"Musa appears in the middle of the crowd, surfing on someone's shoulders and cheering the band on."
It's a public holiday in Hobart, and 300 sweaty bodies jam their arms up and push into each other as cheers rise above soul-heavy beats. Hobart, at the very end of the Elefant corridor, is once again being sanctified as Horrorshow brings labelmates Omar Musa and B Wise on their national tour. They're more than halfway through their sold-out tour and it's clear this line-up is not letting up.
Omar Musa is the first to stand before the crowd. An author of two incredible novels and one of Australia's most acclaimed spoken-word artists, Musa is something changed on stage when backed by club beats. His words and flow are quick and fluid as a snakebite as Musa drapes himself in legacy - Australian, Malaysian, hip hop. A well-versed student of history, his intelligence often sits behind his rambunctiousness in raps. Musa is able to deliver sharp barbs at the state of the nation (and Scott Morrison) with the easy swagger and tongue-between-the-teeth smile of a class clown. It's a winning one-two combo - music that hits the mind and feet in unison, delivered with incorrigible charm.
B Wise, one of the newest artists to the Elefant Traks label, is part of what seems to be a distinct emerging scene in Australian hip hop. It delves further into the history of Australian culture and what it means to be Australian from the perspective of a non-Irish, non-English heritage. For a divided country that simultaneously celebrates and parades its multi-culturalism, while being dangerous for non-white Australian citizens, these are important discussions that are being had every day. What these artists are doing is something unique and powerful for Australian music. Live tonight B Wise, with precise delivery and a well-balanced setlist, brings the party straight into the punters' feet; intelligently dissecting a living history of under-the-surface tensions. His reception is one of breathless excitement and raw-throated appreciation.
There is no barrier for this show - punters are clustered all around the stage, so close that the MCs are practically standing on them. It's a warm and wild reception, a thunderstorm within sweaty pub walls. Horrorshow open with the familiar simple bassline of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side. Crowd favourites Dead Star Shine and Walk You Home earn ecstatic applause. At one point during Horrorshow's performance, Musa appears in the middle of the crowd, surfing on someone's shoulders and cheering the band on. Elefant Trak artists fuse like an extended family. Something that can be seen when all the artists from tonight's line-up (including all three DJs) take to the stage together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder to trade verses and beats. After the show, sweaty and no doubt exhausted from channelling so much energy to feed the audience, every one of tonight's artists takes the time to walk around, meet the crowd, take photos, share stories and give their appreciation to another full-to-capacity audience.
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These interactions aren't glad-handed winning-hearts-and-minds tactics, but genuine expressions of gratitude to the people that come out on a Thursday to support original live music.
There are still several shows left for this national tour, if you can buy a ticket this reviewer strongly recommends it.