Ascending and sinking behind the premature hours of the night, Air Max ’97 slowly began his opening set with flamboyant and dilating sounds that stiffened as quickly as they were released. With the few bodies in the room huddling about on the back booths, the explosive sonic crashes were often met with empty responses as onlookers directed their vitality to the bar and their empty beverages. With an unlikely twist that would surprise and delight first-time listeners, Air Max ’97 was soon gyrating a liquid mix of classic ‘90s to early ‘00s R&B hits, including Nelly’s lyrically addictive 2002 single ‘Dilemma’. With a little Kelly Rowland simmering and warming up the space, onlookers and new arrivals were quick to impulsively circle their hips as Rowland rung out, “no matter what I do (ah), all I think about is you (ah)”.
Quick to slide into the liveliness and orchestrate her own future funk, Alice Ivy took her lead and swiftly absorbed onlookers into the capricious rhythm of her sound. Revitalising the space, Alice Ivy was frivolous as she bended back and forth, unifying samples and her own electric chords in singles ‘Paint Me Blue’ and ‘Mean Man’s Bite’. With a definite focus unafraid to conduct the stage, her set widened into an effervescent and robust state-of-the-art performance; directed and encouraged through plucky rhythms and strong, distinctive groove. If there’s anything about Alice Ivy that’s remarkable in the Melbourne music scene, it’s her soulful spin and influence that clearly drives her motivation as a performer and artist. While gleaning samples is a difficult task, Alice Ivy permits it to look effortless, permeating textures, personality and heat into every vibration.
Pandering under coloured lights as he shuffled across the far left of the stage, HTMLflowers promptly lunged out from behind the scenes with a fireball trajectory. Holding up a flimsy A4 piece of paper, his scribbled introduction #IDOWHATIWANT was an audacious distraction for onlookers, who, I must say, were initially bewildered by his grand stage presence. Spitting with a pitch higher than Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 in a stance icier than Death Grips, you could physically hear all eyes and necks click over in complete disorientation as HTMLflowers chuckled, crouched and conquered. “Welcome to Spice World”, he began as he unfolded another A4 poster, “I’m Baby Spice”. As #SPICEWORLD burned and crumbled from his blazing rhymes about Tumblr to Centerlink, HTMLflowers took a step back and reflected on his condition, inviting Banoffee onstage to assist him with a stripped back duet.
Welcoming each other with open arms, everybody in the room was beaming, the duo laughing and sidestepping as the sung sweetly, “I’ve got a crush on you and it feels so good”. This melody struck a particular nerve in the stranger not too far away from me as they went from zero to ten on the ‘emotional shawty’ scale, desperately swaying their jug and glass above their head amongst the crammed crowd. They gracelessly passed out on the floor soon after and of course, decided to nap in the doorway before being escorted to a safer place. With naps aside and Air Max ’97 supplying Fetty Wap’s ‘Trap Queen’, it took a stunted moment for individuals to settle in as Martha Brown warmly smiled and began adjusting her equipment.
Quietly commencing her set with soft, whirling synths and the moody downbeats of ‘Oceans’, Brown hushed the crowds with sharp, tawny notes reminiscent of a traditional wooden ruan. Circling in those around her, the crowd leaned in, absorbed in the delicate timbre of her voice as she sung, “gotta have you wondering why”. Hypnotised by her gliding synths, onlookers were quick to get moving as ‘Ohhhh Owwww’ shifted textures into a far more arduous and offbeat dancehall. Feverishly pressing up and down, Brown continued to move and direct fans across her impassioned work, effortlessly crossing sonic paths between the old, the new and the improvisational. Repeatedly empowering and possessive, her vocal warmth was often compacted against ferocious lyrics as she continued to embed her latest EP Do I Make You Nervous? into the Melbourne music scene.
Acknowledging his jetlag (and probably wanting him to be able to sleep as soon as possible), it wasn’t long before Banoffee invited longtime friend and collaborator Oscar Key Sung to the stage for an exceptional twist on ‘Reign Down’. With a minimal beat beckoning his verse, a heavy-eyed Oscar stepped to the stage and began circulating his much-loved falsetto; the crowd howling and cooing as their duet rose in crescendo. Taking the time to thank a close friend who changed her travel plans, Brown enlightened viewers about the story behind ‘Fall Fast’, explaining, “I don’t know how many people who have friends that do that”. With a few technical hitches that were quickly dismissed and fixed with a sigh of “fuck that”, the night continued to burn under her evaporated vocals and chic. In a gorgeous turn of events, ‘Body Suit’ and lead single ‘With Her’ were showcased with perfectly teamed choreography and back-up dancers, gliding the night into a celebration of electronic positivity, no matter how small or grand. And, even though this was a sold-out show of many, no individual felt out of touch as Banoffee’s personal love and passion encompassed all.