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Fiery Internet Indiedom: Your Arms Are My Cocoon and Friends at the Thornbury Bowls Club

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In this trying time of cost-of-living pressures, the powers that be are pointing to the heat death of the local music industry. Scattered across the Melbourne CBD are Greens Party flyers imploringly reading “SAVE LIVE MUSIC IN VICTORIA”, hinting at the threatening closure of live music venues. Festivals around the country are being cancelled left, right and centre—Splendour In The Grass, one of Australia’s largest, pulled the plug this year for the first time ever since its inauguration. Pitchfork and especially Bandcamp, former global safe havens for independent music and its coverage, have fallen into the perils of unremorseful capitalist behemoths within the past two years. Their new owners, with little regard for the art, have unjustly rendered their human backbones as disposable with mass layoffs. Without a single independent music powerhouse, hope is scarce. At least, that’s the pessimistic view. Certainly, today’s state of living affects everybody, but while artists are especially vulnerable to the brunt of this impact, brilliant music continues to be created and celebrated. Those glimmers of light which absolve the woes we’re engulfed in, then, often emerge from the internet.

 

Even Twitter in its current demented form can still instil optimism. A tweet embellished with an airbrushed, type-written flyer reads a stellar line-up: homegrown acts Katie Dey and Mouseatouille, as well as Chicago’s Blind Equation and Your Arms Are My Cocoon—each internet-adjacent to varying degrees. As a long-time internet wanderer, I knew how monumental it was for Your Arms Are My Cocoon to play in Melbourne, let alone at the fucking Thornbury Bowls Club! Disregarding the obvious (the venue), all signs pointed to this gig being important. I informed my artist friend, Izzy, about the show in passing. She, another internet veteran who presents herself online as something between a dog and girl, was so ecstatic, what tail she’d have was wagging like a helicopter. Scouting for attendees on Last.fm revealed a smattering of profiles decorated with neopronouns and anime icons. One commenter wrote “cybergrind worldwide baby”—the four upvotes agree that the appeal of the hyperniche genre is boundless. Me, not above this peculiar internet presentation (I conform to it; my icon is my femme gothic apparition), cheekily commented “we’re about to witness history”. A week later, alongside every other attendee, witnessing history we did.

 

Never have so many wonderful gender-diverse people, with their hearts on fire for the music, stood in the Thornbury Bowls Club at once. It was a spectacle to see them diverging from their aliases and cartoony apparitions to watch this moment of fiery indiedom. “These are my people,” I thought to myself. Where this demographic would usually congregate on Twitter or RateYourMusic, here they were in a cosy club room tucked between suburban housing. It was charming just as it was fucking absurd that this event was held at Thornbury’s bowls club. A good concertgoer friend of mine, Declan, always has this drunken rant in response to Australia’s live music crises: “We should infiltrate the local scout hall, get beers sold out of an Esky, and have our mates’ bands play”. When I told him I attended this gig of the same impassioned essence, he said to me, chuffed, “That’s elite stuff.” It truly was cosy: dangly fairy lights, a sheesham wood bar with cricket on the telly being the first thing you see, and aged plaques immortalising the bowls club alumni of decades past. As we flooded the function room, clad with Doc Martens and niche band t-shirts, what oldies that were still around were baffled. The bowls club transformed into a space for colourful, fervent music, not drinks after work.

 

 

Opening the night was experimental glitch pop musician Katie Dey, situated with her laptop, Casio keyboard, and much of the audience sitting cross-legged eager to savour the intimacy. Upon realising she produces her music in her home studio, watching her live was like watching her creative process unfold. Her set, comprising material from her latest record, 2023’s never falter hero girl, gorgeously displayed her patchwork palette of bit-heavy MIDI instrumentation and cathartic noise. Grounding it all though was her staggering, artificially-affected voice—there is beauty in the dissonance. Concluding her set was a surprise cover of Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’, even more haunting and delicate than its original counterpart, as Dey played the keys with conviction, her eyes fixed down as her voice wavered. Such a marvel to witness live. Following her was Mouseatouille, an indie slacker rock ensemble with a pensive folky sensibility. The ten or so members looked like they came from all walks of life. This night’s stacked line-up wasn’t their first foray of the sort—the group opened for Cambridge’s celebrated Black Country, New Road, a historical feat for an indie act. Mouseatouille behold a bolded album on RateYourMusic, so their presence here is wholly appropriate. Their Thornbury performance was great too. The songs across their catalogue were woven with piano and violin crescendos, xylophonic lullaby-like twinkles, and chipper guitar melodies that recalled the effortless zeal of Pavement. Lead vocalist Harry Green’s red-capped and plaid shirt appearance and warm-hearted delivery compounded that very influence. Mouseatouille are not a band to miss.

 

After the calmer, Australian acts suited to closer listening, Blind Equation dramatically shifted the tone once their screams ensued. To say that the cybergrind three-piece made the venue erupt would be an understatement. Drenching the genre’s manic screeches and aggressive instrumentation in a chiptune sheen made for a real thrill ride. The same still audience from an hour ago was no more, as everyone let loose moshing into each other, but importantly staying considerate—anyone who fell (as a newbie to moshing, that was me) would be immediately picked back up by someone else. Blind Equation put on a swift high-octane performance, musically belligerent, but tinged with positive etiquette. The latter bled into the star of the night, Your Arms Are My Cocoon, whose screamo music is similarly intense, but bittersweet, warm, and almost like a hug. They opened with their most popular song from their self-titled EP, ‘Snowy!’. That did it—its acoustics an all-embracing cuddle, but the indiscernible screeches of mastermind Tyler Odom somehow instilled comfort. To see those polar opposites converge in person was nothing short of beautiful. The respectfulness shone in Odom’s blessing to the other bands and urging of the crowd to step back for venue staff to clean up broken glass. His narration over an improvised jam humorously sounded like a midwest emo interlude. Finally, the night concluded with an explosive cover of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ with members of Blind Equation, a whirlwind of a performance with how intense its circle pit was. As a souvenir, my newly bought New Balance sneakers took a beating, now adorned with battle-scarred character.

 

After that intense show, we took some photos with Odom himself, and my friends and I made our way back to Thornbury Station to get home. My blazing energy entirely dissipated once I made it back to my bedroom, briefly pondering in silence. That same morning, I’d worked eight hours from seven o’clock. The day after, I was head-first back into assignments, work, and whatever threats loom upon the music industry. But on that night, that all disappeared. It genuinely felt like I was a carefree kid on the internet again, enamoured by the sounds of trending internet artists in digital queer-centric spaces. It’s not often something like that happens. Despite reality’s dire atmosphere, the convergence of internet music culture and real-life won’t die anytime soon. I’m just glad I can say: “I was there.”

 
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