-stage persona of Kate Dillon, is warm charming and sincere, always up for a chat with her fans, and vocally supporting the combined arts in Queensland. Perhaps this is best captured in the lucid dizzy-rock tribute NY-LA. I’m all in with: “Brisbane to New York, no stops in between…(and) Brisbane, I said Brisbane it’s all the same to me, if everyone buys a ticket, we could play The Tivoli

Everyone has indeed bought tickets tonight, but not at The Tivoli, we are instead at the hanging beer gardens of The Triffid. The Triffid on the Thursday night was a buzz for the Radium Dolls for the album launch – Legal Speed’. Supported by the highly revered J.B Paterson (everyone has got time to listen to his song One Minute Ditty) he referred to Radium Dolls as “The most exciting Pub band in Australia right now.”

With the stage resembling a minefield of guitars to the left of the stage, The Dolls enter with Ewan on bass, Bryce on drums, frontman vocalist Will and brother Tom on guitar. Radium Dolls don’t just take to the stage, they fucking own it! Tonight was the unofficial plugged-in version launch party for ‘Legal Speed’. An album with street appeal, renowned for the spoken word punk style, dripping in musical talent, laced with humour and Will’s rock star presence. 

The humour was evident tonight when Luke from FFMB brings out a tray of coffees during the line in title-track Legal Speed, I don’t need’ Coffee, my mouth is dry, no coffee for me thanks… Cigarettes and legal Speed that’s all I need!” Will slaps the tray out of Luke‘s hands, onto the crowd (it’s all good no scalding occurred as the cups were empty).

Tom plays with such vigour and energy during the guitar intro to Wandering Eye, his face lighting up like he is auditioning to play the Joker in the next Batman movie. This was timed to perfection as Will strips down to shirtless Iggy Pop style, gaining him many a wandering eye from the crowd in the process. Will lamented in love sickness “Don’t you know you’re the Queen of the river city, the Queen of my fantasy.”  This track’s understated brilliance is complemented with Ewan’s ethereal backing vocals and Bryce’s empathetic percussion. Will‘s gravelly voice giving the lyrics a true depth of ownership and heartache.

Casino is another account of the variable arc The Dolls offer, with an extended guitar solo, and dare I say the overused term ‘Haunting’ (appropriatly themed though, as he likens himself to being a ghost in a casino). Ewan asks the sound desk for more bass, “You can’t get anything!’ belts Will in jest.

The wriggly paranoia of the funked-up CIA is destined for commercial success and loose hips for dancefloor boogies along to its bouncing guitar riffs. Luke from FFMB adds more comedy relief in costume as a Men In Black agent, complete with glasses, ear piece and menacing stance on stage.

I Think Your Boyfriend Likes Me Too, is bound to become an instant classic in the penitentiaries of Australia. Will says he is feeling staunch and revved up now. He lets us have it with Same Old with a true rock intensity to it – I now see the link between them and FFMB with clarity. 

Tractor Parts has become a hometown anthem in Brisbane since its release in 2022. The symbology of human flaws, mechanical bonds and emotional nostalgia with a cruising bass line, pondering longevity of love and loss both poignant and delightful. To see it, live and breathe it in was such a treat. Will gives eternal thanks to FFMB, and hands the mic over to the psychedelic pop journey of Sunfruits.

Consisting of Winter McQuinn, Evie Vlah, Eugine Argiro, Elena Jones, Charlie Bowmaker, Sunfruits are a chilled out 5-piece collective with a self-proclaimed psychedelic pop sound hypnotic vibe. I’m warmed to the much-acclaimed environmental focus of their lyrical content and experimental jam-based fusions. Caleb warned me, this band rock harder than what I may be expecting. He was bang on of course.

End Of The World was a warm pop fizz, with a cautionary tale delivered in perfect harmony from the first band I’ve seen that has as many vocalists as it does guitars. Hello Future Me was the time for the drummer to embrace the vocal duties – I am always going to admire that connection. But wait…it’s still cooking, a playful sultry vocal duo with the guitarist, continuing to shape into a transmorphic psychedelic jam fest. I was going cross-eyed as the stage was becoming a mitosis of three separate bands that could of split in any direction. I fell into the deep hypnotic trance Sunfruits were serving up.

The crowd was treated to several unreleased tracks right from the start with The Picture, Throw It In The Fire, and the rich synth sounding feed So Happy You’re So Happy, begging for high rotations on your 2024 setlist when it drops. Made to Love showcased the keyboard and strings combination, with a solid bass line and frenetic drum patterns. This track highlights the bands combined vocal bandwidth, enabling them to set a unique style that sets them apart from many other bands.

Believe It All was the perfect way to end. It had the crowd dancing to the sunny jangly fuzz, but despite the warmth of the song the lyrics are appealing you to investigate beyond the surface. This is a band you will want to come back to over several cold beers or a brisk walk, because they are going to relax and energise you at the same time.

Our GCL Photographer Sam is pumped to have made the dedicated journey from the Byron Bay region, as we brace to the ominous music, and lighting, there’s a chant in the air…bellowed to the rhythm of a Diesel-powered train clicking down the track; Full Flower Moon Band, Full Flower Moon Band, Full Flower Moon Band!!!”

The set launches with NY-LA. OOOF! Baby Shakes does this city proud; she doesn’t hold back and gives all that she has to her loyal army. The twisted sound effects loop carries in the confined Triffid air-hanger space lifting it 2cm off its base. It took the Marli Smales weighted bass intro in the next track Power to succeed in matching that energy.

Holy shit, they are setting up for a big night! The first sign was when Baby Shakes took a long drink of water two songs in, the second when the wild man Luke Hanson tightened his snare drums. Baby Shakes gave the crowd a bit of a FFMB history lesson with Meet Ya, then proceeded to joyously share the poignance of this moment in Brisbane rock history “little places to big places, from those small venues to here at the Triffid…Thank you everyone.” Something new now; a track gaining powerful headways on triple j is Westside. This eery hurdy-gurdy, is straight from grungy waters with deft coolness and sexiness. I picture this track to be an advertisers dream, like a soundbite for a 90s Levis commercial.  The textured three-way guitar build, is wailing in intertwined grinds, peaking in the silver moonlight of a Full Flower Moon. Westside showcases Christian Driscoll’s ferocious skills on guitar and the wall of guitar sound the band has behind it, with Baby Shakes and Caleb. This is the song that unifies all elements of the band, add in Baby Shakes theatrical approach to delivering some more “oooowws” and it sent the crowd into hysteria. 

There were people sitting on shoulders, and a bubbling wave of crowd surfers. Later in the show Baby Shakes insists the reviewers in the room refer to the crowd as “eruptive”, Done. Baby Shakes capitalises on the drama with You Know the Mayor followed by New Rocket. This is Baby Shakes’ queue to start mowing the crowd down in tommy gun fashion, firing her ebony Fender axe from the hip, claiming “you guys make me feel like it’s just set of number one hits!” Only to follow that up with the blistering Trainspotting to further prove the point. 

We are treated to a new track Illegal Thing, and no spoilers given here you’ll have to subscribe yourself. The pace is lowered just enough to take in the slow groove Highway, a tribute to the rock gods that cleared the path for FFMB to join, with distortion and effects in full glory. Come and Be was an invitation for members of Sunfruits to join in onstage. Baby Shakes was in awe of the crowd participation instructing the crowd “you don’t have to hush for the next song just enjoy it” with Kiss Him and promptly accompanied by Devil.

The crushing Hurt Nobody was next, I think this might be Baby Shakes favourite song, vocally. It’s a hard song to look others in the eye while singing, because it’s so damned alluring. Baby Shakes knows this, playing it up to a crowd going apeshit for more. Baby Shakes is a gracious star. She thinks of everyone, thanking her family, acknowledging her Fathers’ construction skill of the obelisk mirror column on stage that served as the tasteful backdrop with a touch of mystique to the beast on the tubs.  She also thanked her management, Radium Dolls and Sunfruits, The Triffid front of house, sound techs. She took the time out the next day to thank security for being tender to her crowd surfing fans, and of course her roadie…

RoadieIt was fun to hear her taunt “What? That old thing!” as this was the song that drew me into FFMB initially. The encore was the unreleased Man Hands; again, you’ll have to hear it for yourself, as that was her gift to the audience tonight. The Triffid was welcoming and the crowd were chilled, even with a bit of surf by night action. It was a familiar feel with the indie rock clan, most punters were not in a rush to leave after the show, many in fact getting there earlier in the day for the pre-party featuring Ghost Mutt and Vices DJ set.

The next day and once the dust had settled, I pondered back with an overwhelming sense of pride in this city. It’s exquisitely talented artists, epic music venues and loyal punters. To have such a celebration of the unity of all three was really something. Let’s keep that going. See you at the next local gig.

Thanks to Tiny Minds Agency

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