It’s probably the hottest day of the summer so far and although I’m heading to a gig in the Valley, I’m feeling a bit smug about the whole thing as it’s at Woodland and not The Zoo. The Zoo may be my favourite venue in Brisbane but over summer it turns into a real sweat-box that makes seeing a band an uncomfortable experience. When I lived in Newcastle and would go and see bands play at The Riverside, you knew it was a good night when sweat was dipping from the ceiling. However, there’s a huge difference between Newcastle and Brisbane and the humidity in Australia is significantly more draining than an hour or so in a hot venue and the relief of cool air outside at the end. Woodland may be my least favourite venue in Brisbane, to the extent that after tonight my New Year resolution to stop covering gigs here starts, but at least they always have the air conditioning cranked up. Usually it’s so cold in there that you wish you’d brought extra layers. But getting to the venue, there’s no sign that the AC has kicked in and it feels just as hot, if not hotter, than The Zoo would tonight. As the evening goes by there’s no noticeable change in temperature inside Woodland. While it might be down to the AC not working properly, the cynic in me considers that it’s just a ploy to make everyone drink more.
Tight Slip start the evening and include the bassist from Per Purpose. I’ve really liked Per Purpose every time I’ve seen them, but Tight Slip are another one of those fairly generic post punk Brisbane bands. Sky Needle take an age in setting up, with their home-made instruments continually feeding back and causing all manner of problems for the soundman, who runs back and forth between the mixing desk and the stage to change settings on the amps long after the band were due to start. Although they start late, not a surprise for any band playing Woodland, it’s worth the wait as the band are excellent and such a breath of fresh air when compared to the vast array of Brisbane bands who tread a much more traditional route of instrumentation and influences. I’m not sure what half of the home made instruments and electronics are and what they actually do in terms of creating sounds but the overall effect is to create a series of melodic drones while the band’s drummer keeps a very loose beat on an homemade drum kit featuring an array of well battered pots and pans. It’s a shame that they don’t play for longer and a shame that they play under the bluest LED lighting imaginable; they’re definitely one of more interesting Brisbane bands I’ve seen for a long while.
Deerhoof had been advertised earlier in the day as playing at 10:30pm and although Sky Needle had started late, a shorter set by them means that some of the lost time is regained. Coming to see Deerhoof play, and indeed requesting to cover the show, is all about coming to pay homage to the band’s drummer, Greg Saunier. In that respect it’s similar to going to see the Dirty Three to watch and revel in Jim White’s drumming. Although both drummers play behind a minimal drum kit, there’s major differences in the speed that they play at; Jim White is a lot more subtle, whereas Greg Saunier is just a relentless drumming machine. Thinking about it, he’s probably more similar to Battles’ drummer John Stanier (and they even also have similarities in their name). It’s a joy to watch him play and admire the skill and effort that he puts in. Tonight he’s doing all of this in the one of the hottest and most humid gigs I’ve ever been to; when I leave at the venue at the end of the night I’m dripping in sweat and my shirt is drenched and yet all I did was stand there and watch him and the rest of the band play. The one disappointment is that at Woodland and without a photo pit it’s hard to get any good photos of him in full flight. Thinking back to previous times that I’ve photographed him, all of them have been at poorly lit venues with photographing from the crowd; even when they played The Hi-Fi it was without a photo pit. Although I’m always looking forward to the next time I see Deerhoof, I’m especially looking forward to the night when I get to take photos that do justice to him and his amazing drumming skills.