His voice awash with elation and relief, Julian Hamilton of The Presets speaks straight to the arse of every seated one of us when he says: “I thought this would be weird.”
Mate, us too! We’ve been fastening our seat belts at the cabaret-style gigs that COVID-19 has made ubiquitous for months while dance acts such as The Presets have laid low. Because it’d be “weird” to force fans to take a load off for the entire set. Right?
Wrong. The Presets judged correctly that it was time to test that assumption because tonight’s show is a jubilant rebuttal to all the jokes about the doldrums of seat dancing. Afterwards, even the Factory Theatre’s COVID marshal is jovial in his high-vis vest as he choreographs our mass exit, row by row, as if we’re disembarking a plane.
The duo of Hamilton (vocals and effects) and Kris Moyes (live drums and effects) perform with wryness and precision, mixing bona fide bangers including Talk Like That and Martini with more meditative techno explorations such as Until The Dark. The crowd bliss out to ballad-banger This Boy’s In Love, a showcase of how Hamilton’s voice can flip from autocrat to astral traveller.
The build and switch between Youth In Trouble and My People is the torrent that bursts the dam; a collective endorphin rush to the head. A few plastic-encased QR codes clatter to the floor as arms flail and deltoid and oblique abdominal muscles fire up. Up the front, someone sways an electronic tea light.
You realise the thing you feared wasn’t not being able to dance: it was not being able to fully feel or, worse, feeling held back or held in. Yet no-one is holding back at all. There’s even camaraderie between tables with people filming strangers’ seat moves as much as what’s happening on stage.
Gigs this good are always a perfect storm of factors and timing is one. The coronavirus is retreating and people are less scared. By this time last summer, Sydney was already choked with smoke but against all odds, this one’s shaping up OK.
Meanwhile, months into their COVID-safe drill, venues such as The Factory are no longer presenting an inferior facsimile of what a good night used to be. “This isn’t weird at all,” Hamilton says. “This is f—ing fun.”
Sydney Morning Herald link