Tucked under The Chippendale Hotel in Sydney there is a den. It is darkly lit to set the mood with music posters on the roof and graffiti sprawled all over the walls. On Friday night, it was filled with hippies, hipsters, goths and everyone in between. All to see the dynamic duo that is Willow Beats as a part of their Be Kind To Yourself Tour.
First support act Blondebears started the night to a smaller crowd. The three-piece band consisted of Jake Stiles on vocals, James Swanson on drums and Sebastien Morales doing a little bit of everything. The electronic trio had heavy beats with heavy electric guitar that gave them a sort of unpolished and raw band sound. They changed it up as their set went on switching to softer vocals with good dance beats that got the crowd to start moving. They started moving more after the boys threw in a cover of Beastie Boys “Sabotage” which is, ‘a song only played to a good-looking crowd’. The tambourine came out and so did the funky, retro vibes before they blended it somehow into rap.
This group of guys kept you guessing and were just so grateful to get up on the stage.
Next steps up this tall figure in a patterned shirt with gold chains and blonde tipped dreads. He opens his mouth and says, “I’m Oh Boy, I’m from around here and I’ll be playing you stuff for the next 40 minutes. It’s fast and bouncy and I’ll try to keep it non-stop for you, so enjoy,” before ending with a nervous laugh. Let me tell you, he may have been softly spoken but he was oh, so super talented. First mix and he had everyone well and truly moving. He slowed it down with piano with beat to only speed it up with that base you can feel in your chest. His mixes start off bouncy then dirty, so that you can drop. You could tell he focuses on the art of composing mixing melodic harp with show tunes, rap, synthesised quick changes that almost had a Flume or Hermitude-esque style. He had it all.
Crowd favourite had to be his track “Bunny Island” that features his friend Mallrat that is about Japan. He released another song with her two weeks ago called “Rush Hour” that is also getting some attention; an artist that knows how to have fun and would attract large festival crowds, so definitely one to watch.
The small space is now packed and buzzing ready for the main event when “Hello, hello, hello,” is murmured in that out of world voice and receives an out of this world cheer from the audience. Kalyani Ellis – the beautiful being that she is -starts with an acknowledgement of our traditional owners of the land.
After Narayana Johnson had some troubles with his computer and the sound the electrical guitar in “Incantation” of their Alchemy EP had the crowd swaying to Ellis’ ethereal voice.
She then decided to share an unreleased track called “Mosaic”, where she described with a shy smile that she, ‘kinda fell in love and that really contributed to materials on the album. This song is about the beginning of falling in love. Tearing layers away while being less afraid of showing more’. The strong focus on vocals and the meaning of lyrics along with the mellow sounds and electric guitar show how every sound and movement they make are measured perfectly yet flow.
Playing one of their biggest songs “Elemental”, they showcase how skilled they are with their unique craftsmanship of synth and bass beats with her beautiful voice. Switching to material from their Blue EP with a single of the same name they switched to Ellis on electronic keys with Johnson singing and really feeling the words until the beat drops and brings him into the present. The sound of “Ramayana” truly transports you to another world while giving you a look into their Hare Krishna lifestyle that inspires them with their Indian inflections.
Giving us a taste of what they are working on they perform “Kumoi” which will be on the new album. An astronomical sounding track that pulses throughout your whole body with a big build up to where you can jam out to it.
Confusing everyone for a second, they do a song that they say everyone might know, but they changed it a little bit. The energy levels soar with the funky take on the one and only “Merewif”, with less emphasis on the synthesised sounds but her smooth as silk voice holding ts own.
Ellis tells the crowd to get ready to feel some angst with her on some more unreleased work. Her unreal voice on keyboard in a dramatic tune that was slow and melodic in all the right ways. Another new song even newer, this time less angsty but more angry as she echoes the lyrics ‘fuck you’ in the most hilarious yet splendid falsetto tone then lets out a laugh with such glee from the reaction of how the crowd responds.
The mood shifted dramatically when they introduced the next song. She explained, “This one is more serious. This song is very very important to me so take a break from talking to your friends. Let’s take a moment to think about the lost nations.”
Silence fell over the room as every single person place their phones away in such a respectful way and are just present in the moment listening to her simple ballad on keyboard while Johnson sits on the floor playing guitar. Such a raw and real moment. He then stands up and switches to “Dvaraka Pt. 2” with the whole crowd coming alive again singing along with such emotion.
Last song of the night is of course, “Be Kind To Yourself”, and a pan flute tops off the organic sound to add with their nature infused beats. Everyone is swaying to the sound while Ellis is almost preaching to the crowd while holding her chest believing the lyrics herself. A perfect finish to a show that was practice for them leading up to their Splendour performance which definitely left people wanting more of their other worldly music magic.