Review: serpentwithfeet17 June 2019
Brooklyn based artist serpentwithfeet—real name Josiah Wise—concluded his short run of first-ever Australian shows in Melbourne on Thursday 14 June; a sideshow to his Dark Mofo festival appearance the night prior. While his experimental and grand style was undoubtably a perfect match for the melodramatic aesthetic of Dark Mofo, Melbourne fans who found themselves unable to make it to Hobart seemed to be excited by the additional tour stop, with the show selling out weeks before the gig. As a crowd formed in The Workers Club, anticipation was clearly building for the night of reverb-heavy, soul-searching experimentation that was ahead.
Sandy Hsu was first to grace the stage, a Melbourne-based artist who delivered gorgeous ambient vocal soundscapes and dreamy indie pop guitar melodies. Sandy served as the perfect support to serpentwithfeet, as the crowd lost in themselves in her unique musical worlds. If you’re reading this because you have an interest in experimental musicians like Josiah, Sandy Hsu is definitely an artist to get behind.
It was now time for the main event, as the cosy Workers band room filled with eager eyes and ears, the lo-fi rumbling percussion of ‘mourning song’ began to play and serpentwithfeet emerged. Wise wore a relatively casual outfit compared to looks his fans would be familiar with online, and on top of this, he was not joined by anyone on stage; armed with only backing tracks and a yet-to-be-touched piano side of stage. This stripped-back set allowed for an immensely intimate performance where nothing else mattered besides the otherworldly falsetto voice onstage, and the introspective artist it belonged to.
Wise mostly performed tracks from his critically acclaimed debut album ‘soil,’ along with some deeper discography cuts and a much-appreciated cover of Brazilian jazz singer Elis Regina. Between these electronic, gospel pop masterpieces, Wise read poetry from Nikki Giovanni and Yrsa Daley-Ward, wearing his inspirations on his sleeve and adding to these works with his own monologues that flowed seamlessly into the next song.
Unfortunately, the magic of the evening was at times interrupted by some very rude punters. The musical style of serpentwithfeet requires a crowd’s utmost attention, and it was clear not everyone in the crowd was willing to give such. It became too easy to hear conversations, and the music playing in other areas of The Workers Club overpowered Wise whenever the band room door was open, so it was a little perplexing when some punters decided to hold it open for prolonged periods of time. Serpentwithfeet is an artist who is doing truly exciting things in the pop space, and even in a small band room far from his Brooklyn home, he provided an amazingly introspective yet epic show. He is an artist that deserves respect, and I hope Melbourne can offer him that one day.