Ainslie Wills, Gretta Ray and Angie McMahon teamed up for a magical performance

The dynamic trio performed both together and alone.

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Dylan Martin

We’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing Melbourne songstresses blossom over the past few years. The list of female artists pushing boundaries both vocally and instrumentally is long, but Angie McMahon, Gretta Ray and Ainslie Wills are definitely high on that list – something they proved at their Melbourne Music Week showcase.

The Hub at ACMI was transformed into a moody, neon dream for the event. It was an otherworldly experience descending the staircase into the large gallery, which was lit up by green beams of light that bounced off a giant disco ball in the centre of the room. The crowd was small at first, but more people began to trickle in, filling the space just in time for Gretta Ray.

The young singer-songwriter seemed confident and at ease on the stage, breaking into a beautiful, stripped back version of ‘Fitzroy’ from her latest EP. She was slightly nervous and tense when she played The Corner Hotel earlier in the year, so it was great to see her looking so comfortable now.

Flanked by only her guitarist and drummer, Ray’s voice was able to really shine through, capturing the crowd with her impressive range. She played ‘Long Distance’ and ‘Towers’, during which the lights overhead turned pink, reflecting off the disco ball as though the sky was raining glitter. It felt kind of like a prom scene from an ‘80s movie.

Next up was the small, smiley Angie McMahon, who blew everyone away with her awesome guitar skills and powerful singing. There’s such an edge to McMahon’s voice – it’s husky and throaty and strong and sexy – something really unique that sets her apart from other vocalists. Her talent as a guitarist was also on display, shredding her way through an unreleased track, then ‘Keeping Time’ and lastly, ‘Slow Mover’, which got an unsurprisingly enthusiastic response from the crowd.

After McMahon’s short and sweet set, Ainslie Wills entered the stage, the first of the three women to opt for keyboard over guitar. Like the other two, she was only joined by a guitarist and a drummer, but her sound was so unlike anything else that night. She began with ‘Constellations’, a hauntingly beautiful tune which saw her voice hit high notes that many singers would find intimidating. Wills then launched into ‘Mountains’, a track she penned about nightmares and insomnia, before wrapping up with ‘Nothing To Prove’.

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Each artist returned to the stage again for a second set, playing another three songs from their repertoire’s. Ray continued her angelic performance with ‘A View Like This’, followed by a chilling version of ‘Radio Silence’, and finishing with the ever-popular ‘Drive’.

McMahon then bounded back as lively as before, launching into ‘Missing Me’ which had everyone singing along. Her final two songs were both new tracks from her upcoming album, which is due out sometime next year. The first, ‘I Am A Woman’, was a more sombre affair, but she lifted the mood again with ‘Pasta’, a rambling, energetic tune with playful lyrics.  

This time, Wills took up the guitar, belting out her final tracks ‘Slow Down’, ‘Missing Out’ and ‘Society’. Again, her sound had that quirk that neither of the other two women possessed; an uncanny ability to captivate the room. Weird, experimental sound walls permeated much of her work, most of which she created with her voice alone, showcasing her awe-inspiring vocal range.

To end the night, the three women joined forces for a cover of Emma Louise’s ‘Wish You Well’. It was a beautiful blending of each artist’s individual sound, with their differing vocal styles coming together harmoniously. This could be said of the whole show really, which was an impressively curated affair that flowed smoothly from songstress to songstress, each delightful in their own unique ways.

The talent of these budding musicians was clearly on display during the event, but there was a deeper message behind the showcase. It was about supporting and honouring the women of the music industry, and showing us the magic they emanate when given the space to shine.

Highlight: It wouldn’t be fair to single out one artist as the highlight, so probably the combined cover of ‘Wish You Well’.

Lowlight: Honestly? None.

Crowd Favourite: Gretta Ray: ‘Drive’. Angie McMahon: ‘Slow Mover’. Ainslie Wills: ‘Society’. 

Melbourne Music Week continues on into the week and finishes up on Saturday November 24. Check out the huge program and grab your tickets via the MMW website.