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tUnE-yArDs

with Wintercoats and Fox & Sui


It's not often you walk into The Corner Hotel to find a sizeable audience sitting sprawled across the band room floor, watching the stage like pre-school children at story time. But had you popped your head in on Sunday night, that's exactly what you would have seen, thanks to two very mellowing support acts.

  

Melbourne's James Wallace - better known by the moniker of Wintercoats – kicked things off with an intriguing orchestral sound. His shimmering instrumentals and velvet smooth vocals lulled the audience into a dreamy haze before they were somewhat re-awoken by experimental pop duo Fox & Sui. Although a mismatched pair at first glance, the coupling of Andras Fox's ambient beats with Sui Zen's gentle but soulful voice made for a perfectly balanced sound. Pumping the bass up a notch for the last few songs, they managed to get at least a few punters up off the floor for a bit of hip-shaking.

  

As the gaps in the room started to fill, there was an excited buzz in the air before the oddball mastermind we'd all come to see tUnE-yArDs aka Merrill Garbus strolled on to the stage draped in her fluffy pink shoulder-wrap, and warmed us up with her vocal acrobatics. The crowd fell silent as she cooed, whispered, growled and yelped her way through the first couple of minutes, before whipping out her drumsticks and beginning her first beat for the night – "You Yes You"

  

Now a trademark of her performances, Garbus creates, records, and loops the beats and vocals for every song on the spot, giving the audience an intimate look at the process behind her sound. As you watch her lay down each element of a song, as random as they sound in that moment, it's an amazing feeling to hear them slowly come together into the songs that you know and love. And boy did the crowd love those songs.

  

Along with her band partner Nate Brenner, and a couple of very talented saxophonists, Garbus' worked her way through most of her highly acclaimed second album – w h o k i l l – with unwavering energy and a genuine smile. Singing along wherever they could keep up, the crowd went nuts for "Gangsta" as they joined in to create the token siren sound. Following shortly after were "Es-So" and "Doorstep", as well as a rare moment of calm thanks to the sweet ballad "POWA".

  

Although it was without a doubt the most popular track, "Bizness" was a bit of a letdown as messy sound levels left Garbus' voice drowning in overwhelming instrumentals. After "Killa" came "Real Live Flesh" and "Hatari", the only two tracks to be played from the first album Bird Brains. And although the album is the lesser known of the two, both songs received an enthusiastic response from the crowd, especially when Garbus' held up the mic so that they could be a part of the vocal recording.

  

Unlike some artists, Garbus loves interacting with the crowd. She shared little stories - the funniest of which was about an airport official who mistook the band name for "Two-Yards" and promptly reminded her that we say ‘metres' in Australia. She showed her lovely down-to-earth nature when asking the crowd what words we use for "cool" that Americans don't, as she gave out a hearty laugh, saying "the kiwi in the front row says choice!"

  

After "My Country", where Brenner did a small vocal cameo much to the audiences delight, the band took a bow, thanked us and left the stage. It seemed they weren't expecting the determined cheering for an encore, as they appeared a little unsure when returning to the stage. Nevertheless, they played the rowdy "Part Can", which sees Garbus' repeatedly yelling "do you wanna live?" and the crowd responding with a massive "yeah!"

  

A final thank-you, a final goodnight, and they were gone for good. And after witnessing them live, it has to be said that tUne-yArDs deserve all the attention they've been getting of late, because although their energy and eccentricity are exhausting at times, it was a truly refreshing experience.

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