Words by Eden Campbell.
The Melbourne four-piece, Slowly Slowly have been running rampant between supporting the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Amy Shark, as well as making their Splendour In The Grass debut a few short weeks ago. Now, Slowly Slowly have embarked on their own national headline tour, toting new material and old school gems, as well as their infectious latest release, ‘Jellyfish’. On Friday night, I hit up The Triffid to catch Slowly Slowly, alongside their stellar support acts Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers and Sly Withers.
First up, we were blessed with the sweet noise of modern garage rock band, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. The four-piece lady-gang are Canberra locals and had some of the tightest vocal harmonies I have heard of late. Think The Cranberries meets Hole, sprinkled with a little dusting of Brand New. Their marrying of raw and unpolished punk with twinkling and shoe-gaze vocals/guitar set the girls apart from other bands in their niche. ‘Hallway in Norway’ was a personal highlight for me.
Indie punk rockers, Sly Withers took to the stage next. What struck me first about these guys was their unusual stage set up – we had the bassist front and centre, lead vocalist to the far left, and guitar and back up vocalist on the far right. Regardless, these guys killed it. Reminded me of the lovechild between Luca Brasi and Slowly Slowly, themselves. Bass heavy chugs lead every song home and the audience responded very quickly and positively. The crowd wasn’t afraid to pack to the front and start a little pit for the Perth outfit.
Before the headliners came on, the stage was rigged up with an ethereal gold light and thick smoke, rendering Slowly Slowly’s set, including a backdrop branding the image of a jellyfish (an icon that, of late, has become synonymous with the band) almost invisible. There was a rustling amongst the audience – a palpable sense of excitement, and ambience to boot.
Being a huge fan, I made it my mission to get as close to the front as possible for their set. I’ve been obsessed with these guys ever since accidentally stumbling upon their track Alchemy on the radio…As soon as I heard that song, I was instantly ripped right back to my more formative years – Slowly Slowly have always had a unique ability to straddle the line between sugar sweet, nostalgic pop-punk, and a raw, spine-tingling heaviness.
Speaking of the latter, the beginning of their set was by no means a slow-burner (pun intended):
It only took about twenty seconds into Aliens, their third song of the evening, to exemplify just how far these guys can turn up the heaviness. Delivering a seamlessly gritty and extreme take on what is often more shimmering and gentle on their ‘St Leonards’ record, the boys feverishly churned it all out. This contrast of atmosphere between what we had come to expect from the record, and what we were hearing live, was enough to completely unhinge the crowd. A full-blown moshpit was well and truly underway, as I scrambled to get my phone back in to my bag – there was no way I was going to be taking notes at this point. Fists were flying and bodies were shoving. Don’t get me wrong, the energy was not aggressive, just enthusiastic. It was as if we in the first few rows were acting as a single, hive-minded entity, drunk on frontman Ben’s every leap and bound; all ebbing and flowing and yelling and dancing as we watched his slender frame bounce around the stage.
The boys took it down a notch for their cover of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love, romantically plucking away and eventually building into their signature pop punk sound by the beginning of the second verse. Ben’s natural vibrato gives their rendition a new kind of preciousness and fragility, parallel to that of the original. “SLOWLY! SLOWLY! SLOWLY!…” chanted the crowd after the band wound up their Like A Version cover. We were rapt.
The set went on with crowd favourites like Smile Lines, and PMTWGR from the 2016 EP ‘Chamomile’. Each of which garnering 100% audience participation as we sang along to every word, and even clambered on to one another’s shoulders as the flashing red stage lights painted us and the band, alike.
The second half of the how was a lot more intimate and acoustic-driven. Once again, showcasing theband’s versatility that we’ve come to know and love. Haunting synths rang out over a solo electric guitar as New York, Paris transported us to a place that was equal parts sombre and sparkling. Staggering in to a Coldplay-esque cresendo, the atmosphere took an introspective and goosebumpy turn. This was dissipated by the inescapably uplifting Alchemy – this song gets me every damn time. That bouncy little riff is one of the most infectious sounds I’ve ever heard, and the dreamy and optimistic lyrics never fail to get me smiling ear to ear. I think the same goes for the rest of my hive-minded cohort: Every second person whipped out their phones to film this one, even one of the sound technicians briefly left his post to have a boogie and catch the song on film.
Slowly Slowly finished up their show with the namesake of the tour, Jellyfish. The crowd lapped it up, singing along to every single word. The few people who weren’t filming along to Alchemy were definitely filming now, as the crowd was almost as lit up with the glow of hundreds of iphones, as the stage was.
All in all, the evening absolutely went off. I mean that in the broadest sense of the word. Teen Jesus, and Sly Withers, both sweethearts of modern punk in their own right, were the perfect appetisers for Slowly Slowly. The headliners, themselves, went above and beyond in seamlessly delivering their own unique brand of genre-hopping poetry.
Catch Slowly Slowly on the rest of their ‘Jellyfish’ tour: