In the words of Michael Scott: Oh, my God, it’s happening! Everybody, stay calm! Stay f***ing calm! Needless to say, however, that the crowd flooding in to see Slowly Slowly at the Metro Theatre last Friday were not, in fact, calm. The intermittent lull that Sydney so eerily saw over the past two years was momentarily interrupted by a great swell of the Aussie pop-punk scene. Dressed in band tees and Vans sneakers, the crowd bottlenecked through the doors of the venue—some masked up; others sporting the cheesy grins of a long time coming—their excitement wobbling around them like the oily slick of a soap bubble.
The recent pandemic has touched everybody, and every industry, in different ways. The local music industry felt this impact perhaps more intimately than some. Slowly Slowly’s return to the Sydney stage marks yet another one of those liminal moments between life before the virus and how we might now move forward—as fans, as performers, and as an industry. Cancelled shows, a solo tour, a sudden health issue for front man, Ben Stewart, an online gig, and the teasing of a new album all under the band’s proverbial belt: The ‘Nothing On’ tour began last week with a renewed sense of hope, vigour, and a feeling of finality.
Slowly Slowly opened strong with their 2021 single, Blueprint, much to the crowd’s surprise and elation. A banger of an opener, it might have set the band up for a gradual slip and slide to the finish line. Instead, it acted like the gun at the start of a race; the crowd chomping at the bit to get amongst it, crush against the barrier, and stomp on each other’s feet in a kind of frenzy that we all so dearly, dearly missed. Then passed a moment of melancholy with 2020 song 19, a fan favourite from album Race Car Blues of the same year, before the elbows went flying with Alchemy, from back in 2018.
With a two-parter album released during the throes of the pandemic, the band were eager to cram as much music into this new tour as possible, running over the schedule to the annoyance of none present. While the long-awaited and regrettably cancelled ‘Race Car Blues’ tour might have led us to believe we would be in line for an RCB-heavy setlist, it appears the unconventional and poetic styles of Stewart extend all the way to his setlist writing. Featuring some classics from the band’s debut studio album from 2016 Chamomile, their breakthrough second album St. Leonards from 2018, and the live debut of their second new song of 2022 Forget You, the band took their time to give us a full portfolio—as if to remind us just what tricks they have up their sleeves.
Slowly Slowly put on a great show, but that goes without saying. The band has a strong stage presence: no one member taking the spotlight to the detriment of another; a buffet of engagement with each other, the support acts, and the crowd; and a recognition that we’re all there to dance badly, be plucked from the crowd surf by the surly security guards, and to sweat through our skinny jeans. More importantly, they created an energy in that theatre that was infectious—all of us vying for a place at the table with this very brand of New Normal.
Hi, I’m Steph! I’m the Assistant Editor here at Opus and a current PhD student in Creative Writing. I like to write about the arts, especially how books, music, and games can influence communities of young people. When I’m not writing for Opus, you’ll probably find me with my nose in a book, nomming on some vegan banana bread, or farming my crops on Stardew Valley.