Inside every festival line-up – nestled amid the heavy-hitting headliners, homegrown heroes and cultish favourites – is what we’ll call the ‘hidden gem’ band. Ergo: the newish, obscure-ish act that play on a small stage at a non-descript time, that will doubtless graduate to bigger things. The act destined to be referred to as ‘oh, were they there that year?’ in the future.
Last year’s Electric Picnic hidden gem were an intriguing four-piece, The Jezabels. Already stalwarts in their native Australia, band have quickly amassed a devoted Irish following since their festival debut here last year. The release of the bracing and ambitious album Prisoner has thus propelled them towards the Button Factory, and tonight it’s a room cloudy with anticipation.
There’s no doubting that Prisoner is an impressive, immediate and accomplished debut album, teeming with potential hits and anthems galore. Their big, radio friendly sound evokes a number of comparisons: a poppier Beach House, a gothic, modern-day Kate Bush, a grittier, more pained Florence & The Machine, a more angsty Fleetwood Mac. Mercifully, and with frontwoman Hayley Mary at tonight’s helm, these songs sound every bit as intense and evocative on stage as they do on record. Mary really is a wonder; stripped of the showy histrionics of many of her contemporaries, hers is a simple, clean but thoroughly mesmerising performance. Right from radio-friendly opener ‘Endless Summer’, each song is as brisk and revitalising as the last; from crowd-pleasing ‘City Girl’ and the epic indie power-ballad ‘Deep Wide Ocean’, to their arguable piece de resistance ‘Hurt Me’.
The Jezabels’ album is packed with dizzying highs and arms-aloft moments, and tonight they deftly fill the room with their sound. Forget hidden gem, surely ‘stadium band’ status is theirs for the taking.
Photos by Luis Faustino