Live Review: The Foundry's First Birthday Party

20 August 2016 | 2:20 pm | Mitch Knox

"A jam-packed night of eclectic ebullience from several beloved acts."

Student night or not, it's never an easy task to get the punters out in force on a Thursday night in old Brisbane town. 

So, it speaks to the impact that local watering hole and live venue The Foundry has had on the Valley over its inaugural year of operation that we should see the attendance steadily swell over the course of the evening — though The Foundry's labyrinthine sprawl makes it seem sparser than it is — as the music haunt celebrates its first anniversary with a jam-packed night of eclectic ebullience from several beloved acts.

Down a hallway past the main stage, ascendant dream-pop crew Yuuca are getting proceedings under way in the back room with their synth-splashed, atmospheric jams. There's a lot to be impressed with here — the honeyed vocals of dual singers Mikayla and Emily, and thoughtful instrumental arrangements chief among it — but this is a band that is still growing, and improving, with each performance. Both inaugural single Breathe and latest cut Into Deep make appearances and mark a couple of the more polished moments of the set. The band haven't quite perfected reining in their individual tempos — a percussionless passage featuring would-be-synchronised keys and bass is particularly damning for that — but they're well and truly almost there. A couple of tracks could be trimmed for brevity's sake, but otherwise the band put on an admirable showing stuffed with danceable, sparkly, sweet tunes for sad kids, and there's tonnes of potential behind it.

It's a scene of a whole different flavour out in the front room, where WHALEHOUSE — "all capital letters, all one word!" — are unleashing a hyper-colourful performance in every sense; the women on stage rock party hats with pride as they kick off with the riot-grrrl-meets-B52s strains of Punk Rock Fish. Instrument swapping, energetic banter and showmanship reign supreme throughout, but the whole performance is an unrelenting, frenetic stream of short, sharp, eclectic, hilarious, ferocious, infectious and unpredictable wonderment. Highlight mention goes to co-frontwoman Amy-Rose, whose turn on a dime from sugar-sweet to rank cacophony in Good Christian Girl is fucking incredible (which is not to ignore or co-vocalist/guitarist Zoe, nor drummer Sonya — all three members are an absolute joy to behold on stage).

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It's again to the back room for the ultra-smooth electronic jams of Golden Vessel. The up-and-comer proves the perfect chaser to the upbeat energy thrust upon us by WHALEHOUSE, lulling us back down with a beautifully executed mix of glitchy loops, vocal and instrumental samples, live guitar and vocals courtesy of offsider Connor Grant (side note — what a voice, dude), hypnotic and dexterous handiwork and even a visual component, as his set-up includes an array of chimes that light up when struck. The ultra-chill evocations of early standout Control and later inclusion Wave, featuring guest vocals from Kate Gurren of OKBADLANDS, both provide high points in a set that puts nary a foot wrong from go to whoa, save for the odd mix readjustment or brief feedback spike. Young Mr Vessel has clearly been watching his forebears — your Mt Kimbie, your Seekae and the like — intently, and he's picked up a wealth of tricks along the way; it remains to be seen how far he can take it, but he's already showing himself to be a performer of considerable class and savvy. Hugely worth keeping an eye on.

Out front, Sydney psych-punks Straight Arrows have kindly made the trip up from New South Wales for the event and are in the throes of delivering buckets of fuzzy, furious garage-rawk fun to their faithful local contingent. There's nothing at all wrong with what's happening on stage — indeed, those rocking out are utterly lost to the ruckus in the most joyous of manners, and the figures on stage do convey that they're having an absolute ball of a time up there — but, amid a stage line-up bookended by the technicolour wholesale madness of WHALEHOUSE and the inimitable presence of Velociraptor, it's hard to say that the performance stands out from the crowd, particularly. That's not a bad thing in and of itself — nor is it really any fault of the band themselves, who actually boast a dedicated following and storied career — but, in an evening with six other acts contending for attention and brain space, it's at least a little unfortunate.

Thus, we return to the back stage, where the funk levels get cranked through the roof for jazz-drenched hip hop wizards Astro Travellers. Here, the crowd is greeted by glorious, welcoming, walking bass, rock-solid drums, sax blats, organ and hype vocals before everything opens up; sultry, hip-shaking grooves take hold alongside rapid-fire, precisely delivered raps and soaring soul vocals to create a unique and impossibly infectious aural dish. Riding high on the success of recent jam Move Actively, the ensemble work prodigiously well together, balancing their many parts without ever becoming messy or overbearing; pound for pound, the set stands out as one of the strongest and most genuinely enjoyable of the night from start to finish. This is a band making a very special type of music, and it will be no surprise to see their renown and notoriety continue to grow exponentially.  

The evening's dual-stage set-up proves both strength and weakness as although it allows a distinction of vibes within the venue — dreamy out the back, less restrained and more abrasive out the front — it becomes evident over the course of the evening that bands either end up temporarily bleeding over or delaying each other despite the good intentions. It never quite spirals into being detrimental, but the time lag definitely increases as the night wears on, to the point that it's nearly half-an-hour past the planned start time when Velociraptor take the stage.

Part of that seems to be an issue locating band members and it almost becomes frustrating to watch but, once frontman Jeremy Neale and guitarist Simon Ridley have been located, it's hard to focus on such trivialities as the band launch into the swagger and jangle of popular track Ramona and any sense of inconvenience melts into the heaving mass of the crowd. At nine members strong, Velociraptor have always been about having an unpretentious good time — no band with five rhythm guitars and a keytar could possibly claim to be about anything else — and they deliver with the usual aplomb here, hitting another high point with Robocop (which is introduced by Neale sounding very much like being called "Robocunt"). The mad, sweaty scene harks back to Velociraptor's inaugural opening show here, which actually took place about a year-and-a-half ago and led to a temporary closure of the venue not long after it originally opened. With floorboards well and truly fixed — road-tested over the past 365 nights of gigs — the reckless abandon flows quickly, heavily and freely, and it proves a perfect way to cap off a most festive evening. Although, being after midnight, it's not like we can do shots to celebrate (thanks, Queensland).

Happy Birthday, The Foundry — thanks for a killer first year, and here's to many happy returns!