From the moment she climbed through the crowd, to the stage, and kicked off her shoes, we knew Tash Sultana was going to put on a show.
Tash Sultana has exploded into the forefront of the Australian music scene this year. She’s gone from busker in the streets of Melbourne to selling out shows nationwide and around the world. She was recently nominated for triple j’s Unearthed Artist of the Year, and is a must see act at 2017’s Party In The Paddock and Laneway Festival. All this and she’s only 21.
WARNING: Spoiler Alert! One of the highlights of seeing Tash Sultana live was having no idea what she was going to do next or how she would one-up herself. The following will certainly spoil bits of that.
It took exactly one song (or less than, considering the length of a live song in the world of Tash Sultana) to realise we were in for a treat. She started out by layering on guitar riffs with that loop pedal that she’s known for, and before long she was throwing herself around the stage. But then she added more layers. Tash Sultana can beat box. She can change genre mid-song and change back like nothing happened. She can add wild percussion, a hard rock guitar solo, and dance like a madwoman. And that was all in one song.
If being able to conquer every layer of a song by yourself wasn’t enough, Tash Sultana engaged with the crowd on a level above what you usually get. There was the standard stagetalk, “I’ve never played in Tassie before so this is my cherry popping of the south side”, but there were some classic stories too. “I wrote this song about a motherfucker,” she started, before telling us of someone that threatened to take her to court for busking too loudly, measuring the sound decibel limit on his iPhone app. “I’ll see you in hell before I see you in court. So cheers to that cunt.”
One of her more popular songs, ‘Gemini’, brought a different vibe but that same wild energy. Tash was well aware that we couldn’t pinpoint the end of any song, and she pulled some cheeky faces when the song would wind down only to ramp back up again. Finally, just to show that she can do anything, Tash Sultana brought out a bloody melodica to finish. This woman is nuts!
It’s not all fun and games at a Tash Sultana show and she shared her emotional side with a more solemn performance, a folky tribute to her grandfather who passed away. It certainly moved the crowd. She then used that connection she built with us to transition into the popular ‘Notion’, earning screams and cheers for the opening riff. The crowd moved almost like waves in the ocean while the visuals her lighting created added yet another layer to the performance. “That song used to be four minutes and twenty seconds, now it’s fourteen minutes and twenty seconds.” Honestly, I think it was longer.
I warned about spoilers but, seriously, this was the bit that blew me away the most. Probably ten-plus minutes into a song, with so much being looped in and out, she pulls out a mandolin. She’d been going ham on the guitar for over an hour at this stage so why not the mandolin too? The crowd loved it but she wasn’t done. Out come the panpipes. But she didn’t just play them, she beat boxed with panpipes. What the actual fuck? And then, all of a sudden, everything she’d looped (guitar, percussion) all came back while she just kept on piping. It was incredible!
Remember that stagetalk and banter? Tash Sultana also just doesn’t give a shit. “This is how we do things. This is the “last song”. It’s called cutting the bullshit. This place is packed as fuck. This is the last song and then the next one is the encore but I’m gonna stay right here. So two more songs.” Instead of working the logistics of getting through the crowd and back again, Tash just did her thing. ‘Jungle’ was the logical finale and her fans just kept on jumping and moving the whole way through.
She pulled up a chair for her “encore” and showed off her incredible guitar talents, moving her fingers crazily fast for ‘Blackbird’. In case people weren’t sure that Tash Sultana is incredibly talented, she virtually took us through a guitar clinic and pulled so many tricks I forgot that she was still playing that same last song. Typical of the set, she continued to fade out only to ramp right back up again. Almost two hours after climbing through the Hobart crowd, tossing her shoes aside, and picking up her guitar, she faded out one last time.
Hometown: Melbourne, VIC
Latest EP: Notion, released 23 September 2016.
Sounds like: I just can’t pinpoint anyone she sounds like but she certainly performs like Jack Garratt.
Say what? “We had to get a new stage in here coz I’m really short.” This is how Tash opened the night and we all had a laugh. She wasn’t joking… When she came out afterwards to sign merch, she was absolutely tiny. Somehow, that makes her whole act even more impressive.