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Live Review: SAFIA, Boo Seeka, Owen Rabbit @ Woolly Mammoth 04.09.15

The career of Canberra trio SAFIA has been a short and illustrious one. After working their way into the scene with a couple super catchy and well received the band was boosted by a certain Peking Duk duet. They’ve tantalised audiences at festivals far and wide most recently a spectacular set at Splendour 2015.  Skip to today where the boys have sold out a national tour with multiple dates in most cities. And this is all before releasing their debut album. We caught SAFIA on their second night in Brisbane and were ready to be blown away by the talented group’s eclectic sounds.

Giddy over the official event page predication that everything would be wrapped up by 10:40pm my gig companions and I rocked up to the Woolly Mammoth when the first opener was set to start at 8pm  only to be told that everything had been pushed back an hour. Just like that my fantasy of being in bed by 11pm disappeared and 100 or so keen SAFIA fans were left awkwardly willing the venue doors to open.

The only positive of the evening’s disruption was that the room was almost full when Melbourne upstart Owen Rabbit quietly took to the stage. Hopefully you took note of that name because solo maestro was spectacular. Opening with his debut single Police Car (Which I haven’t been able to stop listening to the whole weekend) the venue was submerged in Rabbit’s layered, ethereal atmosphere. Utilizing an aerosol can to create his looped beat, not only did this make the room smell delightfully of eucalyptus but it also made an incredibly unique sounding track.

Other things that Rabbit used to create his music that aren’t traditional instruments: matches, bubble wrap, a toy claw and the opening of a beer car. This guy is truly the master of the loop pedal; he even roused the audience into singing a kind of off key melody which he then spun into the most immersive song with the melody as the beat. Imagining taking James Vincent McMorrows falsetto, Everything Everything’s Jonathon Higgs regular vocals, Kite String Tangle’s beats and Thom Yorke’s electronic melodies and you’ve got something that kinda resembles Owen Rabbit. His set made me excited about live music and even more excited for whatever he does next.

We moved a bit north for our second opener, Sydney duo Boo Seeka. For two guys that only met on at the end of 2014 they are doing a tremendous job at making some really great music. In fact, it’s beyond good music, its unique music. While their music may say indie electro lead singer Ben Gumbleton’s vocals have this fantastic roots-y quality that really set their music apart. Bringing the crowd to rapturous applause with their recent single Deception Bay the boys left on a high that I’m sure they will be riding well into 2016.

As the lights dimmed in preparation for SAFIA I was transported to all those fantastic festival spots that have made me such a big fan of the trio. However, there was something off with the atmosphere. It could have been the drastically reduced venue size trying to compete with the nauseatingly constant strobe lights but there was something a little tired in the bands performance. Front man Ben Woolner utilized his usually hyping tactics to less that desirable effect. There was more head bobbing than jumping up and down.

No doubt, the tunes landed with Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues and You Are The One getting the best response from the crowd. The drawcard for SAFIA is Woolner unshakable falsetto which on the night in question sounded a bit flat. Credit to Woolner, he looked as if he was putting all he had into performance and he sounded genuine when thanking the audience for all their support. Closing out the evening with Take Me Over the audience found their energy and for about three minutes I could have sworn we were at Splendour. The Embracing Me encore provided some warm fuzzies as fans reached for Woolner in his very own Jesus and-his-disciples moment. Perhaps with SAFIA’s debut album due out before the end of the year will give them the pep they need to return to former glory. 

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