I had never attended the Melbourne venue Howler on a hot night, let alone on a day that had hit 42 degrees Celsius, and was still above 30 during Roland Tings’ 12-1am set. I guess I just expected one of Melbourne’s newest venues to be well air conditioned, but even Howler struggled to handle the heat, and it didn’t help that the show was packed out. However, what saved the night was Roland Tings’ flawless set, which made sweating out 10 litres of bodily fluids absolutely worth it.
Another aspect that was unusual for Howler on this night was the fact that the lineup also consisted of other house artists such as Chiara Kickdrum, Bronze Savage and Dan White. This turned the crowd into the sort of wild party scene that you’d expect from other Melbourne clubs like Mercat or Boney, rather than the well-behaved music-loving crowd Howler would usually draw for bands. After all, the stage features a stack of foldback monitors, making it as wide as average festival stage, and a better fit for bands than DJs. Rohan Newman knew he had to take full advantage of it, and he brought in the A/V duo Friendships to provide the spot-on VJ’ing visuals in the background – which I’ll dissect shortly.
Photos by Sarah Chav’ (facebook.com/sarahchavphotos)
Rohan boldly took the stage in a top buttoned-up shirt and with a bottle of champagne in his hand, but after just ten minutes he was already already feeling the heat, and resorted to drinking water for the rest of the set. He had only introduced a few kick beats, patiently taking his time, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand – I didn’t hear one person complain throughout the introduction. As tracks from his debut album began to slide in, it became clear that every track was a slightly extended or more layered form of its album version. ‘Organic’ would best describe Roland Tings’ transitions, with no sharp turns or startling moments, but he also challenges the listener from time to time with buzz noises and slow downs.
While he had everyone dancing, jumping around and climbing up on top of the couches at the back, there was another element to this show that made this Roland Tings set feel like a steal of an entry price – the visuals in the background. Aware that pastel colours and simple shapes are Roland’s aesthetic, Friendships morphed them perfectly to the music, never trying to do too much or lose your interest through repetition.
The visual highlight and moment of the night was the drop during ‘Pala‘. A single elephant casually walked around the screen throughout (coincidentally fitting the hot theme of the night) and then, when the drop finally happened, the elephant exploded into several faster moving siblings – and the crowd literally lost their minds. Rohan even took a break to dance and turn around to appreciate the visuals. Everyone was loving it, and the entire crowd appeared to know all of Roland Tings’ tunes from their very first beats, smelling blood frequently before even my sober self knew which track was emerging.
The night really proved how big a difference well-executed projections can make, and that Roland Tings needs to make this a regular live feature – the red LED lights and smoke machine did the job during his Paradise Music Festival set, but weren’t particularly memorable. This set’s only negative, on the other hand, was that there wasn’t more of it.