Live Review: Winston Surfshirt, Polographia, Crooked Letter

17 November 2017 | 3:37 pm | Tobias Handke

"Surprisingly, the amount of booze he consumes fails to affect his performance, although his dance moves are questionable."

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Australian hip hop is in a very good space and upcoming producer/rapper Crooked Letter is evidence of this. The Nigerian Australian drops impressive rhymes over a melting pot of Afrobeat, searing electronic and traditional hip hop compositions. He enlists Melbourne's own Rara Zulu, who is a star in her own right, for additional vocals. Heretics, very much in the vein of underground Atlanta rapper Rome Fortune's catchy Blicka Blicka, is the standout track.

Nostalgic duo Polographia bring the tropical vibes with their synth-heavy electronic musings. The headline act joins them for the tasty track Sly while a sample of Stardust's smash Music Sounds Better With You has a group of bros grooving along likes it's 1998 all over again.

Seemingly coming out of nowhere this year, Sydney's hidden gem Winston Surfshirt has sold out consecutive shows at Melbourne's Corner Hotel. This is no mean feat, particularly for a local band still on the rise. Entertaining with a slew of tracks from debut album Sponge Cake, Winston Surfshirt is an intriguing hybrid of genres. Flirting with hip hop, jazz, psychedelic and soul, the six-piece have the crowd bopping along from the get-go. The soulful The Moments, frenetic Same Same and funky When You're Ready are highlights, although one couple arguing by the bar are missing all the action. The band turn Justin Timberlake's My Love into a down-tempo ballad while Nowhere becomes a soothing slice of neo-soul pop.

On vocals, Surfshirt is the star of the show. Sporting a black T-shirt with his long hair and glasses, he has an enigmatic presence to match his phenomenal singing voice. Slightly rugged when spitting raps, Surfshirt's croon is like velvet and made for breaking hearts. His fellow band members are exceptional, providing the rich tapestry of technicolour instrumentation for Surfshirt's silky vocals to do their job. Mysteriously named band member The Bone must be singled out in particular for his trombone work, which adds another dimension to the band's already-intriguing sound.

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A bottle of white sambuca is passed between band members while Surfshirt gets stuck into multiple beers during the evening. Surprisingly, the amount of booze he consumes fails to affect his performance, although his dance moves are questionable. Best described as Tame Impala crossed with Anderson .Paak, the biggest cheer for Surfshirt comes when they play the singles. Be About You has a summery vibe making excellent use of Surfshirt's voice, Ali D is an upbeat dancefloor starter and FreeForYou is a subtle R&B number. The epic tempo-changing Cast In Stone is like a mini-freakout kicking off the encore before Crooked Letter and Rara Zulu join Surfshirt for a medley of Blu Cantrell and Sean Paul's Breathe and Fatman Scoop's Be Faithful, leaving the crowd sweaty, exhausted and, above all, musically satisfied.