With Vivid Live bursting to life this month, there is no shortage of quality gigs to check out, whatever your musical tastes.
Among the crop of great local acts is newcomer Miiesha Young, while English space-rockers Spiritualized lead the charge of overseas acts now flooding back to Australia.
And a special mention must go to Ben Lee, who is back with new music.
Here are Herald music critic George Palathingal’s five standout gigs for June.
Vivid Live continues to show off the less-heralded gems in its line-up with Miiesha Young, an extraordinary talent from Woorabinda, Queensland, who has been acknowledged as such by the voting bodies at the National Indigenous Music Awards, the ARIAs and the Australian Music Prize, among others, over the past couple of years.
This has largely been down to the professionally mononymous singer’s enthralling debut album from 2020, Nyaaringu, which revealed a rich, often powerful insight into the Indigenous Australian experience through Miiesha’s own warmly soulful songs, as well as through pearls of wisdom recounted by her late grandmother along the way.
Miiesha will be lighting up the Utzon Room of the Opera House, an intimate space that will also host the terrific Sydney girl-band the Buoys (see what they did there with their name? ) on June 1, inspirational Camp Cope singer Georgia Maq (two solo shows on June 4) and cult Kiwi stars Tiny Ruins (two shows on June 5).
Talking of under-the-radar Vivid Live highlights, Mystics is an audiovisual collaboration between three Sydney talents.
Jono Ma cut his teeth in the wonderful indie outfits Lost Valentinos and Jagwar Ma before getting to work on the score for films including Animal Kingdom. More recently he has been producing music with Flight Facilities and Jamie xx.
Ma’s fellow multi-instrumentalist Jonti Danilewitz is a veteran of Vivid Live – he did such a good job re-creating the Avalanches’ Since I Left You album for the 2014 festival (something even the collective themselves couldn’t do) that two years later he was invited to join the Avalanches’ live band.
Ma and Danilewitz will provide the vintage synth sounds to a celebration of iconic ’80s movies and scores (think Blade Runner, The Terminator and the like) called Teenage Wasteland, while the third collaborator in Mystics, Pat Santamaria – whose company Babekuhl has worked with Sam Smith and Justin Bieber, among other big names – brings spectacular visuals including film footage, bespoke animation and more. There’ll be lasers and an extravagant light show too. To say I can’t wait doesn’t quite cover it.
Given his penchant for, um, chemical experimentation, you might be surprised to hear Spiritualized main man Jason Pierce is still alive, let alone still touring.
Apparently unsatisfied with having made the best drugs reference ever (with 2003’s Crystals-subverting She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)), the Brit space-rock adventurer is still at it, albeit with a bit less wit and subtlety, if the title of Spiritualized’s recent single The Mainline Song is anything to go by.
Musically, mercifully, Pierce and his friends remain very much up to the task: The Mainline Song and its parent album, Everything Was Beautiful, continue the band’s epic forays into psychedelic gospel, dreamy folk and other hypnotic grooves.
You’ll get plenty of pleasure revisiting the Spiritualized archives in advance of this show, but I’d suggest delving even further back while you do so, into Pierce’s previous band, Spacemen 3. Their Revolution still sounds incredible.
It’s a little more than 10 years since erudite Sydneysiders the Jezabels released their glorious and suitably awarded debut album Prisoner, but stupid COVID meant they couldn’t celebrate that anniversary last year.
And so we technically celebrate the 11th anniversary, with the band reuniting after a five-year hiatus to play the album in its entirety, from the building, widescreen rock of the opening title track through the sweeping rush of Endless Summer, the downbeat piano drama of Piece of Mind and beyond.
It seems an early Jezabels favourite, Hurt Me, from 2009’s She’s So Hard EP, also appears as a bonus track on some versions of Prisoner, so they have an excuse to play that – although it’s reasonable to expect a smattering of beloved non-Prisoner tunes anyway. But watching the octopus-armed Nik Kaloper drum through Hurt Me especially is always a sight to behold.
June 23, Oxford Art Factory
One of the nicer surprises during the brief windows between lockdowns in the past couple of years was the return to his hometown stage of Ben Lee, the schoolboy prodigy who grew up to be something of an international success story.
He had a novel way of approaching his – using old-school cassettes to provide the backing tracks while he played his acoustic guitar and sang along to some of his truly great indie-ish pop songs onstage – and exuded a charm that suggested he’s very much at peace with himself and his quieter family life.
That said, Lee is still being creative, with coming album I’m Fun! sure to get previewed on this tour. And that’s not to mention – like every person and their dog – he has started doing a podcast (with his wife, the actor and filmmaker Ione Skye) wackily titled Weirder Together, which he’s launching at a separate event on June 29 at Cafe Fredas in Darlinghurst.
See? Ben Lee is fun.
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