Melbourne is dry and hot, the first proper heat of the Summer apparently. I’ve just watched the sun set behind the skyscrapers to the West, my first Melbourne sunset, painting the sky a rich blood orange as is gently fades to black. As I stumble from the chic Fed Square bar I had been drinking in, black eyes, bloody mouths and ghoulish faces pepper the thickening crowd up to The Forum, unnerving my slightly sun stroked, beer tinged traveller brain. It would appear I was heading to the monster’s ball…

Dimly lit Greek statues and some kind of horror movie snowman (I have no idea why, but why the hell not!) overlooked an audience collectively responsible for the previous week’s surge of black eyeliner sales in Victoria. Yes, the grand ballroom style of the Forum was the perfect setting for a Halloween gig held by Melbourne’s own psyche-punk-cowboys. Graveyard Train are a cult musical army, oft described as ‘country-horror’ down to their banjo use and devilishly haunting sixman baritone. Rather than sounding kitsch and dismissible as a bit of fun, the outcome is pointedly sharp and wholly original sounding blues rock. The band, in full zombie cowboy regalia (would you expect anything less?) come alive on stage in a venue whose grandeur complements their own. And there’s a guy who plays the hammer and chain for gods sake!

Graveyard Train’s set bubbles with elements of light and shade throughout, making for never a dull moment. The lilting lament of the expertly plucked banjo on ‘Tall Shadow’ rides hypnotically on the back of the dry ice filling the ballroom, causing a cult-like sway to begin. The dance floor came alive with the hip-infecting, glam-rock soaked ‘Witches’, a song that manages to spellbindingly blend sex and chanting in a way not seen since T-Rex. Other highlights included the lead track off current album Takes One To Know One. It oozes cool with indifferent lyrics and desert rock tones. A proper sing-a-long perfect for head nodding and foot stomping.

It would be wrong not to mention the vocals. The transition from vocalist Nick Finch’s smokey whisper to the full impact of the previously mentioned six-man baritone is the aural equivalent of being grabbed by the balls – it really gets you. This is something you just have to hear live, turning your amps up to 11 does not even come close. The contrast was most spine-tinglingly apparent on ‘Close The Book’, a gentle waltz that slams you with a wall of sound coming from some kind of dark pit of the soul. Very fitting. And the boys know how to snap you out of the music induced trance-like state. Friendly and chatty between songs, they prolifically let the crowd know that “one day it will all be gone, so let’s enjoy ourselves while we can…and get drunk.” As I said, they already had me by the balls, what could I do but buy another beer?!

This was my first gig in Australia, and I was blown away by not only the music, but the awesome atmosphere at the gig. Everyone was up for a sing, a dance and a laugh, which added to the excellence coming from the stage. For me, Graveyard Train make Americana blues with a distinctly Aussie feel, and they’re my new band to force on friends back in England – they WILL like it. If this creativity and quality is indicative of music in Melbourne… room for one more out here?

Kate Tittley

Kate Tittley is a writer, currently visiting Melbourne from the UK. When at home she regularly writes for Gigslutz.

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