Words By Esther O’Loughlin
“Hey Esther…do you want to review [tonight]?,” the txt read. I thanked the sunset as I walked home, saved from another night of procrastination and netflix. I had read about Joni and the Moon’s “folktronica” style, and was intrigued-I’ll admit, techno-production isn’t usually my sound.
We met siblings Joni and Josh Hogan in the courtyard before lights-up. The front-woman seemed totally relaxed, sitting on a brick wall and talking line-up and creative process. Joni normally writes the lyrics and Josh composes around them and tonight they were going to play a new song they had decided to include it the night before. Tonight would be filmed for a promotional video. I couldn’t help but be drawn to Joni’s “just give it a go” attitude, as we headed inside.
We had been lulled in by the near-celtic sounds of barefoot, Leah Emily Grant. She was followed by The Regular Hunters, whose pop-rock tunes and memorable guitar riffs had me asking strangers for details of future gigs. Simone and Girlfunkle got the floor grooving next. They were headed by the peppy harmonies of an all-chick trio, and at one point featured a Melodica. As they wrapped, Simone thanked Joni for having them.
“Joni’s a freakin’ star,” she said. “Playing for her is an honour, of course.” And then the lights brightened and Joni and the Moon took the stage – all business. OK, so I sighed a little as the launchpad was set up. I was expecting the beep-boop-beep of a Super-Mario soundtrack. What Josh Hogan gave was an upbeat symphony orchestra of electric instruments. In-fact, if Mozart was alive today, I like to think he’d moonlight as an Ableton master.
Then the drummer surprised us with some didgeridoo train-track beats, the pianist played a chord, and Joni started to sing. Excuse me while I crush on her for a second. The woman’s got a deep, powerful voice, with incredible range, and she moves when she sings. It was as though she was touching the music with her hands, and we all stood mesmerised and wanting to join in. This wasn’t a gig in a bar. This was a show, connected with its audience.
Powerful voice, powerful lyrics. Tarantella was a stand-out song. Referencing Italian folklore, it was an up-tempo description of the community’s role in curing a woman’s depression. Joni admitted it reflected her own encounters with the illness.
“That was our completely new song, we thought we’d play it for you guys” she said, and the crowd whooped.
The band’s sound has been aptly described as “otherworldly”. Layered bass notes and perfectly timed cymbals gave them momentum, while the electric composition sent us skyward and cushioned Joni’s voice. The whirl-wind line-up featured songs from their album Sorrow Trees, as well as hit singles, War and Porn, and the relatively new Staring at Flowers. As we danced to the lively music, Joni sang about refugees, society, and our desensitisation to pain and violence. Even though the beats were catchy, it was their message that really struck me. I questioned my tolerance of other’s discomfort. I challenged myself to do more, say more, write more. I mulled over it as we car-pooled home. I question it now as I hum her tunes. There is a power in music to share a message. Thanks for sharing yours Joni. Netflix has got nothing on you.