Slowly Slowly: ‘Smile Lines’ Tour @ 170 Russell, Melbourne

From where I sit, it’s been Slowly Slowly‘s year. The Melbourne based quartet released the infectious and affectionate “Alchemy” in March, coupled with the news of their signing with UNFD and the subsequent release of their album St. Leonards in May. Their ability to fiercely rock out and also bring an indie alternative vibe along with dense poetic emotions in relatable ways has had them sweetly bridge a gap between popular Triple J listening and a more niche side of heavier rock (where we at Depth typically reside). People are finding a thread in Slowly Slowly that draws them in, from all different listening angles and tastes. It has been a joy to watch them grow.

To end the year on a high, the four piece embarked on a tour, named in honour of their most recently released single “Smile Lines”. We caught the tour on its final date (aside from their spot on The Festival Of The Sun), recognising the jump from the 800 capacity band room of Corner Hotel we’d witnessed in June to the 1,000 capacity 170 Russell here in December. Sold out, no less.

Singer-songwriter Bec Stevens opened the night, making an immediate impression of authenticity asking us to all move forward, saying that she needed it “to help with my *stage whispers* anxiety”. Bec and her band were very much new to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the spellbinding ability Bec had to share emotively soaked verses and then burst out into dreamy choruses with a surprisingly huge voice (for what it’s worth, it somehow made me think of wild sparrows rushing out, seeking every corner of the space).

Backed by an appreciative, present, and sedate band, Bec shared with honesty about how great Slowly Slowly are, as well as how helpful a very nervous Ben Stewart has been to gain perspective of her own stage nerves. I had to sort out access issues for my photographer Liam at the venue door and missed a lot of the set (and so did Liam), but I returned in time for the final song which was light and building, reminding me of a final conclusion-revealing scene of a movie. Serene and growing in strength and power, it was great to see the drummer rock out along with Bec and the best of the band. [Listen to Bec Stevens’ music]

TOTTY followed; a trio that refer to themselves as ‘a shed rock band from Wollongong’. The entire set felt like good mates letting us in on their jam session, and they clearly had a good time of it. Wild at times with hair everywhere and rocking out with their grungey tracks, there was also a LOT of dancing. The bassist was either dancing or strutting across the stage, and happily used his instrument as a dance prop but also as a gun, with guitarist/vocalist Kell firing back at him across the stage. Probably the craziest/weirdest thing about this set was the between song banter. Talking casually, Kell’s awkward humour and just plain dorkiness was fun to take in, regardless if their music grabbed you or not. Totty most recently released Cut The Poppies, which you can hear HERE.

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When it was about time for Slowly Slowly, you could feel the buzz of excitement and I was keen to hear the familiar melody of “Dinosaurs”. After what felt like a mammoth wait, it was actually “Aliens” tones that opened the set instead (along with dreamy lighting), sparking instant happiness with ‘our band’ there on the stage in front of us and sounding incredible. It felt like every voice in the place was joining in, which was beautiful and moving in itself.

The quartet then took a deep dive into their earlier discography, sharing tracks like “Hey You”, “Black Confetti”, and “Death Proof” from Chamomile. Less familiar with these, it was still an absolute treat seeing how much Ben pours into this, loving it with abandon and seeing his happiness plastered across his face. I spent time soaking up Albert Doan’s stunning guitar tone, and appreciating the thick bass courtesy of Alex Quayle. I also firmly stand by my stance that Patrick Murphy is one of the best drummers in the biz. With these older songs and their accompanying massive crowd singalongs (and dancing), there was strength and happiness in a ‘homecoming’ of sorts – like a celebration of how far the band have come.

By this point of the set and Slowly Slowly thoroughly owning the stage and the space, Ben welcomed a familiar guest for playing “Smile Lines”: Gerrod from the music video! Complete with his supermarket badge, uniform, and very fitting awestruck expressions for someone getting to play with their favourite band (haha). The experience of the burgeoning song was as wild as you’d expect in a live setting, and 170 Russell was feeling well and truly WARM now.

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With sketchy notes on the set because of being swept away in it all, it feels like it was a dream in writing about it two days later, where harmonies and beautiful beams of light were just as much a part of the set as were moments of sweaty rocking out in a big way. The Slowly Slowly experience was enhanced by the creative energies of others, and not just us in the crowd in singing with the band. On the screen at the rear of the stage were short poems by TALKTALKDIE, adding to the poetic angle of the experience of Slowly Slowly’s music. Bec Stevens joined in on stage to sing, as did a cellist (for “Chamomile”) whose name I didn’t catch but I suspect it was perhaps Aileen who had also accompanied the band at Corner Hotel.

Excitingly, with just Ben on his own in floaty blue light, we got to hear a new song (“Jellyfish”?) which I cannot wait to hear in its recorded form. Feeling like affectionate observations, I wrote down this lyric from the newie:

“I think you saved me. I know you saved me.”

Bursting into what felt like a faster than usual but fantastically feelgood rendition of “Alchemy”, before “Good Friends” and “New York, Paris”, I wondered how the Slowly Slowly guys had anything left at all. Ben shared gratitude to go from their humble beginnings to this point. I watched a security guard undertaking the impossible mission of telling people to get off each others’ shoulders, while stunning pensiveness washed over us and smiling mouths bellowed out lyrics toward the stage. Ben’s feet couldn’t keep still and his infectious joy about what he does is one of my favourite things about a Slowly Slowly show, including this one.

Sounding incredible all night long, full of energy and heart, Slowly Slowly returned to the stage to end where I thought they’d begin: “Dinosaurs” and “Extinction”. Free spirits in action, this full circle vibe was so very satisfying. Closing with “Ten Leaf Clover” and golden confetti, coos of “Only you.. it’s what I do..” rang out through the whole of 170 Russell.

It’s always a pleasure, Slowly Slowly. See you in 2019. ❤️

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Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it.

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