Thursday nights at the Northcote Social Club are never dull, but with Winston Surfshirt cracking on for their first show of a sold-out Australian tour, this Thursday night was particularly vibrant. With support from ESESE and Wallace, two eccentric electro-soul acts, the young guns of Melbourne got to boogie into Friday morning with spicy melodies and glorious 90’s beats. Thursdays are the new Saturdays, people!
ESESE filled the compact stage with 9 band members – from soul drummers, to saxophonists, to a funky keyboard player in the corner. The lyrics were split between two front men; one swashbuckling singer and one rambunctious rapper. Their songs were ace, full of jazz-fusion and 4/20 shoutouts. The ESESE sound had strong Latin and reggae influences, as well as quick wordplay, all of which lead the weeknight patrons to dance around for their entire set. For such a young band, they have a solid setlist behind them and their future looks bright.
9pm rolls around and the dainty New Zealander Wallace arrives on stage. Perhaps she was trying to get the crowd pumping, or maybe she was just feeling herself – but she starts dancing like nobody is watching. For a second, people are taken aback, but eventually the audience loosens up and ends up dancing with her, all to the sound of her powering through some future-soul.
The Northcote Social Club has filled to capacity now. We’ve got dashing young men nodding in the back corner, a few keen beans in the front row taking Snapchats of the stage and even a few suits grabbing a beer before the main act take to the stage. There’s a good division of men and women, as well as a diverse age demographic, all cavorting together. Hip-hop doesn’t discriminate – just ask Winston Surfshirt, a 6 piece collective (5 piece on this night as one of their band-mates was overseas) of men who churn out West Coast hip-hop on Australian shores. The quintet of men wander on to the stage and take their places, forming a semi-circle with Winston in the centre. The crowd cheer as they start their hour-long musical debauchery fest.
Bik masterfully plays a customized pastel blue bass. Bustlip caresses his drum pad like a yoyo. The Bone takes a few solos, to blow the crowd away with his mellow trombone. Dool fiddles with the ivories, and Winston tries to keep his shirt on while singing about an imminent sexual encounter in their hit single ‘Ali D’. The success of their tracks might have something to do with all the recognition they’re raking in at the moment – Apple Music, Triple J, BBC Radio 1 … they’ve almost beat out Kendrick Lamar on amount of airplay!
A collaborative effort with Polographia went down a treat with the fans – ‘Sly’ has totaled more than 3 millions plays on Spotify. It’s juicy, viscous and fresh, like ripe strawberries on a sticky summers day. All the bodies in the audience bounced around to the spooky riffs and thundering wit bellowing from Winston. Their energy on stage and obvious passion behind their music was contagious – you could feel the adrenaline running through everyone in the room.
Winston Surfshirt have been cooking up these tunes for years now and this was one of the first times they’d been played to a live audience. For a band with not a lot of music released, they sell out every show around the country, and entice people to get naturally high with them every night – is this not the sign of a successful hip-hop band?
Smooth brass, saucy lyricism, sensual bass – it’s impossible to not feel seduced by this music. The quirky ex-Brit frontman thanked the audience for dancing to all the songs they played. As they are yet to release an album, the fans only have a few singles to fawn over until a record is dropped. But the lack of familiarity with their tracks didn’t bother anyone – we all danced on each other and threw our hands in the sky anyway.
Winston Surfshirt have tapped into a chemistry with one other that many bands only dream of.
It’s not the boring electro-soul that floods us these days. It’s not bland background music either. It’s the kind of music that demands your attention, to hear every lick and every note together in an orgasmic cacophony – it’s in your bones to praise this music. Listen to ‘Be About You’ and tell me you don’t adore their artistry. Everything oozes quality.
This is what chunky, lush hip-hop is supposed to be; all these misfits throwing around their bodies in a dark, dingy room to a pounding bass line and swift lyrics. If you weren’t there, you truly missed out. But luckily for you, Winston Surfshirt has one hell of a career in their future and you’ll have bountiful opportunities to revel in all their glory during a show near you.
Well done boys, we’ll be lusting over you until the next salacious show!