Tonight I was greeted first up by the layered guitar textures of Smirk, an instrumental outfit whose ambient tones were slowly built up over a number of minutes, ebbing and flowing with varied sounds and slight percussive use of string noise, and always with some interesting little hooks thrown in for good measure. For all bar one song, subtle background keys held everything together, acting as an anchor to the lush sounds.

While not a lot was said throughout their set, Smirk did get a rather hilarious reaction from the gathering crowd when they introduced a guy they knew who worked at Howler that stopped by to shake a hand or two, with the whole place rising into excessively unnecessary cheer.

The chilled vibes and interesting sounds kept everyone there engaged, and I even saw one person sitting cross legged on the floor looking pretty mesmerised by the whole thing.

Next up we were treated to a high energy set by the next big thing, Hachiku. What stood out right away for me was the use of samples and drum loops live. I’d heard a little bit about Hachiku before, but hadn’t realised how much of this they had going on during their live show.

For me, it was all about those dreamy vocals from the softly spoken Anika Ostendorf, but I was also really impressed by the honey sweet harmonies from the rest of the band, and the overall sound they were able to achieve.

The crowd really ramped up for this set, and you got the impression that this was almost edging towards a double headliner feel more so than an opener (and given Ostendorf plays in Gorman‘s band too, it kind of was).

Finally it was time for the main event, and now the crowd was really started to amp up and move closer to the stage.

There was a certain excitement in the air while we waited for the man of the hour, and he didn’t disappoint, opting to kick things off solo acoustic style, with haunting vocal delivery alternating with folk harmonica. This number ended with a softly sung a-cappella line, then the band were brought out.

As Fraser A. Gorman himself put it, they pretty much played the new album from start to finish. This was great for me, as the records been on high rotation at my place, but I had expected they’d push the lead single Walking to Oman’s to later in the set to build up a little more anticipation.

The band was joined for a number of songs by Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard, busting out some smooth flute lines and jumping on guitar for a couple of songs, to great reception from all in attendance. The horn section were also on point, and added a really energetic dynamic to the live sound.

Gorman‘s vocals were delivered in ernest, he is the kind of singer who is even better live than on his recordings, and his guitar work was solid. The crowd really worked up into quite a buzz by the time the encore was wrapped up, and we all left feeling this was one hell of a live performance from a guy who is only heading one way, up.

Stu Clift

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