Tanaya Harper and friends enchant audiences at "SOME KIND" EP launch
Written by: Noah Dillon
As I walked into Rhubarb Records for Tanaya Harper’s EP launch on Sunday afternoon, it felt as if the busy outside world had somewhat drifted away - I had now been immersed in a dream-like cabin of low hanging lights, hot tea, cold beer, records and an audience so silent you could hear the industrial building slowly twist with the setting sun. Supporting Tanaya on the release of her new EP, ‘Some Kinds’, was the all-star line up of Stella Donnelly, Lauren M O’Hara, Sam Rocchi and Grace Sanders. With tickets for the event having sold-out in under an hour, I knew it was going to be an unforgettable night.
The first act to descend upon the intimate ground level stage was Grace Sanders, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter with a voice that cut through the crowd like a knife. Carrying the soul of a modern Etta James and the songwriting prowess similar to a young Joni Michelle, the seated audience stared in awe as she breezed through her jazz-infused set. Sanders explored topics of love, coming of age, dogs and current political issues, draping her stories in beautiful metaphors and melodies. She had set the scene for what was clearly going to be one of Perth’s best nights of songwriting.
After indulging in the jungle of records that hung around the dimly lit cafe, I witnessed an unassuming Sam Rocchi (frontman of Cosy) appear on the stage, wielding his faded red mustang and a presence that made everyone’s head fall slightly closer to their shoulder’s and smile. Like a train steaming through a small town with wonky wheels, Sam ripped through his first few songs somehow evoking emotion from every strum and word ringing out of his mouth. As beautiful and twisted as an old piano Sam’s haunting voice pierced the now reflective packed out crowd. If Gareth Liddiard and Thom Yorke one day decided to have a baby, I truly believe the product would be something similar to Rocchi, walking the thin line between tormented, technical and beautiful.
Lauren M O’Hara was the next performer to take the stage. After being a long time fan of her band FLOSSY, I was anticipating a stripped back version of the loud pop-punk tracks. To my surprise I was met with a folk-inspired set of introspective songs, seamlessly colliding mundane existence with what felt like the darkest depths of life. With such a directive and honest writing style, Lauren had the whole crowd clinging to every word.
Stella Donnelly is truly an artist of a generation - with a voice and message so powerful that she can change the way we think as a society. Donnelly walked onto the intimate stage and you could feel the excitement drag the crowd closer to the edge of their seats, greeted only by the most modest, friendly embrace imaginable. Almost as if we were in her living room, Donnelly began the set with her latest single ‘Talking’, before tearing into a handful of new songs. Combining the influential nature of folk songwriting with the punch and character of alternative-pop, Donnelly’s new tracks had me both on the verge of tears whilst also tapping my feet and unintentionally whistling along. As her voice resonated off the ceiling and laid across the audience like a warm blanket I was once again speechless by the power of Donnelly.
After quickly running outside to make sure the external world still exists and to reflect on my life in the toilet of Bill’s Bar, it was time for the main event. Tanaya Harper entered the stage to a huge applause from the eager crowd, immediately joking and thanking everyone for coming in her relaxed and welcoming aura. As Harper lets go of the first note from a song named ‘The Cloud’ (not featured on the EP), it felt as if the lights had started to close their bright eyes, the door to the busy street had been sealed closed and everyone’s shoulders could now hang low in awe of what was in front of us. Harper’s music delved into the darkest caves of emotion whilst holding a glowing torch of growth and retrospect, touching on clearly personal topics such as mental health and reflection on relationships. I'm not sure whether it was her dark, ominous chords or her hauntingly beautiful melodies but throughout the entirety of the set, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was witnessing what could only be described as an Australian Angel Olsen. Showing off her extensive repertoire she played a song from her first ever band called, ‘As The Cowboy Sings’, then bounced to more recent work before playing the full EP front-to-back, with Donnelly accompanying her for the last 3 songs.
The ‘Some Kinds’ EP released a week ago, is a brooding 5 track catalogue of twisted stories and introspective contemplation all tied together with Harper’s incredible voice, accompanied by Stella Donnelly’s lead guitar and harmonies. Witnessing her live was something I won’t forget for a very long time, with the full impact of every note played spiralling through the cafe. As the final chord of the set rang out the crowd erupted and chanted for an encore, to which Donnelly and Harper decided to play a song from their band project Bells Rapid called ‘You Made Me’, a fitting end to an amazing night of music.
As I left Leederville with a smile on my face and a burrito in my hand, I was once again assured that this city is producing some of the most talented and diverse songwriters of our current generation.