Grim Tilla

In/Off Club at The Arthouse Cairns

 Hungry Lungs with Young Art, Grim Tilla and Black Friday, 21/03/14

Back in my Uni days, spending unproductive days half-listening to lectures on everything from law to marine biology, I used to hate in/offs. Much of my focus was invested in improving my pool game (Austudy limitations vs Happy Hour opportunities will do that to you) and I would often rue an incident involving questionable ball placement.

Fortunately, experiencing an evening at the In/Off Club at the  Arthouse  is an altogether more positive experience, even if some of the content doesn’t exactly derive from happy times. Take Black Friday for example… a name hardly evocative of sunny bubblegum pop tunes, and the man didn’t disappoint. His bluesy meander through a half-dozen genuinely dark originals, complete with narrative between songs, provided a contrasting view to that of the authorities on a 20-year-old tale of death and scandal . Absolutely minimalist acoustic gave plenty of space for his Robert Pete WIlliams – inspired vocals, and although the content kept away from being autobiographical it was evident even before hearing about the artist’s interaction with Steve Miller, that there is a deeply personal link. A compelling and most enjoyable set to darken the room and warm up the crowd!

If the theme looked to continue thanks to the similarly foreboding sounding second artist, Grim Tilla, a surprise was in store. Opening with a Duke Ellington classic switched up the vibe as hollowbody jazz guitar will do. After warming up with a couple of covers, Grim spun us through a journey of original lounge jazz, Jeff Lang-eque folk and gritty classic blues, a journey that could have felt quite disjointed but for the consistently classy fretwork and gravelly vocals. Not exactly Tom Waits, more Billy Field, minus the pop schlock. Winding up the set was a Hooker classic, given a little extra space thanks to the duo performance with  Black Friday.

I should probably mention the venue for anyone who hasn’t been! Hidden away (and I hope I’m not spoiling the slightly secretive nature here) in what’s primarily an industrial estate, the Arthouse comprises a small Queenslander on a large block with several niches suitable for performance space. The hospitality is excellent with a sensibly-stocked (and sensible-priced) bar, the yard is roomy enough to find a comfortable corner to chill, and whenever I’m there something different catches my eye, generally some politically-incorrect antique advertising  or similar. Excellent laid-back atmosphere all round. And the room itself, as a gig space, poses few acoustical challenges and generally sounds great. It’s small enough to feel intimate (if you love your folk) and big enough to jump around and pose with a foot on a speaker wedge (if you’re a slightly intoxicated drummer.) Look it up online, find out when there’s an event, and go there!

A youthful change came with act three, Young Art. My first impression of the four-piece was, aha, so this is where the talented teenagers have been hiding. Hooky and danceable, the set began almost with a shoegaze vibe with progressive time changes, but soon turned a little more grungy without straying too far from indie territory.  Best instrument choice – I’m a sucker for an explorer – has to go to the bassist, who also contributed more than his fair share of onstage energy. Tasteful as well as tasty lead licks and extremely polished vocals, were featured throughout from the other two guys standing up, and if the drummer was indeed a fill-in, then I would hardly have noticed if it hadn’t been mentioned. Very professional. As more of a fan of stripped-back than “produced” rock personally, I’d be keen to hear another set from Young Art without the overlaid strings and vocal effects, but that said their integration was certainly tight and worked well live. An act to catch wherever you can… I can see Fogarty Park sometime in these boys’ near future.

After a final breather for the crowd, and perhaps a refreshment or two, and the main event was on, with Hungry Lungs hitting the stage. These fellas get tighter and tighter every time I see them, and even though sometimes I think Budgie may get paid by the number of dents he puts in his skins, on Friday there must have been a bonus for the size of the dents too. They’re infectious and energetic, with chiming lead and creative bass/drum work their signature indie sound, and they immediately brought the dancefloor to life… and then tried to confuse the dancers with time signature changes. A couple of great new additions to their repertoire were unveiled, or at least ones I haven’t heard before. There wasn’t much of a let-up once the guys started, and then all too soon they were through their set, as far as the crowd was concerned anyway. One quick Strokes cover as an encore, and it was rehydration time for the band, and the rest of us drifted back outside to enjoy the unexpectedly dry evening.

All up, I defy anyone to give me a better entertainment suggestion for a measly ten bucks on a Friday night. Great and varied acts, and a genuinely inclusive crowd there to celebrate and enjoy original local music. And the only questionable ball placement the mirror ball dripping disco over decidedly non-disco bands.