Prove your humanity

Saturday was an eventful Winter’s evening. It snowed in the Stirling Range, the Dockers said “goodbye” to two great players and, most importantly, Melbourne artist Sunbeam Sound Machine said “hello” to WA for the first time on their Goodness Gracious album tour.

Sophie Treloar, better known as POPPONGENE, was the first of three acts to open the night for Sunbeam with a solo set. Playing sweetly slow songs like Eternally Alone and Belgravey, she serenaded a small, increasing crowd with her soft voice and shimmery guitar playing. She was later on keys and backing vocals in the live Sunbeam band too.

Up next was local group Montana Wildhack, filling up the room with their steady psych-rock tunes—grainy in texture, heavy in volume and sincere in delivery. In between their ambient tracks, they joked with the audience about the struggle of being a Dockers fan—topical as they had lost the evening’s game—and spoke of dogs as their musical inspiration.

A cocktail of ‘80s-esque synths, velvety guitar melodies and groovy drumbeats from Perth band Airline Food then continued the night. Dressed in a uniform of crisp white turtlenecks, the four-piece did a fantastic job at recreating retro synth-pop vibes into incredibly layered tunes.

After a short break, deep cobalt lights introduced Sunbeam Sound Machine’s touring five-piece band to the stage. The slow glow of Anyway, Anyway was up first, one of the many atmospheric tunes from their new album. Nick Sowersby, the main man behind Sunbeam, then addressed the crowd who met him with warm cheers.

“Thanks so much for being here, it means a lot to us.”

Mind You, Seems Like You’ve Made Up Your Mind and Elsewhere were next, featuring a notable solo from “Dan central on guitar”, as Nick put it. Not to mention, Hold Me Back, was dedicated to Aaron Sandilands for the night. The performance blossomed into to a dreamy psychedelic soundscape as the lights drifted into more animated and vibrant colours.

They then upped the tempo with Talking Distance and played songs from the previous album Wonderer such as Wandering, I, the cheery Diabutsu and Real Life.

“We haven’t played these ones for a couple of years but since we’ve never been here before we thought we’d play them. These ones are for the people who have sent us persistent messages,” Nick said.

Of course, fans were not disappointed, with a song played from every album or EP dating back to 2013. A great setlist. It was a well-constructed mix of new to old as well as fast, like Shake and Getting Young, and slow, like Cosmic Love Affair.

What I like about Sunbeam’s music is its tonal warmth. I’m sure the audience, leisurely bopping along in their jumpers, coats and beanies, appreciated it too.

When I interviewed Nick about the Goodness Gracious album, he mentioned how he was inspired to strip back the music, so he toned down the effects and brought the instruments forward. Fewer effects, more simplicity, more impact.

I feel that one of the inadvertent aspects of live music is simplicity of the narrative, leaving room for interaction and a more real experience. Not necessarily better or worse, but different. Being able to connect with artists’ work is great, and when they’re a metre in front of you, expressing their songs to you, it’s a privilege to be there.

Thanks for the tunes Sunbeam, and we hope to see you in Perth again sooner than later.