The millionaire philanthropist David Walsh not only gifted his hometown city of Hobart the spectacular Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) and numerous music and art installations and festivals including Dark Mofo, he also partnered with Melbourne’s Riverlee group, who bought a sizeable block of buildings in the central business district of Hobart and established a live music precinct – rescuing the grand Odeon Theatre from certain demolition and creating the open air space In the Hanging Garden and the smaller sized Altar, perfect for more intimate gigs. Run by DarkLab, the same fine folk responsible for Dark Mofo, the venue has an occasional night set aside just for up and coming local bands, fittingly called Homegrown, in conjunction with Big Sis Music Company.
Tonight’s bill saw three locals Godrich, Emi Emi and Tahi. Tahi is a band we have followed since the arrival of their multi-instrumental songwriter Leah Tahi Randall from Sydney recently, releasing two songs reviewed by Backseat Mafia, ‘Hartnett’ and ‘Hive Bee’. Tonight was Tahi’s debut perfomance with a new locally sourced line-up.
Opening act Godrich was a solo act – creating multi layered dance and pop from a bank of keyboards and computers while singing. His production skills were impressive – skills he later used to back up Emi Emi later in the evening.
Tahi’s set was an impressive debut for a band that has only been playing together for a few months. A few false starts, an awkward band introduction and just a hint of nervousness were minor blips in a band that steadily grew in confidence though the set.
Randall was an enigmatic presence – a veritable star in the making – displaying composure and grace, while her songs exhibited a maturity and strength. Two covers – the raucous ‘Bohemian Like You’ (The Dandy Warhols) and ‘As It Was’ (an anthemic pop song by some chap called Harry Styles – I must check him out) fitted in perfectly. It was, however, Randall’s original songs that indicate this is a band with a bright future.
The rhythm section provided a sound and expert platform for the songs and the band as a whole provided a dynamism and indie pop sheen that was effortlessly entertaining.
Emi Emi followed with another brilliant, entertaining set. Consisting solely of singer/songwriter Emi Emi, with Godrich back on stage providing the instrumentation and some singing, her set was like a mix of J-Pop/K-Pop with a Balearic flavour – a touch of thumping House and disco. Emi Emi sang almost exclusively (I think) in Japanese and even most of her in-between song banter was in Japanese and yet when she spoke in English her accent sounded Australian. It was like a blend of Hello Kitty and M83, and Emi Emi’s performance was intoxicating and fun, carefree and joyous.
Indeed, her performance befitted a vast stadium audience rather than the rather disappointedly empty Altar. I was reminded a little of performers like Benee, Lorde and Mallrat.