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ALTER BOY @ Fremantle Arts Centre gets 9/10


Alter Boy @ Fremantle Arts Centre

w/ Boox Kid, Anesu, They, Miss Phoria
Saturday, October 23, 2021

9/10

Alter Boy have burst on the scene over the last year, earning acclaim for both their amazing music and their stage show. Both were on show on Saturday night at Freo Arts Centre as Alter Boy and friends treated an enthusiastic audience to a homegrown show that felt truly world class.

Opening for the main act were wise choices for guests in Anesu and Boox Kid. It was a night of varied representation and first up was up and coming artist Anesu. Originally hailing from Zimbabwe, Anesu is a razor-sharp R&B and hip-hop producer. Their recent singles Crown and Black Girl made an appearance, demonstrating Anesu’s ability to be both aggressive and smooth. Black Girl in particular came off well. With its jazzy beat and Anesu’s smooth-as-silk flow, it is a single well worth checking out, a workout for both the feet and brain with lyrics that challenge our exploitation of black music (“You dance to our music/ Flex in our clothes/ Flex to expose/ The indifference you hold”).

Boox Kid

Boox Kid took to the stage next and maintained the standard of talented up-and-comers. We may well be seeing Boox Kid fronting larger stages going forward if elements of this performance are anything to go by. Boox Kid is Jarred Wall and Jon Bullen, both Noongar men whose music is an enthralling mix of electronic and guitar-based pop and R&B.

Jarrad had good stage presence and an absolutely arresting voice. Like the violin that often provided accompaniment, Jarrad’s voice soared, and was backed by some great keyboard work. It also helped that Boox Kid’s songwriting was top notch. Hold My Hand was a sad pop number set against skittering drums and keys, and fan favourite When I was a Young Boy made an appearance. Most impressive was the sublime pop stylings of The Battle.

They

Bookending the three artists were performances by local drag artist They, and the gender-bending Miss Phoria. These were short performance pieces set to music, with the only knock against them being their run-time. It would have been great to see each artist get a longer time slot given the variety of material. They performed two sassy pieces set to rollicking disco while Miss Phoria had a spooky opening piece followed by a stellar closing number with a friend that saw both performers dressed as seemingly Satanic nuns deep in ritual. Colour me converted.

AlterBoy

This set the stage for Alter Boy and they did not disappoint. Though the band’s music stands on its own, it’s their vision and stage execution that sets them apart. Alter Boy is centred around three distinct members: vocalist Molly/Aaron, and performers Laura and Jack. The band is made up of LGBQT and hard of hearing members and both elements play a major role in the music.

Most distinctive is the latter, with Laura and Jack providing constant Auslan accompaniment to the music. Music does not precede visuals however – the Auslan accompaniment is central to the performance itself, with Laura often playing off Molly/Aaron and all three engaging in meticulously choreographed sections. There were elements of burlesque and theatre in the music too, such as Jack’s inimitable physicality or the unveiling of Molly/Aaron’s trademark chest cross.

Alter Boy

Needless to say the music was excellent as well. The band plays its own distinct hybrid of dark electro pop and it was performed impeccably. The vocals were pitch perfect, and the band’s backing synth and key work was stellar.

The set opened with the epic early single Old Love which laid down an appropriately cold soundscape and also made full use of the light show. Next came fan favourite Frankenstein’s Dream and then the heart-wrenching Bad Dream Break In. Two tracks from their new EP followed in the trappy Slay King and the stellar Die for Me which got the audience up and dancing.

Alter Boy

With its silky smooth groove and unforgettable lyric (“Hurt me/ Lover /Fuck me Jesus”) this is bound to be a fan favourite going forward. The set closed on the huge single and EP centrepiece Act of God, which is just as dramatic on stage as in studio. In a welcome surprise, the band returned for an encore with early single Love Machine. At this point the band had punters in the palm of their hand, with a healthy crowd contingent up and dancing.

Thus concluded a great show. Judging by the tightness of their live show and their audience engagement, Alter Boy will remain an act to watch. They’ve already ignited something in their burgeoning audience, and that same spark was lit on this Saturday night.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

Photos by Ella Wylynko

 

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