Live review: Meg Mac – Max Watt’s House of Music, Brisbane – 2/10/15

Meg Mac, Brisbane

A sold-out venue at the end of a sold-out tour, following four sold-out nights at the Corner in Melbourne is the setting for the rising phenomenon that is the Meg Mac show. Gushing reports have followed every date the Sydneysider has played so far, but has she left enough in the tank to conquer Brisbane on a warm spring evening?

A short set by local act Big Strong Brute sets up Banff – a.k.a. fellow Brisbanite Benjamin Forbes – to run through a set of soft and pleasant indie-pop tunes before a room rapidly filling to bursting point. Songs from his recently-released EP, Future Self, go down well, including the gently rolling ‘Anyone Else’, while a version of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’ reveals Forbes’ influences and provides a suitable close.

Following a quick turnaround and a curtain raise, it’s to a wall of deafening, mostly female screaming and a palpable release of energy in the room that Megan McInerney takes to the stage, dressed in her trademark all-black and wide-rimmed hat. It’s not her fashion sense that makes her a class act, of course; it’s that voice. Variously towering, soulful and dripping with the sweetest of tones, hers is a vocal talent which few Australian artists can match, and will be the tool which will surely be used to forge a long and successful career in music at home and abroad.

Mac’s songwriting and stage act aren’t to be sniffed at either; as she works through tracks from her EP and a couple of covers, the quality doesn’t drop for a minute – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘Every Lie’ provides an early highlight, before ‘Known Better’ doesn’t seem like it can be beat, only to be outshone by the roof-raising ‘Grandma’s Hands’ and show-closer ‘Never Be’, with space for a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ in between; the Motown sound being a large part of the young singer’s makeup.

A baying crowd isn’t going to let her slip away that easily, though, and it’s an encore of her ‘Like a Version’ effort, ‘Bridges’ by Broods, which sends her audience back into the Brisbane night, safe in the knowledge we had just witnessed something special by a remarkably accomplished young performer.

For Scenestr

Ofa Fanaika of Chocolate Strings: “We’re kind of superstars in our own little way”

chocolate strings

BRISBANE funk/reggae/soul collective Chocolate Strings have just released a new single, and it’s a smooth and delicious taste of things to come, says singer-guitarist Ofa Fanaika.

“’Playing Pretend’ is a double A-side single with another track called ‘Polyamory’,” she says. “It’ll be part of an album that we’re looking to release in September or later in the year. We’ve recorded maybe eight tracks at this point, and we’re just working out what sort of journey we want to take our listeners on and what best represents where we’re at now. We’re going to try to capture that on the album.”

The song features the band’s trademark collision of genres and a soulful vocal by Nia Falekakala.

“It started with a guitar riff I’d been mucking around with, and the vocalist on that particular track wrote the lyrics for it,” Fanaika says. “The essence of the song is about being genuine and upfront, and saving yourself the drama of wishing you had done something right at the beginning, hence the name ‘Playing Pretend’. We were recording a bunch of tracks and it just seemed like the one that stuck out the most, and after other people had heard it, it ended up being a favourite.”

The band has eight members pitching in ideas, so when asked if everyone agrees on everything, Fanaika laughs.

“No comment! No, we’ve been doing this for a pretty long time and we’re pretty upfront with stuff. We don’t like to beat around the bush when it comes to things that are best for the songs, so we don’t actually have a lot of fights. A lot of the time we’re playing songs live before we’ve recorded them, so we can run through the process that way, and decide if it’s something we can put down.”

Firm roots in Brisbane’s creative community has helped the band develop and grow.

“I’m pretty proud to be a West End citizen,” Fanaika says. “It’s a lot different to most other suburbs in Brisbane. It’s a particularly creative community and inclusive of artists, and a real imaginarium of people that are thinking about expression. We can bounce ideas off other people who are doing a similar thing in whatever creative thing they’re promoting, and a lot of concepts cross over; the artistic, music and community worlds. In West End, our networks are shared amongst other like-minded people, so for every person who likes Chocolate Strings, they tell ten other people. In this neighbourhood, we’re kind of superstars in our own little way, and that’s kind of a nice thing.”