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Live Review: Sylvan Esso, DJ Adam Lewis, Joy

3 January 2015 | 1:40 pm | Daniel Comensoli

A slow-build kind of evening burst to life by the time its enrapturing headliners took the stage

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A strong crowd was in early to see Brisbane artist and producer Olivia McCarthy, playing alone as JOY. Surrounded by instruments on all sides, the performance was impressive if only for her ability to play it alone. A capable cover of Drake’s Marvin’s Room featured early, showcasing her signature mix of light and airy vocals over graceful keys and restless beats. 
 
Dylan Wright from La Mar joined McCarthy for a song – a good foil for her lighter vocals over the heavy rhythms. First single Captured followed after a mashup, and new single Stone rounded out the set. Both were solid, but not quite as absorbing as they are through headphones. Regardless, JOY is clearly one to watch in 2015.
 
DJ Adam Lewis’ set unfortunately turned regulation DJ. With a crowd seemingly unaware the sound wasn’t filler music between bands, there was little for Lewis to do. Consequently he spent most of it on his phone or off talking to someone after tracking another remix.
 
Sylvan Esso came onstage to a packed house and launched straight into Hey Mami. Singer Amelia Meath battled through with an ailing, post-Lost Paradise voice, showing little weakness along her unsettled songs. Nick Sanborn lurched over his minimal set-up, while Meath grooved and commanded to his right. Their enthusiasm for their own songs was refreshing, and contagious. They had the crowd all night.
 
Trippy, textured songs could have run easily into each other, but the charming asides and genuine appreciation from the band made a winning performance. They’re an accomplished electronic outfit, and skipped nimbly between songs from last year’s self-titled debut. HSKT was particularly impressive, with a danceable middle swelling into and melodic and cathartic end. 
 
They ended with Play It Right, one of their earliest and still one of their best. It was lovingly received, with a band and set of punters equally grateful for each other’s presence. It was a great kicker for the New Year.