Sydney four-piece The Jezabels owe a sizable debt to pro biker Danny MacAskill. His showcasing of their A Little Piece in last year’s Way Back Home video is the reason most of the crowd are here, crammed into the basement of the Queen’s Hotel for the second of the band’s three Great Escape performances. Their first, earlier today at Audio, saw half the audience nearer the main road outside than the stage: it’s fair to say there’s something of a buzz developing.
And it’s only to get louder. Hyperbole be damned, these people are amazing. From their opening notes – A Little Piece, its only airing this weekend, surprisingly – it’s clear that we’re seeing something markedly above most of the fare this weekend. A festival like this, based around intense 30 minute sets – you see a lot of new music. And as good as most of it is, there’s a saturation point, particularly by the second day, where the memories aren’t quite forming right and the bands start to blur, meshing into a sonic beige. The Jezabels cut right through that, searing themselves into the consciousness so that, even days later, the shivers haven’t quite abated.
Much of that is down to frontwoman Hayley Mary, whose vocals are prone to the kind of epic crescendos that leave blood trickling from the ear, which might not seem a good thing but it most definitely is. A captivating stage presence, she flails and thrusts as though possessed, retreating between songs to an alcove stage-right to, it seems, physically recover. We get no such respite: the few times when we aren’t being wracked by Mary drummer Nik Kaloper takes over, a tag-team pushing for grand-scale aneurysm.
It’s a set that never lulls, invigorating yet exhausting and perhaps mercifully brief. Dark Storm closes, a highpoint in a half hour that starts at altitude and keeps on climbing, the air thinning as the pressure builds and the heartrate quickens. By the final, cataclysmic breakdown we’re clearly in the death-zone, but it no longer matters.
The Jezabels: A Little Piece (starts at 2:45)