It wasn’t that long ago that I was standing in a mostly empty Evelyn Hotel band room on a cold Tuesday night listening to Alex Lahey introduce her band to thirty punters.
It was early 2016 and I had dragged a friend along to see Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird play a residency for ‘Melbourne Bitter’. I had been meaning to see Alex Lahey play for a while, so when I found out she was supporting we both cancelled work and went down early.
After the gig finished, my friend turned to me and said “I think we got on on the ground floor for this one.”
And if the Evelyn on a Tuesday is the ground floor, The Forum on a Saturday is surely the Skydeck.
A mainstay in the Melbourne music scene for around 10 years (and just 4 years after launching a solo career), Alex has gone from playing rooms of 30 people to theatres of 2,000. Thanks largely to her strong pop sensibility, incredible voice and sheer old-fashioned hard work.
Both her debut EP B-Grade University and debut album I Love You Like A Brother were received with wide open ears nationally and internationally. She enjoyed two consecutive years on the triple j Hottest 100 countdown, a shoutout from Pitchfork, won a triple j unearthed competition to play Splendour in the Grass 2017 and played it again in 2018, she made her US television debut on Late Night with Seth Myers, threw in a couple of world tours and her sophomore record The Best of Luck Club sees her play some of the best venues in the country.
Alex’s Instagram post in the lead up to tonights show says it all – a picture of her under her name on the Forum billboard with the caption “Call the coroner because I’ve died and gone to heaven.”
Needless to say, this is a deep seated dream come true for any Melbourne musician and the whole evening acted as a love letter to the Melbourne music scene.
People started to fill the room early. Bec Goring – another rising local superstar – warmed the crowd beautifully. Her opening song gently lulled the crowd in with gorgeous harmonies and a tight and dynamic rhythm section.
Bec’s one of those super talented people; she plays for Geelong in the AFLW, is the guitarist for local stars Alexander Biggs, Merpire and Hollie Joyce and is an astounding singer/songwriter in her own right, kinda makes you want to say “Leave SOMETHING for the rest of us, Bec!”
By the end of her last song, she had won the whole room over and left the stage with a few hundred more fans than she had thirty minutes before.
Sydney’s Stand Atlantic quickly changed the pace and brought a fistful of energy to jump start the crowd. They ripped through eight of their taut pop/punk tracks. It was a slick show complete with a backing track, tight turnarounds between songs and a walloping stage presence from all band members.
This is a band that knows what they’re doing and they are certainly good at it. Despite this, the crowd was uneasy at first and a little reluctant to join in and ‘JUMP!’ (perhaps they were still in the afterglow of Bec Goring) but they responded well to tracks like ‘Skinny Dipping’ and ‘Coffee at Midnight’.
But now, for the main act. And what better way to walk on than to Santana and Rob Thomas’ ‘Smooth’? Alex wants you to know that irony is dead, people. Get used to it.
The band formed rank. The drummer and keyboardist on raised platforms up the back, bass and rhythm guitar across the front with Alex square in the middle. It was as if Alex had dreamed this set up from a young age. Here it was, finally realised with a stage and crowd big enough.
They kicked off the show with four or five new songs from the new album (to be expected). Even though ‘I Don’t Get Invited To Parties Anymore’ was a little underwhelming as opening song, the bands energy exploded off stage and spilled into the audience who soaked it up. Everyone – band and fans – was so happy to be there.
After a couple of songs, Alex stopped to thank the crowd for making her dream come true. “I couldn’t sleep last night”, she says, still giddy with excitement. Her banter was charming and witty, The Forum reminding her of her Yiayia’s house in Oakleigh.
Throughout the set Alex kept looking out over the audience, smiling and taking it all in.
About halfway through, the band cleared the stage and Alex invited collaborator and partner Gordi out to sing album highlight ‘Unspoken History’. After cheering loudly for Gordi (clearly some overlapping fans out there), the crowd fell silent as the two sang to each other. The piano and guitar and vocal harmonies all intertwining beautifully. It was the perfect calm point in the set. When they slowed the song to a halt the crowd cheered uproariously again, Alex thanked Gordi, brought the band back on and wasted no time launching into the song that started it all; “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”. The whole room went off. Alex had them all wrapped around her pinky finger.
Before the “last song” ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’, Alex took a moment to finalise the sentiments she’d been making in between songs all night.
“Every shit gig I’ve ever played led me to this moment, so if you’re a songwriter and you’ve had a terrible show recently and your feeling down about it– book that next show because THIS is where it leads!”
And finally an announcement to support the local scene. Before Alex headlined the Forum and toured the world, there was, “The Old Bar. The Grace Darling. The Evelyn. The Gaso. The Curtin. The Worker’s Club,” she said. “Go out and see your locals artists. We live in such an amazing city for it, there’s nothing else like it in the world.”
Alex Lahey is living proof that the Melbourne music scene is fertile ground for anyone to launch their career. Let’s cherish it, who knows what world class acts are still waiting in the green rooms of the The Evelyn? The Worker’s Club? The Gaso?
The actual last two songs, ‘Everyday’s The Weekend’ and ‘I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself’ showcased Alex’s showmanship. Linking the two songs with a driving drum beat, Alex took one final moment to introduce and thank her extremely talented band and do a little call and response with the crowd because… it’s The Forum. As if you wouldn’t.
“Sing it now! Doo Da Da, Doo Da Da, Doo Da Da ooh Wah Ah!” she yelled.
And the crowd yelled back, “Doo Da Da, Doo Da Da, Doo Da Da ooh Wah Ah!”
And so on.
“Thank you, Melbourne,” she said. “I’ll remember this night for the rest of my life.”
And the band launched into the final song of Alex’s dream set come true.