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At First Sight 2015 @ Carriageworks – The Brag

November 17, 2015

By Augustus Welby

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Though not exactly a big name, given they’d flown all the way from Greece for the 2015 edition of At First Sight, you might’ve expected Acid Baby Jesus to perform later in the day. However, just after lunchtime the Athens four-piece arrived, bringing colourful swirls of Nuggets-esque psych to the impressive Bay 17 main stage.

Nicholas Allbrook’s solo project has hitherto involved the Pond frontman going it alone. But today he was joined by a four-piece band (including Pikelet’s Evelyn Morris on electric organ) to premiere material from an LP recorded with this group of musicians. At moments it was more explosive than Pond, with hints of The Bad Seeds at their masculine heaviest, leaving behind a curious hunger for Allbrook’s sophomore effort. However, it was slightly disappointing to see him abandon the solo set-up, which works so well to amplify his idiosyncrasies.

No Zu are the perfect festival act. The Melbourne collective’s conflation of disco-funk, African percussion, hypnotising dual vocals and Mediterranean horn-playing injected a heavy dose of adrenaline into the responsive Carriageworks audience. The highly active seven-piece succeed at making accessible music that gives people more than just an increased heart rate to take away with them.

Brisbane’s Blank Realm ambled onstage looking like a bunch of regular scruffs, but delivered a set of blissful indie rock, sounding like a jacked-up Smiths or a less austere Television. Taking songs from this year’s Illegals In Heaven and 2014’s exercise in excellence Grassed Inn, Blank Realm demonstrated their ability to make a lot happen – sonically and emotively – with a limited number of digits.

Broadway Sounds are a cheery bunch, but something was amiss (perhaps a sense of sincerity), which prevented their groove-heavy trip from taking hold. However, they did cover Yoko Ono, so big applause for that.

A testament to the crowd’s embrace of the festival program was the strong turnout for My Disco. While a lot of the earlier acts were fairly easy to digest, My Disco circa 2015 are certainly not easygoing. Severe is their latest album, and it’s an apt descriptor for the psychic demeanour of this performance. Another word comes to mind to sum up the set of rhythmically precise, sinister meditations played in complete darkness, accompanied by projections of a fornicating geometric object – and that’s brilliant.

Oscar Key Sung runs a one-man live show, and his songs are actually quite introspective. But he’s got the gift of stage presence. It’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what that requires – it’s not as simple as flamboyantly moving around – but Key Sung effortlessly charmed with his glitchy yet intimate R&B. A special treat saw three Amrita dancers join him for his ultimate number ‘All I Could Do’.

Total Giovanni are essentially a live band, but they utilise electronically triggered drums and various other laptop-cued sounds, facilitating the biggest dance party of the day.

On a lineup heavy with Melbourne acts, it was nice to see Sydney’s Donny Benet take charge of the grand finale. Benet and his technically flawless Show Band were here to present the songs of Nile Rodgers, and gained vocal assistance from several of the aforementioned artists. Highlights included No Zu’s Becky Sui Zhen owning the spotlight for Sister Sledge’s ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ and Key Sung strutting a relatively extroverted side on Carly Simon’s ‘Why’.

As always, Benet was a beacon of positivity, and while this set felt less vital than much of what came earlier, it ensured everyone exited Carriageworks wearing a smile.

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