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Live Review: Willaris. K @ The Metro – 06.10.2018

Willaris. K

Credit: Liam Pethick

Live, Willaris. K has done exceptionally well thus far, sans bells and whistles. The guy has single-handedly created immense vibes under a small plastic tent in the middle of broad Australian summer daylight at Laneway, gotten hundreds moving without a single strobe in the middle of thick bushland. The prospect of a sold-out Metro, with a full light show, on his second headline tour in a year, was a terrifyingly exciting one—the full realisation of just how good the Willaris. K experience could get.

We all know, by now, the media story of the young tradie who put his tools down to pursue a career in the club. Willaris. K certainly doesn’t fit the mould of your typical ‘lone wolf’ international male dance music figure—your Jon Hopkins / James Blakes / Nico Jaars AKA skinny pale men perennially cloaked in shadows and melancholy. Willaris. K is every bit the golden-haired Aussie beach boy—you’d half expect him to pop up as the teen bodyboarder in a Chicken Treat TV ad, or be the flannelette-clad electrician grinning out from behind a Mrs Macs pie. The idea that, in 2018, our new techno overlord could double as a cast member of ‘Home & Away’, sits ‘orright’ with us; the Australian public, who for eons have heartily embraced the cultural icon that is the ‘Aussie larrikin’. Willaris. K is the embodiment of our nation’s daggy past and sophisticated present: our larrikin is now being served up to us in the club’s darkness, delivering works of astonishing artistic depth… having created such elegant beauty on record.

No one is more thrilled, apparently, than young, white Australian men: on Saturday evening in Sydney, the Metro crowd is 90% the former, and maybe 10% females (as a friend remarked, the few girls that were there, seemed to be accompanying their boyfriends’ packs of friends). A dancefloor of sweaty, testosterone-fuelled twenty-something boys in hyperactive mode with grope-y hands isn’t one that’s ever pleasant for a girl to edge her way into—maybe this is why there’s noticeably barely any girls in the audience on Saturday night; they’re all too familiar with Willaris. K’s fan base. A (male) friend naively offered, upon reflecting on women being in the extreme minority that evening, that perhaps, “girls just don’t like these heavier kind of gigs as much as boys do.” Like women just don’t resonate with heavy instrumental dance music on some gut biological level and are born to gravitate towards pop or house more. Hilarious! It sucks that girls aren’t going to Willaris. K gigs. I hope this changes after he does the summer festival season rounds.

Anyway, all ‘da boiz’ are literally chomping at the bit to dance by the time the young producer emerges onstage around midnight, following affable sets from Haiku Hands’ solo offshoot Beatrice and the (rather high-profile for a support) Edinburgh producer Theo Kottis. While his ‘Alchemy’ EP has moments of meditative stillness, of pleasant instrumental ambience—the gorgeous piano-led River Song, or Alchemy Reprise—Saturday’s live show grabs you by the neck from the outset, and only tightens its grip as the minutes roll; this is not something you can meditate to, this is an immense assault that lets you surface only momentarily to take a sharp intake of breath… before submerging you back under. Catch Phrase’s familiar ‘Harry Brown’ Plan B sample and vacillating synths fill the room, it’s an ideal introduction; the track’s skittish-ness, coupled with a series of beige-clothed figures creep through the stage smoke, creates a sense of unnerving anticipation.

From there, Willaris. K doesn’t sidestep the heat. From the hollering bassline to the whispering arpeggios to the crescendo, Risen is a raging and glorious live experience. Recent radio play of the single is evident in the crowd’s knowing, enthused response; they are bathed in neon green light and writhe on the dancefloor like zombies clamoring for brains when Willaris. K gives this electrifying all-out techno monster track total live deliverance. Half the joy of a Willaris. K live show is just watching the guy move. At Saturday’s show, there’s a magnetism in his body language: the way he positions his robust frame in a squat-like performance power-stance behind the deck, the way he flicks his long locks and throws his head back in rapture. He has the makings to have the seductive energy of a male rockstar, a quality that will no doubt become even more pronounced as his profile and confidence grows (one day we’re all going to be falling over each other to catch his sweat-towel).

Willaris. K’s remix of Exhibitionist’s Hands is a rare moment we’re allowed to mouth along some words in a vocals-less show, as Exhibitionist’s haunting airy vocals life buoys atop WK’s steady, propulsive percussion. I love this remix—its parts are so carefully balanced, and whilst there is little stillness in the evening’s show, this moment of warm, live beauty was one perfectly positioned in the set for us to savour, amongst the rioting, aggressive frequencies.

The moody, expansive EP highlight Perpetual Love takes on a more crystalline form live, expertly aided with a series of standing Golden Eye lighting strips positioned across the stage, that drip and pulse lines of warm yellow light in time with the dazzling synthwork. It was overwhelming for the senses and evoked feelings of warmth, an emotion befitting of this beautiful track. Leading Aus live lighting pros Colourblind have a reputation for designing calculated and creative lighting shows that significantly heighten the impact and reception of an artists’ set, it’s great Willaris. K was able to bring them on board.

We end where it all began, Alchemy, and a contemporary dance troupe, swaddled in beige with light-up neon fixings, join the producer onstage for the grand finale. One thing that has made Willaris. K stand out thus fat has been the positioning of his music output within a visual and filmic art aesthetic. There was the Yeoseop Yoonshort film—a recent art exhibition of stills and installations. The intent to elevate the evening’s production with contemporary dance—a progression of this emphasis on the progressive, and the visual—should be applauded, but unfortunately the execution fell slightly short, with the effect coming across less ‘Jamie xx scores a contemporary ballet’ and more ‘Thriller meets Tron Legacy’ the glow in the dark costumes seemed off-kilter with the producers’ more haunting/minimalist visual aesthetic output to date, and the small stage did not work to the benefit of the dancers, who seemed awkward navigating the deck. It all had the effect of distracting from Willaris. K, rather than enhancing him, and felt overreaching. When it works, it will be epic though. For the record, I hope he scores a ballet one day, I would 100% go and see that ballet.

And then it’s over. He steps out from behind the decks to join his dancers for a bow, smiling humbly as he is drowned in the thunderous applause of 1, 200 fans for life. He looks gobsmacked. You get the feeling while his core team have believed in Willaris. K without a shadow of a doubt since day one, it’s at this very moment that young Jack Macallister from Tweed Heads, Australia, now truly believes it all for himself: I am Willaris. K.

Written by Dani Marsland