20.05.2019

The Babe Rainbow evoked a ‘60s fever dream when they came to The Croxton

Words by Kate Streader
Photography by Bandanna Photography

It was an at times tumultuous but enjoyable display.

With the election looming and the hope of a climate-conscious government hanging in the air it seemed a fitting occasion for The Babe Rainbow’s ‘Earth is an Egg, Don’t Frack It’ tour. Like a ‘60s fever dream, the band swept into The Croxton as if plucked straight from the bygone era – long blonde hair cascading onto peasant blouse-draped shoulders and not a care in the world.

To hype a crowd for a band as laidback as The Babe Rainbow is a delicate task and one that was handled admirably by supports Regular Spread and Leah Senior. The first act played up the fact that the posters announcing set times around the venue had dubbed them ‘Regular Speed’ and jokingly tossed up the notion of changing their name. The band’s meandering sound was so palatable that the audience requested an encore, though Regular Spread admitted they’d run out of songs before dashing from the stage.

By the time Leah Senior took the stage, she had the by now near-full venue entranced with her fragile melodies and buttery vocals, hauntingly harmonised by sister Andi. Playing a handful of new tracks on the piano, her set drifted between upbeat jangle and a wistful sombre and was enough to silence the crowd as they listened in awe.

Once they’d reached the stage, The Babe Rainbow had a little trouble finding their footing. Vocalist Angus Dowling fumbled with his maracas, dropping them on the floor before knocking over the microphone stand while twirling on the spot with his arms outstretched. One could only assume the band had enjoyed too much of something or rather before reaching the stage. Dowling and the rest of the band seemed unfazed, though, if not entirely oblivious to these little hiccups.

The first handful of songs were, admittedly, a little sloppy as the band struggled to find their rhythm, though they hit their stride amidst the swirling Middle Eastern inspired twang of ‘Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest’ and continued to gain velocity throughout the remainder of their set.

From there, they invited Bananagun’s Nick Van Bakel to join on the bongos; elevating The Babe Rainbow’s hazy groove into an unstoppable, rhythmic beast. Meanwhile, Dowling disappeared for a costume change, exchanging his floating blouse for a rainbow-striped boilersuit before parading it across the stage as if he were on a catwalk.

At one point, The Babe Rainbow’s drummer disappeared into the audience with a jam block in hand, barely visible amongst the swarming dancing bodies as he slowly snaked his way through the crowd and back to his kit. By now, the energy was electric and there wasn’t a still body in sight.

‘Johnny Says Stays Cool’ elicited an audience singalong as fans chanted “breathe in, breathe out”; a simple yet apt reminder in the daunting political climate we’d all happily pushed to the backs of our brains for the evening.

When the band left the stage, it felt too soon and bassist Elliot O’Reilly appeared to agree, walking to the nearest microphone and chanting “one more song” along with the crowd. If it wasn’t already clear that the band were having as much fun as the crowd, this moment certainly let it be known.

The Babe Rainbow are an ode to the long-gone summers of free love and their sound glimmers like the Californian sun. While the days to come held a disappointing outcome from the federal election, there’s no doubt that The Babe Rainbow’s impending new album will make for a prime political protest soundtrack.

Highlight: It’s a toss-up between Angus Dowling’s dance moves and Elliot O’Reilly’s suit.

Lowlight: The rough start.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Johnny Says Stay Cool’.