No laurel-resting for the angels at ISOL-AID – only cloud-busting! The socially-distanced live music fest’s “fully six” edition made it rain pure gold this weekend just gone, and Bryget Chrisfield is back to give you her top five sets.
The millisecond we tune into Bobby Alu‘s Insta Live, his uke noodling gives us tropical island vibes and transport us to the future Bahamas beach holiday of our dreams. His wild, unkept mane and bright shirt complete the picture before Alu triggers a drum track and starts to sing, giving off immediate Jack Johnson flavours. Seamlessly twisting his body slightly to the right to play bongos at the end of Fade, Alu delivers a mantra that we can really get behind right now: “At your leisure, always feels better.”
Alu follows this up with “a song about being yourself and being proud of it” before launching into a cover of Just The Two Of Us by Bill Withers (RIP); referring to the number of swooning viewers (plus Alu), a commenter aptly observes, “Just the 271 of us.” As Alu sings, “You are a friend of mine,” we feel the warm fuzzies. Dude’s a natural.
“Kia ora!” New Zealand’s soul brother Louis Baker enthuses. Baker performs Black Crow – strumming his acoustic guitar and singing oh-so deliciously – after telling us he wrote this song to bring awareness to mental health. The People follows, and Baker reveals he was “inspired by Oscar Wilde – some of his writing” while penning this one. This Kiwi cat has such an effortlessly smooth, syrupy timbre and we can’t wait to digest his discography through the week. (Update: wrap your ears around his 2019 album Open stat!)
“I’m getting some good feels in here!” Baker beams.
We clock a comment from THE India Arie (with blue-tick verified badge): “I ADORE Wellington.”
Baker switches to electric guitar and absolutely smashes a cover of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, and Arie’s in the comments again: “Rainbow was my MOST listened to song of 2017 and 2018 lol.” Baker suddenly notices one of this multiple-Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter’s comments scrolling by and is visibly chuffed: “Wow, India Arie! I love you. I love your music. I love what you stand for. Cool, that’s so cool that you’re watching!” Arie responds “I LOVE YOU” (yep, in ALLCAPS) and we’re not crying you’re crying; what a career highlight for this supremely talented, humble legend!
A fellow viewer reads our mind (“Cannot believe India Arie is in the house <3”) and then Baker closes with Arie’s aforementioned fave Rainbow, which he sings as though his heart is about to burst with joy: “We’ve come through the darkest shades of blue/ To a new and brighter point of view…” Arie pipes up again: “Singing your back grounds.” OMG, can this please be ISOL-AID’s first organic, international collab hook-up!?
“I even put on lipstick!” Gabriella Cohen enthuses to illustrate her excitement-level about performing today. She gently strums her guitar while singing, coming to us in horizontal mode. Cohen removes her headband and shakes out her locks, grinning, “That was just for effect.”
She sings, “Isolation makes me saaaad,” while making all of us viewers feel so incredibly happy and alleviating our feelings of iso-related loneliness. “You gotta be nice to your body; it’s the only place you live,” Cohen points out and her songs are like a healing balm for our scattered, anxious minds.
“One sec,” she excuses herself, walking outta shot to holler, “‘Mum, do you know what the time is?'” before returning, excited, ’cause she’s only halfway through her set. Cohen then shares that her Mum wanted to somehow get involved in today’s ISOL-AID set, but she said, “No way!” Cohen then let’s us know that her Dad’s currently napping, but kindly consented to her performance going ahead provided she set up on the other side of the balcony. We’re given a tour of her porch when Cohen turns her phone around and it looks like the Cohen clan have got it good up there in Crystal Waters, a permaculture village in South East Queensland; there’s scenic views aplenty and lots of surrounding bushland.
“This one goes out to anyone in the city,” is how Cohen intros her closer, adding, “I hope you’re alright.” I Feel So Lonely could not be any more apropes and if you’re yet to discover the old-worldly, ’60s girl-group charm of Cohen then we suggest you do so sharpish (2018’s Pink Is The Colour Of Unconditional Love album in particular – check out our review here). Better still, subscribe to Cohen’s Patreon account where she regularly drops “little parcels of past, future and present workings; poems, songs, demos, lyrics, short films…”
Also choosing landscape mode, Fanny Lumsden, her brother Tom, and hubbie Dan Stanley Freeman play in front of a giant backdrop – a blown-up version of her Fallow cover art – featuring Lumsden riding a horse, hair blowing every which way, (Wo)Man From Snowy River-style. Dan pays respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which they perform and gives our “incredible servicemen and women” a shout-out, given that today is ANZAC Day.
Lumsden plays guitar, her bro is on BVs and hubbie plays double bass/supplies BVs; combined they provide sweet, sweet sounds and perform a selection of songs from Lumsden’s latest Fallow set (read all about the album in our interview with Fanny right here), which was released pretty much right when this flamin’ pandemic hit. Peed In The Pool features glorious lyricism (“I keep runnin’ into door frames instead of into your arms”). A love letter to all the women in Lumsden’s life, Fierce, follows.
Fanny admits to being a bit hungover today after going camping last night (relax, social-distancing police, they live on a farm and only drove about a kilometre up the road). The Lumsdens actually live in Tooma, where the megafires joined, add to that this current pandemic and their 2020 has been brutal.
Tom takes lead for a verse during Fallow‘s title track and boasts a glorious, plaintive vocal tone. He then picks up a kazoo for Dig. Fanny spruiks the Fallow jigsaw puzzle that’s currently available through her website (while you’re there, you may as well pick up one of her “I Love Fanny” T-shirts – who doesn’t? – as modelled by the fabulous Myf Warhurst on Aus Music T-shirt Day recently). Closing with These Days, this trio makes us feel all of the feels.
She’s already playing keys and singing when we join Katy Steele‘s Insta Live at 5.20pm on the dot. The Little Birdy frontwoman wears yellow-lens, frameless glasses and snazzy, shiny black-and-silver leggings, and that familiar, dramatic vocal tone transports us straight back to the early-noughties.
A roving ‘cameraman’ constantly changes our perspective and this setting is so incredibly intimate we can even hear Steele’s foot rhythmically pressing piano pedals. One In A Million is a moody, devo piano ballad, which proves to be the perfect vehicle for showcasing Steele’s trademark pipes and elastic range. Another “super-fresh” song follows and Steele informs this is one of four new songs she’s written that have “changed the blueprint” for the material that will grace her next album.
There are many complimentary comments about Steele’s falsetto and also how much we’ve missed hearing that voice. “I drank a VB with Katy in the valley in 2003,” one commenter brags. After switching to guitar for one song, Steele returns to the piano, chuckling, “How about I leave you with a track called Broken and finish on a high?” Hmmm, has there been a bit of heartbreak in Steele’s life of late? She shares a lot of new material during her ISOL-AID set and certainly sounds inspired right now (we can’t wait to hear her new album once it’s fully baked!).