Live Review: E^ST blesses the Howler stage with Jack Gray and Kota Banks

Brunswick’s centrepiece venue was happy to host the young, eclectic rising indie dance pop star E^ST on a chilly spring Saturday night.

With a steady Spotify presence that has over a million streams on his single “Red Rental Car”, Queensland’s Jack Gray was the first act supporting the headliner. Bringing his new age alternative indie pop sound to Melbourne’s ears along with a two-piece band, his sound resembled the likes of The 1975 and Twenty One Pilots. His smooth laid-back vocal delivery and gentle falsetto hooks really drew me into the performance. Having only heard his studio work, Gray did a great job in transferring his intricate, detailed and unique production onto a live setting. The live rendition of his newest single “My Hands” was quite the stand out track in his set. Jack Gray has a talent for creating such a nostalgic and youthful atmosphere with his tracks. Whether it’s because of his addictive electric guitar tone or his drawing songwriting ability, he is definitely someone to look out for in the future.

Coming up next to warm up the crowd for E^ST was Sydney’s Kota Banks. Proud of her Italian heritage, she paraded the stage with such power and confidence that it was almost impossible for myself or the crowd to not participate alongside her incredible energy. Not being familiar with such powerful dance music myself, Banks opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on venue atmosphere. Three names came to mind whilst Kota Banks was performing. Charlie XCX, Drake and Dua Lipa. She is definitely a product of modern RnB and dance-pop influences and the set really felt like a universal dance party making everyone in the room want to volunteer in the fun. Aside from her sultry demeanour and feminine charm, she has racked up almost 20 million streams on her single “Empty Streets”. With a hard-hitting beat drop chorus and up-tempo energy, Kota Bank’s sound is definitely one to reside deep within the summertime festival culture. I would not be surprised to see her headline some of Australia’s hottest summer festivals, as her music would never fail to set the soundtrack to a feel-good summer season.

The interval had ended and E^ST was ready to grace the stage. Opening her “Life Aint Always Roses” tour with her track “Alien”, an unexpected one surprise was brought out as three costumed dressed aliens flooded the stage and began dancing to the eerie theme of the track. The song spoke about how she feels alienated and as if she doesn’t belonging to humankind. She also began multiple songs with openings of famous pop culture cartoons, playing the intro to the show Avatar The Last Airbender, Spongebob Square pants and Rugrats. I’d like to think this is a tribute to E^ST’s upbringing and adds a bit more of her personality into her live show.

She continued the night playing the tracks from her new EP such as “Blowjob” and “Heaven In My Mind “. Before playing her new track “Friends”, she dedicated the song to her little sister and her friend. The song pays tribute to caring for your friends and being there for one another. This moment reflected E^ST’s genuine soul and caring nature, which the audience truly appreciated. A key staple to E^ST’s sound can be found through her addictive percussion grooves and the way it evolves on stage. Particularly in her track “Get Money”, the contrast between the gentle atmospheric pre-chorus’ and the bossa nova like choruses gave the track so much variety and individuality. Fans of Mallrat and Cub Sport will be sure to fall in love with E^ST’s fantastic talent. She ended the night with her highest streamed single on Spotify with ten million streams “Life Goes On”.  A classic anthem to expelling old relationships and equating new ones, it really created a satisfying resolution to end the night at the Howler.

This may be my first E^ST gig, but something tells me that my hunger for incredible alternative dance pop will not stop there. I am keen to see what she can do in future and how her sound evolves to compliment the growing Australian music market.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Life Ain’t Always Roses is out now via Warner Music. E^ST continues her tour across the month ahead. For tickets and more details head to her Facebook Page.

Saturday November 10 – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane

Saturday November 24 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth

Thursday November 29 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

This reviewer attended the show on the 3rd of November at Howler in Brunswick, Melbourne.

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