The ocean blue hue and futuristic reflective stage isn’t exactly what you would picture for a regular folk show, but Oh Pep! aren’t quite the regular folk band. The brooding storm conjured by heavy bass and plucked violin strings tear open your chest with ferocious winds just to make the punch of vocalist Olivia Hally’s sorrowful sigh land as hard as possible. The four-piece has spent the last year (or seven) recording their debut album, and there’s no better place to launch it than this cold Brunswick night.

The Grand Magoozi takes the stage, unusually lonesome on this occasion. As soon as her fingers hit the strings of the beaten acoustic guitar she carries, the room seems to become lit in sepia-tone. She proceeds with her special brand of biting satirical folk, presenting self deprecation and attacking conventional love in a voice that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sound of Music record played by a phonograph. She ends with a cover of ‘Ring of Fire’ and it’s total two verses, and although the light tunes back to blue when she leaves, it feels warmer now.

There’s no warmness in The Ocean Party this evening though, who’s first jolting chord hits the crowd like a sucker punch. Playing tracks off their soon to be launched album Restless, the room is filled with what seems to be if Nick Cave wrote with INXS. Frontman Jordan Thompson stands still and tall during much of the set, an obelisk striking the fear of god through the room while an old school keyboard squeals behind him.

Oh Pep! come out to a room crammed shoulder to shoulder, a sight which mustn’t be too bad on the night of your debut album launch. The titular Pep strums vigorously at the mandolin she holds, as the drums echo her with gentle taps. Hally twists knots in the listener’s stomach from the get go, somehow lonesome even in harmony. The melancholic beauty isn’t shaken for a second during the hour long set, what must surely be an exercise for the heart of all on stage as much as it is for their hands/vocal chords.

Hally tells a story, one which has no business being as sweet as it is. She talks about how a couple of weeks back Pep went on radio silence for a week, only to re-emerge with a handmade guitar for her. Tonight is its maiden performance. During its first round, the rainbow speckled machine suffers a broken strap, to which Pep rushes over and fixes as fast as possible all while without missing a note on the violin she now wields. It’s impossible not to smile at the genuine loveliness of the entire affair, even when you’re back out in the Brunswick rain.

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