The Live N Local closing party puts Melbourne’s vibrant music scene front and centre

The Live N Local closing party puts Melbourne’s vibrant music scene front and centre

Photo: Rick Clifford
Words by Augustus Welby

Huntly, Bad Bangs and Purr Usual come together for an afternoon to celebrate the southside’s premier winter music festival.

In 2004, Coca Cola launched the national concert tour, Live ’n Local, in an attempt to connect to the youth through music. Tickets to the event could be acquired in exchange for 20 labels stripped from bottles of Coca Cola classic. The effects of this coax to gorge on the sucrose-loaded brown stuff can still be viewed in my cavities.

No such sacrifice is necessary to get involved in the City of Port Phillip’s Live N Local Festival, which brings local icons and emerging talent to the area from August 24 – 31. The event comes to a close with a Saturday arvo party at The Espy featuring electronic R&B trio Huntly, garage rockers Bad Bangs and rising indie-psych quartet Purr Usual.

“This will be our first venture to the southside, to be honest,” says Purr Usual’s Gabe Strachan. “I hope that we’ll be welcomed with open arms.”

The iconic Espy is the heart of St Kilda’s live music scene. Though, it’s true that St Kilda isn’t quite the playground for young, talented and mischievous artists that it once was.

“You could say that we are a band with our heart on the southside,” says Huntly’s Elly Scrine, before resolutely dismissing Melbourne’s north/south divide. “Having spent European summer in Berlin, I’d say it’s a bad move to draw up huge divisions down the middle of a city.”

Regardless, these sorts of discussions only arise because there is such an extent of opportunity in Melbourne. “Melbourne truly is a melting pot of live music,” says Bad Bangs’ Shelby De Fazio. “Seek and you shall find, and don’t be afraid to venture beyond the typical live music venue.”

Scrine, who’s Huntly’s lead vocalist, is originally from Brisbane and has relished the depth of support across Melbourne’s diverse music community.

“We’ve all played in a bunch of bands and we all spend time between the club scenes, rock dog scenes, weird pop music scenes and more,” she says. “I’m involved in collectives Cool Room and LISTEN as well and I try to play a super active role in making music more accessible and inclusive, because it’s something I really believe in.”

Huntly come to Live N Local still basking in the afterglow of their debut LP, Low Grade Buzz, which came out in March. The record demonstrates the capacity for pop music to challenge and innovate while still being melodic and relatively upbeat.

“We’re always wanting to explore a range of styles – production styles, song formats, personal narratives, etc. – but still wanting it to feel cohesive as a band,” says percussionist Andrew McEwan.

Huntly have attached the tag “doof you can cry to” to their music, which ties in with their desire to offer solace and understanding.

“We are really passionate about music as emotional catharsis,” Scrine says. “So for some people catharsis is crying, for others it’s partying, dancing, singing in a choir – whatever.

In a live setting, this manifests in the form of “runway drama, comedic banter – often too much – cathartic dance opportunities, as much crowd participation as possible, and a lot of really good, interesting music,” says McEwan.

Purr Usual are toting their debut self-titled EP, which landed in April via Hegel’s Bagels – a label set up by bassist Max Karklins with the ambition of releasing the music of the bands he plays in.

“The biggest influence on [Purr Usual] was certainly Andy Shauf’s The Party,” says Strachan. “I smashed this record hundreds of times over the course of these songs coming together. Chris Cohen’s As If Apart got quite a few plays as well. Locally, Mildlife is a band we look up to as well as Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange.”

Bad Bangs also have new music to spruik, having followed up last year’s Grow It Out EP with the single, ‘Crush’. It’s a driving garage rock number with a classic vibe and a healthy sprinkle of grit.

“As a three piece, our overall sound is quite stripped back, but we push to make it as spicy as we can,” says De Fazio, the band’s main songwriter. “While we draw references from some of our favourite artists – Ty Segall, Lou Reed, Angel Olsen, The Murlocs, among many more – we definitely develop our songs long after they’re written.”

Expectations are high for Bad Bangs’ return to the Espy. “We’re very excited to be playing them in the Gershwin,” says De Fazio. “The last time we played at The Espy, a lovely girl got on stage mid song and pecked our bass player Ben [Leahy] on the cheek.”

In all, the event promises to be characterised by feelings of playfulness and warmth.

“We think the dance floor is a great place for introspection,” says Scrine, “so long as it’s somewhere you feel comfortable, which is something we always try to create at our shows.”

The Live N Local Closing Party goes down from 3pm at The Espy on Saturday August 31. The festival itself runs from Saturday August 24 til Saturday August 31. All shows are free but secure your complimentary tickets via the festival website.