Martha Wainwright + Oh Pep! // Oxford Art Factory // 12/03/17

Olivia (Oh) Hally and Pepita (Pep!) Emmerichs are an alt-country/folk duo that have been turning heads since the release of their debut LP, Stadium Cake, last year. Watching the two of them in action is a validation of the momentum the Melbourne outfit have gained of late; a perfectly charming and entertaining viewing experience that raises quite a few smiles and eases the already-packed venue gently into their Sunday evening. They blend sorrowful tales and minor-chord melancholy with some unique flourishes in the arrangement, care of Emmerichs’ use of both fiddle and mandolin. Their voices also intertwine with warm, gentle harmony; which blends in beautifully with their immediate musical surrounds. It’s not the kind of music to set the world alight, but one quickly ascertains that this is not Oh Pep!’s intention. They’re perfectly content to keep spinning their stories and keeping to their humble little world. Join them sometime.

The extended Wainwright-McGarrigle family have been entertaining Australian audiences for decades now; and a young Martha Wainwright was able to take full advantage of that on her very first visit here all those years ago. Now in her 40s with two children, the chanteuse has more or less grown up in front of our eyes. Her return to Australia brings along a new backing band – special mention to phenomenal drummer Phil Melanson for his exceptional work behind the kit – and a plethora of new songs care of 2016’s Goodnight City. “Around the Bend” and “Before the Children Came Along” are playful and swaying; “Traveller” and “Window” are tender and heartfelt. There’s also a throwback to her early days, a cabaret-style Leonard Cohen cover (“Chelsea Hotel,” naturally) and a few anecdotes to tide over between songs. In fact, the only sore spot of the entire evening is that perhaps her signature song, 2005’s “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole,” is circumvented entirely. One would understand why this was done for the family-friendly Taronga Zoo performance the night before, but we’re all adults here. Still, a night in her company is always one that is well spent – Wainwright, much like the rest of her family, is a gifted and natural performer, well worth staying up late on a Sunday night for.

– David James Young