I don’t know if this is going to be an ode to Stella or an ode to my year abroad in Perth, but to truly clear the leaves from this review’s yellow brick path I should explain that I’ve seen Stella perform a lot. Be that in my old local surrounded by psychedelic drawings of suited and booted rats, or watching her stand alone on a comically large stage for WA day. Let’s just say when an artist gets big Perth the only way you can avoid them is by closing your eyes, but then why would you ever want to? Equipped with a sharp bob, light-hearted disposition and a quick wit which splashes out from a fast stream of lyrics, Stella Donnelly has fast become the poster girl for Australia’s globally diversifying music scene.
Yet Stella was not the only artist far from home on this cold Thursday night, Sophia Bolt was the first to step foot onto Brudenell’s Community soil. Born in France, but reaching the height of boilersuit sophistication in LA, Sophia fused herself with her guitar, partnering jangling strums with a fusion of english and french. Concluding her set avec Stella and her band, it was hard not to stand in awe as artists from the other sides of the world united as if they had been jamming together in the refreshing shade of eachother’s garages for years gone past.
Returning to Stella, for her own return to the stage, she vanquished the dark with a rainbow of musical vibrancy far brighter than the opening song ‘Grey’ could ever suggest. It’s soon eyewateringly evident that her ability to juxtapose the percussive power of a single guitar’s strum with lyricism which prizes a clever manipulation of words and rhyme over ease is enchanting beyond belief. Eyes were stuck. Bodys only able to sway. Patiently waiting for the grey between songs to allow a hypnotic break of applause.
For the unaware, Stella was propelled into music with ‘Boys will be Boys’. This quivering and fatalistic depiction of the blame cycle of rape simply breaks your heart, and live (accompanied with a somewhat gratefully received trigger warning) only perpetuated the message further. Telling how even after the shame, self-blame and ridicule from, in this case, male abuse life demands to go on. You cannot turn back time, but you have to pay your rent. I should say at this point I was disappointed by a few members of the crowd, men who were asked to leave when they couldn’t respect the silence the song demands. It seems like gig-goers are always waiting for music to move them, whether that be physically or spiritually, and it seems shameful when individuals don’t open themselves up to the emotive and moral meanings of songs because they are simply there to have a few beers and a #goodtime.
Nevertheless, beyond this, it was in no way a sombre affair. The infusion of friends and fellow Perth musicians onstage smashed the silence with the seventies-esque fun bops from her upbeat debut, /Beware of the Dogs//. There is probably a more eloquent way of saying this, but any artist who turns a song named ‘Die’ into a participatory dance of goofy crab walks and jolty Dad disco cannot shy away from the label of “fun.”
While for me it was weird to see an artist from another life cross-hemispheric borders, it gave me endless pleasure to see Stella being accepted and understood by those who haven’t turned 20 in the pub she chastises in ‘You Owe Me’. It seems the further she travels the better she gets; her confidence has truly blossomed, her music is now making people all other the world cry and laugh, and her intermittent stories concerning her Welsh mum donning a disguise following ‘Mosquito”s first spin on the radio (due to the line “I used my vibrator/ wishing it was you”) only becomes more hilarious.