Kele, Odesza & Hayden James live in Sydney
Damon Collum headed to The Metro Theatre in Sydney to photograph/review Bloc Party frontman Kele, Seattle-based duo Odesza and the Barry White of EDM, Hayden James:
Heading into a gig you plan to review, it’s always a good idea to read up about the act and get a good understanding of who the audience is, and in true style I did neither of these sensible things. What I did do is grab a quick listen to Kele’s recent release, Heartbreaker, and then hit Google for a bit of background. Both of which were an excellent lead-in to my night. The only kicker was my plan to interview Kele hit a roadblock when details about him revealed this is exactly what he doesn’t like. Indeed, one of his interviews actually solely revolved around this exact point.
Not to be discouraged, I brainstormed creative ways I would tackle this issue and hoped I’d get an audience of some kind with the acts before they hit the stage. Tackling the late-night shopping crowds, I finally hit the front doors only to be gestured at by security it was a no chance entry until 8pm.
More time to brainstorm.
Once inside I got myself sorted, grabbed a drink and realised the best interviews would be the punters themselves. Why were they here, who was Kele and what did they expect from the evening? Here’s a recap of some of the chats I had pre show last night.
“We’re keen Bloc Party fans and from what we know this is his first real foray into doing DJ sets and a change from the work he does with Bloc Party, but we love Odesza and the chilled soundscapes they create. We’ve come up from Canberra for this so we’re fired up for it!”
“Well we like some of the electro work we’ve heard from Kele and hope that’s what he drops tonight, but whatever it is we’re keen to see him play. No idea of the work of Hayden James or Odesza but this is part of the adventure”
“Really big fans of Kele and we intentionally didn’t listen to the work of the other acts because we like to discover new music and artists.” I love this take on things and think I’ll use this as my reason for not researching before the gig.
“We’re here on a whim! Saw the gig listed, had time, had money, here we are!” …great attitude, they obviously have less responsibilities than I do… “and I think Splendour may have been one of the last times Kele was out here so great to have a chance to catch him again.”
Hayden James kicked off and punters at the bar hustled quickly when the bass dropped. What was initially a slow-building crowd was at the pit bars and dropping with every heart-shaking bass drop that filled the room. If vibration therapy is a thing, I’m a cured man. Bones I didn’t know I had vibrated and pulsed throughout this set and it was hard not to get lost in the driving beats Hayden threw out to the crowd. With some new work and some more familiar tracks, Hayden showed that he is a strong talent and he’ll certainly be billed on plenty more shows to come. With forays into long, slow tracks that followed up with heart-kicking beats, Hayden had the crowd in his palm by the time he dropped set-highlight “Permission to Love”.
Festival regulars Odesza were next and, with a solid fan-base, I knew without having previewed their work I’d be in for some driving tunes. Being a fan of ranging soundscapes and atmosphere driven sets, I was not disappointed with this highly animated and hardworking duo. The crowd had grown by now and, after Hayden’s set, were firmly set to give it back in spades. Odesza’s set was a feature-packed adventure which moved through a range of their work from old to new, and showed it’s not just grunge that originates from Seattle.
With Odesza, I could have been at Coachella at sunrise, ready to slide into a solid morning of dance. They proved that The Metro could be transformed into a cascade of beats and take the audience on a journey. Working a crowd and controlling the pace of a set is a skill, not a given, and Hayden and Odesza showed not only musical talent but an ability to both read and take the crowd with them.
Curiosity had got the better of me and I did a bit more reading about Kele, but decided against getting any further into his more recent work. The joy of discovery had worked so far and, in the words of the punters, I was going to ride with it and see what happened.
When a man is home you can tell. He puts his slippers on, pours a scotch and settles in for the night. And Kele was home. This was a man that looked like this was as natural a place for him to be as anywhere and, with the set he delivered, I’d easily believe he had been DJing all his life. With no exposure to Bloc Party but a fairly vast personal experience of live DJ sets and the dance music scene, I had some scepticism coming into the gig. Would Kele produce the goods?
It was hard to pick between taking photos and simply dumping my gear and getting a groove on. Without being able to regale you about the repertoire of tracks he played, what was old or new, I can simply tell you this. He had the crowd moving with him with the kind of control that only comes when you understand the audience and truly feel and know the beats you are delivering.
Kele was more relaxed and didn’t jump and work the controls like the other acts, but provided a show with finesse and precision. Where most people will always associate Kele with Bloc Party, for me it will be an experience of a set that reminded me of the pleasure of being in the hands of someone doing what they love, and doing it with style behind the decks.
I never got the chance to get up close and personal with acts; the interviews I’d hoped for never happened, but I experienced something better. Without preconceived ideas and with no history to fall back on, I came out having seen three great acts that will find a way into my music catalogue.