With Melbourne being a mixing pot of niche scenes, particularly in music, its not often you see them all unite for something. On a Wednesday night, that something, or someone, was Melbourne musician Allysha Joy. Riding in on the wave of re-invigorated R’n’B and neo-soul, Joy had first gained my attention as singer for local hip-hop collective 30/70, and for a collaboration she did with composer/producer Billy Davis. I entered the Evelyn to a display of visual art in the back and musical art in the front, the warmth emanating more from the people than it did the heaters. Everything in the room felt alive.
I had sadly missed the opening set from Sydney’s Setwun but arrived in time for eight-piece local band Dufresne, the brainchild of Jimmy Dufresne, who were the epitome of the musical eccentricity. Headed by Jimmy and his Allen Stone-esque vocals, they were a quirky collective of back-alley jazz cats jamming an Anderson Paak-infused funk under the prismatic projector lights. There was not a still body in sight as each track worked a smooth and infectious groove up under your skin like Papa Legba had cast you into a trance-like revelry. Astonishingly, I later learned that it was the first time they had played together, with over half of them learning their parts earlier that day from sheet music.
After one hell of a warm-up, the vibes steadied but never wavered as Allysha Joy and her band settled in on the lushly carpeted stage. From behind the keys, Allysha’s presence lingered over the entire room as she performed with the elegance and substance of Erykah Badu, her husky voice the perfect vessel for her uninhibited songwriting. The immersive set was a testament to Allysha’s musical verbosity, complimented through fluttering saxophone and polyrhythmic time structures. The projections, now travelling through technicolour cities and kaleidoscopic countrysides, were a fitting accompaniment to her band and backup vocalist armed with all the tools of ambience: finger cymbals, chimes and a tambourine. An obvious comparison is Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, but it would be irresponsible of me to draw those conclusions for an artist who stood out entirely her own.
Allysha spoke to the audience between songs, which only enriched the intimacy of the set, and on Know Your Power, she shared “I wrote this about a guy who didn’t know his power, and used his words very poorly. So let’s play it for him.” If there were anyone to know the power of words, it was Allysha; she exuded wisdom and wistfulness and you felt the urge to sit at her feet and absorb all she had to offer. Though she didn’t let you feel this way for long; in the next moment your feet walked with bass lines and grooved along to syncopated beats, soulfully narrated by tales of being strong for yourself and for others.
The magic of Allysha Joy is that you feel as if her heart and your own were old friends; she sung as if each song were for you, in some way or another, and with every note you knew a little more about her, yourself and the people beside you. With a soul as big as her talent, it’ll not be long before her the rest of the world is at her feet with us.
The reviewer attended this show on May 24th. For more information on Allysha Joy, visit her artist page here.