The inimitable Rue came into the world last week. Hellions have been celebrating the birth of their fourth album in style, with sold out shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. The Melbourne Rue party launch was at Northcote Social Club, on a Wednesday night with a full moon blooming in a clear sky above.
Rue‘s party featured two DJ sets prior the Hellions set. Maybe it was because it was a Wednesday night and we weren’t in a position to be alcoholically lubricated enough to let loose.. or maybe because no one wanted to be the first on the dance floor. But the DJ sets were really… quiet. With nostalgic song choices by Pagan and the AM//PM DJs, it was enjoyable enough, but I think we all just wanted to see ‘our band’, and hung at the sidelines, talking about the guest of honour; Rue herself: “What did you think of Rue? What’s your favourite track? How good is it?!”
I had many conversations with creatives of the scene who were there (both band members and music media people), and it became pretty clear that there were favourite pieces of music all over the album: There weren’t just one or two stand-outs that everyone kept referring to, but many songs that meant something special to different people. It kind of showed me how we were all taking Rue and making it our own, which was very cool, and a tribute to its creators.
Back in the band room after a beer, Hellions were about to start and space was scarce and the temperature was rising. We were ready though, and our band was too, with Rue‘s very brash and vaudevillian track “(Theatre Of)” signalling their arrival to the stage, before leading into “Blueberry Odyssey”. It was all groove and funk, instantly bouncy and fun and fluid, most impressively at the bridge, and courtesy of the tandem and tag-teaming vocals. So early into this set and I’d already typed “Fuck, this band are in their prime” into my iPhone notes.
The vibe was kept high with “X (mwah)”, and it became a full-blown party time thanks to those bouncy choruses, and all of us falling prey to the infectiousness of them; dancing and singing, wild and fun. Hellions know how to craft good vibes and good times, and if I was Rue, I’d be loving my party.
Leaning back into the previous album Opera Oblivia for a bit, “Lotus Eater” copped all of our singing efforts, and “Nightliner Rhapsody” somehow created an instant circle pit – after Dre refused to ever do a shoey (YES! THANK YOU! #nomoreshoeys). Going hard at it then with “25”, the night could honestly have ended right there and I’d have been happy. Full heart-swellingly emotive and beautiful (“You’re still here… WITH ME!”), “25” moved me to tears, and it was overwhelming taking in this fullness of stage presence and connection.
But they didn’t end there, pushing into even more beautiful territory with “Furrow”, before “(Cocoon)”, which literally had me sobbing. I love Hellions and there’s nothing like what they conjure up with their sounds and lyricism and genuine joy for what they do, together. Dre later shared after the show how well the four of them get along with each other, and their smiling interactions on stage reflected this throughout the night. They were immersing in their individual instruments, but always in encouraging/supportive contact with each other.
Not content with ripping my heart open with the run of emotive songs, Hellions then launched into “24”, which is an absolute favourite. It’s a really rare piece of music with encouragement and relatability all combined inspiring the use of intuition for the purpose of self-empowerment, individuality, and happiness. My iPhone notes summed it up pretty well: “I’m an absolute mess”. We all collectively finished off the song for the band, and I saw big beaming smiles all around me. I wasn’t alone in feeling something, not by a long shot.
“One never reaches home until kind paths intersect.”
Still giving Rue a pause, Hellions very appropriately went for “Hellions” from Indian Summer, really going at their roots. This inspired a huge and connected moment, with the entire bandroom feeling like it was shaking. Dre said “That was sick”, and he wasn’t wrong. The entire experience was feeling pretty surreal, and again in “He Without Sin”, I found myself tearing up. There were pensive moments and feelgood grooves, and noticeably raw expression from Matt Gravolin too, affirming the emotional factor of the song content. There’s a lot of genuine heart that goes into these creations.
After Dre’s stage grooves from part two of “He Without Sin”, we were treated to “Quality Of Life”. Look, maybe it’s just my love of words, or something, or maybe just how empowering and positive the whole thing is, but not much makes me happier than hearing the chorus of this song shouted out really loudly by a collective like this. A truly incomparable moment. And as Dre said himself: “We are one entity with one voice. Let’s hear it!”, before encouraging us to wave our arms side to side over our heads with him. Have I mentioned that I love Hellions?
Hellions just kept bringing the goods and this high vibe persisted through good-times and great-choruses of the funky “Get Up!” (even better live, I reckon!), and into the heartwarming wake-up call of “Smile”. Hitting magical peaks to match the full moon mystique, it was all really something special. Adding one more layer to Rue‘s amazing birthday cake set of sonic artistry, Hellions ended the set with “Thresher”; with all of us emphatically all-in together with the band, physically and vocally.
Happy birth-day Rue. Your party was awesome, and we love you.
[All photos courtesy of Albert Lamontagne]