With the struggle of exams fast approaching, we thought we were done with live music after going to Groovin the Moo at the end of week 10. It was our ‘last hurrah’ for the semester, as I specifically called it.
But on Friday afternoon on the 19th of May, sub-editor Jessica messaged me saying that she had two tickets to Alex Lahey’s gig at the Howler in Brunswick that night and that she couldn’t make it to the show. While Friday night plans not involving studying aren’t exactly at the top of everyone’s priorities (or at least shouldn’t be at this time of semester), we jumped at the opportunity to go. For two Alex Lahey fans, last minute tickets to her sold-out Melbourne show were just too good to pass up.
Alex Lahey is a compelling singer-songwriter from Melbourne and Monash alumni who has recently risen to prominence after the release of her catchy debut EP B-Grade University. Lahey has a knack for storytelling through her often hilarious, sometimes frank but always charismatic songs full of energetic guitar riffs. From having to fund the recording of her EP last year by selling her prized blue 1999 Corolla, Alex Lahey sure has come a long way. Highlights now include being featured on Pitchfork as one of their ‘Best New Tracks’, being played regularly on high rotation at triple j and coming in at 97 on their Hottest 100 to boot, supporting indie darlings Tegan and Sara on their world tour, playing at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and now selling out much of her own Australian Tour. We’re certainly massive fans, so it’s not hard to see how she’s amassed such a vast following with her enviable effortless songwriting style. Her indie-rock tunes are undeniably relatable.
After thoroughly enjoying her set at Groovin the Moo, and again earlier this year at the Old Bar at an intimate gig with Camp Cope, we were pumped to see her for the third time live, which says a bit about how great we think she must be. After doing a quick search of the event to suss out what arrival time was optimal, we found out The Football Club and Alexander Briggs were also playing. We decided on jumping in the car pretty much straight away, to make the beginning of The Football Club’s set. We had both heard their latest release Ivy on triple j before and thought they were worth another listen. We found their old catalogue on Soundcloud and we decided to familiarise ourselves on the way there, as it’s always better seeing a band live if you actually know their material.
The Football Club are a self-described folk-punk band from Footscray, with their sound forming from the composition of their members after originally aspiring to be indie-pop or something similar. Their songs are sad, emotional, and touch on issues of gender, sexuality, love and navigating your way through life a confused young “adult” in the vastly diverse and sometimes downbeat city of Melbourne. The lead singer Ruby is transgender, and her songs give you an intimate glimpse into her life. The familiar Ivy is both heart-wrenching and beautiful. She touches on issues of people failing to recognise her transition –
“Yeah it makes me upset, but I try not to let it get to me, I’ve adjusted to the fact you’ll probably never call me Ruby”.
For those with a keen eye, Ruby is wearing an Alex Lahey t-shirt in the Ivy music video and both of their songs feature the word Ivy. Fitting.
Ruby did not fail to put on awe-inspiring show. She was funny and lighthearted. She made sure to tell the audience repeatedly that they were super broke from touring and that we should all buy their merch to give them a hand. She also told us to follow her on Instagram (roobastank_) which of course, we did. This came after having some enlightening dialogue with an Instagram fan who she happened to have many similarities with such as moving from Queensland to get away from their families a little.
Providing us with sobering insight to each of their personal and truly heartfelt lyrics, Ruby drew a fitting parallel with Lahey’s “emo-banger” You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me (YDTYLPLM) to their song Girlcrush, in that they were opposites. Girlcrush describes the situation where one person thinks they are attracted to Ruby and wants to be in a relationship, but Ruby sees through this as a superficial desire and nothing more. YDTYLPLM can be read as someone who perhaps doesn’t realise they are queer or can be attracted to Lahey but actually is. Obviously this proved that The Football Club were destined to be on this tour with their similarly enthralling storytelling.
Another standout track was How to Build a Girl, describing the struggle of being a transgender woman when society doesn’t exactly embrace you. We could see that the quickly growing crowd connected to the subject matter very deeply on a personal level. Ruby poured her heart out and the audience latched onto every last word, appreciating her strength in sharing her experiences. In an area “where even a Google search won’t do you any favours”, we sincerely believe that the Football Club are genuinely going to help others in similar situations.
At one point in the night, we definitely felt the connection to Girlcrush’s line –
“We went to some club on Brunswick Street, where we spent one hundred bucks on two drinks each”.
The vibes at the show were welcoming and friendly, a capacity crowd of lovely Melbournites with a shared affinity in being in the age of figuring things out and not being quite sure of themselves.
Alex Lahey described this tour as a somewhat bookend from her EP B-Grade University and her first set of proper shows back after her stint overseas to the ever encroaching album release date which she had only just completed recording. We felt a sense of nostalgia for her known tracks as now she’s moving on from uni, but also anticipation for her new stuff that’s sure to be as affable and as foot-tap inducing as the old.
She opened with Wes Anderson, the song that the tour is named for and one that’s particularly relatable to us. We also like to think Alex Lahey is comparable to Wes Anderson at some level in terms of their creative genius. Her songs often touch on her uni days. In the first verse of Wes Anderson, the lyrics read –
“I slept in this morning, because your bed is so much better than mine, you had left for uni, so I changed my phones alarm time”.
One of the songs which I feel like I’ve heard before but am also yearning to hear again goes like “I don’t know much more about you but it seems to me that you’re my type … even when you’re out of town, even when you’re up and down, even when I’m on the road, even when you’re on the phone” which I can deduce that it’s probably called I Want You and is about a relationship she wants but maybe isn’t really there.
She then played one of her most well-known songs, Ivy League, with the iconic line “I went to B Grade University and got myself an Arts degree” in the chorus. This has to be her most relatable song, especially for us as Monash students where we’ve likely been told many a time that we’re just wasting our years with little job prospects. Her EP cover features a National Union of Students (NUS) poster, her Monash student ID card, cup noodles, books, beer, and a “Fight the Fees! Rally today!” poster. Contemporary Monash uni student starter-pack really.
Another experience she shared was a time where she played a show with only three audience members. One being her manager, one her friend and the other who did not like her music. A stark comparison to the packed out Howler band-room who were all there because of her. Following this, her new songs Love You Like a Brother and I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself that have clear family influences but also great rhythms had us instantly hooked.
One of her final songs for the night was the aforementioned hit You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me, a song that we think is about love, and maybe being queer, but we can’t be too sure. And after all, the meaning of music changes with different individual interpretations that connect to our own personal experiences.
To the audience’s delight, she managed to include her cover of Torn, that she has just played on triple j’s Like A Version the same day of the gig. Lahey explained how she made some sort of bet with her manager about it as a bit of a laugh. She said that if she was ever invited to play a Like A Version (pretty big deal), that she would play the classic. And she did.
Her and her band gave a passionate cover of the song (which was made famous by Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia), with an incredible guitar solo at the end, filling the audience with nostalgia and making the old classic suddenly relevant again in 2017. While the original is great, Alex’s version felt more emotional and passionate, with heavier guitar and bass, and deeper vocals. She didn’t just give the song justice, she transformed it. We actually prefer it over the original.
Ending possibly her second ever encore – Alex Lahey is very clear on her encore experience and just how privileged she thinks she is that enough of us like her so that she gets one, Let’s Go Out was blasted out. This summed up our amazing night, not spent studying in Clayton, but being immersed in the perhaps one of the cooler aspects of living in Melbourne. I can’t say there’s live music of this calibre every weekend in my hometown of Auckland.
To our surprise, we got to meet her after the show. We took a blurry selfie with her and she confirmed for us that Ivy League is indeed about Monash. Apparently she did an Arts/Music double degree, dropped music, and graduated with an Arts degree that inspired her to write the song. She did say that Monash was cool, but she just happened to have a bit of a shit time and that it wasn’t exactly for her. (Don’t worry Alex, we feel you).
If you’re as talented as Alex, maybe the right move is to pursue your real interests, something that the uni environment doesn’t always encourage. Having the had the adrenaline rush from meeting her, we ended up buying a bunch of her merch, including her CD, to support her.
I think what impressed us the most about the performance is that Alex is always her authentic self. She wears jeans, no makeup, has an air of nonchalance while she genuinely enjoys the music she’s playing for us. She’s just herself, and she’s effortlessly cool just like that.
Alex Lahey will be performing at the Metro in Sydney on June 30th and at the Corner in Richmond on July 1st as a part of the all girl line up promoting female achievements for Electric Lady.
She will also be touring in the UK and Europe in November. Further details can be found here.
Music and merch from The Football Club can be found here.