Jaguar Jonze has had a tumultuous year to say the least from injuring herself on stage at the Eurovision qualifiers to cutting her US tour short only to test postive for COVID - yet the Brisbane's rising star has bounced back releasing huge singles and putting on a slew of concerts and boy what shows they were.
Coming along was fresh Brisbane indie groover flamingo blonde, aka James Bartlett, and his backing band ‘The Brunettes’ got things started with their smooth indie sound.
Decked out in 80s suits cut straight from Miami Vice, the band slipped short voice modulation samples between their tracks to cement those neo-retro vibes.
Though flamingo blonde’s is still short on released music, I was pleasantly surprised they were able to showcase a full set worth of music, including upcoming single ‘Hotel Gloria’.
James’ said this song is based on the very real Hotel Gloria at Springwood (3.9 stars on Google reviews), where his friend reportedly saw two bikies punch on out the front. He said he tried to channel that energy into the song, but I honestly can’t see how he transformed the mental image of two hulking, iced-up blokes pulping each other into the chill indie tune I heard him play.
I had already come round to appreciate their softer indie sound, but flamingo blonde knew exactly how to hook me in when they played a faithful cover of Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’. Able to capture the slower moments and roaring highs of this indie rock anthem, the band gave a great example of the range they too are capable of.
From there it was back to their own material, and a song that has actually been released, ‘Picture Me Gone’. The live performance of this track gave me major Ball Park Music vibes, especially from James’s vocals, something that I had not picked up on in the recorded version.
The final song of their set is apparently based on something James’ Mum once told him; “Heroins’ a gateway drug and you are a p***** if you don’t try it.” In that moment, I couldn’t help but feel James’ and I may have had very different childhoods.
Even with the return of live music, the ‘Year That Just Wouldn’t End’ still found a way to throw some truly unique experiences our way, as the next act was streamed in from South Korea.
Wedance were meant to have toured Australia this year, introducing their bizarre alt-pop style and musical sensibilities to an entire nation.
Instead, they were forced to pre-record their live performance on a farm, and then live-streamed in from their apartment.
For the live-stream portion, the band lived it up in style, eating pizza on their couch as vocalist Webo danced how I dance when I’m home alone and have the curtains drawn. A housemate was dragged in at one point, as other roomies could be spotted trying to sneak through the door in the corner.
The ‘live’ performance is harder to judge.
I will give the benefit of the doubt and say that it did appear and sound like it had been recorded live, with minimum post-production edits.
The band started with ‘Ironism’ and ‘Big Fuss’ in a greenhouse, a mic hoisted from the roof, and a circle pit of earth beaten into the ground below them.
From there they transitioned via push-bike to another a greenhouse. This time it was lined with low hanging coloured lights, and Webo sprinted up and down the length of the building during the guitar solo of ‘Live There’.
My Korean is a little rusty, which meant I couldn’t connect with Webo’s vocals, so, instead I honed in Wegi’s guitar. The only way to describe the man’s playing is ‘sick’. It is honestly strange how his savage playing melds so seamlessly with the outfits largely alternate-pop style. The last song that made it in was ‘Beat and Lullaby’, as the stream ended and I made a mental note to cover Wedance if they ever get the opportunity to make it out here again.
Jaguar Jonze has always remembered one of the most important aspects of a great live performance, the visuals. As the stage lights went down, a loading bar lit up the back of the stage, before the strobe lights burned bright and the band appeared out of the smoke machine haze.
Her band was dressed in their signature red shirts, Jaguar Jonze in one of her distinctive outfits, pump-up sneakers included.
The set featured captured essentially all of Jonze’s discography, from her latest quarantine creations ‘Deadalive’ and ‘Murder’, to her earlier works with ‘Beijing Baby’ and ‘You Got Left Behind’.
‘Murder’ gets special mention because I had forgot that Jonze could play flute, so, when she cut into a flute solo, I legitimately smiled in surprise. Then ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’ came to take the flute work up to an entirely new level.
Britney die-hards where also in for treat, as Jonze pulled out her cover of the classic ‘Toxic’. The lyrics were just asking for a darker twist on this piece of pop history, and Jonze is the artist to deliver that injection of dread.
The night was rounded out by a cover of Nirvana’s 'Heart Shaped Box', a song Jonze had previously covered with Hermitude for Like A Version. So, technically, this was a cover of a cover of a song that Jonze admitted she had not actually heard of before being asked to cover it.
Covering any Nirvana song is always a huge ask, but with Jonze’s distinct vocals, some running man dance moves and backed with exceptional guitar work from Joe Fallon, I was both entertained and impressed with the result.
The great sports movies always feature that last minute hurdle, that single event that sees all the hard work and training that came before almost be ruined.
For Jaguar Jonze, that event was the rippling of the coronavirus across the globe. Because as it drove the world to a standstill, it also threatened to tear her career apart. What was meant to be year that would see Deena tour her Jaguar Jonze project throughout the US, including a coveted appearance at South By Southwest, instead saw her spend multiple quarantines in isolation.
It is a long fall from an international tour to being infected by coronavirus, to being told by your doctors that you may not be able to sing again.
But like all those great sports movies, overcoming that adversity only helps to make the triumph all the sweeter. That moment where the hero gets to lift that trophy and celebrate their victory, against all odds.
So, when Deena lived her dream and played The Tivoli, it wasn’t just a show. It was a moment of celebration in defiance of a year of disappointment.