While it may just be her on stage alias, the brains, vocals and stories behind Jack River is so much more. An entrepreneur, promoter and musician, Holly Rankin brought to life her musical talents and journey as the Sydney leg of her Sugar Mountain album tour made its way to a sold out Metro Theatre.
As the head of the Electric Lady business and Grow Your Own festival, Rankin has used her national Jack River tour to help highlight the strength in female musical talent in the country. Opening the night was Sydney local Annie Hamilton. Having left Little May back in 2016, Hamilton has been plying her trade as guitarist in Jack River’s live band, whilst quietly going about putting together her own live set. With only the one single released thus far (the brilliant “Fade”), Hamilton and her band lit the stage for a quick half hour set. With an EP to follow, keep your tabs on what Hamilton is sure to bring in 2019; it promises to be something special.
Next up was Jess Kent. Having burst onto the scene a couple years back, Kent has quietly been putting together her debut album in London, whilst also landing support slots with Coldplay. Bringing her brand of dance pop to the Metro, Kent set up a little call and response with the crowd on an unnamed song (it had something to do with an umbrella), whilst also bringing to guitar out for her song “Champagne Dreams”. With the biggest moment coming in the shape of her track “Get Down”, Kent promised her debut album would follow in the coming months. (Special mention goes to drummer Cat Hunter, who played on the skins for both Annie and Jess. She was the real MVP of the opening two sets).
With the venue bursting at the seams and the sold out sign well and truly up, Jack River and band entered the stage just after 10pm. Starting with “Ballroom”, the room was lit to mimic a ballroom as the crowd effortless joined in on what is an increasingly infectious chorus. Embracing the spirit of the best frontwomen of the past, Rankin looked effortlessly classy as she commanded the microphone.
Quickly moving into my personal favourite “Palo Alto”, the band paused at the end of the track to mention hearing the crowd belting out “Mr Brightside” just before they entered the stage (it definitely lived up to that meme of ‘songs that white people get turnt on’). Swiftly moving into probably the most underrated song off Sugar Mountain, the drop in the closing stages of “Limo Song” is definitely something I can never really get over.
Mentioning that she wanted to write a song that wasn’t about love, “Constellation Ball” had its moment in the sun, before the solemn “In Infinity” was dedicated to friend of the band Luke Liang (On a side note, Jack River will be playing as part of the A Bright Light – An Evening for Luke tribute taking place at The Metro this week).
Even after listening to the track plenty of times since its release, every time I hear the opening chords of “Confess” I can’t help but start singing along to Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”. Both just as good as each other, “Confess” was as heartbreaking as it was fulfilling.
“Fault Line” and its killer chorus got a run, before the racing and immediate “Stardust & Rust” made an appearance, just as the set was starting to hit its straps. Noting that she didn’t really understand the need for encores, Rankin mentioned the band were loving the vibe of the room too much to leave the stage and as a result would play through to the end of the set.
With “Fields” getting the emotions of the room flowing, Rankin stopped to announce the band were about to play a song that they all loved playing; even if it wasn’t an original. Busting out the Tal Bachman classic “She’s So High”, this proved to be the highlight of what was an already outstanding set.
Closing the night on her biggest track yet, you know you’re onto something special when the crowd sings the opening bass line back to you, just as they did here on “Fool’s Gold”. While I’d have liked the headlining set to have gone longer than the fifty minutes it did, I’m sure the capacity crowd got out of the set everything they wanted.
Holly Rankin is onto something special at the moment; whether as a musician, entrepreneur or promoter. And based on the crowd’s love for the set, and the genuine warmth in the room, it appears these special moments are only going to continue to happen.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Jack River has the following remaining dates for 2018:
A Bright Light: An Evening For Luke – Thursday 4th October, Metro Theatre, Sydney
A More Perfect Union w/ Gang Of Youths – Saturday 24th November, Riverstage, Brisbane
Wine Machine – Saturday 1st December, Mclaren Vale, South Australia.
Follow Jack River on Facebook for more details. Her record Sugar Mountain is out now.