What better way to warm up on the first day of winter than to head along to your local sweat-box and listen to some quality music? On the said date in 2012, I thought I’d take in an interesting trio of acts put together at Festival Hall in Melbourne, with seemingly the only thing linking The Jezabels, Lights & Snakadaktal being that all three outfits contained female vocalists.
First up it was the distinctively named young local quintet Snakadaktal. Playing a kind of folky brand of indie-pop, the band impressed me with their tight musicianship and overall maturity. Sure, their sound is probably not suited to a 5,000 odd capacity venue, but they thankfully didn’t compromise their style for the sake of the occasion. Interestingly, Snakadaktal ordered their set so as to initially suggest to a potentially unknowing crowd that Sean Kelly was the outfit’s only vocalist. Of course, those in the know would anticipate Phoebe Cockburn taking over for the most part, even if her voice seemed just a bit too fragile in a live setting. Overall, however, this was an impressive support slot for an up-and-coming band whose forthcoming debut LP should hopefully make for a rewarding listen.
Next up was Canadian electro-pop artist Valerie Poxleitner… Better known as Lights. Since her sound wasn’t exactly similar to the night’s headliners, it was always going to be fascinating as to how the crowd would take the diminutive brunette… And I think it’s fair to say that the reaction was mixed. Those who did not come to listen to dance music barely paid attention, while the more open-minded seemed intrigued by the subtle varied influences which Lights’ music contained. Personally, one thing stood out to me: The strength of Poxleitner’s voice. The first thing that came to my mind was that if she was on a musically-oriented reality tv series, she would absolutely destroy her opposition. No matter how soft or loud her synths and beats were, it was that voice which shone through. Flanked by a drummer and two multi-instrumentalists (who spent most of the time on synths), the setting simply dictated that it would be the more melodic of her tracks which received the most favorable reaction. So it was ‘Toes’, ‘Suspension’ and ‘Siberia’ which seemed to fare best, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t just a little bit cool to hear the “wubs” of ‘Fourth Dimension’ and ‘Flux and Flow’. Although, I’m unsure if a cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ was required.
Finally, it was time for The Jezabels; the Sydney-based indie-rock quartet who have seemingly gone from local nobodies to worldwide stars in the matter of a heartbeat. Having sold out multiple nights at smaller venues no more than 8 months earlier, it was clearly time to step their live act up. Depending on which way you looked at it, The Jezabels began their set with a bang: Arguably their most well-known song ‘Endless Summer’. Personally, I’d prefer such an important tune to be left until later on in the set, especially when the other contender ‘Mace Spray’ came just 4 songs later. It may have been through a lack of confidence of holding the audience’s attention, but it was undoubtedly an electrifying beginning to proceedings in which the band were perfectly in sync. Just before ‘Mace Spray’, lead vocalist Hayley Mary hit all the right notes on current single ‘City Girl’, even if it seemed to be her, umm, interesting attire which captured most of the crowd’s attention.
Hardly muttering a spoken word for the first half of the set, I think it was clear for all to see that The Jezabels were almost embarrassed to be playing to such a large crowd, and Mary stated as much when she finally did address the audience. While her three band-mates were concentrating on delivering their music to the best of their ability (which they successfully did), Mary played the front-woman remarkably naturally; prowling, thrusting & squatting all over the stage in a strangely enthralling fashion. The same could be said of Nik Kaloper’s propulsive drumming, even if that constipated look he has is a little off-putting. While the peculiar order of the set meant that the middle section of the gig got a little samey, the more dramatic tunes such as ‘Long Highway’ and ‘Deep Wide Ocean’ were extremely involving to those who paid close attention. Finishing off the main set with ‘Dark Storm’, The Jezabels bravely returned with ballad ‘Peace of Mind’, before wowing devotees with ‘Hurt Me’. While there still may be a few kinks to iron out, The Jezabels are a force to be reckoned with live and it is difficult to dispute that their career will only burgeon from here.