The Highlights And Most Hilarious Moments Of The First Isol-Aid Festival
Isol-Aid brought us together, and reminded us about how important it is to stay connected in such uncertain times.
We might be stuck at home right now, but the music community at large in Australia is far from dormant.
If anything, the entire ordeal has made people want to share their love of music even more — so much so, that it lead to the creation of Isol-Aid by the team of Merpire, Em Ulman and Shannen Egan.
This weekend, thousands of people tuned in via Instagram Live to watch over 70 Australian artists perform from their loungerooms, bedrooms and even their cars.
The virtual festival also served as a pledge drive of sorts for Support Act, who are doing vital work in helping out the Australian music community at large both mentally and financially. At a time when it’s easy to feel distant and alone, Isol-Aid brought people together for a very special cause and reminded us about how important it is to stay connected in such uncertain times.
Of course, it would be impossible to talk through all of the great sets that happened over the weekend, from Melbourne indie darlings RAT!Hammock and June Jones to bigger names like Stella Donnelly participating.
Today, however, we’re going to reflect on just a few of the festival’s biggest highlights — from the beautiful to the hilarious and back again.
Angie McMahon Leading A Piano Sing-A-Long
The beloved singer-songwriter took to her upright piano on Saturday to perform a unique covers set for one of the biggest audiences of the entire weekend.
Of course, McMahon is no stranger to covers — her versions of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Silver Springs’ are arguably as popular as her originals. Here, however, McMahon ventured into unfamiliar territory to debut versions of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River,’ Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ and even an attempt at Middle Kids’ ‘Edge of Town.’
The latter was abandoned due to a poorly McMahon being unable to hit Hannah Joy’s high notes, but it was endearing to see her going for it all the same.
Julia Jacklin Retired The Jersey…Sorry, Dress
Having got through the majority of her national tour prior to the shutdown, Julia Jacklin got a chance to seek closure with a stripped-back, mostly-solo performance.
She wore the same dress that she wore each night on-stage on tour, as a ceremonial send-off of sorts — and even though you couldn’t quite see it due to Instagram’s aspect ratio, the gesture was still duly appreciated.
Highlights included Jacklin genuinely forgetting how to play ‘Pressure to Party,’ as well as a touching rendition of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ with an old friend harmonising with her. She’ll be crushing again soon, no doubt.
Spacey Jane Vs. Lego Star Wars
On the night they were supposed to be playing a sold-out Corner Hotel, Perth pop-rockers Spacey Jane provided a very different feast for the senses.
Three of the band’s four members performed acoustic renditions of songs like ‘Head Cold’ and Hottest 100 entrant ‘Good for You,’ while drummer Kieran Lama focused on the issue at hand — that is, playing Lego Star Wars on a giant projector screen behind the band.
Several artists added unique backdrops for their sets, but Spacey’s was simultaneously the most distracting and most entertaining. A rescheduled tour is set for August, so get around them.
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Towns Descended Into Chaos
We knew it was going to be a wild one from the get-go when Towns vocalist/guitarist Aston Valladares began his set in his car. “Apparently, it has great acoustics,” he reasoned.
Things reached a new level, however, when Valladares invited his drummer Daniel Steinert (who already has a cult following on Instagram as @heysorryimlate) to go live simultaneously.
While his singing cohort tried his best to get through a series of Towns songs, Steinert provided back-up dancing, Post-it note drawings and even a cameo from the Stone Cold Steve Austin filter. If this set didn’t cheer you up, nothing could.
Cry Club Brought The Theatre
Known for their layered and ornate electro/indie-pop arrangements, seeing Melbourne-via-Wollongong duo Cry Club go unplugged for an evening was a unique venture that certainly had interest piqued within their devoted fanbase.
Of course, even performing acoustically wasn’t enough to restrain vocalist Heather Riley — during ‘DFTM,’ they ascended to the top of their stool to bark the song’s assertive and defiant lyrics. For those yet to be inducted to Cry Club, this was as perfect an introduction as any. Bonus points for everyone flooding the heart reactions during the finale of (what else?) ‘Two Hearts’. What a dream come true.
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We had a blast last night on @isolaidfestival – thanks everyone for tuning in!! Today we thought we’d upload a quick cover of one of our fav acts on @triple_j_unearthed for #covered19, so here’s one of our favourite songs by @candy_y_y_y_y but with completely different harmony lol
Hayley Mary Brought Surprise Back-Up
Erstwhile Jezabels frontwoman Hayley Mary was up on Sunday night to showcase tracks from her recently-released solo debut The Piss, The Perfume.
However, she wasn’t tackling these songs alone — as it turns out, Johnny Took of DMA’s was on hand as well to provide keyboards, lead guitar and even a sneaky bit of harmonica.
It was a nice surprise for those tuning in, and for what it’s worth Took served as a formidable counterpart to Mary’s strong vocals and striking guitar pop. There were no Jezabels songs performed, but truthfully there didn’t really need to be — The Piss, The Perfume is a formidable effort entirely on its own.
Tom Lyngcoln Swam With Sharks
For those fortunate enough to catch Tom Lyngcoln play solo in the past, his special guest was no surprise.
But for those tuning in who didn’t previously know the work of the beloved underground figure, it might have been a bit alarming to see the casual imagery of a giant shark swimming around in the background.
The looped footage was put together by a friend of Lyngcoln’s to add visual stimulus to his solo performances, and there’s perhaps never been a better use of these great white beauties outside of maybe Sharknado. A national bloody treasure if there ever was one, our Tom.
Palm Springs Teamed Up With Lurleen Lumpkin
The set length for each artist performing on the bill was 20 minutes — roughly the length of an uninterrupted episode of The Simpsons.
It was with this that Melbourne singer-songwriter Erica Dunn, who performs solo under the moniker of Palm Springs, decided to use this to her advantage and throw up a projection of ‘Colonel Homer’, the episode best known for introducing the world to country star Lurleen Lumpkin.
Dunn even attempted a rendition of her signature song (and one of the best original Simpsons songs), ‘Your Wife Don’t Understand You,’ as well as donning a pink cowboy hat for the second half of her endearing, folksy set. Yee-haw!
Obscura Hail Celebrated The Weird And Wonderful
The Melbourne-based collaboration between Sean Conran and Tamara Issa isn’t exactly a household name, but the freak-folk duo quickly became the talk of the festival with their delightful performance.
If Conran’s dark-green wig or their surprise cover of Sixpence None the Richer’s sole hit ‘Kiss Me’ didn’t win you over, their improvised ode to Eaglemont — the next artist to perform — surely would have. Other highlights included recent single ‘Swear Jar’ and ‘Killstreak,’ perhaps the nicest song to ever be written about playing video games (yes, including you, Lana). On a day full of bright spots, Obscura Hail shined.
Eliza & The Delusionals Had A Half-Full Glass
Fresh from a North American tour in support of Silversun Pickups, the quarantined Gold Coast band were down two members tonight — lead guitarist Ashley ‘Tex’ Martin and bassist Ruby Lee — leaving vocalist Eliza Klatt and guitarist Kurt Skuse to perform Delusionals tracks on their own.
Thankfully, both Martin and Lee made their presence felt in the comments of the live-stream — to the point where Tex became the central focus of the comments section more than once. It was hilarious, and the stripped-back version of the band’s hugely-catchy pop songs really hit the spot as well. Definitely a band to keep tabs on.
David James Young is a writer, podcast and live music afficionado. Find out more at www.davidjamesyoung.com.
Photo Credits: Julia Jacklin — Supplied, Stella Donnelly — Helge Brekke/Supplied, Angie McMahon — Facebook