If you had walked into The Toff halfway through HOWQUA’s debut show on the weekend, you would have been turned away. The talented Melbourne musician sold out his very first headlining show and it was a lovely set that demonstrated why he has gained a big following so quickly.

Only having been to The Toff once before, I had forgotten how early the bands start taking to the stage. I walked in at 8:30 intending to catch the beginning of the first support act, however sadly I had missed out on seeing Bears. I caught the whole set of Melbourne locals Whitaker, who impressed me with their thoughtful, raw yet playful indie rock tunes. Lead singer Ryan Meeking in particular stood out with his youthful Jeff Buckley-esque vocals.

HOWQUA is the alter ego of singer/song-writer Ben Campain. Despite being his debut show, he performed as if he had been performing amongst Melbourne’s music scene for many years. From the first song, I was impressed by his stage presence as he sang with such confidence and conviction. If I was being completely honest, knowing it was a debut performance I was expecting a shaky start, however, from the first moment he walked on stage, he owned it and every single pair of eyes in that room was fixed on him.

In addition to singing with such conviction, he sang from a place of emotion exposing the intimate nature of his songwriting. With a blokey sensibility about him, his expansive and powerful vocals smacked me in the face with a sense of being a fool for being quick to judge a book by its cover. Instead, he pleasantly impressed me with his vocals that channeled the deep, haunting tones of the much admired Eddie Vedder. His latest single “Fishing For Gold” was a favourite with the crowd providing backup vocals support without Campain’s instruction.

HOWQUA may be only a freshman on Melbourne’s music scene but there was absolutely no evidence of it during his performance. Even though the room appeared to be filled with a great number of friends and family, accumulating that amount of support on the back of only two singles and no tour is certainly impressive, and he demonstrated with his beautiful songwriting abilities why he has the support that he does. His talent demands it and with an album on the way, HOWQUA is one emerging talent you should keep your eye out for.

Kimberley Salmond

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