MOFO Balaclava Sept 2014

MOFO Live at the Balaclava

I’ve been with NQ Music Press just little over a month, and the luxuries that come with working with this publication have revealed an imminent stoke to my passion for music and writing. Subsequently I’ve come to appreciate just how thriving the Cairns music scene really is. Cairns is a musical playground, and the Balaclava Hotel hosted its first MOFO gig last Saturday, this time with You Two, Rum, Forest, Rum, Swamp Donkey, and Jobstopper .

A luxury I am particularly thankful for, I’ll call ‘NQMP free entry’ – writers pass! Unfortunately after calling Justin ‘Joel’ upon arrival (terrible with name/faces until second run-ins), it may had been the gear set in motion to send me on my way  home. I was back an hour later after the misunderstanding resolved and was at the end of You Two’s first performance. However, having returned with the duo playing the intro to Sevendust’s Angel’s Son, my favourite of Sevendust, I was certain they made an impression on more people with their set. Nice choice using an acoustic and electric for the cover, and kudos mystery acoustic guitarist for nailing that shimmer of an ending!

If I hadn’t known Rum, Forest, Rum was a pop punk band prior to their performance, I’d say with such a title they know how to have a good time (and their title makes for listing bands confusing to read with the extra commas!) They certified just that with a few of the original songs focused to enliven the crowd lyrically – singing ‘get your hands up’ for a hook seemed to work! – and musically with bright yet heavy energy; the two guitarists kept voicing fresh over the punk thunder of tight bass and drums (practice and a lefty makes perfect!).  Frontman Tyson Baeble certainly cemented his role having ticked off the rest of the marks; play off guitar hitches mid-songs, crack a joke, and amp the crowd to enjoy themselves. To fill in the time, instead of just doing covers such as Blink-182’s Feeling This, the guys closed their set with a Katy Perry track. I thought they were joking when announced! The surprise of bashing through a medley of punk-a-fied pop and punk songs, and ending with The Killers’ Mr. Brightside, goes to show these guys really are about good times. And in due time they could become quite a catch for the local scene.

Seeing Swamp Donkey set up gave another surprise as it seemed both Joel and Justin/Not Joel are not only MOFO crew (like Jon of You Two), but also musicians. I noticed a guitar with duct tape and a Sub Pop sticker on it, and a drummer wearing a shirt reading The Birds of Satan. Grunge? Rock? Then came that time again that I would be floored by a band. Not only did the set show clear signs of both genres – consisting of Nirvana’s School (which, by the way, I’d like to say hell yeah!) – and the drummer smashing through both fills/structures reminiscence of none other than The Birds of Satan, along with a snare drum, but also the influences of The Scientists and Tom Waits were ringing through as Justin’s vocals tore away in bottomless bellowing with the two guitarists battling it out in an odd  standoff of riffs and screaming tremolo leads. Justin’s bass was ferocious in its pummel of distortion, the guitarists traversed through riffs and melodies that set countless moods from hard hitters to the weirdly wonderful, and the drums kept me in awe by itself and as an equally vital part to Swamp Donkey’s blend of rock and all things gritty.

Jobstopper collected the boisterous punk energy of Rum, Forest, Rum and ran with it. As concerned yet intrigued as I was to see a saxaphone and keytar for a ska/punk band, I was still excited to see how they’ll pull off the mix. I heard they were one of the best on the playground and I did not see a reason to dispute this claim! When they weren’t having a yarn and joking with the audience or each other (“We talk to you more than we play” I think were the words the bassist said), their set was a delight of upbeat, rocking progressions. The hooks and melodies performed on the saxaphone added an element I’m not sure can be expressed through words. And although an extra guitar had been replaced with a keytar, it was thrilling to see how creative and well incorporated the two instruments were with the punk band. I should had taken the hint from the two previous drummers that it’s drummers night – The new drummer Moff had chops to spare, and it can’t go unsaid that the bassist and two guitarists provided more than enough to further enliven the audience.

10/10 would recommend and watch it all again!

Alex Flower

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