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[Review] Drugdealer @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne 09/03/2023

The enigma that is Drugdealer, is a true ode to the gems of the 1970s. The brainchild of Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Michael Collins. I was a fan of Collins previous project Silk Rhodes, with it’s focus on groovy delicate soul, and was extremely keen to catch the larger folk rock end of his mind in Drugdealer. The Corner Hotel, a classic venue in Richmond, was packed with Lennon-esq young men on Thursday night, eager to step back to the seventies for a night of classic yacht rock and groovy balladry.

One could accidentally assume Drugdealer to be peers of Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Looking Glass or Bill Withers, but you’d be surprised to find release dates in the mid to late 2010s. And the best part of this: the band knows it, and we’re all invited to be in on the joke. This made for a night that was equally musically joyous and hilarious.

Opening for the band was Tex Crick, an Aussie singer-songwriter and keyboard player, and recent entry to Mac Demarco’s aptly titled record label Mac’s Record Label. He warmed us up with soft electric piano ballads, backed with a simple groovy drum machine, and a few friendly guitar lines from his single bandmate. Key tracks Peaches & Cream and Here We Go led the tight set, helping the packed crowd wind down and prepare for the laid-back evening.

With curtains closed, a bizarre news report announced the beginning of Drugdealer’s set. This described a recent controversy that apparently the band had run over a pack of quokkas while escaping a previous gig, which was allegedly only the most recent crime our stars had perpetrated. This was of course, just the first of many strange jokes to come.

The curtains parted, and Michael Collins welcomed us to the Drugdealer show. He told us this was his first time in Japan, “so Kawaii”, and that it was pleasant to be around such a simple people. This set the tone for what was a constant back and forth of true musicianship contrasted with bizarre humour for the following hour.

Largely playing keys and some guitar, Collins and bandmate Sasha Winn shared lead vocal duties, taking turns to play through the set, but the jokes were all Collins. He introduced us to the song Mad World, which was of course actually the hit Madison, the opener of their recent 2022 record Hiding In Plain Sight. Even namedropping controversial Aussie radio station Triple J during another track, no opportunity for goofiness was missed.

The tight engineering of the seventies drums on the records was not missed in the live setting, with just as much dry punchiness heard, and not a beat was out of the pocket. The guitarists and bassist grooved along to the beat, and our singers rode the waves with soft sweet melodies.

Highlights of the set included The End Of Comedy, Suddenly and Hard Dreaming Man, but my favourite track was of course Honey from the 2019 album Raw Honey. Such beautiful harmonies and vocal lines were not missed in the live rendition.

While the band is certainly self-aware of their throwback and potentially dad-rock tendencies, don’t let them sell themselves short – they’re a killer live band, with a set of gorgeous groovy rockers sure to get you dancing and smiling any day of the week.

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[Review] Bon Iver @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 4/02/2023

Bon Iver, the indie folk band and cultural darling led by Wisconsin native Justin Vernon, is a perfect example of change. Good artists are consistent, but great artists grow. On Saturday night at the Bowl, we were blessed with a career spanning, genre defying setlist full of powerful beauty.

Sidney Myer was full of eager fans by the time I arrived, patiently waiting to experience the serenade of love and pain that is Bon Iver. Many fans packed the grass area, with picnic rugs, chairs and plenty of cuddles. The energy was warm and compassionate, a harmony with the music to come.

Joining Bon Iver was the Sydney singer-songwriter and lush electronica artist Sophie Payten, performing under the name Gordi. A perfect match to the headliners energy, Gordi mixed elements of folk guitar balladry with spacey loops of modular synthesis and delicate self-harmony. Beautiful tracks that highlighted the set included Extraordinary Life and Way I Go. It is truly rare to experience a keenly picked match such as these two artists.

Taking the stage to a packed crowd, the main act begun. Bon Iver opened with Lump Sum, the second track from their 2008 debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. The early fusion of a low pulsing kick under the layered delicate vocals and strained acoustic guitar represents all that was and will be of the project, with the focus on memory, love, pain, beauty and peace. This defining album, which was written and recorded in isolation, puts the key themes on display.

Other highlights of the set included the lovely crowd pleaser of Hey Ma, U (Man Like), Towers and 10 d E A T h b R E a s T  , some of the more modern classics of the discography. The true wonders were the classic tracks, Re: Stacks and Skinny Love. Re: Stacks was a song that reminded me of lost love long ago, and the pain of forgiveness, which took all so long to earn. Skinny Love, being Bon Iver’s best known song, deserved to be played, but was expected to be breezed over as the hit that must be played so the artist can focus on the deep cuts. Instead, this rendition of the classic track was so deeply, deeply affecting, that I could feel the pure passion of the full bowl with every breath. The outro and coda of “My, my my” was a fantastic sing-along moment for a crowd of romantics.

The band of course was all multi-instrumentalists. Seven members, featuring switches between acoustic and electric guitars, bass and keys, along with saxophone, and two drummers filled in the sound of future folk that Bon Iver so well defined within the early 2010s. The powerful backing of the drums added a weight to the softer songs that somehow didn’t overpower the minimalism but instead reinforced the simplicity where needed. Moments in my favourite track Holocene were true masters of sound mixing, with one drummer playing soft off beat rimshots while the other balances sixteenth-note shakers and kick patterns. True musicianship at work.

Ending the set after Holocene, the band returned for a tight four-song encore of a few deep cuts and a new single recorded during the pandemic, PDLIF, to link the timeline of the set from then to now. Truly a gently masterful performance, I cannot recommend catching Bon Iver live enough. The records do not do this band justice.

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[Review] 100 Gecs@ Northcote Theatre, Melbourne 09/02/2023

On the 9th of February 100 Gecs made their debut Melbourne performance at Northcote Theatre. Arriving an hour before the doors were open, I expected a crowd to be forming, but did not expect the snake- like line that wrapped around the theatre, and down the side streets. The energy of the crowd were full of excitement before the doors were even open, as fresh faced fans joined the line, chattering away to strangers. To passers by it probably seemed as one, very large family, were in attendance for the night’s performance. This familial feeling only grew as the clock struck 7:30 and the theatre welcomed it’s patrons. I decided that I would enjoy going front and centre for 100 Gecs because if their fans were anything like their music, I knew I was in for a debaucheries, wild, and electrifying night.

I was not wrong.

Starting off the night, Melbourne’s own emo icon and night core influenced singer Daine gave the audience a treat. Displaying a mix of genres from hyperpop, to heavy metal, Daine captivated excited fans, as they prowled around the stage with bleach blonde hair that hung low, and unflinching eyes that were as captivating as their saccharin vocals. This was my first time seeing Daine so I initially was not sure what to expect from them. However, after just 10 minutes, I could easily see why they were chosen to be 100 Gecs opening act. They were a perfect fit, as their songs, which, akin to 100 Gecs, are a product of humble beginnings and DIY music production. They truly set the stage in a way that celebrated the hardcore, hyperpop genre, and it was lovely seeing this come from an artist who is at the beginning of their burgeoning influence and popularity. Through Daine, we the audience were witness to a different kind of musical intensity: one that captured the hearts of disillusioned youth and foreshadowed the welcomed chaos that was yet to come.

When 100 Gecs advanced onto the stage, they made it known that they were not here to play around. Having had to postpone their concert from 2020, it was clear that this night had been a long time coming, for both the Gec’s and their fans.

“Tonight, we’re gonna play some songs for you”, shouted lead singer Laura Les to a sea of adoring faces. It became evident pretty quickly that no matter what kind of performance Laura and Dylan gave, and no matter what songs featured on their set list, the fans were there to eat up every moment; enticed by the mere presence of this beloved duo. Starting the set with Hey Big Man the cacophony of violent sounds, and absurd lyrics about being unable to pronounce ‘anemonae’, really prepared our ears and acclimatised our souls for a night of Gec-mania. Going straight into their mega hit Stupid Horse, Laura and Dylan performed with exhilarated excitement; their gigantic witch hats bobbing up and down as they stomped and jumped around the stage. Something that I found particularly fun to observe, was watching Dylan play around with the song files on his laptop between sets; giving us a tiny glimpse into the tedious editing process that is at the core of their songs. Producing a Gec song is reliant on all the power that can be possessed on one little laptop, and a solid editing software. Seeing Dylan demonstrate this process on stage felt like a special opportunity to see them, as a band, come to life, as they have largely gained acclaim via being such an online sensation. I loved that we were witnessing their Aussie debut in such an interactive, face to face way! It was special to hear songs like gecgecgec performed live, with an acoustic rendition, and it added a sense of rawness and realness to their internet persona, which I wasn’t expected but thoroughly enjoyed.

At one point in the night, the man next to me explained his journey toward becoming a 100 Gecs fan. He stated how he went from initially thinking “this is horrible”, to “this is genius”, whilst all the while acknowledging that he still feels they are partly “unlistenable”. This discussion was probably the most eye opening aspect of the night for me, as I got an insight into the wonderous way that fans respond and relate to 100 Gecs sound. Fans seem to not subscribe to the binary of purely loving or hating their sound. Rather, they seem to appreciate what this duo put out, regardless of how ‘clean’ a song sounds, or how easily it can fit into one genre or category. It seems that within the brutality of their sound, the internet meme- inspired lyrics, and the outright hilarious subject matter of many of their songs, Laura and Dylan inject passion and force into their songs, but also don’t take themselves too seriously, and neither do their fans.

The night finished off with What’s That Smell, an unreleased song that genuinely had me laughing at its ludicrous lyrics. This further reinforced how little the Gecs care about creating content that fits into a mainstream, traditionalist idea of what it means to create music, and I absolutely loved it. Overall, 100 Gecs gave me a snapshot into a world where binaries are abandoned, strange wizard hats are adorned, and one’s uniqueness is embraced above all else.

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[Review] Slowthai @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 08/02/2023

I was lucky enough to catch Slowthai last time he appeared down under, way back in 2019 at Listen Out festival in St Kilda. I remembered death circles, surprises, drugs and rage, and it was a joy to see and hear. When I heard the UK rapper was finally making his return to Australia, I knew I had to catch up with Tyron and see how he’d evolved as a performer. And well, he’s grown.

The 28-year-old rapper, Northhampton raised rose to popularity in 2019 along with his Nothing Great About Britain album and hits like T N Biscuits. Following up two years later with a killer sophomore release in TYRON, Thai is now preparing to drop his third record, with several dope singles already released and a tour to prime us for more.

Returning again to 170 Russell, I was impressed by the sold out venue’s ability to still have keen line of sight vision from almost every corner of the room. The stage was clearly visible even from the bar, but the choice to maintain a low level of light with a red background turned the whole thing into a dingy future-punk stage show.

Fantastic crowd connection was the key to Slowthai’s tight, one hour set. No opener, no DJ warmup. 10pm Slowthai hit the stage and set the crowd alight. Opening with his newest single, Feel Good, takins us right into what makes Thai a vibe. Punk drums, distorted bass, grimy bars. Backing it up with his controversial hit CANCELLED, which moved into a freestyle verse, he quickly dismissed it “probably the worst freestyle I’ve ever done”. Now in this moment, he could’ve made it awkward, but embraced the weirdness with the classic Freddie Mercury operatic crowd call and response.

Enjoying his control over the audience, Slowthai set a rule. Side A, when called would shout “Fuck off”. Side B, “cunt” and the people up the back, “dickhead”. A hilarious call to arms for the people, every few songs he shuffled between calling for all the areas to shout their chosen chant. And to top it off, he randomly went into a sing-along of ElvisCan’t Help Falling In Love, and a crowd of twenty-somethings knew every word.

Switching it up with his Bernard Herrmann inspired horrorcore banger Psycho, featuring Denzel Curry, the crowd was knocking yet again. Choosing controversy yet again, the UK rapper then decide to tell us that his hometown biscuit, Penguin, was better than Australia’s Tim Tam. Bizarre, angry hilarity ensued.

From this point, the hits didn’t stop. Deal Wiv It, the Mura Masa hit, followed by the Gorillaz goofy rager Momentary Bliss, Desire and the cherry on top, the modern classic: Doorman. Many, many epic nights with my friends have started or ended with a singalong of this song. “Door man, let me in the door. Spent all my money you ain’t getting no more”. The kickass drums, the awesome descending bassline, the distorted narration sample of some old punk documentary, the whole track is a vibe.

Leaving Slowthai, the air was thick with sweat, pot and joy. Every single member of the audience was feeling the beat, channelling the energy and craving more. And knowing I’m going to be seeing him again this weekend at Laneway, I’m already ecstatic with excitement

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[Review] Grace Petrie @ Northcote Social Club, Melbourne 19/01/2023

Crowds lounging on the carpet of a band room is a site rarely seen, more the happenings of a local festival, or a Day on the Green. The atmosphere leading up to Grace Petrie’s sold-out Melbourne show was certainly a comforting one, with bodies replicating the scene of a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. The cult following of the self-proclaimed ‘sad lesbian folk’ musician had clearly gathered in Melbourne previously, as it felt that each person in the room knew the words and rhythms to every song that was to come.

The night kicked off with a very fitting support, local blues musician Georgia Rodgers. The one-woman show boasted a sultry, 60s aesthetic over a red-washed stage. The contrast between her unashamed, typically self-deprecating humour, and the powerhouse vocals that were to follow was such a breath of fresh air. Simultaneously providing a nostalgic feel using steady bass notes paired with a deep, husky voice – somewhat reminiscent of a mellow Elvis track.

Georgia’s quirky confidence played on through the set, as the instrumental depth of the songs began to surge. If you had closed your eyes, you would picture at least three guitarists on stage as she continued to layer stunning riffs over one another, leaving the audience in awe and an almost trance-like state. Her lyricism was a treat for the ears, as very literal storytelling was paired with tongue-in-cheek play on words; ‘I just need one line… to say to you’.

Watching Grace Petrie for the first time was like reuniting with an old friend; her stories so familiar. A smoky orange state filled the stage, as Grace nonchalantly made her way into the light – the adoring fans standing still, itching to hear the message she had come to share. Accompanied by composer Ben Moss, this duo act was set to deliver two hours of thought-provoking, nostalgic folk anthems.

Bounding straight into upbeat protest anthem If There’s a Fire in Your Heart, the passion of the crowd was enough to send shivers down my spine – chanting ‘to build a world on peace and love, it’s never too late’. Torn between wanting to dance the night away and sitting still to admire the beautiful poetry – this track took my mind to an Irish Pub, the room smelling of beer and the fellowship between everyone present. The seamless duo made it impossible not to be moved by the beautiful and purposeful lyricism, coupled with the sounds of traditional folk fiddle and melodeon.

The pair did not shy away from socialist themes, however songs like Storm to Weather provided not only a deep and meaningful message, but also a beacon of hope singing ‘we will dance again next year’ in reference to COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation.

Grace described her music on many occasions as ‘angry’ and ‘sad’, being – in her opinion – the two pillars of folk music. However, this was not the case with the next song Ivy, a beautiful story of family, accompanied by the harmonies of Ben Moss.

LGBT themes can be difficult to write about in a genuine way, but this is one of the many ways Grace connects with her followers. Being a largely queer audience, the relatability of Grace’s life experience is a comfort for all that listen to her music – this was so abundantly clear as she had the room in stitches over The Last Man on Earth. To be a true role model, in Grace’s case, is to not hold back on themes of relationships, self-acceptance, and personal growth.

Sturdy Oak, a solo piece by Ben Moss was a breath of fresh air from a male musician – a poem about issues of masculinity, wrapped in the imagery of a metaphor about trees. This portion of the show was a change of pace, the story of being a man, from the perspective of a man; a song so beautifully written you could have heard a pin drop in the audience as he bridged the gap between masculinity and the (almost) all-female crowd.

Running with the theme of poor leadership, the music came to a halt during a beautiful rewrite of The Old Man’s Tale by Ian Campbell, poetry delivered in acapella style. The silence in the room was unlike anything I had experienced at shows in the past. The pain and anguish in Grace’s voice was extraordinarily haunting.

Getting the sense that something magical was about to take place, the feminist LGBT anthem Farewell to Welfare did not disappoint. This stunning, upbeat, Celtic-style song, paired with sombre lyricism was gut-wrenching to hear, yet relatable to majority of the room. This show although minimalistic at a glance, was anything but in its messaging. Meanwhile in Texas was another stand-out moment. A song about abortion rights paired with the almost meditative state of the crowd was terribly bittersweet.

IKEA and Black Tie began wrapping up the night on a more positive note. The message shared about growing up and being exactly who you are is invaluable, particularly for the young women present. Combined with cheeky rhymes and crowd participation, this show had hit its emotional and thematic peak. With the crowd at her fingertips the show closed out with The Losing Side, an upbeat singalong encore.

Spending the night with Grace Petrie and Ben Moss felt like a conversation, a friendship, and an unconditional love that is rare in today’s online-based musical culture. With every important conversation bleeding directly into her next song, a night spent with Grace Petrie is one that should not be missed.

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