Live Review: Urthboy + L-FRESH The LION + OKENYO – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (16.06.16)

I’ve said it before, but mid-week shows are always outstanding. It’s not just mid-week gigs that go down a treat; it’s anything that breaks up the monotonous nature of work. While there would have been plenty of other reasons for people to have a cheeky night out on a Thursday night, for me, it was Urthboy playing a home town show at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory.

Opening up what was to be a ridiculously fun and joyous night was soulstress OKENYO. Admittedly going in completely cold and not knowing one OKENYO track, I really dug the performance she put forward. A slinky mix of soul, hop hop and blues really set the mood for the night. She’s a smooth criminal, that OKENYO; I’d be more than happy to see her again.

Following on from what OKENYO left, South-Western Sydney legend L-FRESH THE LION lit the stage with his glorious and relatable rap. That’s one thing you could take from all the acts from the gig: they were all relatable and down-to-earth personalities. Yeah, there was some showmanship through out all of their sets, but you genuinely got the feeling they were all just really good people.

One thing you had to love about L-FRESH was his ability to continue to use his Sikh culture and adapt it to modern hip hop. Getting the crowd involved through simple call and response and a couple of traditional Indian dance moves, the stand out from the set was his track “1 in 100,000”. In answering the famous New Zealand philosopher Scribe’s question “How many dudes you know roll like this? How many dudes you know flow like this?”, you could easily include L-FRESH and Urthboy in your answer. With the aide of the best hype woman in the business, Mirrah, L-FRESH THE LION was the perfect support for Urthboy.

Since familiarising myself with Australian hip hop and hip hop in general in my early teens, I haven’t always been the biggest fan or advocate for it, but I’ve always appreciated an act when seeing them live. One of the acts I’ve loved from the first time I heard them, was Urthboy. Since first listening to him whilst performing with The Herd, I’ve seen him a good four or five times; and every time he puts on a stellar show. This Oxford Art set was no difference.

Opening his set with older single “Naïve Bravado” and one of my personal favourites “Stories”, the first opportunity for a special guest to shine came to fruition as Claire Nakazawa put her voice out to the masses. Quickly moving into “Hellsong”, I was thrown back to why I began listening to Urthboy as a solo artist.

Announcing that it was probably time to start playing tracks off his newest release, The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat, “The Arrow”, “Hey Juanita” and the Kira Puru-featured “Daughter Of The Light” made appearances. If you were to take two variables from the “Daughter Of The Light” they’d be that Urthboy most definitely loves his mum and that Kira Puru has quite possibly the biggest set of lungs in Australian music. What a voice.

Moving into “We Get Around”, this was the game changer for the set. The froth dogs in the crowd were unanimous in their love for this. “We Get Around” was one of the first Australian hip hop tracks I ever really identified with. Yeah, it might have been a few years after it was released, but it’s still as much a tune now as it was then. Preaching the truth that gigs should be environments that are harassment free, Urthboy definitely spread his word of acceptance and non-hate through out the entirety of his set; whether that was explicitly or passively through his lyrics.

As the night progressed, there were ever-increasing incidences of highs, and not many lows. A prime example of a high was the prelude verses Urthboy spat leading into one of the best tracks of 2015 in “Long Loud Hours”. The appearance of Bertie Blackman for the first time in the night only added to the intense atmosphere the track propels.

One thing Urthboy does well, apart from talking himself down (“I’m really just a part time rapper”) is his promotion of quality local talent. This was not only through his endorsement of supports OKENYO and L- FRESH, but the signing of rapper B Wise to his Elefant Traks label; who also had a guest verse on “Running Into The Flames”. As the main set began to draw to a close, “Second Heartbeat” made an appearance, as OKENYO came back out to help out.

The obligatory encore began solely with Urthboy, DJ Jayteehazard and the sobering “Nambucca Boy”. For those unaware, the track was written following the death of Australian cricketer Phil Hughes. Explaining that he never intended for the words to be put to music, the track really makes you really reflect on the insecurities, unsureness and miracles of life.

Hoping that he’d play my favourite track in “Shruggin’”, Urthboy brought out old friend and my personal favourite female solo artist, Jane Tyrrell, to do just that. It was as if he was in my mind fuzz and played it just to please me. What a legend.
Closing out the night with his cover of Meg Mac’s “Roll Up Your Sleeves”, he invited the entirety of his crew and supports on stage to bust it out. What a sight it was to see the stage bursting with such a surplus amount of talent.

In the midst of one of the shittest weeks for human existence in recent memory, Urthboy’s closing with “Roll Up Your Sleeves” pretty much summed up how I felt when walking back to my car after the gig. While everything might seem kind of messed up now, and will most likely be the same tomorrow, bit by bit we can go about changing things to make everything just that little bit better.

It might not happen tomorrow or the day after, but eventually, everything is gonna be alright. And with legends like Urthboy in the world trying to make things just that bit better, I’m reassured that maybe one day everything truly will be OK.

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