Words by: Molly Schmidt
Joni in the Moon’s single launch began with a projector and screen in front of the stage. Joni’s wide-eyed face blinked at the crowd, who paused with beer bottles halfway to their lips, and left their sentences hanging as the band’s new single War and Porn began to play.
The band remained off stage, focusing all attention on the projection, from which we could not escape Joni’s blue-grey eyes and their serious gaze. The music filling the room was an eerie combination of dreamy and foreboding, and most of the crowd stood still, mesmerized, for the beginning of the song, if not for a slight sway at the hips.
Joni’s beautiful voice cut through the air and she directly asked us questions we couldn’t answer, making us feel a strange combination of unease, and liberation that the questions were being asked at all.
“Who stands up for the burning babies on swords?
Who stands up for the women?
Who stands up for the boys growing up on war and porn?”
At about the first chorus the song really picked up, and the energy in the room seemed to lift.
By the end of War and Porn we felt like we had journeyed from serious themes that held our boots still on the wooden floor, to grungy beats and riffs that had us letting go, twisting our bodies and raising our hands towards the ceiling. The band were welcomed to the stage with epic applause, and the gig began.
In my opinion, this gig was mind blowing. Joni’s honest energy had me in goosebumps, tears, or crazy dancing for the entire set—there was not one moment in one song that I wasn’t feeling something strongly. Joni dedicated her first song On the Water to asylum seekers with visible passion and I felt glued to the spot and wanted to start cheering and hi-five her there and then. I knew I liked her music, but hearing her beliefs made me like her. Seeing someone sing about social issues that really matter, and not be afraid to voice how messed up some aspects of our little world are, was deeply fulfilling.
The best thing about this gig was Joni’s raw emotion. She was not afraid to tell us that sometimes “life is really, really hard”, or share personal stories of being a single mother with two daughters. She dedicated Saving Grace to her girls, telling us they ‘saved her life’. In sharing her story with the audience, both good and bad, she became very real for me.
Joni in the Moon were joined on stage by Odette Mercy who provided rich backing vocals and humble stage presence, quite different to the times I have seen her perform with her own band – Odette Mercy and Her Soul Atomics, in which her sassy, gorgeous energy could raise the roof. For this gig, Odette stood back and allowed Joni to fill the stage, contributing with stunningly subtle harmonies and a gentle energy. Joni’s brother Josh Hogan added “impossibly lush, cinematic soundscapes”, that really put his skills and experience as film scorer, computer soundtrack composer, and certified Ableton master on display. Steve Richter’s percussion gave the music its dreamlike quality, adding fantasy sounding bells and chimes, then cutting through melodies with simple but strong rhythm.
Joni in the Moon ended the night by playing War and Porn again, live this time.
I remember thinking how great and interesting it was that Joni could be singing about heavy matters like war and porn, but her band could be playing with such energy that the spirits in the room still rose. It was like the crowd understood the seriousness of the song, but also the need to dance and let go. There was something deliciously rebellious about Joni in the Moon’s sound, which is hard to define but falls somewhere in the synth/electro/pop direction. Wonderfully grunge and otherworldly.
The gig was supported by Mei Saraswati, who provided intricate melodies laid over some sweet beats reminding me of Alison Wonderland, and Flower Drums, who describe themselves as “gaze hop dream pop” and have a great singer who wears great high wasted hot pants, so all in all the night was a winner.
I went home with Joni in the Moon’s album in my hand, and it has been in the CD player of my car on repeat ever since. Their music is thought provoking, impacting, interesting, and really unique. Hats off to you Joni, for being so beautifully, wonderfully yourself.
(Header Image: Tashi Photography).