The Northcote Social Club has a reputation for hosting some of the best local, national and international names in music. With it comes a certain unspoken guarantee of a great night. Oh Pep!, with the support of Big Smoke and Baby Blue, made sure their reputation remained firmly intact.
Baby Blue opened the night with an indi-Australian country rock set akin to Paul Kelly and Courtney Barnett – who was spotted in the crowed for Oh Pep!’s performance. Singer and guitarist, Rhea Caldwell’s lyrics took influence from daily interactions with strangers to insecurities about ex’s new partners. Their music was light, fun and at times, touching. The trio had obviously put a lot of thought into the texture of the music. Never allowing for unnecessary effects to override the melodic essence of their songs. Lead guitarist, Fabian Hunter, made his exceptional guitar work look easy while drummer, Nathanael Riley, never missed a beat. By the end of Baby Blue’s set, a crowed had started to gather in anticipation of Big Smoke’s performance. A five piece rock and roll band, plucked out of time and killing it in 2016.
Big Smoke was all Country Rock with cowboy hats, beards and long hair. By the time they were set to play, the small Northcote band room had started to swell. It was at this point we could really see just how diverse the crowed was. The young, the old, the trend setters, the bikies and the casual music lover had all rocked up to listen to Big Smoke’s audacious performance.
Their presence was astounding, holding true gravitas. It was easy to draw parallels to some of the greats. Slick riffs accompanied by spontaneous and vibrant solo duels kept the fire alight in their somewhat indulgent songs but otherwise it was a polished performance by exceptional artists. While their talent, professionalism and performance cannot be questioned, their music did, at times, sound like ‘the best of 70’s rock’. If that’s what you are looking for, no one does it better.
Once it was time for the headliners to take to the stage, The Northcote Social Club band room was filled to capacity. Everyone was excited to see Oh Pep! Perform the Melbourne leg of their International Tour.
Front Woman, Olivia Hally, did seem stressed about the success of the gig, with nervous energy in-between songs. The moment Hally started to perform, her worries were proven to be unfounded. The crowed eagerly absorbed every lyric and note. The highlight was undoubtedly “Tea, milk and Honey”, a personal and highly emotive song. During an elongated pause (the lead singer was the only performer for the first half). You could hear a pin drop, all eyes and ears were focused squarely on this breath-taking performance.
Pepita Emmerich’s spectacular and peculiar use of her mandolin and violin was a thrilling element to throw into the pot. Allowing Oh pep! To make a slight divergence from the country pop genre into a far more interesting and eclectic musical direction. Their latest single, “Doctor Doctor”, took a slightly more electronic vibe with a chaos pad substituting drums at first. The change was a nice little change of pace to keep us all on our toes.
Dialogue between the crowed and performers was charming, often looking like things might trail off into awkward silence before being saved at the last moment by a funny quip. Their friendships, the stress of touring and their mothers were recurring topics.
By the end of the set the crowd chanted for an encore. While the practice is starting to become less and less common, considering the nervous energy from Olivia Hally, it was appropriate in this instance. Oh Pep! are wonderful artists, with refined melodies and dynamic portrayals of life and love. Their next performance will be at the Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney on the 15th of April.