If there is ever a way to spend your Valentine’s Day it’s at Taronga Zoo with your parents, leaving your partner alone at home. And whilst any other V Day I would be super bummed, to be left on a picnic blanket with Mum’s ‘festival chair’ under the stars and watch The Waifs ,was ideal.
The Waifs are one of Australia’s surprisingly unsung heroes. And whilst many of my contemporaries may not have been aware of last nights show on the harbour, a few thousand others were. As I turned the corner onto Bradley’s Head Road in quiet Mosman, a line was already snaking the narrow footpath beside the zoo – couples, families and the occasional lone fan all sporting picnic rugs and cooler bags. People were ready to settle in and behold the warmth, charisma and spirit of a Waifs show, and boy were they not disappointed.
Josh Cunningham, Vikki Thorn and sister Donna Simpson are the voices behind some eight acclaimed records, numerous ARIA nominations and two ARIA wins. They have been steadily carving themselves a space in the Australian music landscape, creating music that refuses to age, that stings the eyes at times and at others causes you to lift your voice high. Thorn is arguably one of the most talented female vocalists in Australia today. However quietly spoken and humble she is as a performer and public figure, hers and her band-mates undeniable love for their music, for dance and storytelling is the kindling beneath this fiery love affair that generations have had with their band.
I was more familiar with their early work and even though I was aware of this as the night fell and the chatter softened it was still a refreshing jolt to hear so much more of the band’s music than that which I could sing along to. It was like listening to a recent episode of a podcast and then seeing that you had five years worth of material to catch up on. The sisters quipped on stage and endearingly the loving snipe of sibling love was ever present – Cunningham acting as the fence between. Smoothly transitioning between the country folk and heel tapping hits and sweet and melancholy ballads, there was always a moment for couple to sneak a tender kiss under the stars or for a bearded father of two to let his hair down and feel the groove. The Waifs gave the audience the romance they needed for the occasion but also the joy and freeing spirit for those spending their evening there with a mate or on their own. A true highlight for me was the achingly gorgeous, Black Dirt Track, and a true triumph of songwriting for Thorn, Take Me To Town. Even as a music writer those ‘shiver down your spine’ moments are a rare treasure. Her vocals cracked through the night and sent a gust of astonishment across the crowd, I felt truly proud to be in the presence of someone so unbelievably talented.
Finishing the evening with arguably their best loved track, Lighthouse, Taronga Zoo was swathed in loving energy as, with kids aloft their parents shoulders, we all returned to our homes, albeit with a new sway in our hips and fire in our hearts.