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REVIEW + PICS: Gang Of Youths, Newport Hotel

Nearing the end of a second Australian tour for 2015 in support of their debut album The Positions, Gang of Youths were back to perform in port city Fremantle. The cosy Newport Hotel was to house the five piece alt-rockers for the evening and with the venue said to be at near capacity for the main act, the night was shaping up to be a memorable one.

Local act Fait was first up and although playing as a quartet in a live setting, the band is primarily the brainchild of the talented Elise Higgins. Their set was full to the brim with dreamy instrumental post-rock, which more often than not culminated in an absolutely epic wall of sound in the similar vein of Explosions in the Sky.

GRRL PAL hit the stage shortly after, and despite their electro-pop stylings not entirely fitting the musical bill for the evening, the three piece put on a highly energetic and playful show. Danny K and Sven Sawyer provided a nice slice of sample and trigger heavy electronica which complimented the near on flawless vocals delivered by frontwoman Jay LeKat.

Entering stage left to a riotous audience applause, were the lads from Gang of Youths fronted by the long-haired, sleeveless-vested and above all, charismatic David Leaupepe. Wasting no time at all, the band kicked off their set with the immediacy of Restraint & Release. The audio levels on Leaupepe’s vocals were peaking pretty badly at this point, but this blemish was short lived and swiftly rectified for the high octane and galloping Poison Drum. The quintet were sounding fantastic and off to a flying start.

The gorgeous and heartbreaking duo of Kansas and Knuckles White Dry were given a gentle guitar treatment, and as Leaupepe sang delicately with plenty of heart, the audience was at a complete standstill. Powerful stuff. The band’s excellent cover of LCD Soundsystem classic All My Friends got the audience up and moving again, with the band really making the track their own. Talk about an epic build and pay off to boot.

The climactic rise of Radioface prompted a huge crowd singalong, but we would have been dreaming to think we were hitting all of the notes Leaupepe was belting out perfectly. The upbeat Magnolia closed the main set, and saw the front-man down his guitar, bust out some great dance moves and engage in plenty of crowd interaction to one of many audience cheers of the night. The band left the stage for what seemed like half a minute at the most, and returned to play out the 8 minute opus Vital Signs. It looked as though not a single foot was standing still during the track’s tempo shift. A vibrant and triumphant way to end a hugely impressive hour of songs.

During their set, Leaupepe mused with the audience at being amazed an album primarily about cancer was being received so well. He shouldn’t be amazed though. Their debut is an incredible achievement. An honest, emotional and raw journey into Leaupepe’s turbulent relationship with a woman suffering a terminal illness. That being said, Gang of Youths’ music is largely defiant and suitable grandiose in scale. The band are more akin to crafting the sprawling epic than the short and punchy rock song. This is all adapted to the stage with flying colours and for a band that is only a few years old, it is pretty damn exciting to think of what the future may hold for this young outfit. 

– Photos by Daniel Berk for the interns. 

REVIEW + PICS: Meg Mac | Metro Theatre, Sydney

Last year Meg Mac burst onto the scene after being named triple j’s unearthed artist of the year, later scoring three songs in the triple j Hottest 100. Since then it has been a whirlwind year. Mac has just returned to our shores after spending most of 2015 in America where she has been working on her forthcoming album, all whilst completing a North American tour with D’Angelo and The Vanguard.

Sophie Lowe – a talented singer-songwriter, who actually went to school with Meg Mac, got the ball rolling in what was the first time she had ever played at The Metro Theatre. She was joined up on stage by Miles on drums and Neil on Keys. Those that had turned up early weren’t disappointed – two songs in and Lowe already had those on the dance floor swaying and cheering. She played a short and intimate set where she even managed to fit in a cover of Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat, putting a really energetic spin on the Robyn classic that really got the crowd moving. Her best, however, was left till last. She closed with her most well known song UNDERSTAND which was by far the crowd’s favourite.

Shortly after Lowe had graced us with her stunning vocals the night saw Lilt take the stage for what was their first ever East Coast show. Lilt have recently been supporting Meg Mac on the Perth leg of her tour and you can see why she’s brought them to Sydney. The more The Metro started to fill, the better Lilt got; as they fed off the crowd’s energy. The Indie/Electronic outfit managed to provide the crowd with some new and unreleased music, such as Powerless, which proved to be a hit. The shy lead singer didn’t hold back vocally while her fellow band members on rhythmic bass drums and electronic keys got the crowd moving. The set just kept building and building culminating in the last two songs – Can’t Hear and Don’t Tell Me. The latter particularly brought the house down with a couple linking arms and having a dance in the crowd seemingly the perfect visual depiction of their sets heartwarming allure.

A sold out Metro Theatre waited and cheered with anticipation for Meg Mac to step out on stage and as she did, wearing her classic black fedora, the whole place erupted. Mac had them eating out of the palm of her hand right from the start. The stage was lit with dark and sultry lighting that complimented her vocals. She wasn’t alone, however, joined by two band members who she jokingly said she couldn’t see due to the lighting and the sweet backup vocalist Danielle.

Mac worked every bit of the stage as she belted out Before Trouble and the crowd corresponded by throwing their hands in the air and clapping. In between songs the songstress admitted that this was the biggest show she had ever done by far (outside of a festival).

It was Every Lie that really ramped things up a notch which was followed by her cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted. Perth was the first time that she had gotten on the piano and sung at the same time and had she stuffed that up she said she wouldn’t be doing it again. Luckily this wasn’t the case as she jumped on the Piano for OMG. Her slow movements and pauses up on stage really held the whole crowd on edge, using that very technique to build anticipation for Grandma’s Hands and boy did that go off like a bang – the entire crowd was moving and singing as one. The never heard before Cages was up next, followed by Roll Up Your Sleeves and her latest release Never Be.

Was there an encore?” I hear you ask and of course there was! The crowd wasn’t going anywhere and out stepped Mac once more providing us with her triple j Like A Version cover of Broods’ Bridges. As this performance proved, Mac is arguably one of Australia’s most talented musicians and singers this country has at the moment with an enormous voice that made for a scintillating performance.

– Photos by Brayden Smith (BCS Imaging) for the interns. 

REVIEW + PICS: SAFIA | The Factory Theatre, Sydney

“3 nights sold out and we’ve only released five songs”…

Ben from SAFIA couldn’t quite believe that he was only halfway through playing back to back to back sold-out shows at The Factory Theatre, and the response to his modesty was absolutely raucous. It was pretty amazing to see just how the Canberran 3-piece have grown in the last year or so, and it’s a testament to their live shows that they’re currently selling out shows all over the country off the back of the huge single Embracing Me.

One of the most noticeable differences between this show and when I last saw SAFIA in 2014 was their hugely improved stage presence. The combination of a killer light show and just a better understanding of how to work a crowd culminated in a show that you just didn’t want to end. Throw in a special jam-session at the beginning of a massive encore and these guys have just about perfected the intimate gig.

The audience was full of anticipation after a stand-out performance from support act Boo Seeka. SAFIA then set the mood early with an extended intro into the dark and broody Counting Sheep that got the whole crowd even more amped up. What followed was a fantastic mix of known stuff mixed in between some incredible unreleased tracks that Ben promised would be on a forthcoming full length album. One of the highlights had to be when an enthusiastic fan threw their bra at Ben, who caught it despite looking like he had absolutely no idea what to do with it, before throwing it back to the crowd.

As previously mentioned, SAFIA may be one of the most modest bands going around, but that’s not to say they don’t portray fantastic confidence on stage. Towards the end of the night Ben could be heard proclaiming that such incredible crowds would soon be rewarded with new music and that the boys don’t take the amazing support they’ve received at such gigs for granted. The night was ended via an epic session jam as the encore kicked off, before the boys finished with Embracing Me and the cult favourite Paranoia, Ghosts and Other Sounds.

Photos by Brayden Smith (BCS Imaging) for the interns. 

 

BIGSOUND_REVIEW

Australia’s Next Crop: The Best Of BIGSOUND 2015

BIGSOUND_REVIEWBIGSOUND doesn’t have a bad track record. If you just look at last year’s live lineup and compare it to where they are now, it should just about justify BIGSOUND’s importance for new artists. This week, SAFIA and Tkay Maidza are touring around the country on sold-out national tours, DMA’s, George Maple, Maidza and more have played international festivals while Hayden James has scored an international hit with Something About You – that is, of course, an abridged version of a long list of accolades. Knowing the potential of these young artists approaching this year’s event made it all the more exciting.

These are our picks of the bunch – the one’s we think we’ll be talking about as the most successful graduates come this time next year.

Day One Highlights

BUOY

Sydney artist Charmian Kingston AKA. BUOY was hit with one of the more unfortunate mishaps of the week when her sound cut-out midway through the set but it did little to dampen what was a memorable first half. She’s got this effortless, water-soaked sound that washes right over you. Her voice is ethereal and perched in front of the piano, she looked shy but quietly confident. She’s one of the artists here whose music has already extended beyond this country, featuring on a number of international blogs. We reckon a hop over the pond next year could be very easily facilitated.

Set Mo

Sydney duo Nick Drabble and Stu Turner, better known as Set Mo, are proof that one song can really get your career firing. Their Deutsche Duke-featuring track White Dress has become one of the year’s best local releases and from Splendour In The Grass to BIGSOUND, every time they drop it, it sounds mighty. DJ sets at industry-showcase type shows can always feel a bit awkward but Set Mo managed to gather a dense crowd and got them firing with richly melodic house music that’s destined to soundtrack Aussie festivals over the next year as well as make them a big player in Europe.

Ready, Set Mo @setmomusic @bigsound #bigsound

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Life Is Better Blonde

Melbourne producer Life Is Better Blonde may only really have two released tracks to his name, Mine and Follow Me, but they have both been strong enough to gather some serious support online. He channels that James Blake singer/songwriter-cross-producer aesthetic and live he sat at the piano playing with a vocoder, churning out intimate, sonically-interesting tracks. He’s without a doubt an exceptional musician and it seems he’ll really benefit from a full-length release where he has the space to build and diversify his music showing everything he can do – which is a lot judging by his BIGSOUND performance.

??>?? Life Is Better Blonde @bigsound @viceroyaltymusic

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Porsches

There was a lot of dark, brooding electronica at BIGSOUND this year so it was refreshing to see an act like Porsches with explicit pop sensibilities, bringing a bit of fun to the stage. Fully co-ordinated in Adidas tracksuits, the duo pulled one of the bigger crowds of the week and actually managed to create a bit of a party – impressive for a Wednesday night. Their sound sits somewhere between Jungle and Hot Chip, sounding like it could simultaneously win over a huge triple j festival audience and be added to heavy rotation on commercial radio. Their recent work with producer Kilter on Want 2 has put them in an envious position where they can jump between club music and alternative-tinged tunes with ease. By the sounds of it they have a number of hits at the ready and one of those could be their next single dropping next week. Very high hopes for Porsches.

Slum Sociable

Every year at BIGSOUND you know there are a handful of acts that the label has been hiding away, quietly confident in their immediate brilliance. Last year we saw it with George Maple and this year we saw it with Mushroom’s Slum Sociable. Their two tracks Anyway and All Night had them sounding a bit like a production duo, but what we got on stage was something very different. They presented as a full band with an exploding, soulful sound that felt vintage and nostalgic but also something completely different to everything else we were hearing at BIGSOUND. They spectacularly transferred their bedroom-sounding production into mainstage players that bursted with energy, easily making them one of the top three live acts of the week.

Friendships

You get the feeling that playing in an industry setting before midnight is probably not the optimum habitat for Melbourne duo friendships but they didn’t let that deter them at BIGSOUND. Their abrasive brand of electronica physically rumbled the dancefloor and amongst all the delicate electronica this week, hearing Pedal To The Medal rumble out of the speakers was somewhat refreshing. This is a sound that’s begging to find a home in the depths of a Berlin nightclub at 5am but the tracks are so memorable that they even packed a real punch before midnight.

With @friendshipsau like these, who needs enemies? @bigsound #bigsound

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Ngaiire

Ngaiire is kind of a veteran in the industry. She first came to the public’s attention in the first season of Australian Idol before collaborating with Paul Mac. Since then she’s risen up the ranks on triple j and has finally landed on a sound that’s really working for her. She pulled a massive crowd for her night-ending showcase that was full of powerful vocals atop subtle electronic arrangements. The album sounds like it’s going to be a stellar collection of future soul that showcases her beautifully textured voice alongside really strong melodies and electronic soundscapes. Once is an unbelievable entrance to that album and live it sounded beefed-up with backing vocals that made the chorus soar. She had everyone dancing and nearly everyone in awe of her voice.

Getting some serious @liannelahavas vibez from @ngaiire ??? #Bigsound

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Day Two Highlights

Gill Bates

Day Two was all about the new wave of Australian hip-hop and Gill Bates kicked it off with a sound that’s more influenced by Future and Travis Scott than Hilltop Hoods. He’s obviously grown-up devouring stateside hip-hop and he interweaved his set, sampling those tunes amongst his own. He’s the type of artist who could easily score a radio hit and craft a critically-acclaimed album because he lays down pop-infused hooks alongside impressive verses. BIGSOUND crowds aren’t the most lively at the best of times but he did a phenomenal job of getting Oh Hello going and once he’d gotten everyone to step closer to the stage it felt like a firing club show.

Oh hello, @gillbates_aus! #bigsound

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Rara

From one hip-hop act to the next, Rara are also inspired by US hip-hop. Chatting to us earlier in the day, they said they weren’t afraid to enter into the world of pop and cited influences from Justin Bieber to Travis Scott. On stage, they brought exactly that. At one stage they had all four mics front and centre of stage, looking like we were about to get a Boyz II Men show. That’s not what we got, obviously. Instead, they bounced off each other, delivering verse after verse over beats that ranged from slow-bangers to thumping house tunes. They dropped a number of new tunes off their forthcoming EP Planet 2016 with the title-track sounding particularly appetising.

cln

Like so many of the young-guns who performed at BIGSOUND this year, cln has only been in the public-eye for about a year. In that time he’s gone from a bedroom beatmaker to a singer, at the request of his manager. He’s obviously still not completely comfortable singing as he let the crowd know a number of times but it would’ve been hard to tell had he not told us. Hold Me and Found off his latest EP are his strongest tracks to date and live they felt intimate and stirring. He makes stunning electronic soundscapes and manages to make them sound atmospheric while still being a “banger”, as he put it.

Baro

Baro feels like the Remi of 2015 – not that Remi has disappeared. He has a really international appeal but also has this organic quality to his beats that sound distinctively Australian. He’s got a huge musical palette and it comes across live as he fuses jazz with international hip-hop and pop, amping up the crowd with immediately catchy hooks while throwing down intricate, left-centre verses. He really understands rhythm and melody, finding sweet spots in places you wouldn’t expect. He dropped cuts off his latest EP 17/18 with This Is For You, Fuck Everybody getting the crowd particularly rowdy. It took him and his sidekick Marley a little bit of hyping but they weren’t going to give up until the whole audience was moving – and by the end they were.

@barryisrichard (Baro) dropping a ??? unreleased track. #BIGSOUND ps. pls release.

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JOY.

We were already pretty convinced that Olivia McCarthy AKA. JOY. was brilliant and BIGSOUND just reaffirmed that for us. From the minute she walks on stage she’s utterly captivating, holding her hand out in front of her and rotating it as if that’s her wand to put everyone in a trance. Filling up the set mostly with songs from her debut EP Ode, she easily pulled one of the biggest crowds of the week and justified it with a stunning set. Her vocals are so effortless that sometimes it feels as if they fall from her mouth without her even opening. From the enchanting opener Crazy For You to the four-to-the-floor beat of About Us, McCarthy delivered a near-perfect set that made everyone either fall in love with her or cry from jealousy.

When drawing one of the biggest crowds at @bigsound ain't no thang… @joyaus_ #bigsound

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Koi Child

If you’ve heard Tame Impala’s Currents you’d know that Kevin Parker’s taste is pretty damn good, that’s why you’ve really gotta pay attention to a new band that’s been produced by Parker purely because he thought they were great after seeing them live. It’s easy to see why too. They combine hip-hop with jazz and Badbadnotgood-style instrumentation on-stage to create a rhythmic party driven by frontman Shannon Patterson’s unbelievable flow. Put simply, there wasn’t a live set that came close to the quality of Koi Child’s. Given they have only had one song, the excellent Black Panda, they managed to keep the crowd entertained for the entirety of the set and even had them asking for an encore. Their chemistry together is infectious and they bounced off each other the whole time looking like they were having the time of their life. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Koi Child before the year is out.

@koichild were so fly ??????

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REVIEW + PICS: Hiatus Kaiyote | Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Hot off the heels of the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore LP Choose Your Weapon earlier this year and touring through the United States and Europe, genre mish-mash enthusiasts Hiatus Kaiyote were back on home soil to play a string of shows across the country. The Rosemount Hotel was not only buzzing, but also bursting at the seams with patrons eager to catch a glimpse of the live show which Hiatus Kaiyote have become renowned for.

Kicking off the evening’s festivities were Fremantle locals Koi Child with their uplifting brand of jazz and dub infused hip-hop. Front-man Cruz Patterson had great flow in his rhymes and the horn section were prone to busting out an impressive solo or two. The seven piece garnered a much deserved enthusiastic response from the audience, and it was visible the band were loving every moment.

Hailing from Melbourne, JAALA were next to hit the stage. As their set progressed, it slowly evolved into an entirely different beast. What began as a couple of grungy and almost shoegaze numbers which could have been plucked straight out of the 90’s, grew into an insane hybrid of math rock and prog. Completely unexpected and wildly exhilarating.

Following what felt like an eternity, main act Hiatus Kaiyote complete with a trio of backing singers, hit the Rosemount stage to wild applause and cheers alike. Fronted by the charismatic, Ibanez wielding Nai Palm, the band dived into rousing renditions of Breathing Underwater, and the Grammy nominated Nakamarra. The vibes were good and the slow jams out in full force, the latter receiving a rather warm response from the audience. The trance inducing and skittish Laputa showed off deep, pulsating bass alongside sweeping electronic swirls over the crystal clear PA.

The band were sounding incredibly tight and the backing singers certainly added an extra oomph to the mix. Palm’s impeccable and nuanced vocal delivery is an absolute treat to absorb and they wouldn’t at all feel out of place on a smoky jazz recording. A phenomenal take on the track Jekyll utilised these overtones, in both Palm’s voice and her keys playing. The crowd were very much in favour of the track’s midway tempo shift; a majority of punters getting their jig on. The time signature changes and bassline groove of final duo Shaolin Monk Motherfunk and By Fire increased the energy levels even further, and concluded the show on an absolute high note. No need for an encore here.

Hiatus Kaiyote are a truly original and exciting band who defy standard genre conventions with gusto. This may not seem like a huge feat considering the musical climate of present, but when it is carried out with such precision, coherence and technical prowess, it is truly something to behold. Beautifully translated into a live setting, Nai Palm and her cohorts craft an unpredictable and captivating fusion of jazz, soul, funk and electronica, which is nothing short of sublime.

– Pics by Daniel Berk.

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