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Live Review: SG Lewis w/ Kayex @ Oxford Art Factory – 26.07.2018

Credit: Brayden Smith for LWA

With many still licking their wounds from Splendour in the Grass a few days prior, the Oxford Art Factory’s dancefloor filled slower than usual on Thursday night, but the weight and caliber of SG Lewis’ star soon had many knocking back drinks at the bar, and the room steadily achieved a warm, fulsome buzz. A keen audience shuffled towards the stage to suss WA-bred Sydney outfit Kayex on support—an act well-liked across Sydney, care of their million-plus streamed debut My Friends, a track that conjured a nostalgia for that Majestic Casual / chillwave movement (that many would also associate with early SG Lewis releases). Kayex—comprised of duo of Tom Derickx and Palassis Kailis (with a third player joining them live)—are presently cutting their teeth on the live circuit, working out how best to translate that Hype Machine acclaim into a set, doing stints at Listen Out Sydney and Corona Sunsets Japan, with another slated for Snowtunes.

Their indie house/light funk-infused electronic blend makes for an enjoyable, easygoing set: Derickx and Kailis’ harmonies are certainly appealing: they play on a raspy falsetto-castretto dynamic that calls to mind UK act Jungle. Their showmanship, however, is underdeveloped; Kailis seems to stifle his own charisma at times; and could perhaps turn his attention away from the sample pad and to being a full-time crowd pleaser, and given his blessed DNA, Derickx need not be as frozen behind his keyboard. Worth circling back to these guys in six months’ time perhaps? When they’ve worn themselves in and built up their live reputation… they’re not quite the Future Classic material you want them to be at present. However, buoyed by the model career of Derickx—the band may do well to seize upon a strategy that develops their presence in the fashion industry, and gets them in on those big fashion event budgets.

It’s hard to believe this was only SG Lewis’ maiden Australian tour. Then again, its hard to believe the young Reading, UK talent is only 23, given the maturity, depth and precision of his output to date. The skillful electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist—who also writes his own songs and sings on them (although they’re not ‘singer songwriter’ albums)—already has a well-established presence abroad thanks to his sparkling electronic gems, remixes (Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware) and collaborations (Gallant, Bishop Nehru, etc). His east coast tour coincides with the release of the disco groove-laden six-tracker ‘Dusk’, the first taste of Lewis’ new ambitious three-part album project ‘Dusk, Dark, Dawn’, conceptually intended to replicate the musical shifts one experiences on a night out.

SG Lewis absolutely nailed his Sydney debut; demonstrating the evolution of not only his music output (since those early Soundcloud beginnings); but also himself as a performing musician. For someone who came up in the scene as a DJ, this was no DJ show. Lewis has taken a page out of Bonobo’s book, and is recreating songs live: what he’s prepared for us this evening at the Oxford Art Factory is a full-on setup—there’s drums, keys and two touring vocalists (London music students Alrie Bah and Tom Dunne).

The set is expertly crafted—boasting a sense of dynamics, an awareness of how to synergize the room’s energy, and track-selection wise, an emphasis on his collaborative works—already designed to play well in a live context, with vocalists—with Lewis leaving out tracks that just wouldn’t fit well in with the concept of the show. Rounding it all out was a thoughtful lighting design palette of burnt orange hues, that created a nice cocoon of disco warmth. Lewis shows off some ‘Dusk’ material to launch his set with Coming Up, before jumping back to 2016 track All Night, where the young gun showed off some oscillating synth work to intro us in, before the familiar reverb-drenched refrain and deep bass melody washed over his audience, who were by now grinning ear to ear. Lewis then brought us back to the recent release, with the effervescently melodic and club-ready Sunsets.

Lewis was a magnetic presence himself throughout the set; but it was young vocalist Alrie Bah who owned the distinct RnB melody of Meant to Be, making the experience of the track a fun one for the audience with her cute charisma, and likewise an impassioned Dunne who made ‘Shivers’ EP breakout single No Less such a big moment, rendered with an unexpected elegance, depth and maturity. Dunne—stepping in for the track’s recorded vocalist Louis Mattrsimbued No Less with a really soulful kick live; particularly during the final verse—an enthralled crowd echoing back the Dunne and Lewis’ croons of, “I just wanna do you right, girl,” straight back to them.

Smart Aleck Kill saw the room’s energy reach a bouncy peak; before we turned down for one of the most beautiful moments of the night, as Lewis took the mic off the stand and assumed centre-stage to sing an emotional solo of Warm directly to his audience; with everyone whipping out their phones to get his sultry catchy croons, “Ooo, ooo, Ooo, ooo / I was cold but I warmed up to you, on camera to playback to themselves later in bed.

This show was officially a vibe (ask anyone in the room). It seems the feeling was mutual, with SG Lewis (who’d earlier that day tweeted he “wanted to come [to Sydney] my whole life,”) endearingly exclaiming to his Sydney fans throughout the show: “This is f—ng crazy!”, “This is sick!”. Before he goes, Lewis remarks that it won’t be his last time in Australia. He’ll definitely need to come back to play out the full three-part album concept, given that ‘Dark’ and ‘Dawn’ will be out by this years’ end…. perhaps someone can let him know that summer is pretty nice down here? The thought of seeing SG Lewis on a balmy Australian night in the open-air certainly sends ‘Shivers’ up the spine…

Written by Dani Marsland