By Eisha Karageorgiou & Jasmine Bortolin
Last night marked SXSW’s third night of diverse music performances out of its four-day run.
The grassroots Texas-born festival made its Sydney debut this year, hosting a variety of creators, artists and innovators inspired by Sydney’s thriving creative community.
The night began at the Hollywood Hotel, the cult Art Deco Surry Hills pub. Although small, the venue provided an intimate experience for music-goers, that is up-close, personal, and pretty unusual. Shrouded in fog from the artificial smoke machines, the Hollywood presented reggae artist, Gold Fang.
Gold Fang captivated the room with his distinctive reggae & hip-hop infused sound. Sharing anecdotes from his childhood in Trinidad, he attributed his sound to the influence of his father who was a member of Un Tabu, one of Australia’s most renowned Reggae acts.
Pointing out his sister in the crowd, he thanked the portion of family and friends that showed up to support him. Performing songs such as Remedy and Keep Dem, his catchy beats got the crowd moving. Given the charismatic nature of Gold Fang, we couldn’t help but feel as if a larger venue would’ve been a more fitting choice instead of the corner of a small pub.
The festival which started on the 15th and concludes tomorrow night, combines music, tech, gaming, film, and conferences.
The second act of the night saw a shift in venue to Chippendale’s own, The Barrie. Here, the venue played host to emerging artists Yb. and Hanbee.
Supported by an ensemble of two guitarists and a groovy keyboard player, Yb. delivered an enjoyable set. Paying homage to a recent big name in the alt-rock genre, Yb. performed his own rendition of Wet Leg’s Your Mum, inviting music-goers to engage in an upbeat sing-a-long.
His music is heavily shaped by his experiences as a black man, evident in his performance of his song Blackphemy which sheds light on systemic racism in Australia. While Yb.’s set was short, it attracted a reasonably-sized crowd who seemed to enjoy themselves.
Following this set, Hanbee took to the stage. Accompanied by a rhythm guitarist, Hanbee’s style is melodic, soft and whimsical but failed to resonate with the dwindling audience.
For those who remained, Hanbee played her hit single, Strawberry that showcased her lyricism and tender tone.
She paid tribute to her origins by blending her New Zealand heritage with her Korean background, evident in her track KawaKawa which is named after a New Zealand native plant.
Although Hanbee gave a decent vocal performance, it was not enough to hold the crowds attention, leading us to move on to the next venue early.
Punk icons These New South Whales closed the night in the grungy basement of the infamous Chippo Hotel. The energy in the room was electric, as sweaty punters moshed in this intimate venue, which was bursting at the seams. Hailing from Newcastle, their punk-rock roots were on display as frontman Jamie Timony commanded the crowd from the front of the stage as he belted out favourites such as Cholesterol Heart (God Bless Ya).
Establishing themselves as the most exciting act of the night, These New South Whales performed Changes which saw various punters launching into the crowd, carried away in a sea of arms as they crowd-surfed. You couldn’t help but want to join in as Todd Andrews brought the house down with his punchy guitar riffs.
It was dynamic, it was grimy and it was loud in the best possible way – It’s easy to see why These New South Whales are affectionately known as Australian Punk Royalty.
For its first kickoff, SXSW Sydney showed promise, but it felt as if something was lacking. Long walks between venues, confusing schedules and small crowds meant the highly anticipated event didn’t always live up to the hype. Whether it’s worth $300 is another story.
Images by Eisha Karageorgiou and Jasmine Bortolin.