The proverbial bar was raised to new heights this weekend – ever squinty, aerial heights, with each iteration – as socially-distanced live music fest ISOL-AID delivered its seventh weekend of some of the best sets we’ve seen in god knows, in aid of Support Act; here are the top five performances as chosen by the inimitable Bryget Chrisfield.

Jaguar Jonze

Her Insta bio reads “Eastern cowgirl howling at the rising sun,” and Deena Lynch (the mastermind behind the Jaguar Jonze moniker) looks the bomb, her hair in two plaits accessorised with red pom-poms.

After performing her opening number – singing and accompanying herself on (pretty, baby blue) guitar – Lynch reveals she’s just emerged from hospital, where she spent six weeks fighting COVID-19 (which she contracted while in the States), but is now recovering and slowly rebuilding her strength. Lynch probably couldn’t have been knocked down at a worse time, either, since her debut EP Diamonds & Liquid Gold dropped mid-April (while she was in hospital). A taste of this EP, Beijing Baby, follows.

Lynch’s Elvis cover (Can’t Help Falling In Love) is heartfelt and tender, and we can’t help falling in love with her. Although Lynch admits she was worried that Coronavirus could have potentially robbed her of the strength required for this ISOL-AID performance, she absolutely smashes it – take that COVID-19! After thanking her fan-family for helping her feel less isolated, and also giving her the strength needed to battle the virus and come out the other side, Lynch leaves us with You Got Left Behind – Jaguar Jonze’s debut single.

If this is how Lynch performs in a weakened state, she must be a superhero when functioning at full strength! The music of Jaguar Jonze comes from a very real place. Lynch is an absolute powerhouse and pillar of strength.

Be sure to check out Lynch’s art, created under the Spectator Jonze moniker, as well.

L-FRESH The LION

Performing from his car (“the car is a vibe!”), L-FRESH The LION sports a hoodie representing “South West” (as in Sydney), plays beats through his car stezza, and spits bars directly down the barrel of his smartphone. “Ready for the car bars,” Elefant Traks shouts-out in the comments.

Opening joint Alchemy showcases L-FRESH’s effortless flow and trademark autobiographical rap: “Everything I touch, I turn to gold/ Been rackin’ up these accolades since I was 12 years old.” He bounces in that vehicle and it’s damn infectious. L-FRESH admits the car is “a real creative place” for him, since he used to drive around freestyling while perfecting his craft, and a lot of songs have hatched in here.

We learn that Mother is a song L-FRESH wrote inspired by our need to pay more attention to Mother Nature and this could not be more appropriate now that we’re in iso, trapped indoors while the planet heals. And this cut’s Fatboy Slim-appropriated chant – “Eat, sleep, dream, repeat” – pretty much describes everyday life right here, right now.

L-FRESH needs to host his own version of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke! His brand new single Oh My is a banger. At song’s close, L-FRESH extols, “Ooh, that’s way too much fun! I can’t wait to perform that live, for real!” before encouraging us to check out the Tik Tok-inspired music video for this new song (which dropped just last week) and get involved in the chorey. Born To Stand Out (“Why blend in when you’re born to stand out?”) contains a line about a time when L-FRESH nearly crashed his car while driving and freestyling with his mate. We’re then told L-FRESH had the opportunity to perform this song live in India, on MTV Hustle, last year.

Next up is Strength, another new song from his upcoming album, which also celebrates L-FRESH’s South West Sydney community: “It ain’t winnin’ unless we all winnin’.” Following this cut, L-FRESH ponders: “What are we without music, without the ability to express ourselves?”

Given that he’s the last ISOL-AID act performing this evening, L-FRESH decides to go overtime and plays one more track: a yet-to-be released newie called Village Boy, which he informs boasts an accompanying music video that was shot in a Punjabi village. The swaggering beat on this one is laaaaaaiiiiiiiiid back – a sure-fire hit. L-FRESH’s next album promises a whole lotta greatness!

Middle Kids (Mystery Band)

ISOL-AID partnered up with Vanessa to deliver a secret artist this week, and this youth arm of the TAC posted some hints on their Insta page towards the end of last week (including pics of the band members when they were little kids, which a few followers correctly identified).

When Middle Kids materialise via Vanessa’s Insta Live, Hannah Joy explains they are practising social distancing, and it’s true! Drummer Harry Day is waaaaaaaay back in the shot. Bassist Tim Fitz is centrefield, seated, wearing a Vanessa beanie and matching scarf – talk about reprazent!

Middle Kids open with Your Love as a green strobe light flashes on the ceiling to set the scene. Once this song concludes, Joy presses a “YES” button she’s placed in front of her, in lieu of crowd response. (There’s a “NO” button as well, which is utilised later on in their set as Joy reads and responds to some requests in the comments). The trio then play a “chill version” of On My Knees featuring Joy on keys, Fitz on glockenspiel and Day on drums.

While introducing Salt Eyes, Joy explains this song is about a big Friday night out (“Friday night, drank a Cab Sav/ At your stupid party, no one danced…”) before taking the opportunity to give Vanessa a plug since that’s just the kind of occasion where free breath tests would come in handy.

The trio finish off with their breakthrough hit: the escalating indie brilliance of Edge Of Town. While Joy leaps up into her head voice (“And I got something on my miiiiiiiiiiiiiiind!”), Day jumps to his feet to smash the kit and then Fitz races forward, presenting the Vanessa logo on his scarf toward the smartphone lens, and finishing the set with some well-positioned branding.

N.Y.C.K.

Performing from N.Y.C.K. headquarters, the duo launch directly into Face It You’re Done with Dominique Garrard singing while standing up and striking drum pads with mallets, and Nicholas Acquroff on piano duty, also singing – such divine harmonies! The twosome then switch it up for I’ll Be The One: Garrard seated at the piano and Acquroff at the dining room table, triggering beats. “You’ve been sitting on the couch at home,” Acquroff sings and we wonder whether he’s been spying on us!

They swap places once more to perform Decision, the first song that they ever wrote together (which they go on to explain they haven’t played in ages). While standing, swaying and singing, Garrard’s finger snaps are Motown quality. “We made plans to get off our heads on the weekend…” – waaaaaah, will we ever be able to even consider making any such plans with mates again!?

We’re told Nick’s brother Joel is responsible for the constantly roaming camera technique, and therefore coming up with these creative angles. Acquroff acknowledges that while both members of N.Y.C.K. are lucky enough to have jobs, others are not so lucky and as such they’re happy to be a part of ISOL-AID #7 to help raise money for Support Act.

“Hey misery, take a hold of me, protect me please from everything that I hope to achieve…” – more mind-reading lyrics via Alive! We could watch this duo singing exquisite harmonies while effortlessly supplying their respective instrumental parts all day and night! The music of N.Y.C.K. seems to slow the passing of time – especially these stripped-back versions – and takes listeners to a place as intimate as secretly reading a loved one’s diary. Listen to their debut album Wild Streak right now. You can thank us later.

Woodes

Seated at the piano, Woodes (AKA Elle Graham) kicks off gently with Run For It. Her voice is magnificent; pure and plaintive, never swamped by excessive vibrato. Occasionally when Graham looks at the camera, she gets temporarily distracted by comments and smiles apologetically when she stuffs-up a wee bit as a result. The front of Graham’s glorious, super-long blonde mane is kept off her face by a single, side-braid and she labels the jeans she’s wearing today “leg prisons” compared to the tracksuit pants she’s chosen to wear every day while in iso.

I Belong Here, Graham shares, was written – with Set Mo – at her very first songwriting camp after they asked her, “Do you know how to write house music?”

Graham takes us on a virtual tour of her home studio (sweet set-up!), showing us a painting purchased in Port Fairy and a piano from Queensland before pointing out a wayward monstera plant that has taken over some shelving. She then recalls learning piano back when she was seven years old, and has an epiphany: “Sometimes when you’re gauging a successful day it’s like, ‘Would my younger self be pretty stoked with how much I’ve learnt and grown?’” Affirmative, my dear.

When Graham plays How Long I’d Wait over a backing track (“because I love the stems”), a keytarist – her boyfriend, Alex Dyson – sneaks into shot. Using Ableton and “a ROLI block”, Woodes concludes her set with Dots. “You dropped from heaven,” someone comments, and they’re spot-on! Woodes, you are our new obsession.