30 July, Mojo's Bar
Kicking off the night at Mojo’s Bar to a small but steadily growing crowd, was singer-songwriter Alex The Astronaut. She oozed confidence, charisma and warmth, an impressive feat especially considering she had only herself and her guitar to fill the empty space of the stage and room. Taking her time to let the audience in on the inspiration behind each track made for an intimate set, and let her incredibly honest and vulnerable lyrics shine through to capture everyone’s attention and hearts. The crowd willingly provided percussion during the chorus of Rockstar City and backing vocals for Already Home at Alex’s request, adding to the warmth and feeling of unity that came with her performance.
Sydney’s I Know Leopard followed and got the crowd dancing with a set full of tasteful harmonies and textured instrumentation. The live violin made a huge contribution to the latter and was a refreshing and rare sighting in live indie-pop live music. The set was slick and seamless and featured their breakout tracks including Close My Eyes and Rather Be Lonely, recent single Let Go, and new tracks including Evergreen.
As the stage was cleared to allow plenty of dancing space for Jess Cerro, aka Montaigne, to let rip some killer dance moves, the energy and excitement levels of the crowd was steadily growing. From the moment she stepped onto the stage, every set of eyes in the room were locked on Montaigne and her band so as to not miss a note, quirky dance move or dramatic facial expression. Each track was performed with pitch perfect vocals, energetic movement and contagious energy, just a few of the traits that make Montaigne’s live show the best I’ve ever witnessed.
Amongst songs from her debut EP and album was a new track titled Please You. Transitioning from her full band to just Cerro and a guitar, the vulnerability and emotion behind the track glowed in the packed venue. Full of intelligent and raw lyrics including “I’m going to step into the shower and try not to feel diminished… / I’m going to sit here in the dark and hope that one day I make my mark on you / That’s all I long to do“, fit right in with brilliant lyricism and melodies of her previous releases, while also offering an exciting insight into what is to come from her follow-up album.
Amongst the back-to-back breathtaking performances, Cerro made sure to include time to chat with the audience and share the experiences that lead her to write each track, something I noted were written down as ‘talkees’ on her set list. This largely included references to the general “emo” nature of many of her tracks, but also some remarks about the performance itself including “Hey guys, I reckon if you collected all the sweat on my body right now you could probably replace the Pacific Ocean, twice.” Not only did moments like this add some humour to the set, but were great reminders that despite being one of the most ground-breaking and exciting artists in Australia at the moment, she is also just a quirky and unique as the rest of us, and has the same sorts of emotions and experiences that we all do.
Combining her soaring vocals, beautiful and evocative lyrics, radiating energy, and cinematic instrumentation, Montaigne and her band put on a stunning show. Each and every moment was captivating and inspiring, and provided a was an exhilarating and welcome reminder of the force that she is to the Australian music scene and the world.