The East might be leaving us soon, but it’s going out with a series of bangs; and by ‘bangs’, I mean ‘rad shows,’ with one such show being the Active Child Laneway sideshow.
Opening for the night was new electro-loop kid Oliver Tank. Using a sample pad, loops, autotune and a guitar, he made sweet, lo-fi electro-pop with an r’n’b/soul lean. Solo on stage and dressed in a large stripy shirt, hair bedraggled and face unshaven, it almost seemed like Tank was messing about in his room before bedtime, especially since the few people who were at the venue so early were scattered around the edge of the floor. Where Tank’s EP Dreams is somewhat clean and clear-sounding, it was quite a different story live. Throbbing bass dominated over fuzzy synths and Tank’s soft—and at times unsure―voice. It was by no means a polished performance, but Tank’s tunes and beats are very easy to listen to and enjoy.
Caitlin Park stepped up to the stage next, accompanied by an uninterested-looking drummer and a back-up singer/percussionist who surprised us all by breaking out with some beat-boxing. Park uses samples from old films in her music, and as an integral part of her songs, incorporated them easily into her live set. As diverse and intriguing as Park’s songs were to listen to, something was missing in the performance; energy, cohesion, stage presence, perhaps? Props do have to be given to her entertaining neo-folk cover of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, though. Also, the couple of acoustic songs she played (such as the straightforward, folky “Jack, Where You At”) placed the lovely, husky timbre of her voice front and centre. The set ended memorably as the three girls finally perked up a bit for the playful “Warriors With Wild Hearts,” with both of Park’s accompanists firing off marching drum beats and providing back-up chants.
After a forty-minute wait (Park’s set ended ten minutes early), the curtains were pulled open for the last time that night to reveal a handsome red-headed man seated behind an equally handsome harp, his nimble fingers rippling over its strings. (This could very quickly turn into sexy fiction, but there isn’t a section for that yet, unfortunately.) As on his album You Are All I See, main man Pat Grossi and his drummer and guitarist/bassist/synth-player launched into the title track. The combination of the electric drum kit, harp, glorious choir-boy falsetto and harmonies may have stunned us all momentarily.
Just when we thought we’d recovered somewhat, the deep, pounding drums in “High Priestess” knocked us about again. It actually felt like every thud of the drum pad sent a burst of air out into the crowd. That’s the thing with great live music; as well as the rush of seeing and hearing an admired artist performing in front of you, in the flesh, there’s also the physical experience of being in an environment charged with other people’s excitement, and being able to feel the vibration of sound bouncing off the walls. This show delivered all of that.
The very first chord of “Hanging On” predictably elicited whoops from the crowd. Interestingly, it was only the third song of the set. It didn’t disappoint. Grossi then switched to keys (which were weirdly loud) and nailed “Playing House.” Being positioned right in front of Grossi’s keyboard, while deafening to begin with, turned out to be the right choice as Grossi looked directly at us/my friend and apologised for blaring noise all up in our faces (we didn’t mind that much). “Should’ve brought ear plugs!” Grossi said to Friend, while the rest of the crowd laughed/tried to contain our envy. Grossi continued to prove what a Nice Fellow he was by stating he was sorry to hear of The East’s looming closure, but he was happy that he was able to play in the venue before it went.
A dramatic “See Thru Eyes” served as a sort of prelude into “Way Too Fast,” a definite highlight for the evening with its highs, lows and climbing chorus. Grossi returned to the harp to play closer “Johnny Belinda,” strumming and plucking at an alarming speed. Following a brief break during which we made the obligatory “hurry up and do an encore so we can all go home” noises, Grossi et al came back to play a couple more songs, ending in an outstanding instrumental jam that concluded with an insane drum outro, probably better than anything you’ve ever seen on Rock Band. Grossi, glowing with what seemed like pride, adrenalin and/or sweat, bowed his thanks modestly and exited the stage.
– Stephanie Liew