Hayden Calnin at The Northcote Social Club, 03/04/2014

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend Groovin’ the Moo, Hayden Calnin’s EP launch at The Northcote Social Club was the perfect substitute.

Saturday evening saw the first of two intimate gigs to launch Calnin’s highly anticipated second EP Oh, Hunter. The sold out show attracted a variety of people of all ages, all sharing a love for Calnin’s mellow tunes. For those yet to experience the magic of Hayden Calnin, his music can be described as folky and electronic, like the love child of Matt Corby and City and Colour. His debut EP ‘City’ even drew comparisons to the work of highly respected performers Bon Iver and James Blake.

As the room became filled with people, an air of relaxation became apparent. People made themselves at home, with many sitting cross-legged on the floor. Japanese Wallpaper heightened this sense of intimacy when he took to the stage. A solo act, Japanese Wallpaper stood alone on stage with a milk crate stack supporting his laptop and sampler. A humble and endearing artist at the tender age of seventeen, Japanese Wallpaper set the scene for a laidback atmosphere. Notable tracks included ‘Breathe In’ and his latest single ‘Waves’. If that set alone was anything to go by, he is definitely an artist to watch out for.

Japanese Wallpaper finished and the room continued to fill. By the time Eliza Hull and her band took the stage, everyone was standing in anticipation. The crowded room gave the impression of a sold out show and people chatted excitedly in between acts.

Despite some brief technical difficulties, Hull’s well-known soaring vocals were in prime condition during her set. Donning a black blazer with an impressive set of shoulder pads and a slick of glitter on each cheek, Hull had the audience captivated from beginning to end. Her cover of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ left the audience singing along theatrically to the Sinead O’Connor classic. By the time curtains closed on Hull’s set, people were well and truly ready for Hayden Calnin to take the stage and bring the night home.

After some brief line checks, the curtain was pulled away and Calnin made a very understated entrance. Standing alone on a stage, a drum kit on his left, 2 keyboards on his right and a portrait in the centre of a majestic stag, the stage was set.

Calnin began with wide, colorful and angelic guitar strums, setting the scene with the single ‘Overcrowded’. Drenched with intensity and emotion, Calnin mesmerized the audience into silence with just his voice, a guitar, and a subtle drum loop.

The first track to be played from Oh, Hunter was ‘Not Good For Me’. The emotionally charged song with carefully selected lyrics left listeners with a sense of reflection. Howling above a guitar lightly flirting with feedback, Calnin’s vocals truly dominated. The stripped back nature of his solo playing gave the audience an intense feeling of intimacy with Calnin and his music.

The band soon took to the stage, containing six members including Calnin. They brought with them feelings of anticipation as the audience bubbled excitedly for what was to come. ‘Coward’, another track from Oh, Hunter followed, and Calnin put down his guitar. Straight away the band found their place and demanded the audiences attention with soaring backing vocals to complement Calnin’s own efforts. A bed of dynamic and delicate drumming alongside sustained keyboard and electric guitar motifs built Calnin’s musical intention soulfully, filling the room with a new exhilaration as the crowd gathered closer to the stage.

‘Forever A Traveller’ proved to be one of the more intense and moving songs of the night. Easing into the track with another Calnin vocal feature, ‘Forever A Traveller’ built subtly but steadily until it erupted in a beautiful, melodic mix of powerful vocals, a progressive, rolling snare line and captivating lyrics. The Musicians on stage knew their place. Over playing could have easily taken over amongst the six, but a strong awareness of form, texture and rhythm presented a powerful and convincing wall of sound. The line ‘I’m forever a traveler, a hunter for stars’ was sung with absolute intensity and emotion. It was a mantra each person in the room wanted to take up for the rest of their lives. In an epic conclusion, the final line was sung strictly acapella with a warm, bright light directed at the crowd. This left Calnin as an angelic silhouette, creating a powerful ending that hung in the air as the audience erupted into applause.

The final track to be played from the Oh, Hunter EP was ‘Comatose’, which received recognition from the crowd after having had some recent play on triple j. Some audience members sung along and many more reveled in its signature Calnin pulse.

The last two tracks to be played both came from the City EP. ‘Shutters’ once again had the audience transfixed whilst ‘For My Help’ provided the perfect memory of Calnin’s soaring vocals as fans departed.

Overall, Calnin’s music had an immense amount of depth and emotion; it reaches out and soothes the soul. You could close your eyes and imagine yourself alone at the seaside or in a rainforest, care free. His banter between songs was brief but comfortable, displaying a down to earth and likeable personality. Intimacy was the word for the night and Calnin, with his bands support, executed it to perfection.