Alice Glass and Zola Jesus turned the Corner into a perma-rave

The double bill bewitched an intimate audience with two sets of bombastic darkwave and searing electro-punk.

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Image source: 
Sky Kirkham

Double-billed gigs often have an uneasy tension. Though the idea of the support act is supposedly absent, inevitably one act will play first, the basis of which is inescapably their opposing popularities. But Zola Jesus and Alice Glass’s takeover of the Corner Hotel neutralised this tension, bewitching an intimate audience with two sets of bombastic darkwave and searing electro-punk.

The double bill was engineered by Glass after finishing up a support tour with Marilyn Manson, deciding she’d had quite enough of the hyperbolic masculinity. Zola Jesus was a wise choice; the iconoclastic industrial-pop singer-songwriter is a perfect complement to Glass’ digital howls.

When the curtains opened for Zola Jesus, the performative intensity began. Covered in a red veil, she writhed frantically to the inverted vocal samples of ‘Veka’ as if suffocating. Flanked by a violinist and guitarist who rarely made sounds resembling an actual guitar, Zola had stunning control over her possessed movement and vocal acrobatics. When the veil was removed for the rousing ‘Soak’, she resembled a druidic goth in a black and red robe.

Throwing herself into the crowd for ‘Siphon’, Zola stumbled around, waving her arms like a medieval friar proclaiming the Black Death. When Zola first spoke however, her earnest nervousness was a contrast to her mesmeric stage mystique. She endearingly fumbled through segways to the emotional panoramas of ‘Witness’ and ‘Bound’, a candid respite that proved a vulnerable humanity behind their emotional heft.

Though the crowd itself wasn’t quite at capacity, the electric atmosphere conducted for Alice Glass was spilling over. This was the first time Glass had performed solo to Australian audiences, following her departure from electro-punk duo Crystal Castles in 2014.

When Glass popped out from behind the curtain, the SuperFans in the audience made their raucous affection heard, taking the star aback. ‘Forgiveness’ was the blazingly atypical beginning to the set as Glass bopped with blasé joy. A member of the crowd handed Glass a homemade puppet with her likeness, which Glass loved, cradling it in her arms as she sung ‘White Lies’.  Her new bandmate Jupiter Keyes brooded with a scowl over the other side of the gothic forest backdrop, providing the instrumental glitch-a-thon.

Without a word, Glass launched into the Crystal Castles classic ‘Alice Practise’, provoking a very impassioned audience response. The decision to play any Crystal Castles material is something Glass has grappled with since the launch of her solo career, but it demonstrates an important distinction too; fans love Crystal Castles because of Glass. The venue was particularly enthralled with Glass’ rendition of ‘Alice Practise’.

During Crystal Castles classic ‘Love and Caring’ and Glass’ debut single ‘Stillbirth’, Keyes heightened the manic energy by bringing out a tom-tom drum to pound with a frightening determination. Glass shrieked “waiting, waiting, waiting for you to die,” with a passion that truly earned every inch of a hackneyed “awe-inspiring” descriptor. The show also saw the debut of two new tracks ‘107’ and ‘Youth Problem’, both icy electro-raves, effusing painful lyrics of self-abasement.

During the static insanity of ‘Blood Oath’ Glass jumped into the audience for an unforgettable crowd cavort, holding fans’ hands with glee. Though well-behaved, Glass poignantly reminded the crowd to “protect those at the front...who are more vulnerable. Call out the creeps....call out your friends if they’re being creeps.”

Though her 50 minute set was succinct, each of the 15 tracks was paroxystic bursts of digi-punk power. Glass’ solo career feels truly modern, near impossibly exciting and the show at The Corner encapsulated the thrilling perma-rave we wish every night out was.

Highlight: Alice Glass and Zola Jesus coming down to the audience for a surreal dance.

Lowlight: Could have easily been a longer set from both.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Alice Practise’.