30 October 2019

H. at Smiths Alternative


The city is awakened and restless on this mid-June night. It’s Saturday, 9pm, and every bar around is abundant with patrons, waiting to watch the big game. It’s the World Cup, and Australia is playing France, who I’ve been told is a world-ranking team.

It’s Azim Zain telling me this, as we waited inside the lobby that adjoins Smiths Alternative. We’re in company with Plastic Plants and Kial Malone, waiting to set up for the show. The room inside is already at capacity with another performance that’s about to wrap up. The weather is top-of-mind for everyone tonight. The icy wind wedded with the periodic rain makes for what will surely be one of the coldest nights of this winter season.

But there’s something about the shared discomfort that brings everyone together.

Walking inside Smiths feels like walking inside your own home. It’s a space that’s been built with love and dedication by its owners. Around the walls are lamps and paintings, and stacks of books and board games spaced around the room. Couches around coffee tables that are well suited with the rugs that they sit on. There’s an old donated piano outside for anyone to create art with. It’s a space even a stranger to the city could feel comfortable walking into.

We’re here for H. – a multi-talented musician who is already inside, waiting eagerly to show us her sophomore EP ‘Everything’s On TV Now Anyway’. She has shirts hanging on a portable clothes rack, printed with illustrations of television sets, made specifically for the occasion. H. resides in Sydney, but is warmly welcomed back home as she begins her tour in Canberra.

The venue is once again filled and everyone has found a couch or table to sit by and we wait for Plastic Plants to finish soundcheck. Tonight is their second ever show, but they are never strangers to the audience. You instantly fall in love with them before they even begin playing, but then that love is reaffirmed when they do.

Around the room is a beautiful arts community. A person sits in the front row with a small sketchbook and watercolour pen, illustrating the portraits of the band as they perform. Nearby are musicians, photographers, writers, and designers, all sitting collectively in awe of what’s being made on stage tonight.

Plastic Plants have presence on stage that feels more like the warmth of a spring morning sun. The melodies are enough to take the ease off your week, something that embodies what music is for many people. Smiles around the room show the pleasure and comfort this band creates.

Kial Malone is up next. He’s from Goulburn, and stands with confidence and an acoustic guitar. After one song he dials back the music to tell us a story of a prank he and his grandmother set on his younger brother that is met with generous laughter from the audience. He then steps back to perform an intricate instrumental that astonishes everyone, to then continue singing his illustrative lyrics. There’s such rawness in his performance like that of punk, but this is a performance feel like you’re encountering an old friend from long ago.

Ending the night is H. but you wish it wouldn’t end here. She plays with an electric guitar with Marcella on the violin. Even if you hadn’t heard her music before, you know you’re in for something more than magical. And indeed it was. The expression of honesty in her vocals, lyrics and chord structure show that this is not just a musician but rather an artist.

We merrily joke after the show that the warmth in the room is due to the love that’s been emitted from the music. But there’s a truth in this. H.’s composition and sound is so beautifully crafted that it fills you affably with warmth, so much that your worries of the cold outside are all but forgotten.

In a city where live music receives a keen reception, Smith’s was undoubtedly heartened by the artists that graced its stage that night.

H. continues her tour in Sydney on July 1st at Symposium #9, and in Melbourne on July 4th at Some Velvet Morning. Details available on Facebook.

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