Northcote Social Club
Sydneysider Oscar Lush opens the evening with a small guitar, large beard, tight jeans and an expression that instantly reminds you the comedy festival is over. Musically, however Lush is a far from simplistic categorization. Openers Started A War and Vanishing Point immediately set him apart as a singer/songwriter, with his resonant and expressive voice, evocative lyrics and deft guitar playing. Channeling Phil Ochs and Jackson C Frank, but probably a bigger fan of The National, Lush is a revelation who seems excitingly out of place in 2013. Songs jerk along with slashing strums and a voice made for filling big, old rooms and fire-lit shacks. I Dreamed of My Brother Dying, a song he apparently finished today, is breathtaking in its lyrical acuity, marking him as a major discovery.
Spender is a tight punchy three piece specialising in a curiously catchy take on math-rock and charisma to spare. Despite a reliance on pre-programmed elements detracting from their live impact, a fascinating mix of genres holds attention, even without the dry, geeky humor of main-man Tommy Spender. Songs like Hotel Home and Magic Man have the audience onside in moments, so that when the saxophone comes out for jazz funk freak out of closer Never Again, everyone is smiling.
With the ‘sold out’ sign on the door long before she arrives on stage, Ainslie Wills instantly shows how this success has found her. Launching her second album You Go Your Way I’ll Go Mine yet writing and performing like a it’s her tenth, Wills and the brilliant band she has assembled manage to fit so much space and charged atmosphere into her songs they seem light years ahead of their contemporaries. One of the most obvious weapons in their arsenal against blandness is the fluid, imaginative work from guitarist and co-writer Lawrence Folvig, masterful in his balance of effects and melodies. Album highlights Mary and Lemon Japan showcase her jaw-droppingly expressive voice and the imaginative confidence of her arrangements to showcase it. Natalie Lewis’s invaluable harmonies are equally stunning during the room silencing build and release of Liquid Paper with its Yorke-esque swoops of melodies and lingering tension. Current single Fighting Kind is a crowd-rousing burst of twisting brilliance with calls to play it again coming as soon as it ends. Closing This is What I Write is skin-prickling in its beauty and with a delicate encore of Radiohead's Nude, closes one of the shows of the year.