Live Review: TOWNS, Waywards, Sydney, 21.05.22

King Street in Newtown was flourishing with mixed levels of excitement and edginess. At the heart of it, next to the station and that nightmare of a junction, a newly label signed Adelaidean duo called TOWNS were coordinating their night in a flurry of meet and greets well overdue. My night started off in rather heretical fashion, with whatever exists above us deciding I needed a second shower as I walked from St Peters to the venue, adamant I didn’t need to spend money on an Uber that night, before finding out my name was not in fact on the door yet. Stuck outside and contemplating my situation, Sebastian James (Haliday / ex-Pinkish Blu), who was tour manager for the night, appeared out of thin air to save my arse and get me in the venue with little questions asked.

The interior of Waywards greeted me with a thick layer of haze and humming energy, with the demographic very much looking like a blend of coastal frothers and industry observers. Doing my rounds of reuniting with people I only see every six months or so at these kinds of shows, Debbies took to the stage to commence the night’s proceedings. Having listened to their songs throughout a turbulent two years, seeing their live show for the first time was a beautiful sight, as if it was a reward for making it through the fog. Their set was a flash of dynamism and idyllic connection, as the onlooking crowd sang along and danced to each familiar song after the next.

Hallie stunned me when supporting The Buoys back in March and managed to one-up themselves in a more intimate setting. With stunning enactment and vocals that demanded your undivided attention, Hallie took control of the room and left multiple jaws on the floor with sheer prowess and ubiquity. Each member of her band shined their respective light on what was truthfully a mesmerising display of indie pop perfection, turning up the heat for our beloved headline act.

The final changeover for the night sparked smoking balcony conversations about the elephant in the room – the federal election. Anxiety turned to jubilation and further exhilaration as everyone piled inside to see Aston and Dan work their magic with their set opener ‘98’, fittingly feeling like the intro to a TV show and simultaneously a “welcome home” movement. It didn’t take long for the band to start getting political, addressing the crowd to give them live updates where possible, and even starting a comical chant during ‘Swimming’ – “WHEN I SAY FUCK, YOU SAY SCOMO!”

After acknowledging a fan’s birthday and having them up on stage for a choir recital, ‘Stardust’ propelled the duo into third gear with Dan’s eccentric drumming taking a rightful share of the spotlight, and Aston’s liveliness multiplying their chemistry, as they stretched for high intensity with ‘Boring’ before bringing it back down with ‘Bleach’. Midway through their set they performed their new single ‘Season 5 (Break My Fall)’ in celebration of recently signing to Farmer And The Owl, with Dan joking there was a fake TOWNS who tried to steal their song on DSPs.

I think everyone in the room was caught off guard when they burst into a memorable cover of ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth, which had to be the most fitting song to play right as Labor were projected winners of the election and Albo was announced prime minister. Sure enough, one fan showed Aston the headline on his phone, which he read out for everyone to receive cheers of relief and celebration. Sebastian came up to relief Aston of guitar duties, and Dan took centre stage for an ode to friendship as they crowdsurfed with mic in hand, quite literaly on top of the world.

A sentimental rendition of ‘Sun’ diluted the drive, giving the lively crowd some time to breath before an emotional singalong to their renowned classic ‘I Don’t Mind’, a song worth hearing an entire crowd know all the lyrics to, and witness a picturesque extended outro with both band members giving everything they had left in the tank. Finally we reached their set closer, ‘Safe To Stay’, getting the crowd to participate in a seated bridge. Looking around the room, it was clear everyone knew the drill from either a past show or from the band’s Instagram stories, and everyone shot upwards in unison for the final chorus, coming together as an adoring community.

Not only is Aston the only guitarist I’ve seen successfully pull of spins with a lead plugged in, he hadn’t even taken off his strap before the crowd began chanting “ONE MORE SONG”, to which they obliged and gave the crowd the option of The Killers or Fall Out Boy. The latter won, and the night ended with a sugar sweet cover of ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’.

There isn’t a person I know that doesn’t love TOWNS, and how could you not love them? Two highly dedicated friends pouring their life experiences and expertise in catchy, memorable tunes that catch on to your corduroy or denim like spilt drinks or vape smoke, following you to kick ons or the longer than average bus ride home because Sydney trains decided not to operate after midnight. TOWNS shows are not only a display of impressive musicianship, they’re also a safe place to express yourself and make friends either in the crowd, the bathroom, or on your ride out of Newtown. A lovely interaction with a fellow fan enhanced my journey to Central station, as my crowded heart fuelled by good music and memories enabled me to finally relieve the tension of the night, and celebrate both the election results and a vividly magnificent return for one of Australia’s dearest acts.

Check out our review of the band’s recent single ‘Season 5 (Break My Fall)’ here.

Previous Premiere: The Shrugs exude an insouciant pop fuzz blast with a serious message in their thundering 'Shoebox', and announce a launch date for the single.
Next EP: Fudge - The Town Hall Session EP

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