Live Review: Alice Ivy, The Cactus Channel, Braille Face

17 July 2017 | 1:52 pm | Natasha Pinto

"Announcing a secret 2am set at Yah Yah's, it's a freakin' wonder she's got enough energy left tonight to perform another gig!"

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You'd think you were sneaking a peek into Braille Face's quiet bedroom rehearsal tonight. There's a tiny, dim light bulb that warms the stage just enough to get a look at his face. His voice warms us from the inside out, with dense chord progressions and ethereal piano sprinkled liberally over yearning vocals. The crowd is sucked into the sublime, emotional spiral of Because; immersed in the loud synth resonance that totally engulfs the entire space. At this moment the smoke machine kicks in, blowing the mist slowly across his face. It's a hazy, melancholy affair that has punters intensely engrossed and melting despite the ridiculously intense air-con, clatter of cutlery and punters yelling about beer coming from the front bar.

The Cactus Channel settle in with an instrumental funk jam, deliciously effortless and all the more engaging to watch. The double-time drum fills here are really satisfying, as is the sax solo that follows. The vocals are tight, but these guys really shine in their instrumental tracks tonight. Winding guitar lines, scattered keys and a tasty bass outro that we wish went on just a tad longer keep us hooked. Next up is a track from an upcoming album we're told to expect in November. It's a lush blend of funk and reggae with a slightly heavier edge, shrouded in a blanket of reverb. Sorry Hills is a clear hit with punters. The vocal line placed on top of colourful keys and a driving drum and bass line serves as a sweet contrast.

Cue Gwen Stefani hits for the break before electro-soul queen Alice Ivy (Annika Schmarsel to her mum) hits the stage. A bunch of animated punters are keen to use Stefani's The Sweet Escape as the backing track to their intensive flash photography photo shoot that's been happening for the past half an hour or so.

Leaping onto a foggy stage, the blue light and thick smoke make the lady of the hour look like she's moving in futuristic slow-mo. She plunges head first into Touch, which is a dreamy number filled with a sharp guitar line that powers through the speakers and bounces off the walls with sublime clarity. Filled with gratitude, Schmarsel takes the time to tell us that, two years ago, she opened for Melbourne faves REMI here and tonight she's sold out her own show at this same venue. This girl's clearly on an upward trajectory and proves this is much deserved tonight.

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Winding it down to a half-time breakdown, Schmarsel shakes shit up with an echoing cover of Eurythmics' hit, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), showing off her vocals all topped off with a healthy slathering of synths. She brings up special guests during total banger Get Me A Drink: Charlie Threads to supply a tight verse and Zellow to provide gorgeous vocals throughout. The song's outro is turned even tastier with a sample of Beyonce's Baby Boy to close it out. Mean Man's Bite sees the peak of Schmarsel's killer ear for sampling with a heavier guitar part provided by the insanely talented Luy Amiel taking this one to another level.

"Are you ready? Are you sure?" Schmarsel asks before powering through with Almost Here. Announcing a secret 2am set at Yah Yah's, it's a freakin' wonder she's got enough energy left tonight to perform another gig! Alice Ivy is one to watch for sure. She's a powerhouse, and this is just the beginning.