Richmond’s Corner Hotel played host to the second and final concert in the inaugural ELECTRIC LADY band night; a new initiative launched by the exceedingly talented musician and entrepreneur Holly Rankin, better known by her band alias Jack River. Presented by triple j and The Hopeless Utopian – Rankin’s own Sydney-based creative agency – the event was branded as “an all-girl electric show”, and it certainly lived up to and exceeded any expectations one might have held. The concert was created to help balance the scales by way of the usual gender ratio seen throughout most of the line-ups at music festivals worldwide, while also recognising the achievements of some of the supremely gifted women in the Australian music industry. Perhaps most importantly, however, it was a night to inspire other young females to pursue their stereotypically atypical dreams – musical or otherwise.
“The last year in music, politics and culture made me realise the time is now for this idea,” Rankin said in an interview with triple j earlier this year. “Girls are ready to amplify their talent alongside each other, and the world is ready for diversity in female role models.”
Following thunderous supporting sets from Sydney locals RACKETT and Body Type, it was Melbourne’s own indie-pop sensation Gretta Ray who kicked off the night’s headline acts, opening with her stand-alone 2016 single ‘Unwind’ to raucous applause from the packed venue. Debuting new songs alongside her latest single ‘Towers’, the young singer-songwriter, who last year took out triple j’s Unearthed High contest, closed her set with her blissfully charming single ‘Drive’.
There could not have been a greater contrast between the natural graces of Gretta Ray than with the night’s next act and the maladroit, marionette movements of the “on fleek” rock chick Bec Sandridge, who offered up a fearless routine and played to a much heavier sound than most of her studio recordings. Her faultless, captivating performance, combined with her unique, lovable style and slightly kooky stage presence were capitalised with her entertaining track ‘You’re a Fucking Joke’ with its vaudeville, almost comedic tones as she pranced awkwardly about the stage.
Not to be outdone was the night’s founder Holly Rankin; the multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, producer and now mother to the brainchild that is ELECTRIC LADY. After taking to the stage and launching into hits including ‘Talk Like That’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’ Jack River arguably stole the spotlight in competition for the most memorable performance of the night, with a nostalgic cover of Tal Bachman’s 1999 hit ‘She’s So High’. The entire audience was in raptures as they sung along (“like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite…”); the lyrics of the almost 20-year-old track effortlessly exhumed from within the subconscious of all in attendance.
Alex Lahey had it all to do up next as one of the night’s most anticipated acts, and she too refused to disappoint. Between tracks like ‘Everyday’s a Weekend’ and ‘I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself’, before closing with the bombastic ‘Let’s Go Out’, Lahey’s unassuming approach to music, style and songwriting, along with her unforced, no-frills performances continues to draw significant parallels with that of Australia’s own Courtney Barnett; hallowed footsteps for any artist to wish to follow in.
Closing the show was the night’s comparative musical veteran in Ali Barter, who now with her recent full-length debut ‘A Suitable Girl’, proved why she was left the tough task of closing the show. Her revamped rendition of 2015 hit ‘Run You Down’ followed straight into last year’s ‘Far Away’, and she needed every minute of her allotted time slot to cram as many of her hits into her set as possible, including her latest single ‘Please Stay’. The popular track was succeeded by ‘Hypercolour’ ‘Cigarette’ and ‘Girlie Bits’; her powerful, soaring vocals often uncharacteristically drowned out by the euphoric crowd.
As the curtain finally closed on the stage, drawing an undesirable end to the show’s proceedings, and as the crowd chanted desperately for an encore performance that was not to come, it was immediately apparent what an overwhelming success the night had been.
It truly was a delightful celebration of empowering women – and not only for those who graced the audience with their respective spectacular performances. The night is one that should doubtless continue to be featured as an integral part of Australia’s annual festival calendar, as its reach and inspirational significance can only continue to grow larger from here.
Above all, however, this undeniable triumph should help to ascertain true gender equality throughout not just all music festivals, but as a conscious attitude to be incorporated right through life – and for such celebrations of the female gender not be seen as an anomaly.