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Hiatus Kaiyote indulge their fans with old classics and lush new tracks at Melbourne Zoo Twilights

The picnicking crowd threw their blankets off their knees to boogy to the neo-soul grooves of Nai Palm and band. 

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Image source: 
Rochelle Flack

There’s no denying that Melburnians are serial groove addicts; it just took a night of boogying at the zoo with Hiatus Kaiyote and Harvey Sutherland to prove it. With both acts reeling from the success of their past toils, tours and tribulations, a perfect cocktail of dirty disco and off-kilter neo-soul awaited a sold out, incredibly diverse crowd, with the ensuing vibes resulting in one of the most memorable gigs in recent years.

Although the crowd was predominantly blanket-bound,it took little time for disco fever to take over when Sutherland and his backing band Bermuda took the stage at sundown. Sutherland’s synth prowess was on full display, with the symphonic boogie overlord cruising through crowd favourites such as ‘Bermuda’ and ‘Clarity’ with soulful ease. Bermuda’s tightness as a backing trio further proved the act to be an early success, with the sweeping electric violin swells and shuffling percussion on ‘Priestess’ and ‘Bamboo’ proving to be dancefloor highlights. With the crowd wrapped around their fingers, it would’ve been more apt to treat this gig as a Harvey Sutherland / Hiatus Kaiyote double headliner show: this dude seriously grooves hard.

Gracing the stage for their first Melbourne performance in three years, the crowd treated Hiatus Kaiyote like hometown heroes from the get-go, and it was incredibly gratifying to see how much the band enjoyed themselves. Despite self-admittedly feeling under the weather, Nai Palm’s stage presence and vocal chops shined. She’s totally reminiscent of that one cool indie aunty that feeds you vodka on the sly at Christmas get-togethers. With ‘Laputa’ leading the charge early on to a mass of hoots and hollers from punters, ‘Molasses’ had the audience non-stop bopping soon thereafter, followed by a pleasant throwback to 2013’s Tawk Tomahawk with the lush ‘Mobius Streak.’

Later in the night, Hiatus indulged with a taste of new material from their forthcoming third LP, slightly losing some of the crowd with the unfamiliar lucid instrumental textures. Nevertheless, the one-two punch of ‘Building A Ladder’ and ‘Breathing Underwater’ quickly reignited the audience, with the latter highlighting the band’s time-signature- defying grooves and the symbiotic backing vocalists, comprised of the likes of neo-soul stalwarts Silent Jay and Jace XL. Bassist Paul Bender was a huge standout across the evening, with his fluid instrumental mastery popping the eyes of various punters through the likes of late set contenders ‘Atari’ and ‘By Fire’ and affirming him as one of Melbourne’s finest lords of low end. Bowing out after a slinky 80-minute set, Hiatus Kaiyote finished up on the acid-jazz singalong of ‘Nakamarra,’ with the tune’s ecstatic refrain reverberating across the zoo in a seemingly fitting end to a triumphant night of soul.

Highlight: The group of toddlers seriously boogying for both bands.

Lowlight: Slightly inconsistent sound issues that persisted throughout the night.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Molasses’.