Last Friday night, the usual mixed-bag clientele of Espy rockers scattered as the venue was overtaken by a fashionable swarm of indie kids for the Spray ‘n’ Wipe festival. Although, it was good to see that black was still the dress code as it always has been, and always should be at this glorious establishment.
Upon entry, I naturally gravitated to the Gershwin Room first, as I like the sofas in there (sometimes I find money in them). A small crowd of people were milling around up the back of the room waiting for the first band, I’lls (pronounced ‘Isles’) to begin. It seemed as if no one really knew what to expect from these guys (myself included) but when they launched into their first track, their smooth electronica sounds didn’t take long to turn heads and compel a mass shift of bodies to the front of the stage. Lead vocalist Simon Lam did a fine job of taming multiple loops while live midi-drumming and keeping the crowd hypnotised with his flawless, soft and eerie vocals. They reminded me of a young Massive Attack with the vocal timbre of Wally de Backer (Gotye). While I think these guys are still maturing their sound and stage act, they will be blowing some socks off pretty soon.
Next up was Toucan – a jazzy pop duo from Sydney. Vocalist Jess worked the crowd and exuded an energy that filled the room like a good front lady should. Her vocals were powerful and mature, and overall they were a very tight act. But coming after the dulcet tones of I’lls, I found them to be a bit overpowering. So, I retreated to the bar and enjoyed it from there.
I had been looking forward to seeing Strange Talk for a long while, and they didn’t disappoint. Although a little more clean and shiny than expected, they are clearly pros at upbeat synth pop. Surprisingly, around three or four songs into their set, a quarter of the crowd literally ran out of the Gershwin Room towards the front bar, as I soon realised that Northeast Party House had just begun.
Ahh, Northeast Party House. I became a fan that night. Their music is indie pop rock, which nods to Gorillaz and Blur, but their attitude is endearingly punk. Their set was diverse, which is testament to their song writing talent – I love it when a band’s tunes don’t all sound the same. The crowd sang along (especially to ‘Pascal Cavalier’), crowd surfed, and jumped up on stage. Limbs were flailed and legs were tossed skyward. For a band of six they were surprisingly tight. I’ll definitely see them again.
Spray ‘n’ Wipe gets 8/10 snuck-in goon sacks.
Photo of Northeast Party House by Freetoeknee Photography.