We’ve done some maths and consulted the stars, but we still can’t work out how each iteration of socially distanced live music fest ISOL-AID tops the last. (You can read about our myriad feelings on the previous shows right here.) Bash number five followed the trend with aplomb, so here are our top five sets of the weekend just gone.
Tom Iansek triggers a drum track and then “oo-oo”s his way into our hearts while strumming guitar, while wearing a very ‘dad’-appropriate pale grey cardigan. “Thank you for all the love-heart eyes,” he acknowledges . (Why is watching ISOL-AID artists reading the comments scrolling up their smartphone screens, grinning mid-performance in response to some, so bloody cute!?)
After Iansek adjusts the drum track ahead of his next song and lets it play on during banter, one witty comment reads, “Your drummer just won’t let up.” Iansek thanks anyone who has purchased his new album Golden Repair (which dropped last month – see our review here) before apologising for the coronavirus-related shipping delays on vinyl copies. We then score Twice A Fool from his aforementioned LP.
But it’s when Iansek moves over to the piano to perform Freedom Fighter that we suspect someone’s chopping onions in the next room. Isn’t it odd how lyrics penned well before our current status seem to channel our situation right now? “Even if I have it now/ Doesn’t mean I’ll have it always/ Patience isn’t funny now/ It’ll keep you waiting all day…” And check out this winning comment: “I wish I had someone to hug me instead of the cat’s tail in my mouth” (please get in touch for your prize).
Iansek then closes his 20-minute set with a song he tells us he doesn’t bust out very often these days, Fold, and it’s 100% unadulterated bliss with more eerily relevant lyrics: “I’ve been hanging out with the walls and the ceiling/ I’ve been holding up here on my own.”
For those of you who are yet to make the connection, Iansek is one half of the much-loved Australian duo Big Scary (with Joanna Syme) – their most well-known song is The Opposite Of Us – and his side project is, as such, mandatory listening.
Hold up, is that one of Vera Blue’s framed Platinum singles (Papercuts, perhaps?) decorating the wall behind her? A yellow lamp illuminates the background and Celia Pavey (the radiant soul behind the moniker) sports a beautiful floral pinafore dress (with what looks like an all-over sunflower print) over a white puff-sleeve shirt, and her glistening eyeshadow completes her look.
As soon as Pavey launches into Hold, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, her glorious pipes lift our spirits. She thanks ISOL-AID for giving artists this opportunity to perform in this way and connect with their audiences in such a beautiful way during these strange times we’re navigating, and then All The Pretty Girls follows.
“I’m gonna dedicate this one to all the women out there,” is how Pavey intros Lady Powers. Pavey forgets her lyrics a coupla times, admitting she feels even more nervous performing this set than she does a regular gig, but we certainly don’t mind because her little giggles are adorable. Switching from guitar to piano, Pavey then performs her Flume collab, Rushing Back, before closing with a super-apt Coldplay cover, See You Soon. She’s wearing some mad illuminating products, sure, but this young lady glows from the inside out.
With phone set up in horizontal mode, Missy Higgins wanders in from another room decked out in a kangaroo onesie, and takes a seat at the piano, placing a naked baby doll (which is referred to as ‘Gary’ throughout her set) onto the music desk. Higgins replaces some lyrics during her opener, Nightminds, to become “…at the end of the coronavirus.”
“Magnificent darling, magnificent,” her husband praises from behind the camera. The Teskey Brothers are regular commenters/appreciators during Higgins’ set.
Post-song, Higgins complains that the tail of her kanga onesie is really annoying. A regular Burning Man attendee (who woulda thunk it?), Higgins reveals she wrote We Ride for a documentary about this annual alternative doof festival that’s held in Black Rock Desert over in the States. Over 2,800 viewers are tuning in and Higgins’ hubby tries to pull focus by appearing behind her and dancing – “Stop it!” Higgins cautions.
She messes up a couple of times on piano during Futon Couch and chuckles, “Oh, sh-t!” Sweet Jesus, that voice, though! It never fails to pull the heartstrings. “Sorry that sucked – I didn’t practise enough,” Higgins apologises, but it’s actually the fluffs that make ISOL-AID so appealingly intimate; the fact that even the most talented among us stuff up and we’re all flawed is somehow comforting right now. Higgins’ hubby Dan gets involved from behind the camera (he can’t help himself!) to the point where his wife suggests he should get “his own Instagram party.”
Following Arrows, Higgins then busts out some Axel F (the Beverly Hills Cop theme) on the piano. “I think that there will be some valuable lessons that come out of this time right now,” Higgins ponders and then pauses for a second before checking in with her hubby: “Is it turned off?”
Opening with School Of Design, Hollie Fullbrook accompanies herself on acoustic guitar and we are immediately “struck by a feeling that’s hard to describe” as these lyrics float through the arrangement. Fullbrook is effortlessly charming and performs with understated elegance.
She gives MusicHelps a shout-out (New Zealand’s equivalent of Support Act) and then tells us that Shannon Logan from Jet Black Cat Music in Brissie – the independent record store responsible for curating ISOL-AID’s Saturday lineup, from 3.20 – 6pm, as part of this festival’s Record Store Day collab – requested Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens. Fullbrook then performs this long-time live fave, and we’re transported to the scene she describes through song (“The parks on our lunchbreaks, we’ll lie on the lawn… Shock all the cavalry statues watching on”) while wishing we could go to a museum (even an overly crowded one, which we promise we’ll never complain about again).
While Fullbrook tunes her guitar, she encourages us to support local independent record stores through online purchases on this unconventional Record Store Day. When Fullbrook performs, you’d swear there were extra guitarists playing out of shot and there’s a soothing quality to her delightfully pure vocal tone.
Alma Zygier and her dad Willy walk into shot, Willy strumming guitar and taking a seat, Alma stomping out a beat and clapping to usher in Be My Husband (made famous by Nina Simone). The pair perform in front of a burgundy floral curtain backdrop.
Alma an artiste in the truest sense of the word; she wears a beige suit with lilac T-shirt underneath and puts so much into her opening number that she’s out of breath while introducing their next song, Go Down Moses (which Willy points out “mentions plagues” within its lyrical content). Willy supplies BVs during this one and Alma definitely channels Judy Garland vibes – she sings from the soul. We’re also reminded of the late, great Amy Winehouse since Alma also cut her teeth on the jazz circuit and boasts exceptional vocal technique.
Zygier’s mum Deborah Conway comments “killing it alma” and is speaking the (unbiased) truth. Alma then picks up a guitar and takes a seat to perform a couple of her own originals: I’m Sorry For Your Loss and Australian Psycho. A fair few comments recommend a duet with CW Stoneking would rock and we couldn’t agree more.
When Alma starts bantering, Willy interrupts to remind his daughter that they only have two minutes remaining, and thank goodness he did! Her Somewhere Over The Rainbow cover is goosebump-inducing. Obviously musical ability is in her genes and Alma was born to sing, but her interpretive ability and the volume of emotion that she generously pours into performance is so rare and also something that can’t be taught. “Why oh why can’t IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII?” – her final sustained note is a showstopper! Damnit, where’d those tissues go?