The third of January saw big names at The Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane after the cancellation of Heaps Good. Secret Sounds pulled together headliners from the festival creating a mega show for Brisbane and it was what I could only imagine being an incredible night and it not only lived up to those expectations but I was blown away by the end of the night.
Excited for the performances, I arrived early at 6 and got something to eat before heading inside just before Logan took to the stage to open the night. Breaking into the Australian indie scene last year in 2023 due to his plays on triple j, the Gold Coast dream boy had nothing but applause and the fixated attention of the young girls in the front row. Dressed in double denim and accompanied by his band in casual suits. It was smooth. Logan has charisma, his smooth mannerisms bleed Elvis Presley. Playing a mix of released and unreleased tracks, he ended by talking about how there are so many issues and conflicts in the world but music is something we all have in common, he shared - “...And I’m so happy to be part of that” before jumping into his latest release “Famous” to end the set.
Due to the nature of the super bumper show, changeover between acts was part of the proceedings, however despite how many moving parts there were for the tech crew to manage on the night, time managed to fly by. MAY-A was up next and the front was getting busy. I moved up to the barrier to join some friends as well as some really hardcore fans - the biggest was an older woman who claimed to have seen MAY-A at nearly all her shows.
MAY-A had been slowly building momentum with a couple releases before and into the start of the Pandemic and before long, she found herself going viral nationally and internationally. Opening her set, she played one of the songs I had on repeat last year - ‘LOLA’. Throughout her set was a woven theme of communal collaboration - audience participation was high up on her list of priorities and with viral hits that get stuck in your head it’s hard to complain.
‘Swing of Things’ had her leading a call and response with the room, which was starting to fill. “You’ll get it,” she said after teaching the words. Everyone around me were singing along so it felt like a little funny remark but later into the song and also into the set, it was clear that elsewhere was not as loud at first since the volume increased to reflect the infectious energy of MAY-A and her band on the stage.
Alongside a couple other releases she also sang a cover of ‘Sweater Weather’ by The Neighbourhood, which has always been my rainy weather song and became a cultural song for the LGBT community over the past 10 years. MAY-A has been an openly queer artist, and has lyrics dealing with finding her sexuality so it was no surprise The Neighbourhood snuck in as a cover and unsurprisingly the cult classic went off.
Finally, she completed her set by covering the song that she featured on in 2022, which won the triple j hottest 100 for the same year - Flume’s ‘Say Nothing.’ Which for the crowds arriving for the electronic acts at the end of the night was a little treat.
When the show was announced I was most excited to go and see Holly Humberstone, who I went through a phase listing to nothing but her over a year prior and with MAY-A having finished her set and walking offstage, the clock was ticking for the moment Holly would be gracing us with her voice.
Running onto the stage with the band already playing, Holly wasted no time starting with ‘Paint My Bedroom Black,’ instantly bringing the room to a standstill. Holly had us all in her hands and danced around from one side of the stage to the other while performing, making sure she gave all of us as much attention that we were giving her. Humberstone wields power over her audience, every lyric was deeply recited alongside her by the fans at the front.
It was a special performance, to which she opened up more and more through the course of her set, leading to a deep authenticity in her songwriting and comments about it. The melodic intro of ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’ washed emotions over me before the lyrics manifested around me from the crowd and the stage and you couldn’t help but join in.
Speaking on the difficulties she’s had with avoiding her ex, she busted into ‘Flatlining’ and introduced her band. It was her first time touring Australia and she was beaming with infectious enthusiasm. It was the pinnacle of the pop era half of the night and with her album still fresh from release a couple months earlier, I had to catch back up with it.
Penultimately it was SBTRKT who hit the stage, who was the only one on the lineup who I had never heard of and went in with no expectations or prior knowledge. I was blown away. The english electronic producer and musician hit the stage with his crew in full force and started performing. The stage was set with drums, keyboards and synthesizers with led tube lights surrounding them. Playing from his album ‘The Rat Road,’ it was mesmerising to dance along with the high octane beats that followed. Vocalists Leila and Sampha joined the stage for most of the set as well to sing alongside. SBTRKT said that this was the last show with his keyboardist of 10 years so it was a special one. Using all sorts of filters and loops on the vocals as well as on the drums and synths, it was a set that I was not expecting and enjoyed thoroughly.
And then we were at the pointy end of the night, the theatre was packed for The Avalanches. They entered to a somber intro and built up into ‘The Divine Chord.’ Through weaving motifs from other songs into the transitions between the setlist, you couldn’t know what was going to be coming next - was it the motif or whatever came after it. Having followed The Avalanches for 10 years, this was the first time seeing them live and I’m so glad that I got to see them. Tony and Robbie were clearly having so much fun performing and there were many more than a couple moments where the stage crew had to come up and interrupt them while the music was going and they were not phased, dancing as much before and after the interaction.
Playing from all 3 of their studio albums, the duo were able to include a couple of cover remixes as well, including song 5, ‘Pure Imagination’ by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley which had samples from ‘In The Beginning (There was Jack),’ which had us all dancing and singing along. It followed into ‘Music Makes Me High’ - which captivates The Avalanches and their performances in a single song title, and it’s infectious beat and horns throughout made sure you left the venue with sore feet from grooving on the floor. ‘Subways’ was a crowd favourite and my face was lit up with it came on with the transition into it from ‘Live at Dominoes’ - it was like they could do no wrong.
As usual for a live set they ended with their remix of ‘Hammond Song’ a restrained song which delves into the power and beauty of the songs that have been left behind and how their endurance can hold our souls beyond our own lifetimes. It was a special piece to end on and I couldn’t help but walk out of The Fortitude with a smile on my face. The way that The Avalanches sample and use old sounds to keep them alive in a modern dance setting are always so well done and I look forward to seeing them again.