DARRAGH MURRAY braves the dickheads and “a tsunami of piss” as he watches two hot noise-pop bands — respectively from Brisbane and Sydney — at a Valley boxing gym.
Standing in line outside the Valhalla Muay Thai Boxing Stables in Fortitude Valley, it becomes clear that many have been drawn to the Converse-sponsored Acts of Disruption by the prospect of the free booze and food that the corporate sponsor has been generous enough to promise. I overhear several groups of people talking about how they’ll stay for a drink or two before heading out elsewhere, as well as expressing their indifference to the bands performing on the bill. Those bands, of course, are Sydney’s Royal Headache and locals Kitchen’s Floor.
This may be the first and last time a gig is held in the Valhalla gym. A short climb up a rickety stairs reveals an interesting space, with the organisers keeping some of the Muay Thai training paraphernalia in place for the show. Punching bags hang throughout the venue and the stage is actually a boxing ring, with bands performing inside the ropes. Everyone immediately gravitates to the free bar and then seems to spend most of the time leading up to the appearance of Kitchen’s Floor kicking the shit out of a punching bag.
Matt Kennedy appears to announce a new-look Kitchen’s Floor, wryly commenting that he’s grateful to be here supporting the event and product. Beginning with 116 from their 2011 record Look Forward To Nothing, KF proceed to give the uninitiated a lesson in what downer pop is all about. Great versions of Orbits and Regrets appear either side of an interesting new song called Down. I had perhaps foolishly assumed that the band’s somewhat abrasive pop songs might not be palatable to a room full of drunken strangers (given that I assumed most had never heard of the band), but I’m pleased to see that people stick around, listen and applaud what turns out to be a very solid set.
The wait before Royal Headache take the stage seems to be excessive and a break of nearly one and a quarter hours sees aggregate levels of drunkenness seem to increase exponentially. The toilets begin to turn into a tsunami of piss, with the gym shower seemingly becoming an unofficial male urinal. Smartly, the organisers give out free pizza and periodically limit the provision of beer to stop people becoming too excitable, but by the time Royal Headache take to the stage, many in the crowd are well on their way to a Sunday morning visit to the vomitorium.
Royal Headache are incredible. Opening with Surprise, frontman Shogun channels an enviable intensity. The cramped space in front of the boxing ring becomes hazardous as waves of crowd surfers begin to flow towards the front of the ring. The elasticity of the ropes allow people to crowd against it. Others climb on top of others, and people ride the moshpit like they were aboard a chariot made of human bodies. Beer is thrown with abandon, and I’m forced to move to the side of the stage to avoid the carnage.
The band quickly make their way through the majority of the tracks from their celebrated self-titled 2011 debut. Girls and Down The Lane are early highlights, Shogun manically pacing back and forth like a caged animal and pausing briefly between songs to explain the significance of certain tunes. A few new additions to the band’s repertoire are included — among them a song Shogun says sounds like something from Sum41 (it doesn’t). The band wrap up the set with a staggeringly good cover version of Womack & Womack’s Teardrops On The Dancefloor. The house music comes on when a group of local ‘chaplains’ (who curiously look a lot like Queensland police) begin to walk around the venue, but the band eventually come back and play Honey Joy over the blare of the PA.
Putting aside some dickheads in the crowd as well as issues with the set times, I have little gripes about the gig given the incredible performance of the headliner. Perhaps there is a silver lining to these sort of sponsored events: MUST BUY CONVERSE.
DARRAGH MURRAY is a Brisbane music writer with a passion for supporting the local music scene. He also volunteers as an announcer at local community radio station 4ZzZ FM.