My mum is more metal than your mum. Her favourite band was the now-defunct Underoath, but since they broke up, the next best thing is the bluegrass-emo rock band, The Almost. Fronted by ex-Underoath ginger ninja singing drummer, Aaron Gillespie, they’d headlined Easterfest in Toowoomba the day before and were gracing Sydney with their presence. Naturally, I took my 50-year-old mother along for the ride.
Up first were post-hardcore band Drawing North. Shades of La Dispute abounded during their set. A highly unique band, their style is a very stop-start music that favours off-beat vocals ordered around an individual style of rock that can only be described as ‘jazzical’. Yes, I made that word up. Deal with it. I was highly impressed by their avant-garde style and the copious hipsters in the audience agreed. Actually, that’s a better description. They’re a hipster’s dream band. You’re welcome.
Main support Young Lions from Brisbane were a quintessential ’90s alt-grunge band. The frontman was a bundle of energy, reminiscent of Michael Hutchence of INXS fame, and he even had that haircut that the stereotype Gen-X guy from The Simpsons has.
They too put on a great show, with the highlight being when their frontman jumped down into the crowd during their last song. It was both cool to watch and hilarious to see just how tiny the dude is. He completely disappeared behind the people at the front. Having said that, the small-man syndrome probably contributed to his energetic performance, and his diminutive frame didn’t prevent him from demonstrating the full range of his huge voice.
Anyway, the main event was always going to be The Almost, and the four men came on stage to rabid applause from the assembled masses. It was my third time seeing The Almost and my fifth time seeing Gillespie perform (that whole Underoath thing, remember?). Every time I see him, I’m struck by how much of a freaking unit he is. He’s not as massive as Mattie Montgomery or Micah Kinard, but dude, Aaron is freaking keg. Anyway, kicking off with predictably with “Ghost”, it was rather tellingly the older songs like “Say This Sooner” and “Monster Monster” that made the audience touch themselves. Personally, I prefer the older stuff, but I can appreciate the merits of their newer bluegrass-infused material.
The mix was atrocious, with Gilespie’s album-quality vocals barely making it through the mix. Fan favourite “Hands” also got an unusual mellowing down, with that iconic chorus (you know, the energetic focal point of the song) sounding limp as a bloke trying to get it up after six pints. Suddenly, during “I Won’t Let Go”, the sound techies presumably gave the board a solid kick and Aaron’s mike and guitar came gloriously to life. “I Won’t Let Go” was followed by “Down” and the Tom Petty cover “Free Fallin’’. Aaron then announced that they only had one song left (“No encores, none of that. Just come give us a high five later”) and finished off with the anthemic title track from their debut record Southern Weather.
He wasn’t kidding about no encore either. They walked right off stage after only 40 minutes of their allotted hour, and for the second time in two days, I went to a gig where the headliner played only a fraction of their set with no encore. What is happening in the world today? Still, Drawing North, Young Lions and The Almost were all awesome. Check ‘em out if you haven’t already.
And yes, my mum enjoyed herself immensely.
The Almost setlist:
Say This Sooner
Fear Inside Our Bones
No I Don’t
I Won’t Let Go
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)