After walking around an entire block, and climbing over a metal barrier it’s exactly 8:22 pm when I finally walk into Howler. Centre stage in a red button-up shirt is Ryan Downey with his guitar singing his 2018 hit Running’, warming up the crowd for the New Zealand act, Tiny Ruins.

My friend and I immediately walk to the bar to grab a drink and I’m slightly disappointed about missing the first few moments of the show. Note to self – if you can’t find a venue just follow the crowd.

It was still early and, as to be expected, the show wasn’t crowded yet, however, those who were there were completely captivated by the presence and voice of Ryan Downey.  My friend and I made our way to the front of the room, the audience, however, were seeming to keep their distance. Only photographers and their clicking shutters were getting up close and personal.

Ryan holds the audience’s attention for 8 songs making sure to stop halfway through to thank Tiny Ruins for bringing him on tour.

“Does anyone here speak French?” he asks preparing to sing his last song. There’s a brief moment of silence before he says “shit” and everyone laughs. He ends his set covering Jacques Briel’s Ne me quitte pas, it’s a beautiful song and it suits the tone of his voice, however as I don’t speak French, I have no clue what the song is about.

By far, Renewed was the best song of his set, highlighting Ryan‘s deep, soothing voice perfectly and featuring a wonderful guitar solo. Having only having listened to a few of his songs before the show, however, I was quite disappointed that there were no introductions for most of the songs. I found myself having to listen carefully to the lyrics which took some of the enjoyment out of the night. As it was an intimate show, I do understand the assumption that most people attending are already familiar with his work, but also I think it excludes people like myself, who’ve had no prior exposure to his music.

Overall Ryan Downey was great but I found I could only appreciate the true beauty of his talent by watching him live.

Ryan Downey performing at Howler on May 2nd. Photo: Rebecca Johansen

After having a small 20-minute break, Tiny Ruins entered onto the stage at exactly 9.30 pm.

The venue is undoubtedly sold out with hundreds of people flooding the floor, getting up close and personal with the band. I’m standing at the back on the right side of the room with a few dozen people ahead of me, I see Ryan Downey leaning against the wall, listening and cheering them on.

The New Zealand act led by lead singer Hollie Fullbrook opens the first show of six on this Australian tour, with their hit song Holograms, the fifth track off their album Olympic Girls. It’s not my favourite, but the crowd enjoys the unique tune by singing along and swaying to the beat.

The show progresses and my attention shifts to music producer Tom Healy who performs on electric guitar. He’s having the time of his life, rocking out to songs with decorative rifts. There’s a substantial difference between his stage presence and Hollie‘s which definitely affected my mood and the vibe of the show.

There were a number of times throughout the set Hollie had to switch guitars and tune them over and over again. It wasn’t a serious problem, but the apologises were repetitive to the point a person in front of my friend and I started complaining about it.

As this was the first show of their second Australian tour I can understand it would be nerve-racking. However, it was quite confusing and borderline disappointing that they were still having troubles with tuning and guitar changing, seeing as they toured Europe and New Zealand only a month ago.

The only song I really enjoyed from the show was How Much. I think it’s a beautiful song and I was glad to hear it live, but with saying that, they performed 14 songs.

Overall I think Tiny Ruins are extremely talented, I don’t particularly like the genre of music they create, but Hollie has a wonderful voice and I do think they have something special. But my favourite thing about live music and concerts are the energy the performers give to the audience. What’s the point in going to a show if you’re not going to have the time of your life?

You can easily tell with most artists whether they love what they’re doing because they’re engaged with the crowd and are clearly enjoying themselves. However, I didn’t feel that way. If anything I felt strongly disconnected from the band, and I wasn’t alone, my friend who came with me agreed something was off. But maybe we just don’t enjoy their type of music, which is okay, you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Tiny Ruins perform to a sold out Howler. Photos: Rebecca Johansen