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[Review] Earl Sweatshirt @ Northcote Theatre 17/10/2023

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has been in the rap game since 2007. At only 29 years old, he’s a veteran, and his show at Northcote Theatre proves just how much he’s a master of his craft. Kgositsile, or as he is better known, Earl Sweatshirt, rose to prominence as the prodigé of fellow rapper, Tyler, The Creator. Sweatshirt’s early days were spent as part of powerhouse rap collective, Odd Future, under the sculpting gaze of his contemporaries, including both Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. It’s easy to see the lasting impact on his live work, bur dare I say that the student has become the master? Or, at the very least, the student has become a wicked good-time and unrivalled craftsman.

Despite his support cancelling due to illness, Sweatshirt is determined to give us our money’s worth. He comes on early, energised and with a drive I’ve never seen in another artist. I’ve seen Sweatshirt perform before, but it was outside at a large festival. Here, in such an intimate venue, you can really see that hunger in his eyes up-close. These are the venues he was born to play.

The projector screen behind him scrolls through everything from abstract, pulsating shapes, to Keith Haring style animations to old films, in a sketchbook style. Every song is a different visual track, each of them more beautiful and more alive than the last. The lights at the front of the stage face outwards, shades of orange, purple, blue and white, wash over us. It’s visually stunning, and borderline genre-bending, rivalling bands like Slowdive for visual prowess.

For hardcore fans and casual listeners alike, this current tour boasts some delicious treats from the LA-native. Within the first half an hour, Sweatshirt spits out two unreleased tracks. But you wouldn’t know that. His crowd is eating every crumb out of his hand, and whether or not they know the words is irrelevant. He’s filled the room with so much energy that no matter what, we’re going to be loving it.

But it’s not just the unreleased. I’m at the back of the room, groups of guys with cross-body bags and girls in tall platform sneakers crash into each other and cheer louder and louder for each song Sweatshirt pulls out. And, he pulls out a lot. His setlist for the night is nearly 30-songs long, and never does he let the energy drop. It’s an unbelievable display of musicianship, showmanship and self-discipline – I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  But no two songs go harder than the back-to-back combo that is Geb into Sirius Blac. The crowd is already going nuts after Geb, with cheering and applause so loud I feel it in my feet. But Sirius Blac is next level. All I can see are hands, heads and drinks held up above the crush of people. It’s a tidal wave of energy, clinging onto every word.

Tabula Rasa is beautiful, the sound mixing bringing out the soulful vocals in a way that’s so sublime. A very different vibe comes over the room, it’s a crackling, electric stillness. Time stops passing as we focus on nothing except Sweatshirt. As it comes to an end, he addresses us directly. “Put your hands up if you’re having a good time!” We put our hands up. “Y’all up the top, looking like John Wilkes Booth, put those motherfucking hands up so I know you aren’t about to shoot me like y’all shot Abe Lincoln.” The mezzanine puts their hands up. “There you go.” And then he throws us into EAST. Our hands start moving in unplanned synchronous harmony, and it’s magical.

We follow him on a winding journey through his discography, and when we hit 2010 he takes to the mic; “If I don’t play this, everyone’s like Play it! So you all better keep the same energy.” We don’t even need to think about it, and yet again come crashing back together. We are a ferocious wave of energy, and Sweatshirt smiles as he raps – he’s loving it just as much as we are.

By the tail-end of his set, he’s clearly letting his guard down. He’s shown us what he can do, so he eases up and talks to us again. The way he addresses the crowd, it feels like we’re old-friends hanging out in someone’s garage after the party’s ended. “Do you remember when that one girl (Katy Perry) was like

Do you ever feel? / Like a plastic bag?

We start singing the rest of the cultural icon that is, Fireworks.

“No don’t keep singing! Just process that. Like that’s crazy. That’s a lot. Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? We’re gonna talk about that in a second.”

He’s so funny, in this casual, laid-back, deprecating way. And before we get time to talk about it more, “Y’all would open up a pit for anything, so open up.” And I have to quell my laughter as I prepare to wrestle for my patch of ground again.

NOWHERE2GO is an absolute crowd favourite. And honestly, we kind of look like plastic bags, drifting through the wind. Erratically moving, making waving patterns with our bodies. I didn’t think such a left-field gag would be so fitting for this crowd of rowdy misfits, but it was.

We’re out of breath, sweat running down our faces, but Sweatshirt doesn’t look any different, he’s not even out of breath. “Honestly, bars! Like, do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Bars, man. I could never write something that good.” And, to prove how very tongue-in-cheek that point is, we get treated to, Shattered Dreams. God, this song is delightful. It showcases Sweatshirt’s past as a poet, shows he’s his father’s son, show’s he’s everything to us.

The rest of the set is a blur. Finishing with his encore, a Mac Miller cover, an emotional tribute to the late rapper. New Faces V2, isn’t what I expected, but it’s an amazing finish. It’s vibey, it’s got this driving beat live. Immaculate.

Grinning, sweaty, with aching feet, I am desperate for the cold night air. But already, I’m aching for more Earl Sweatshirt.

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[Review] Peach Pit @ Northcote Theatre 11/10/2023

For me, no band, ever, has better captured the feeling of nostalgia, of warm summer days, of platonic love and the happy-go-lucky experience of solo travel quite like Vancouver indie-rock powerhouse, Peach Pit.

During the depths of COVID lockdowns, I’d seen them play a “live” show through zoom. But I’d given up hope they’d ever travel down under. But then, on some glorious weekday – they announced their tour. Instantly, I scarfed up tickets. Since then, it’s been an exhilarating wait, that honestly made me a bit nauseous with excitement. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one. Their first show sold out so quickly, even with a venue upgrade. And their second show was essentially sold out as well, with a mere straggler of tickets left. We were certainly showing the 5-piece our appreciation.

The energy at Northcote Theatre was absolutely infectious. There was a buzz in the air that made the hairs on my arm stand up straight. Australian up-and-comers Eliza and The Delusionals played an ultra-short, ultra-punchy set. Ripping through some excellent tracks from their new album; Now and Then, as well as their superb collection of singles. We were in the mood and absolutely ready to rumble.

The next hour and a half have made writing a review nearly impossible. It’s rare you see a perfect set. But there is no better word for it than, perfect. Neil Smith on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Chris Vanderkooy on lead guitars, bassist Peter Wilton and drummer Mikey Pascuzzi have come such a long way, even in three years. They are not the same band now as the band I watched, cooped up in my room, playing thousands of kilometres away. The addition of multi-instrumentalist Dougal Bain McClean (some people have all the luck), has undeniably helped push them into new heights of “chewed bubble-gum pop” perfection.

As the stage turns red, and spotlights flicker over the crowd, I see Smith’s bouncing mane of hair before anything else. Quickly, he’s followed by Vanderkooy, The Moustached Maestro as I affectionately call him. The rest of the band appears onstage, and we are faced with 5 dudes, in t-shirts and jeans. Not too baggy, not too tight. They’re Just Some Guys. But don’t let looks fool you. These averages Joe’s are about to do something crazy to my brain chemistry.

For context, Peach Pit have a melancholic take on surf pop. Their songs are heavy with slow, soulful vocals and driving lead guitar breaks. So, I was a little shocked when the fellas launch into a cover of Slayer’s Raining Blood. Smith steps up to the microphone and in his best metal voice growls for us to “get the fuck up motherfuckers”. He is a whirling dervish of curly hair and devil-hands as the instrumental cover rages. Suddenly, it stops, and we are taken into Being So Normal. There are perhaps no two songs less compatible. But god does it work. Instantly, I’m taken somewhere else. “Show ‘em Chris!” Neil moves over to let his high school friend work his magic on that fretboard.

The volume of songs Peach Pit have in their repertoire, is unbelievable. For a band less than a decade old, the setlist is 22 songs long, and there isn’t a weak link amongst them. Having released their third album, From 2 to 3, last year, I was expecting that to be the track list for the evening. I was wrong. “Because this is our first time here, we’re going to be playing lots of older stuff! For all of you who’ve bought our merch and waited so patiently. Thanks, so much guys! We love you!”

The next hour is a blur. From driving drums and twinkling guitars of 17-year-old Nikki’s favourite song, aptly named Seventeen, to the shredding guitars of Psychics in LA – this set has it all. Old fans, new fans, stragglers off the street – everyone is jumping around, waving their hands in the air, transported to another plane of musical ecstasy. Go with your friends! That was when Smith says “This song is for when your best friend really pisses you off” you can share a look and laugh through the opening notes of Vicky. Go with your heartbroken friend, so you can scream the permanently-stuck-in-my-head hook of Shampoo Bottles. Go with your stoner friends so you can sway to the stoned lullaby that is Tommy’s Party arm-in-arm. Remember the better times. Be like the two guys in front of me, hugging and looking into each other’s eyes.

I’m so glad you’re alive!

I’m glad I’m alive too!

Fuck yeah, dudes. It’s hard not to be with Peach Pit as your soundtrack.

Private Presley has been in my top 5 favourite songs since its release. Wedged between the melancholic love-song that is Figure 8, and the summer picnic banger to end all summer picnic banger’s, Up Granville, it’s a surprise. Those early, gentle guitar notes slide over my eardrums, and I’m spellbound. Vanderkooy’s guitarwork and Smith’s pitch-perfect, dulcet vocals lull me into a dream. McClean comes out on fiddle, and the way he plays is so mournful, so beautiful, so heavenly it makes me want to scream. As we hit the climax of the song; all messy guitars, feedback, and flying hair, I realise this show is going to be one for the ages. Peach Pit is many people’s first introduction to the band, it’s slow, it’s sad, it’s iconic. Smith barely has to sing as the crowd carries us from verse to verse, chorus to chorus. A high school anthem for some, breakup song for others, and something else entirely for most – it’s an absolute showstopper.

Undeniably, and unsurprisingly, one of the highlights for the evening is Alrighty Aphrodite. The lights go orange, Smith abandons his guitar for his iconic, stoic dancing and I pick my jaw up off the floor. This song is So. Fucking. Sexy. It starts slow, with delayed guitar so it sounds like it’s wafting through fog. It’s gentle drumming feels like footsteps. The bass is present and driving. Smith’s vocals are haunting, gentle and sturdy. Exactly like the goddess for which it’s named; it’s magical, mysterious, thalassic, beautiful, and hot as hell. It infects my arms and legs, and my body is no longer mine, I follow where Peach Pit take me, and I happily resign myself to my fate.

As our penultimate finale, Chagu’s Sideturn is so high-energy, so fun, that the ache in my legs from standing is gone, and all I can think about is summertime. It’s so quintessentially Peach Pit. It reminds me of growing up in Seattle. I taste the ocean air of the Pacific Northwest; I stand under those blue skies. I want to curl up in a lawn chair with a Carlton Dry. Chris is an absolute God on the guitar. A force of nature. These guys are proof that simple, skilful musicianship can never be beaten. They dance together, hug while playing and are grinning ear to ear. They might be more stoked to be here than us.

We do a cheer for their Aussie guitar tech, Adam, and with another laugh and lick of the guitar strings, they’re off. Immediately, I’m aching for more. Luckily for me, I had bought tickets to experience the joy, the mystique and the indescribable resonance that is Peach Pit. Whatever it is, these guys have it. Go on and get a taste for yourself. But be warned, once you try some, it’ll become your favourite meal.

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[Review] Easylover Festival @ Northcote Theatre, Melbourne 10/06/2023

Review By Emily White

Having spent the first half of 2023 on their national Daisy Chain Album Tour, Melbourne’s home-grown indie rock icons, Slowly Slowly, drew in one last sold-out audience for the inaugural EASYLOVER Festival this Saturday. Returning just two weeks after their headlining show at The Forum, fans prepared to be absolutely indulged with yet another extended set. Packed with back-to-back performances from indie rock heavyweights, the seven hours spent in Northcote Theatre’s four walls flew by, with not a single ‘filler act’ to slow the momentum.

From 4pm the queue of festivalgoers wrapped tightly around the building and down the icy cold streets, eager to escape the winter breeze for what would be a hot and sweaty storm inside.  The first ingredient for such chaos was Australian alt-rock trio Ok Hotel. Playing with contrasting elements of a casual garage band paired with perfectly melodic instrumentalism, the Wollongong locals kicked off what frontman Josh Fogarty eloquently described as an evening at ‘rock n roll church’. With the gorgeous winter sun beaming through the rear stained-glass windows, the set portrayed just that – an otherworldly auditory delight.

Filled with youthful angst, the muffled grunge vocals paired with crystal clear electric guitar provided a thrilling listening experience. Regular changes in tempo and asymmetrically placed pauses made it impossible to keep up with the gritty punk machine; a highly sought-after attribute of cleverly written rock music. With only thirty minutes to highlight their impressive discography, the band made it clear they are not here to mess around. Tracks such as the 2023 single Get Out showcasing abstract imagery in the feeling of drowning through lyricism, ‘help me please, I’ve been waiting here forever but the sharks won’t ever leave’. Ok Hotel gave the audience all you could want from an opening act, departing the stage sweaty and untamed – an indicator of the night ahead.

 Friends of Friends may not yet be a household name, but the four-man band from Brisbane are certainly on a path to stardom. The self-proclaimed ‘trashy alt-pop band’ moved the show from strength to strength; with instantly intoxicating stage presence demanding the attention of the now shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Paired with a bass so heavy it could be felt in your throat, lead vocalist Barnaby Baker took the next thirty minutes to showcase the band’s fresh, otherworldly alt-rock sound. Nailed down by perfectly paced drumming, and an overlay of dreamy guitar and distorted vocals, the band explores themes of personal loss and social angst. Although remaining absolutely authentic, Friends of Friends has found a way to balance this with tour-ready, glam-rock personas; packed with fluid and emotive movement. Debuting their newest single Bleachers (On and On), impressive song writing met with an astonishing vocal range, ‘I’m mislead I’m fading baby, burning up in shades of red’. Experiencing Friends of Friends live for the first time was intoxicating, and an easy sell for their upcoming projects.

Being such a hard act to follow, Bakers Eddy was the band for the job. The Melbourne-based punk rock group are both casual in their demeaner, yet irresistibly charming in delivery. Playing a standout set despite having a stand-in bassist, and an eventually broken guitar string is a show of the sheer level of talent and persistence of the band, particularly front man Ciarann Babbington. Kicking off their set early because they ‘can’t be fucked walking off stage and then coming back 2 minutes later’, the crowd was in for a treat. What can only be described as wild, fun, and provocative, Bakers Eddy were a festival favourite. Almost immediately the mosh pit grew in intensity, bodies flying overhead and splashing beer coating everything in sight. This band were made to be seen live. Musically Bakers Eddy is youthful and charming, packed with ‘fast chords, weird chords and nostalgia’. Playing a condensed set showcasing their 2022 album Love Boredom Bicycles; hit tracks including My Baby’s Like Cigarettes and 21 left the crowd begging for more, shouting ‘one more song’ as the band departed the stage.

Riled up and thirsting for more, Press Club burst onto the stage. The Australian punk group fronted by incredibly charismatic frontwoman Natalie Foster was a breath of fresh air. Psychedelic, tight, catchy rock riffs bled seamlessly one after the other, as the vocalist cartwheeled and contorted herself through the space. The free-spirited nature of the band’s physical appearance is complimentary to the inward-looking lyrics, delivered so authentically, ‘Lately I’ve been mistaken for crazy’. Almost instantly Natalie was in the arms of the crowd, making not only the stage, but the entire room her platform for expression. With incredible abstract lighting and background imagery, Press Club disorientate the senses and hypnotise the mind. With the crowd at their fingertips the band incorporated playfulness and fun into their set in true rockstar fashion; and departed the stage as abruptly as they had arrived.

Between You & Me have become notorious for their unhinged, high energy pop rock performances, and their thirty-minute EASYLOVER set was no exception. Coming off the back of supporting Slowly Slowly’s recent tour, frontman Jake Wilson has made a name for himself as a rockstar. Playing a close re-enactment of their set at The Forum, the band now had a leg-up knowing the audience was familiar with their songs. Playing a phenomenal line-up of hits including Go to Hell, Butterflies, Deadbeat, and their newest single Nevermind, it is astounding the punters in the mosh had any energy left for the festival’s remaining two acts. The pit experience was certainly one for the books, harnessing the reckless energy of Eddie Vedder’s iconic 1992 stage dive, both Jake and bassist James Karagiozis (Bassy), had no reservations in throwing themselves into the crowd. Eventually forming a huge pit circle and revving up onlookers, the pair became a part of the mosh. It doesn’t get much better than Between You & Me when it comes to hardcore Aussie rock, and I can be certain this set grew the band’s following immensely.

 Switching up the energy for the night’s final support act was Sydney pop-punk trio Yours Truly. Having formed in 2016, the band has become well established in their nation-wide success. Full of bounce and flair, frontwoman Mikaila Delgado puts a face to the band. Approaching the stage as a gorgeous silhouette in glittering stockings, Mikaila is captivating. Hitting the theatre with powerhouse vocals and a rockstar persona, it became abundantly clear why Yours Truly have gained so much traction. Dreamy and celestial, the band delivers relatable lyrics about heartbreak and betrayal, wrapped in a purple haze. The relationship between Yours Truly and their fans was gorgeous to watch as Mikaila made contact with anyone who knew her lyrics, smiling and waving back at them. Playing high-energy hits from their recent album is this what I look like?, the band was the perfect segway into what would be an intensely emotionally charged headliner.

 As if the room wasn’t already packed to the brink, and drowning in sweat, fans continued to flow through the doors of Northcote Theatre – keen to get a glimpse of the night’s headliners. With a following large enough to have sold out a much bigger venue, it was a luxury to witness such an intimate set from Melbourne’s kings of rock Slowly Slowly. Being a festival set, it was easy to expect a ‘best of’ heavy rock setlist from the band. What followed was a stripped-back, seemingly indiscriminate list of tracks from as far back as the Chamomile days. The band played what they wanted, and little did we know, it was what we had been craving too.

Opening with the expected hits including Nothing On, Forget You, and Achilles’ Heel, the energy harnessed was spectacular, certainly the works of ‘rock n roll church’. Not a soul stood still as the fast-paced rhythm shuddered the wooden architecture. Within minutes frontman Ben Stewart was back to his regular antics, revving up the crowd before throwing himself from the stage. Whilst stage dives have become a custom at Slowly Slowly shows, it remains astounding the high-quality vocals that are completely unaffected by the mania unfolding beneath. Ben’s crowd work is spellbinding and harnesses the energy of former rock icons.

‘Let’s pull one from the vault’… The band made a full 180, resurrecting some of their back-catalogue for one-night-only. Sunburnt Shoulders, How It Feels, and recent release God made for a heart-wrenching, emotionally charged moment of rock ballads. Thousands of rays of white light reflected off the walls, falling perfectly from a mirror ball above. EASYLOVER was not made to be a repeat of the Daisy Chain Album Tour, but a bookend on the band’s first four studio albums. Hunched over his guitar in an extended instrumental outro, the sheer weight of these songs made its physical appearance. The moment of vulnerability bringing the crowd closer together – many arm in arm, singing the familiar lyrics word for word.

Changing pace one last time, the band played out their signature rock sound with hits including Race Car Blues, Daisy Chain, Jellyfish, Creature of Habit, Longshot, Blueprint and a confirmed final performance of Blink-182’s I Miss You. No stone was left unturned, no songs left to sing. Shirts were off, shoulders mounted, and ravenous pit circles formed. The ability the band has to continually increase the energy in a crowd is astounding, and a highlight of their live shows. 

All too quickly the first EASYLOVER festival had come and gone. Sticky bodies, bumps and bruises left as a reminder of a shared passion for music. Joined by a culmination of past support acts, collaborators, and friends, the evening acted as a resurgence of classic rock roots, adorned with modern context and lyricism.

You can keep up-to-date with Slowly Slowly and any upcoming tour dates on their website.

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