The Cactus Channel and Sam Cromack @ The Brightside

A one off to remember

It may have been the first weekend of winter but descending temperatures didn’t stop the Brisbane crowd from grooving the night away to a bill of lush, aquatic Melbourne soul.

We arrived just as seven-piece support act New Venusians were kicking off and instantly felt ourselves being pulled down into a slow-burning ocean of groove. The initially modest crowd was enticed closer with smooth, sensual vocals from the two contrasting singers; the combination of Meklit Kibret’s relaxed, sultry delivery and Christian Hemara’s Prince-esque soaring falsetto was one of the night's highlights for me. The clearly skilled backline brought the set to an end with a funky jam that brings many of the seated crowd to the front for a final boogie.

As we wander outside for some fresh air during the break, it seems as though a good chunk of the crowd have been drawn here by the presence of the frontman of Brisbane OGs Ball Park Music. I wonder what the indie pop kids will make of the moody, sometimes sprawling, alt-soul musings of The Cactus Channel?

As the band takes to the stage, the crowd swells to hear the Do It For Nothing EP played live in Brissie for the first time. The Cactus Channel play a few instrumental numbers as is their usual want; the sax and driving bass setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Sam Cromack joins shortly after and the collective launch into EP opener I’m Not Ready To Relax. The soaring chorus comes alive with his higher notes sitting pretty amongst the deep horns. He swaps vocals for guitar duties while Lewis Coleman leads the band on a new, dark and driving Cactus Channel track that seriously gets the crowd moving.

The set is not without its softer moments. The band all exit the stage at one point, leaving Cromack to perform one of his My Own Pet Radio tracks alone in the spotlight. The Brightside’s Friday cocktail specials have take effect by this point and the crowd is probably not as attentive as they could be for such an intimate rendition, but those listening in are swaying and smiling appreciatively.

As with most instrumental bands, a few clever covers are thrown in for extra colour and cred. Cromack spoke of the pangs of only loving your town once you’ve left it, dedicating an uplifting version of Neil Young’s Out On The Weekend to Brisbane, while the bass line of Ball Park Music’s Nihilist Party Anthem was taken out for a walk down an even darker lane to the loudest cheers of the night.

The set wraps up with a final dark and funky jam, complete with spooky synths and answering horn blasts. As the crowd disperses, my body is still grooving with echoes of those haunting melodies. The EP is definite cloudy day material and it’s fantastic to witness how the somewhat melancholic tracks can convey silver linings when played live. I’ve always been a fan of The Cactus Channel and can’t wait to see how, and with whom, they refine their sound with next!

Anna Reeder

Zed Facts

On 14 December 1988, 4ZZZ was taken off air and forcibly evicted from its UQ premises by the then student union executive, headed by one Victoria Brazil. The move prompted many previously apolitical students to take a firm stand against the move and to rally support for the station. While Zed was not to return to the premises its' volunteers had helped hand-build, unprecedented community support saw the station live to fight another day.