Brigitte Handley & Wretched Villains

I’m happy to report that the energy required to drag my sanguine carcass down to the inaugural Dead of Winter festival at the Jubilee Hotel was repaid in spades by Brigitte Handley’s Dark Shadows, recently (as in, two days!) returned from touring in Europe and the US, and Brisbane’s Wretched Villains.

Handley’s trio of herself on vox and electric guitar, with Carly Chalker on bass and Nerida Wu on drums, have become more confident and more polished since I last saw them a couple of years ago on a boat trip down the Brisbane River. Their new material is sensational rock ‘n’ roll, delivered with aplomb. Each member engages with the audience; Wu is a dynamo. The band stretches Handley’s deep passion for classic 50s and 60s rock all the way to thrash, with some very cool arrangements showing the band maturing and experimenting. There was no sign of jet lag as they drew an appreciative crowd in the Jube’s beer garden. The Dark Shadows journey north from their hometown of Sydney again in August.

Earlier, the Villains road tested some new material ahead of their CD launch on July 31 at the Globe, but were beset by a woeful mix and a set cut short due to the festival running behind time (depriving us of the delightful Lisa Lamb’s fireshow, to boot! Boo!). And while I’m whining, how hard is it to provide bands with a decent light rig these days?

Anyway, the new songs showed great promise, with the keys and violin getting some space to strut their stuff.

I know I should’ve stayed for the Kidney Thieves who always put on a great show — they must be delighted at the news of Faith No More getting back together, given there’s some pretty clear homage going on there! — but I’d had enough of the stench of cigarettes wafting over from the smokers’ cage and my ears were ringing after the Dark Shadows’ big finish. The festival did seem pretty successful if the number of punters was any indication, packing upstairs and down, and what a fine mix they were, too: the goths, the punks, the normals, the normals in zombie attire, the rockers, the metalheads, all getting along just fine, thanks very much.

I interviewed Brigitte when she released her Identity EP in 2006. She talks about her band, her love of horror movies and her classic guitar. Read it here.

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