It’s hard work to organise, promote, and perform your own event. I’m always impressed by the energy and courage young musicians have in this town to get up on stage and strut their stuff.
Grace Sanders launched the video for her track I Can’t Win to a friendly crowd of supporters and collaborators. The evening itself was a wonderful education on how to develop as a young musician in Perth. My takeaway: each act is on the cusp of achieving the next level of notoriety and acceptance for their art.
Here’s my breakdown of the evening.
Tanaya Harper, queen of the downstroke, was strapped to a magnificent, blue Fender Telecaster. Harper – a lone figure on the large stage and bathed in pink and purple lights – flipped through her brooding and soothing song book. She is a relaxed performer. I particularly enjoyed her track La La, a subtle and passive-aggressive rant about friction between friends at a party. It takes a big gulp of bravery to accept the opening slot at a gig. This is a necessary ‘cut-your-teeth’ moment; the unvarnished attention of an audience (usually a handful of people) committed to an opening act helps new musicians to build stamina. Tanaya embraces the honest and hard work of marching toward better time slots. It will come, but for that to happen, Harper needs to differentiate her sound a little further to stand out from the sea of similar guitar-driven performers popping up due to the sensational rise of Stella Donnelly.
Jamilla took to the decks from stage right after each set. Unfortunately, the sound check for successive acts drowned out any chance for the crowd to enjoy her upbeat playlists.
Kallan Phillips dredged up a lot of different reactions for me, so I’m going to unpack how I felt as I watched and listened. For starters, the group is an incredible ensemble of very technical and skilled musicians. You’ve got duelling keys and a full percussion setup between the drummer and conga player. These folks know their music and have clearly explored the world of sound – the band’s premise is essentially a sandwich layered in AM jazz, jam bands, and funk. Then Kallan Phillips (the group’s lead guitarist and vocalist namesake) dives in and shows-off his prowess for smashing out a guitar solo, taking short breaks to skip and hop into an inaudible mumble of lyrics. The performance felt more like a recital centered around Kallan. I believe the group’s full potential will be unleashed when they break free of designing live sets centered around showboating technical ability.
Noah Dillon’s face peered out through his frizzy mop-top and leaned into the microphone. I’ve been eager to see Noah play live for a while – he’s just dropped a single (You Did It To Yourself) and is picking up some local momentum. Dillon’s slow numbers are for swaying and reflection. The upbeat tunes are where Noah really shines, even if the subject matter is particularly heart wrenching. Admittedly, Noah’s hard sound was a mismatch for the lineup of largely warmer sounding performers.
Grace Sanders, who has shorn her long dark locks, bounded onto the stage. Sanders is now sporting a neat pixie look, with large hoop earrings. She towers. She is playful. Many of the supporting acts from the evening congregate onstage as her backing band – the group is polished and practiced. What’s visible is how much fun Grace is having on stage. Sanders is strongest when belting out soulful numbers. What impresses me about Grace is her promotional savvy; she understands the relationship between image and sound to propel her performance (live or on video) deep into the minds of her audience. She’s also curated her set to be a retrospective of the many videos she has released over the past year.
Her productive output – and the growth in each video – is phenomenal. It’s also a chance for Grace to heap praise on the many young creatives in Perth who are helping to stack up her potential for the big time. Grace is determined to reach a bigger audience. Her cunning and intentional approach to performing – slick music videos, radio-ready songs – will be a force to reckon with in the near future. Grace has mastered what’s on the surface to succeed in pop music. Now I’m eager to see how her songwriting journey will reveal new depths and perspectives of her world-view.
Photos by Louise Coghill