Review: Allysha Joy - Geddes Lane Winter Residency
On a freezing Thursday night I headed down a dark nondescript laneway, entering into a door with two guys shivering, smoking cigarettes beside it. Inside, past the ticket booth, I was directed to the foyer bar. With an ornate interior of carved wooden paneling, stained glass windows and patterned carpets and wallpaper, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back a century in time if it weren’t for a small platform with two dancing poles in the center of the room.
It was the first night of a month-long residency for Allysha Joy and her band at the newly opened Geddes Lane Ballroom. The building has undergone many changes in function, previously hosting rock gigs in the 80s as the Grain Store Tavern, before operating as Showgirls Strip Club for a number of years. I walked past the foyer into a small performance space where friends were waiting. A small stage sat at the end of the room, with two chandeliers dangling from the ceiling and an imposing support column in the middle of the audience.
Kee’ahn took to the stage first and immediately impressed with her stunning vocals. Originally hailing from Townsville, the Jirrbal, Kuku Yalangi and Badu island singer-songwriter is a recent addition to Melbourne’s music scene. Themes of love, breakups and personal struggles filled the songs in her set as she strummed freely on her electric guitar, with the support of her band. A rising star; she is sure to find her feet quickly in the scene given her ample songwriting talents.
On the decks in between sets, Adriana filled the room with her unique blend of world dance music. A recent signing to Crown Ruler, she joins Allysha Joy on their impressive roster of local and international talent. She seems to be a perfect match for such a diverse and forward-thinking label.
After a short break, Allysha and her band took to the stage with a newish line-up. With the front half of the audience sitting attentively on the floor, and the rest either seated or cramming around the large beam in the center of the room, the space felt intimate with just enough space for everyone. Mirrors lined the walls of the room and colourful visual patterns were projected above the band.
Recently returning after her extensive European tour with the 30/70 collective, Allysha came armed with a set composed entirely of new material. Despite having had just two weeks to learn the material, her band performed every song with near-perfect precision and flow. Rather than introducing each song separately, songs often blended into each other. Deep synth grooves and intricate percussion filled the set, with the characteristic husky vocals of Allysha on point throughout the show. While playing her synthesizer, she swayed her head rhythmically using large earrings as a supplementary percussive element. The new material sounded fresh and exciting and undoubtedly takes her sound to a new level. Still as raw and dynamic as ever, her performance was peppered with monologues about her own experiences and inspirations for the new songs. The set wound-down with ‘Enate’, a single song from her previously released album “Acadie : Raw”.
Recently featured on Gilles Peterson’s ‘Sunny side up’ compilation with the track ‘Orbit’, Allysha’s importance to Melbourne’s Neo-Soul scene at the moment is indisputable. Her winter residency continues on Thursdays at Geddes Lane Ballroom throughout August and is well worth the modest ticket price. With different featured artists each week including Tiana Khasi, Setwun and JK Group, swing by and check out her new material in a novel and intimate venue.
Words: David Minett