4 Walls Festival: wow. Just wow. There is no way I could possibly cover everything that I saw, heard and experienced last Saturday. There were three band stages plus the under-appreciated DJ stage near the festival entrance, where a swathe of DJs made sure that the place was never quiet.
Not forgetting that 4 Walls in essentially held inside a school, the entryway leads straight into an undercover car park, with stairs at either end branching off to the different stages. I doubt many other festivals can claim such a unique setting. The main car park area provided the ideal area for a food court (despite some vendor absentees), and a place to purchase some band merchandise.
One of the best things about 4 Walls is that the odds of bumping into a musician are really high as you amble around the stairwell. Especially as the main stairway leads to the artists’ Green Room (converted classroom) on the 5th floor.
I kicked off my day by visiting the rooftop Skyline Stage to see the very young but talented The Missing perform excitedly to a small but eager crowd. They managed to deal with a few technical issues, including a microphone that just wouldn’t sit up right. Singer Thomas Harden dealt with the issue by singing with his head at an awkward angle – whilst playing guitar: legend. Their power chord heavy set was perfect for the younger crowd, who delighted in reaching out and touching the band when one of them wondered to close to the front of the stage. I’d soon learn that this would be a recurring theme for that stage.
The next few sets saw me alternate between energetic bands and more sombre artists. It was exciting to see such a range of performance styles. Stephen Smith had great stage presence as they took to the Main Stage for the first time. Although, not without their set of problems: Stephen had to borrow Andrew Markwell’s guitar for the show, and then managed to break a string during a song. Drummer Josh Iselin‘s chair kept lowering during the set. When he jokingly complained to the audience, he elicited this sympathetic response from Steven: “Shut up man.” It was all mucking around of course, but it was good entertainment for the audience alongside some wicked songs.
Jackson James Smith had already started his set in The Basement as I entered the dark room, lit only by the light shining on the stage. Bean bags littered the floor for an intimate and relaxed vibe. Jackson quickly noted this fit with his love of small venues, before playing beautiful, experience-laden songs such as ‘Far Away.’ We were all hooked.
Tourism (the hardest band to Google) were up next on the main stage, with the perfect crowd. They rallied to the front as the band belted out rock music, led by vocals reminiscent of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys). Such was the distinctive accent of singer Joe Wisniewski. There were some insanely cool guitar rhythms happening there; a vast contrast with the heartfelt solo set from Hushka’s front man Jack Paterson.
As I’ve said before, Jack’s voice is stunning. He is no less powerful on his own on The Basement stage. He mentioned that he hates the noise that bean bags make, and was grateful to the fairly large audience for having a “quiet bean bag day.” He gently thanked the gathered for seeing him, knowing that Tundra were also playing at the time. It was easy to admire his honest personality and calm, simple approach to performing. I also did manage to catch the end of Tundra’s set, and instantly loved the cool electro-pop melodies. I regret the festival curse of not being able to see everyone you want, especially as Tundra played the Skyline Stage in beautiful light as the sun was setting.
I returned to the Main Stage to see lemon-pop (their words, not mine) band Go Violets perform a kick-ass set. It’s wonderful to catch a band that you haven’t seen for a while, and realise just how much they’ve grown. The girls just had so much energy and enthusiasm, yet kept the music tight. They were throwing out freebies to the crowd, who literally could not get enough – there were many empty hands still in the air, even as the girls threw out the last of what they had. Just how awesome were they? Well, Go Violets ended their set with a rendition of the Powerpuff Girls theme tune. Need I say more?
Go Violets would later join Jeremy Neale for the closing song of his set. The man has lost none of his pizzazz and style, pretty much defining Brisbane indie with his perfect scorched vocals. Before nearly every song, he would swing around and face the drummer, back to the audience, and assume his cool stance of readiness. His band also featured a sax player who was king of the ad-lib, proving there’s nothing like a flourish of jazz to spice up a song. Jeremy delivered his performance the same way Muhammad Ali boxes; floating round the stage before stinging you with a dynamic guitar and vocal combo.
Wilderness’ absence saw the return of Andrew Markwell, with drummer Declan Mewes aka The Real Eyes. It’s hard not to appreciate the attitude these guys bring to the stage. I swear they took the Assassin’s creed and made it their own, because they act like “everything is permitted.” I found their music a bit hit and miss, but the crowd ate it up, especially when Andrew shed his shirt and tossed it at them. At one point, Andrew picked out a few volunteers to dance on stage before riling up the audience some more. It was entertaining to watch the effect he had on them, and I’d
dread love to see what he’d do with a larger crowd.
As the night wore on, Pigeon brought their eclectic electro-pop dance music to the masses. With strobe lighting not for the faint of heart, a polite mosh pit emerged at the front at the stage. All oxymorons aside, Pigeon were flawless, full of energy and their songs really do become something else live.
I tore myself away to go and see Emerson Snowe do their thing in The Basement. Unfortunately, lead singer Jarrod Mahon was really sick, you could hear the hoarseness of his throat. What a trooper; barely a few words into the first song he cringed “oh my god” at the sound of his croaky voice. “Sing along!” he urged as the band kept playing, rousing laughter from the normally quiet audience. He launched into the second song with some high ‘ooohs’ that his throat just couldn’t handle and wavered out of key. The song swiftly ended with Jarrod’s “Oh fuck that!” The crowd laughed even harder, and the appreciation they had for him, just being there to try and perform for them, was incredibly heart-warming, and probably my favorite moment of the entire festival.
This was the hex of 4 Walls – every time I thought there was no way a set could be topped, another band would amaze me in a different way. That’s not just including Main Stage performers – everyone seemed to bring their all and it reminded me why I fucking love music. It’s so annoying that there were performances that I could only catch bits of. From the surreal, haunting tracks of Malo Zima, to Twin Haus with their sexy little guitar riffs and excellent live vocals.
I was lucky enough to catch Sahara Beck singing my favourite song of hers, with her astoundingly talented percussionist DJ – playing the cajon, chimes and shaker with hands and brush. And I had that wonderful surprise moment, when you see a band that you’ve never heard before and they turn out to be amazing. Surfer Cats look like they just came from the beach as you might expect. What I did not expect was for the drummer and guitarist to swap instruments – very cool! Their heavy bluesy rock got the crowd bouncing, and screaming back the countdown to their not-so-ironic song, ‘Nine Lives’.
There was of course one final gig I needed to see: headliners Cub Scouts, performing at 4 Walls the day after their EP release. They’ll be getting their own review posted very soon on Mind the Music. It’ll be worth the wait! I was also fortunate enough to have Green Room access and interview some of the artists during 4 Walls Festival. Keep an eye out and check them out. You can see more great photos of the bands here.
I suspect all those who went to 4 Walls this year all were as thrilled as I was to be there. If you couldn’t make it, for the sake of kittens go next year. It’s an amazing event, put on by the young ‘uns and gives them a proper all ages festival that they can actually attend. At only $30, it’s well worth it!