Coming straight from work, I arrived at the Newtown Social Club in time to catch the second half of the opening support act, Nick Hill. Admittedly, I know very little of this guy but I’m glad I checked him out. With the appearance of Kim Churchill and the sounds of Boo Seeka, he’s definitely worth a listen. His smooth vocals and easy-listening-yet-catchy jams were the perfect start and a sign of things to come.
Everyone was sitting on the ground when Montaigne hit the stage because, apparently, that’s the normal thing to do in Newtown. It didn’t take long for her to tell us to “get off your asses” before showing off her powerful vocals and getting into her set. Her stage presence has grown since I saw her with Megan Washington back in February. Her vocal talents do most of the talking but she also brought a political agenda, voicing her support for gay rights and marriage equality before singing her song on that same theme, “Pontius of the Past”.
As much as I love Japanese Wallpaper, it really was Montaigne that shone brightest. She stole the show with her version of Sia’s “Chandelier” keeping the otherwise boisterous crowd in relative awe before rousing the biggest applause of the night. (I’m claiming partial credit for the song choice, by the way, after requesting it when interviewing her earlier this year.) To wrap up an amazing set, Montaigne gave us a glimpse of her next direction with her new song, “What You Mean to Me” before finishing with the two popular singles, “I’m a Fantastic Wreck” and “I Am Not an End”.
By the time Japanese Wallpaper was ready to go, the small band room at Newtown was packed to capacity and buzzing, half still from Montaigne’s powerful set and half in anticipation of what was to come. He opened with his remix of Montgomery’s “Piñata” and… well… it was just him playing back a recording and tapping the synth pads with drumsticks every so often. I was immediately concerned that we were in for 40 minutes of a guy playing back his EP and watching while we listened. Either he needed to start singing or he needed to bring Montaigne back on stage.
My concerns were short-lived and quickly replaced with excitement and giddiness. Out of nowhere, Airling was invited onstage to sing their collaborative hit, “Forces”, and alleviate any fears of a disappointing show. With the crowd fully engaged after the surprise guest, it was Gab’s turn to provide the vocals. The dude can clearly sing, with his voice perfectly suited for his music style, an attractive simplicity that draws you in until you lose yourself in it.
The momentum was well and truly on his side when Japanese Wallpaper invited Montaigne back on stage for “Breathe In”. He finished with “Between Friends”, having his first proper chat with the crowd during the song’s introduction. This was the first time I noticed but it was obvious from his speaking voice that he was under the weather, making his vocals all the more impressive and earning him plenty of respect as he pushed through. The 18 year old didn’t own the stage as much as he could have, but the stage presence will come. His musical talent, meanwhile, is undeniable.
Hometown: Melbourne, Victoria.
Latest EP: Japanese Wallpaper, released 19 June 2015.
Sounds like: Oliver Tank, Wafia.
Say what? Gab Strum managed to sell out his first headline tour as a part-time musician still in year 12. Makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life!