Walking into Howler on a friday night it was clear that this was going to be a classy affair. From the hanging wall plants to the on-display DJ booth in the entrance, and the sophisticated group of twenty-somethings sipping on craft beer and wine. The sight of Sui et Sui, the performance trio of local musician Sui Zhen (known otherwise as DJ Susan), met me upon entering the band room. Their set consisted of ambient vintage synthesizer sequences, shoe gazer guitar and beautiful harmonies made through instrumentation in place of backing vocals. Sui et Sui put on a brilliant musical performance, playing their psychedelic sounding electronica to a charmed audience. The groups’ outfits and stage presence were seriously on point and paired with their music nicely.
Up next were Melbourne-based live industrial techno force (pardon the pun) Forces. A hard hitting performance from the get go had people dancing and bopping from front to the back. Their basic live setup, a synthesizer and drum sequencer made room for Alexander Akers & Thomas Kernot to put on a captivating performance. The synchronized light show really enhanced their brand of industrial dark twisted disco. It was fantastic to see Singer Alex move around from behind his synthesizer and dance, something electronic musicians rarely get to do. Reminiscent of earlier music from The Presets, The Prodigy & Gary Numan, Forces were throughly entertaining.
A few drinks later, an excited crowd welcomed Geoffrey O’Connor and his band to the stage. He and his three-piece band opened with one of the more dance friendly numbers from his recent album Fan Fiction, ‘Another Time’; providing a great example of the sound his songwriting revolves around. Taking on the classic 80s frontman position, O’Connor seemed at ease and in his element, picking up his guitar only to perform some outrageously fabulous solos. The band he assembled were nothing but tight. The addition of a live drummer was nice, although most of the beats were programmed. Having someone there to trigger the sequences made the performance feel more organic and less of a laptop-orientated show.
Highlights of the show included ‘Jacqueline’ & ‘Have Your Way’ as well as ‘Her Name On Every Tongue’; dedicated to “The most beautiful woman in the world, my mother” tells O’Connor. It was remarkable how similar the songs sounded to the master-track recording in a live setting. Everything sounded balanced, and there was a perfect mix of every instrument. It’s testament to his musical talent that he can so accurately translate his self recorded/produced music to the stage. The whole performance was set to some brilliant visuals set behind the band. Futuristic yet dated, and with tinges of purple on the screen behind the band throughout the show; it became apparent that O’Connor takes his aesthetic seriously. Closing with ‘Whatever Leads Me To You’; a song from his debut Vanity Is Forever he left the crowd in a great mood.
Geoffrey O’Connor is a true born performer. Quirky dancing and hand movements add to his incomparable stage presence and flamboyant charisma. His live band were fantastic; and did a shit hot job at recreating the music so accurately. But most importantly, the songs Geoffrey wrote and performed were deserving of the sizable audience’s undivided attention. Throwing back to the New-Wave Australian pop sound, he uses sophisticated yet interesting sounds and arrangements leaving you wanting more.