Live Review: Baby Cool, Full Flower Moon Band

12 September 2022 | 8:26 am | Lillian Phillips

"Every note sounds like the jerking of an arm, the breaking of a bone."

Full Flower Moon Band (pic by James Caswell) and Baby Cool (pic by Capucine Merlant-Pilonchery)

Full Flower Moon Band (pic by James Caswell) and Baby Cool (pic by Capucine Merlant-Pilonchery)

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BIGSOUND night one was fun, but the acts I saw were so vastly different that it felt easy to detach from a through-line, a narrative – I was not swept up, nor was I bound to something larger than myself. This was not the case on night two, perhaps because rock music has the ability to tether the listener to something material, albeit deranged and erratic. 

It could also be the genuine sense of community and love surrounding the two acts I write about here: Baby Cool and Full Flower Moon Band. Let’s get into it.

Grace Cuell is the co-frontwoman of Nice Biscuit. She launched Baby Cool in February of this year, and released her first single, Magic, in only the last month. It is ostensibly a solo project, but her backing band is bloody big, holding a broad church of Brisbane rock musicians drawn from Nice Biscuit, Flamingo Jones, and Cigarny Weaver. 

Upon arriving late to The Prince Consort, the intensity of the small crowd suggests the fervent loyalty to those groups remains extended to Cuell. The frontwoman herself stands tall in inky velvet sheath and white platform boots – her mouth is always downturned, and very red. The lights are a cool (!) blue, and against the projection of a grainy aquamarine sea, ‘Baby Cool’ is spelled out in yellow typeface.

Her band is big – five in total, but the vocals are entirely Cuell’s, who, in her still charisma, is never drowned by the instrumentals or stage. A middle-aged couple sit at a barrel beside the stage, slowly getting drunker and drunker. By the second song, they are up against the barrel kissing. This is entirely understandable, as Cuell has taken the psychedelic rock sensibilities of Nice Biscuit and slowed them into something more sensual. 

The drumbeats are minimal and slow, while the guitars sound almost cat-like, striking out in small yowls from otherwise usual, steady rock chords. In their next song (besides Magic, none have been recorded, so I cannot name them), something shifts and quickens. 

The lights go pink, and Cuell sings, “Write it on a piece of paper / And throw it into the sea.” This feels like a pleasing dedication to the influence of Aldous Harding running through the vocals, and the edge of experimentalism undercutting the fusion of genres. However, I am unable to think much more on that highly sophisticated inter-textual criticism, as the barrel couple have taken centre stage, dancing hand-in-hand under Cuell with remarkably good rhythm.

Each song hits a light crescendo in its chorus, then slows right, right down to its eventual end. In every single song, the last note is as slow as is perhaps humanly possible. Cuell’s wistful, high-pitched vocals repeat hypnotic lyrics over and over again. Their best song is the one in which the keyboard player – Drew of Flamingo Jones – plays with two hands. I couldn’t say if it is all down to him, but that did seem notable. After that event, the lights turn to yellow and red, and some tuning has to take place. In this pause, the barrel couple return to their base. When the band cracks into more apocalyptic guitar for the next song, security arrives and escorts the barrel man out of the venue. He is missed. 

Cuell has here combined the instrumentation (highly skilled, cutting, and a little bit country) of Full Flower Moon Band with the Flamingo Jones temperament of psychedelic experimentalism – it is, without hyperbole, an amalgamation of the best of Brisbane rock. After her last song, she thanks her audience quietly, giving a twisted vertical wave reminiscent of the Queen in a Commonwealth motorcade. Most crowd members stick around for a while, perhaps because so many are friends, and perhaps also because they all know which gig they are going to next. 

Full Flower Moon Band plays at The Loft at 9:40. The rock loyalists are all there, but so too are newly acquired fans from the band’s first full-length album release, and the ensuing tour of this year. Their ensemble used to be much more fluid – some of the Baby Cool gang have previously been members – but their current (and only permanent) lineup runs thus: Luke Hanson on drums, Caleb Widener and Christian Driscoll on guitars, and Marli Smales on bass, and of course Kate “Babyshakes” Dillon on guitar and lead vocals. 

Each member is physical, with a kind of sweating, old-school body language, but Dillon controls everything around her, her voice matching the luminescence and biting, angry chords of the instrumentation. True to the name of the album (Diesel Forever), their energy is diesel-powered – every note sounds like the jerking of an arm, the breaking of a bone. 

At the end of each song, Dillon looks haggard and wrecked. As she sings, “Don’t wanna hurt nobody / Just wanna have some fun…’’, it strikes me how much she constitutes a version of a vengeful Janis Joplin – if Joplin decided to start eating human flesh. The chord progressions burn into pure feedback, and as I step back, amazed, I bump into a young man sipping from two drinks at the same time. When I point out that this might be a hazard, he looks irritated and says, “Why would I miss Babyshakes to go on a drinks run twice?”

After the set, I ask another particularly rabid fan what he thinks works about Dillon. He replies, “She’s literally like American Psycho but with like fucking rock music. She’s borderline psychopathic and that’s why I froth her.” 

There is indeed very little empathy in Dillon’s persona of “Babyshakes” – something deeply sinister in the way that, between each song she repeats the words “Full Flower Moon Band” slower and slower, with different intonation every time. When she plays the guitar, she holds it above her head, and fingers the string, like it’s an ex-lover that she hates, but wants to keep on a leash.

Then she turns to the audience and smiles a bloody, cheeky smile: “This last one is about touring…”, and they crack into ‘NY – LA’. It is the most ridiculous, overblown, drugged-up account of life on the road, and it’s brilliant. However, all that talk about it being the last song is deceitful, as without even waiting for an encore request, they burn through New Rocket, in which Dillon screeches, “I feel like I’m the only girl in town / I don’t know what to do just stop it.

Any vulnerability that could be intimidated by those lyrics is thoroughly undermined by Dillon’s still-wide smile, peering through the drenched hair hanging over her face. After they finish, there is the loudest applause I’ve heard at BIGSOUND thus far. The band are grateful, they are happy, and for the first time Dillon looks a little more human. And then, for some reason, a Vance Joy song plays while the band packs up. 

I want to stop and laugh at the incongruity, but something else has a hold of my faculties, and I can’t stop moving.

This feature has been published as part of The Music Writer’s Lab initiative, developed between MusicNT and Australia Council of The Arts. For more information, visit