Review: Jessy Lanza at Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent (Sydney Festival)

January 24th 2017


Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Festival 

Having spent six months studying abroad in the small city of Hamilton, Ontario, where Jessy Lanza is from, I feel a small (if tenuous) affinity with her. Known colloquially as ‘The Hammer,’ Hamilton is by no means as glamorous or sexy as a major metropolitan city. Yet its industrial origins have fostered a creative scene that is gritty and unassuming in its coolness.

Indeed, people are still filing in to the Spiegeltent as Lanza walks on stage and, without a word, opens her set with an effortless resounding chord from her synth. Her drummer, Tori Tizzard, is poised and ready.

The addition of Tizzard adds a welcome sense of immediacy to the performance. There is a physicality to Lanza’s music that is made for dancing – RnB basslines, house influenced synths, plenty vocal hooks and syncopated rhythms.


Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Festival 

It takes a while for the crowd to warm up, however.

“Who is this, again?” I overhear a girl ask her partner. “Jessy Lanza,” he replies, and repeats, unsure of the inflection of her surname. I’m now invested in the development of this couple’s enjoyment of the set.

Jessy plays through tracks from her 2013 record Pull My Hair Back. ‘Fuck Diamond’ surges low through the tent, and ‘Kathy Lee’ has the crowd quietly and attentively swaying to the slow jam. The couple discreetly check how much they have left of the bottle of red they snuck in.

It’s not until she pulls the one-two punch of ‘Never Enough’ and ‘VV Violence’ from her 2016 standout Oh No that a new energy arrests the crowd. The boyfriend exclaims in recognition, begins to dance. His girlfriend is on board.

Here is an album praised for its restraint and minimalism, played loud and live, and sounding full. It’s easy to mistake minimal for simple, and there’s a lot to be said for what Jessy fills the silence with – as well as what she doesn’t.

In ‘It Means I Love You’, it’s the staccato synth progressions, the skittering hi hats and her sharp, shrill vocal – all kept to the speed of 160 bpm. Her footwork influence is clear, both in the tempo and in the crowd’s enthusiasm (yet ultimate inability) to dance with rhythm.

The girlfriend, however, is keeping up. Jessy Lanza has hit the nail on the head. She is from The Hammer, after all.



Host of Wednesday Arvos, 3-6pm on FBi 94.5FM. Here for a good time.

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