From once-in-a-generation rap artists and ferocious metal, to celebrations of Indigenous women and revelatory career U-turns, diversity is far from lacking on Melbourne stages in July.
What’s left to say about an artist who’s arguably the defining act of his generation? This Messenger conversation with a colleague does a pretty good job of summing up why you should care about Kendrick Lamar if you don’t already.
Colleague: I'm going to say it: I don't like Kendrick Lamar. There it is!
Colleague: I don't know. Every time I listen to his songs I'm like "it needs more."
Me: Ridiculous flow, beats that reference the full history of black American music and lyrics that look inward while at the same time analysing the fabric of US social structures. Not much going on there I guess.
Colleague: Hahaha. Yeah, I now [sic]. I'm in the minority. I like that he exists thou [sic]
Kendrick Lamar is a big effing deal – buy a ticket. This is your chance to see an artist for the ages, at the height of his powers.
Kendrick Lamar plays Rod Laver Arena July 13 and 14. Tickets here.
After four albums of elegant folk and alternative rock, backed (for the most part) by a simple acoustic guitar, bass and drums set-up, the Melbourne singer has made a remarkable transition.
For her fifth album, Devotion, Jean decided to write a “pop” record after a friend gave her a ’90s Kawai MR120 synthesiser.
There’s the yearning romanticism of Roxy Music’s Avalon at several points on Devotion. Second single Girl’s on the TV begins by innocently recounting Jean’s memory of helping her friend Ricky through a flute solo in the school band. But soon those memories of Ricky become painful tales of high-school bullying and fending off the advances of Jean’s stepfather. As Ricky grows older those stories turn to drug-use and adultery.
And yet despite Ricky’s sad story the synths that rise with Jean’s falsetto give the song an overriding sense of optimism. “She could always dance better than the girls on the TV,” goes the song’s refrain.
It’s this contrast between rich synthetic production and intimate personal stories that makes Devotion so engaging. Seeing an artist step out of their comfort zone is always exciting, especially in a live setting.
Laura Jean plays Howler July 28 and 29. Tickets here.
High Tension are one of Melbourne’s most ferocious bands and easily the heaviest to be featured in this gig guide.
After straddling the worlds of punk and hard rock on their first two records, High Tension have fully embraced metal on new album Purge.
The overriding theme of Purge is the renunciation of the brutal mass killings committed by the anti-communist government in singer Karina Utomo’s native Indonesia for a decade, beginning in the mid-1950s.
Utomo’s fury is unrelenting, as is the piston-quick rhythm section. There’s heavy riffage, pounding double kicks and larynx-shredding vocals. The record can be dense and claustrophobic and then open up like the recently erupted Mount Agung.
High Tension play the Tote Hotel on July 7. Tickets here.
Michal Turtle, Jamie Tiller and Tako
On Saturday at the excellent Winter Freedom Time festival, a friend told me about meeting the British electronic musician Michal Turtle over an unexpected lunch. The friend described how rather than his current tour, Turtle’s biggest concern seemed to be finding a safe place to store the Spider-Man bag he was carrying because it contained his son’s football World Cup stickers.
In a funny way this story describes one part of what Turtle’s label – the Berlin-based Music From Memory – does so well. As well as releasing seminal new records, the label has also had huge success reissuing little-known visionary gems of outsider electronic music giving musicians whose priorities have shifted from the stage to Spider-Man bags the chance to connect with new audiences.
Turtle’s releases so far on Music From Memory – all of which were recorded in the early 1980s – are curious explorations of percussion and electronics. There are funk guitars and wind chimes, cyclical synthesisers and polyrhythms. Zoote Pointe finishes with the sounds of an overly lubricated whoopee cushion. Sometimes it feels like you’re in a jungle rave populated solely by rare tropical birds. Turtle’s electronic worlds are cheeky, funky and truly unique. He’ll be playing live supported by DJ sets from Music From Memory label heads Jamie Tiller and Tako Reyenga. And the gig’s free, you’d be mad not to check this out.
Michal Turtle, Jamie Tiller and Tako play Whitehart on July 5. Free entry.
If you haven’t been yet, Melbourne Museum’s Nocturnal shows are an after-hours party where guests can grab a drink from the bar, see some of Melbourne’s best local artists and explore the galleries, which stay open until midnight.
Once a year NAIDOC celebrates the achievements of Indigenous and Torres Straight Islander people, and Nocturnal is following this year’s theme – “Because of Her, We Can!” – with a line-up of exceptional Indigenous women performers.
The night will be headlined by singer Thelma Plum, whose recent single Clair De Lune has stepped back slightly from the pop bombast on her Monsters EP instead opting for a lush, twilight cruise.
Plum will be supported by the brash, swaggering funk and R’n’B of Mojo Juju, breezy neo-soul from Kaiit and a DJ set from Sovereign Trax, whose set will celebrate first peoples artists.
As an added extra you can also visit the museum’s smash hit Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibition at Melbourne Museum.
Nocturnal takes place at Melbourne Museum July 6. Tickets here.