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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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