What could be more awkward than walking into the live room of Newtown Social Club at 9pm on a Saturday night, with a DJ pumping out some of the most soulful old school hip hop and rap joints from the last two decades, and finding everyone sitting against the walls looking a little apprehensive?
Probably a few things. But hey, we live in the moment. And right now, this moment is stilted and strange.
Oh how much things change within a short 30 mins.
Praise be to those brave souls that have no qualms about strutting into the centre of an empty floor and starting up a true boogie. Tonight’s opening DJ Luen flashes them a thankful smile and continues spinning the likes of Nas and Destiny’s Child remixes to a jubilant dance posse.
As the main support, it’s a little bit confusing as to why Sydney’s own Thandi Phoenix was chosen for tonight’s proceedings.
Her stage presence? Awesome.
Her voice? Powerful.
Her sound? Far too big for such a small room.
Having seen her only 3 weeks prior at the Enmore Theatre supporting Jhene Aiko, it seemed as if that was a better setting to let her electronic soul-pop soar and reach out to its hearts content. But tonight it all just sounds like a bit of a booming blur.
But Thandi puts her whole heart into every song, whether it be the chopped up beats and samples of lead single Come Around or the emotion-filled piano-driven ballad of Hold On (which she plays while looking like she will burst into tears at any moment), her music feels genuine while sounding like the slightly more intricate end of the top 40 spectrum. The beauty of her craft is that she knows how to build up her music. Nowhere is it more apparent than in Tell Me Where The Lovers Have Gone, with its piano-led intro increasing into sparse, low rumbles of bass, to a crashing drum and bass style beat that comes in from the live drum kit. Closing track Oh My My is the most dance worthy, taking influence from her time in South Africa and thus holding a distinct African percussion breakdown and a real tropical sound simultaneously. If she doesn’t break out of these small time gigs soon, it will be yet another thing to add to the list of things that are wrong with today’s music industry.
But for an example of what is right, look no further than Brisbane-resident Wafia. Not only does her voice emit a gorgeous tone, soaring perfectly across the detailed electronic layering in her music, her demeanour is completely elated. You could not wipe the smile from her face, as she thanks all in attendance for their support and loud cheers with an unforced graciousness.
Having only a 6-track EP and two collaborative tracks to her name, she fills her hour long set with mostly unreleased numbers, some so fresh they haven’t even been named yet. A recipe for disaster to many, though the crowd tonight laps up every rumbling beat and every electrical glitch with mirth.
Standouts include New Zealander Thomston joining Wafia on stage for their duet Window Seat, as well as remaining for a fantastic electronic-fuelled cover of Lost from Frank Ocean’s catalogue. But of course, the real drawcard is Wafia’s leading single Heartburn that induces the first sing along of the night, with those high-pitched vocal samples and flowing synth work.
Closing the set with yet another cover, this time of Mario’s early 2000’s classic Let Me Love You, Wafia’s peak is definitely yet to come.