Words by Eden Campbell.
Photos by Jamie Shelton – Soulfa Creative.
2018 was a big year for He Danced Ivy. The Brisbane four piece released their second E.P, ‘Optimistic Cynic’, which boasted four new singles and music videos. In addition to landing airplay on both Triple J and Unearthed, the boys are about to get their first east coast tour underway.
On the 4th May, Good Call Live went along to He Danced Ivy’s single launch for their track Cutting It Fine, which also marked the first leg of their anticipated tour. With supporting acts, Inovo, The Stranger, and Ebonivory setting the standard for an evening of soaring partyprog-rock fusion.
Inovo strikes me as a broody amalgamation of Tool, Pearl Jam and Karnivool. Their production is smooth, their live performance was seamless and unapologetically raw. The Brisbane based three piece is very narrative driven in their composition and lyricism – painting a dark, droney, and refreshingly dreamy soundscape that lets the audience fully immerse themselves in to the listening experience.
The Stranger is a rolling blend of traditional metal with the tight melodic runs of a contemporary progressive metal band. Theatrical vocals soar above technical guitar work to create a constantly shifting melodic expanse. From huge choruses to immense breakdown sections, The Stranger’s live performance was a testament to the time they’ve invested into delivering an audience pleasing set.
Ebonivory’s recorded music is a tight, seething mass of riffs and vocal hooks that is reinforced by a constantly shifting rhythmic backbone. From expansive dreamscapes to soaring choruses, Ebonivory runs the gamut from dark verses to uplifting choruses, very reminiscent of Canadian rockers Protest The Hero. Ebonivory live up to (and exceed) their recorded works with a tight, consistent live show that provides a healthy dose of energy with the traditional prog meticulousness that audiences have come to expect.
Ballarat locals, Ebonivory finished up their hard-hitting opening set. The stage cut to black. Only if for a moment, an air of suspense hung thick in the air. What are the He Danced Ivy boys up to now? In the past, we’ve seen megaphones used as props, cardboard cut outs of middle fingers peppered throughout their set, and bassist, Mitch, toting a charming cape and dress combo…Suddenly, the Star Wars theme came blaring through the speakers taking everyone, including myself, by surprise. In something that I’d like to coin as true “Ivy-style”, the boys payed tribute to “May-the-fourth-be-with-you”, aka Star Wars day, aka the 4th of May.
There was a buzz in the air. Everyone seemed to feel it as the audience simultaneously flocked to the front of the stage in anticipation for He Danced Ivy to start chugging away. As the lights went up and Ivy began to play the biggest hit from their first album, ‘The Verbal Kind,’ the venue seemed to be at almost full capacity. The crowd feverishly jumped about, shoulder to shoulder, like a tin of tightly packed sardines.
The band continued on with the first single from their sophomore EP ‘Optimistic Cynic,’ Guillotines – A crowd favourite that landed the boys their first rotation on Triple J unearthed.
The apex of tonight’s set was undoubtedly marked by Cutting It Fine, the fourth and final release from the band’s latest EP Front man, Dave, introduced the song with a Mercury-esque game of call and response with the audience. Tensions were high, but they were only going to get higher as we reached Cutting It Fine’s breakdown. The band willed the entire crowd to crouch down on the floor at their beckoned call. As the audience hovered low to the ground for somewhere over a minute, at David’s exclamation – “1, 2, 3 EVERYBODY JUMP!”, the sea of prog-heads shot up to their feet and began to head bang their little hearts out.
The set carried on with varying degrees of playfulness and theatrics between band members, and an unwavering sense of audience engagement. Lead guitarist, Sean, played a soft and sultry interlude, providing some melodically dynamic downtime before leading in to The Singing Tree – The heaviest track on ‘Optimistic Cynic’. This song boasts more outright prog characteristics, with sections upon sections – a polished and controlled chaos that the He Danced Ivy boys execute beautifully. Drummer, Josh’s eccentric energy resonates all the way from the back of the stage as he flawlessly drives each passing song home, and Mitch on the bass effortlessly plugs away, and charms the audience in between songs. At the centre of this powerhouse are Sean and David’s totally unique and complementary tenor vocals that never cease to get the goosebumps flowing.
As the set was at its tail end, Dave launched himself in to the crowd for a little ride around the room – the audience were more than happy to oblige. In return, all they wanted was “ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG!” – of course, the band were more than happy to oblige: A symbiotic relationship from start to finish.
Catch He Danced Ivy on the rest of their East Coast tour.
Coffs Harbour on May 10th (Coffs Hotel),
Bellingen on May 11th (5 Church Street),
Port Macquarie on May 18th (The Lounge Room),
Toowoomba May 24th (The Spotted Cow),
Melbourne on June 21st (Stay Gold)
Sydney May 17th (Hideaway Bar)