Words by Natalie Blacklock.
Photos by Luke Sangiogio.
Full gallery HERE.
After some time away from prolific touring, combined with work on other projects including an appearance on the ABC Kids TV Show, Bluey as the voice of Calypso, Bluey‘s school teacher, Megan Washington is back in music mode. Performing mononymously as Washington, she is back in her hometown of Brisbane to celebrate her new single Dirty Churches as part of a short blitz along the East Coast presented by Positive Feedback. The follow-up to recent singles Claws and American Spirit (both of which have been recently reworked by Japanese Wallpaper and Julian Hamilton from The Presets respectively), Dirty Churches is a darkly toned yet poppy hymn to the imperfection, clash and surrender of a relationship.
The Foundry, one of the staple venues of Brisbane’s live music scene, played host on a rainy and cold Brisbane night. Located upstairs from The Elephant Hotel, the venue features an intimate 350 capacity live band room, bar, pool table and outdoor areas looking out onto the bustling Wickham Street or into The Elephant Hotel Beergarden.
First up is Vladik,the solo project for Vlada Edirippulige, bass player from Brisbane sweethearts Major Leagues and owner of Junky Comics. The Russian born, Sri Lankan raised artist has gone out on her own, writing sleepy dream-pop in her home town of Brisbane; with this performance marking her fourth ever show. Her breakout first single, Sleep, a downtempo soul track,recorded at The Plutonium in Brisbane by Peter Bernoth, mixed by LA-based Brisbanite Miro Mackie and mastered by Sydney multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan Boulet. After kicking off her set with two as-yet unreleased tracks, Vladik prefaced the remainder of her performance by saying “all my songs are really depressing”. She jumped into two covers; How The Heart Will Know – the last track on her band Major Leagues 2017 album ‘Good Love’ followed by Swedish singer-songwriter Snoh Aalegra’s Fool For You, which she was careful to remind the audience wasn’t her song because “it’s very good”. The closer of her set was her only song available online, Sleep, a hypnotic and sun-kissed tale of missing a close friend. Keep an eye out for Vladik’s next steps; she is definitely one to watch.
The next act, lovesongs, is the newest project from mid-2000’s Australian indie-rock outfit Children Collide frontman, Johnny Mackay. Since the band’s relative disappearance from the scene in 2012, Mackay moved to New York and embarked on his first solo jaunt, the experimental electronic project, Fascinator. In stark contrast from the Children Collide days, Fascinator live shows presented something wild, whimsical, and theatrical, employing masks, costumes and a rotating cast of backing performers. lovesongs, however, seems to be a return to guitar-driven songwriting for Mackay, with his Facebook biography describing the music as “lovesongs about ex-girlfriends”. The set started with “the only cover” he knew, True Love Will Find You In the End by American singer-songwriter, musician, and visual artist Daniel Johnston, who is regarded as a significant figure in outsider, lo-fi, and alternative music scenes. Film director and musician in her own right, Israeli-Australian, Anita Lester, soon joined Mackay on stage as they explored songs about ex-lovers, for whom Mackay has had a few. The set embraced eclectic and unorthodox instrumentation, with Lester showcasing her expertise on Harmonium and backing vocals, while Mackay swapped between electric and acoustic guitars. Each song had a story; the most memorable was the account of digging a tunnel through the centre of the Earth allowing Mackay and his lover to meet in the middle after work to combat the divide of a long-distance relationship. The set ended on a high with standout lovesongs track, Fremantle Girls, a story of two Fremantle ladies breaking Johnny’s heart in quick succession followed by a nod to a past life with a stunning performance of Jellylegs, the first single from Children Collide’s 2010 album ‘Theory of Everything’, bringing many an old school CC fan out of the woodwork. With plans to releasing these songs next year, it will be exciting to see where the lovesongs moniker takes Johnny Mackay next.
Without hesitation, the crowd have assembled thick and fast at the front of The Foundry stage, ready and waiting for the triumphant return to a hopefully far more regular touring schedule for Megan Washington. The set kicked off with a contrast of new and old cuts with the catchy Claws, followed up by the 2009 APRA AMCOS Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition winning How to Tame Lions.Washington and her 4-piece band quickly jumped into the electro-heavy ode to returning home Saint Lo, the vocally enthralling Skyline and poppier Clementine, where she acknowledged a few punters in the front row already losing their minds. The next track, the darker Skeleton Key, introduced as “a song is about my emotions and feelings. Unlike all the others which are about my feelings and emotions” was an early standout of the set. The mid-set provided a fun interlude with crowd favourite Sunday Best, a song that Washington was now ready to admit is all about sex. The friendly and humorous between-song-banter turned to American TV smash, RuPaul’s Drag Race, with Washington revealing her drag name – if she had one – would be Amy Housewine, providing the perfect link to her solo vocal / guitar cover of Maroon 5’s This Love, which sampled Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. Still showing off her guitar skills, the band again joined her for Cement before Washington unleashed her vocals on the stunning Spanish Temper – a song only played for the second time on the back of her famously promising to never do so, followed up by the bouncy and upbeat Holy Moses taken from 2011’s ‘Insomnia’ EP.
The next song, a request and perhaps a hometown ‘special’ was Underground,a song that she described as something “I really hate playing in front of my parents and sister who are here tonight”; the lyrics of which read a lot like her last wishes after death. The last song, the energetic Dirty Churches, was well received and left the packed house wanting more. After a short intermission, the band returned to manoeuvre a keyboard to the front of the stage, which Washington herself made into a bit of a joke, asking the audience how many musicians it really takes to set up a keyboard. For their encore, Washington and her band launched into early career highlights I Believe You Liar and Rich Kids to resounding applause. As The Foundry crowd slowly dissipated into the night, it was clear that their collective dancing shoes were already yearning for the next show from their affectionately titled hometown hero, Washo.
If you’re south of the border, make sure you head along to catch the last show of Washington’s East Coast run in support of Dirty Churches. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Remaining Tour Dates:
Friday 28 June – The Lansdowne | Sydney (18+)