The five best moments of Winston Surfshirt’s Oxford Art Factory show
The pressure that Sydney collective WINSTON SURFSHIRT must have felt before walking on the hallowed Oxford Art Factory stage would have been immense. They have cemented themselves as Australia’s breakout act of 2017. With only two singles in the world, they sold out two back-to-back hometown shows and brought along some remarkably talented pals for the ride.
All three acts on the bill – Winston Surfshirt, WALLACE and CROOKED LETTER – flooded the packed out OAF with fresh sounds, an energetic presence and fiery performances that were beautifully unique in their own way. The entire night flowed through moments of rumpus, hypnosis and euphoria, but never once let go of the energy that struck from the opening moments of Crooked Letter’s performance to the closing notes of Winston Surfshirt. The entire night was electrifying, but here’s a summary of the night’s most invigorating moments.
1. Crooked Letter is the undisputed one to watch
Australian hip-hop can, at times, get pretty stale. It just seems like some artists just produce reiterations of the same sound and the same message over and over again. So when an Australian rapper comes along with a sound that’s all their own, people start to listen. But, when Nigerian-Australian Crooked Letter walked out on to that stage, no one was really prepared for what he was about to bestow upon us. And I mean that literally because this was his first ever show.
FIRST. EVER. SHOW.
His maiden solo voyage was injected with energy and animation that would rival the likes of Andre 3000, Childish Gambino and Azealia Banks, and his delivery was reminiscent of Aminé or GoldLink – except it still sounded all his own. Never afraid to hop on something uptempo, the rapper/producer is 2017’s version of a one man band. There was nothing he couldn’t do on that stage, with a fearlessness that is seldom seen in veterans to the stage. If this was Crooked Letter‘s maiden voyage, he certainly can expect to be smooth sailing for years and years to come.
2. Crooked Letter’s mate, Rara Zulu, has the voice of an angel
When Crooked Letter introduced a friend of his to perform some vocals, not too sure anyone was expecting an actual goddess to float on to the stage. Sure enough, here comes RARA ZULU, South African-born, Melbourne-based songstress, and she was holding absolutely nothing back. With silky smooth vocal prowess that felt like honey to the ears, hearing such a gorgeous voice over such thumping production was pretty much an honour. These two are making irrepressible noise – and it won’t be long until the whole world is listening.
3. If Kimbra and Lily Allen had a lovechild, it would be Wallace
After Crooked Letter had already tore the place down, there was a collective reeling of the audience conjuncted with a thought of “how is someone going to follow that?” Well, with a cap that read ‘JAZZ’ and giant gold hoop earrings, New Zealand-born WALLACE emerged from side stage and wasn’t hear to play any sort of game – she came to work. With a delightful pop sensibility akin to fellow Kiwi Kimbra, Wallace is plucked from a different era and has made it work in 2017. Not once was she too shy to show off exactly what her voice could do, and it kept the audience completely entranced from start to finish.
4. Winston Surfshirt could make even the smallest venue feel like a stadium
With a fluorescent-light microphone stand perched firmly in the centre of the stage and a flashing technicolour panel that read ‘WINSTON’, Winston Surfshirt reaffirmed exactly why everyone pays so much attention to them. Their incredibly unique approach to soulful hip-hop, glazed in smooth psychedelic hyper-colour, is as interesting as it is infectious. As their set moved through all the smoothness they had to offer, gems like ‘Ali D’ and ‘Sly’ popped up to a unanimous roar from the crowd. While the venue may have been swelteringly hot, we reckon that Winston Surfshirt would probably have the audience melting anyway.
5. It’s confirmed: ‘Be About You’ might just be the best Aussie song of the year
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard a song like ‘Be About You’, and we’re not sure we’ll hear one quite like it for some time to come. Therefore, as a soon-to-be very important moment for music in 2017, it would be rude not to belt out every word when Winston Surfshirt finally transferred it to a live setting. Every keyboard note, every vocal howl, every last detail reverberated through every last limb in the sold out Oxford Art Factory. The song is truly a moment that oozes sensuality and romance, and the whole crowd was whipped into a frenzy that is unlikely to be recreated in the near future.
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD