full moon flower band liveFULL FLOWER MOON BAND 
(and VILLE VALO)  
Metro Social Club, Sydney
Saturday 16 March, 2024
Photos by DIGBY FROG

Brisbane's Full Flower Moon Band is one of the best, and most inventive bands in Australia; simply put they’ll lift the hairs on your arm. Bold statement, but true. The reasons why will be clear if you read on.

It’s a Saturday night. It’s raining, I am standing at the bus top, irritated and looking at the timetable. Damn, the bus is late again and I’m going to miss the connecting ferry.  Fuck privatisation. It has turned the local bus service to shit.

Approaching is a cool rock ‘n’ roll couple who look about my age, one of them wearing a Chimers T-shirt (a rarity in my part of the world.)

We strike up a conversation about the appalling bus service as they have walked from another stop after giving up waiting for a bus that will never arrive. 


Full Moon Flower Band.

“So are off to see some bands tonight?” I asked.

“Yes we are heading to town” 

“Yeah we’re going to The Metro”

“Full Flower Moon Band?” I stated in surprise.

“Yes,” they exploded. 

I was stunned be standing at a bus stop with others on the same mission.  Like me, they’d seen this band at the Off The Rails Festival in Sydney last year and were blown away. They agreed that they’d seen the most powerful and creative band on the day, and one that left all the other acts in the dust.  Here we were, six months later, awaiting their only Sydney appearance since. 

It's still raining. I arrive at The Metro, and am directed upstairs and the place is packed. I have seen The Metro at full capacity but nothing like this. The place is crammed with all manner of people in black clothes with tattoos that remind me of tacky 1970s panel van art. Goths from the suburbs. I thought Full Flower Moon Band’s popularity was on the rise but this?  

On-stage is a thin looking bloke with intense, over-the-top spooky eye-liner, crooning while I stand watching from the side. I immediately Googled him. Villi Valo comes with a lot of  hype, with this bio comparing him to everyone, from Johnny Cash to Charles Bukowski to Edgar Allan Poe. That’s the strangest combination of names I’ve ever seen in one sentence.  

He’s from Finland.

The talk online is about his five-and-a-half octave vocal range that breaks some sort of Guinness Book of Records category. What was on stage sounded like a Gothic -tinged Coldplay with predictable guitarwork, reminiscent of U2’s dated affected lines  Villi projects an intense seriousness and employs a range of vocal gymnastics, and the crowd was enthralled. I left the room several times out of boredom. 

I was confused. Did I have my nights mixed up? I lasted 30 minutes, concluding that maybe there are some acts I don’t “get” when it comes to their alleged genius. I certainly could  NOT get the Bukowski namecheck.  Sure, I get that he is talented, and the masses love him.

Finally, a security guard wises me up. I am in the wrong place. I walk outside and around the corner to The Metro Social Club, accessible via a side entrance to the main venue. It’s a smallish room and it’s the trip involves a Spinal Tap series of endless stairs  

Sadly, I missed opening act Gunn and judging by the conversations I hear, they were great. I will try catch them sometime in the future. 

Sunfruits are on-stage and what a change they are to the abject dullness in the other room.  They are infectiously vibrant replacing without a hint of supercilious “I am an artist “ pretension. Music should be fun and entertain.  

Sunfruits take from the greats of powerpop and early ‘70s English pop-rock scene by invoking stunning harmonies that nod to “Pet Sounds”. The new breed of pop bands that’s internationally led by Wet Leg reminds us what music can be. What they’re doing is not easy to pull off in a small venue, but it’s clear that they are having so much fun on stage.

The songs are hooky and three of the members share lead vocals and trade harmonies. When it comes together it soars. Unlike the Beach Boys, the band still has one foot in garage rock. They’re full of great ideas and build on the bedrock of Elena Jones’s pumping bass and vocalist-drummer Gene Aigiro.  

Sunfruits are hard to categorise and draw on a huge range of styles and musical influences. I would suggest between the five members there would be 5000 albums in their respective collections. I hear everything from the Beach Boys, Dandy Warhols, T Rex and the Go GosWinter McQuinn momentarily steals the show with his guitar playing and rich vocal. He’s matched by charismatic singer-guitarist Evie Vlad who bubbles with energy. All the band members grab the limelight at some stage and excel.

Hello Future” is a nod to ‘60s psychedelic pop and Syd Barret’s Pinks Floyd with dark lyrics. ”Made To Love is a bona fide, glorious pop gem with an incredible chorus and snarky, fuzzed out guitar solo, straight from a garage in Texas in 1967. It would made Rocky Erickson feel proud  and should knock Taylor Swift off the charts.

The band heads to Europe in May with the most intense tour schedule of 50 dates in seven weeks and I reckon they will win thousands of fans. 

Kate Dillion is a force to be reckoned with and her Full Flower Moon Band has been her vison for more than 12 years. From the earliest gigs, she had a sense of her own music as members joined to share her dark and powerful, well-crafted and incredible songs.  

She is talented. You can see it in her acclaimed, self-produced and ambitious indie movie “China Town”. She wrote, directed, acted in it and composed its soundtrack, all on a shoestring budget. It’s a multi- layered, psychological 28 minutes that demonstrates the intense creative level that Dillion works at.

Kate Dillion in full flight.

The band check their amps and tuning and within seconds, Dillion transforms into her alter ego, “Baby Shakes Dillion”. “NY-LA” opens the set with a repetitive blues riff and opens a musical vista of vast highways and vomit-stained carpet in low budget hotels, an ode to the road. Bad microwaved food from Seven Elevens and the last of the rider being taken away to be consumed later…driving with broken-down cars and bad drug psychosis.  It‘s a brave and honest song about the seedier side of touring.  

It's made all the more powerful by the John Bonham pounding of drummer Luke Hanson. He doesn’t just hit the kit, he destroys it.  He’s perfectly locked in with solid bassist Marli Swales who must be a Brisbane relative of the late Tracey Pew.  Marli plays with that same dark, swamp intensity as she lays foundations for the songs to be built on.

“Trainspotting” Is a song wrapped around a great riff and lifts the set with its pure rock attitude. “Hurt Nobody” is a masterpiece, and so subversive and dangerous.  Marli’s slithering and crawling bass line is like a death adder snake before the guitars creep in, hauntingly. Kate’s vocals stirs the images with a streak of the fear like Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby”.  

Dillon stands with her black Telecaster Deluxe pointed into the audience like a weapon with guitar lines that are razor sharp with a tonal cut-through bordering on disturbing.  I love any band with three guitarists; Blue Oyster Cult sorta pulled it off but Full Moon Flower band could give them lessons. 

Christian Driscoll and Caleb Widener are like the master tradesman and his apprentice. They stand either side of the stage with guitars that swagger, never overplaying and adding dynamics and sonic layers when needed. Driscoll is an amazing guitar player who knows when to underplay, but both understand this.

full moon flower band blue

“New Rocket” has a bluesy swagger and the audience immediately sways to the band’s rhythm. This is the beauty of Dilion’s songwriting - her songs are bluesy without being an obvious take on the form, and her toes remain in the swamp.  

At one stage, Kate has an intense frown on her face, juggling her incredible microphone technique with guitar pedals and a foot switch to manage her vocal effects.  She then switches quickly into Tina Turner with the dance moves of her “Baby Shakes Dillion” persona, working her body to the sound. So much that her bra breaks. She hands parts of it to the audience without so much as a laugh. So rock, and a complete pro.

Suddenly, members of the Sunfruits appear on stage and take the microphones and as if it’s the Wilson brothers taking harmonies but with the danger of early Jefferson Airplane crossed with the Birthday Party.  It’s Haight Asbury circa 1968 and a moment Charlie Manson would had gone to his grave dreaming about.  

We get the new single, “West Side” it’s a slight move to left-of-field with a noisier, edgy sound   At that point members of the band politely leave the stage as Kate stands by herself with her guitar and brings the sonic blitz to an end. Kate’s voice is now sweeter and vulnerable as she shifts the mood of the set. It ends dramatically with "Roadie" and the roof of the venue lifts.  

After a 60-minute set, all the audience wants is more and every punter in that room will return to Full Flower Moon Band’s next gigs in Sydney. The word will spread about one of the most powerful, creative and subversive bands that Australian has produced in decades -  as their essential album “Diesel Forever” testifies. This is the new breed that takes no prisoners.

I was blown away by two of the most exciting bands in Australia. Sure, they are coming from very different sides of paddock of alternative music, but both head the pack in their genres of blues rock and pop respectively. It was a gig that no-one should had missed.