Five unmissable gigs to see at Chapel Summer Sessions 2021
18.03.2021

Five unmissable gigs to see at Chapel Summer Sessions 2021

Words by August Billy

Featuring shows from Husky, Cool Out Sun, Pierce Brothers and more.

As an avid music fan growing up in the suburbs just north of Sydney, Prahran institution Chapel Off Chapel made an impression on me long before I’d ever visited Melbourne. That’s courtesy of the television program Live at the Chapel, which aired around the turn of the 21st century and showcased artists such as Foo Fighters, Ben Folds, Something For Kate and, uh, Wheatus.

I’ve long since become personally familiar with the venue, chiefly via the annual Chapel Summer Sessions. They’re back again for 2021, running from March 20–28 and featuring performances from Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, anthemic folk duo the Pierce Brothers, hip hop and Afro-funk exemplars Cool Out Sun and many more. Here are four must-see gigs from this year’s program.

Steph Strings

Although 2020 was a tough year for all of us, Melbourne guitarist Steph Strings emerged into the new year with success in her sights. The guitar maven’s Chapel headline slot will be her largest solo show to date, but Steph’s been attracting a large online following for several years.

Steph Strings’ debut EP, Allegoric Oceans, came out in 2018 when Steph was still in high school. She cites John Butler, Ed Sheeran and Tash Sultana as formative influences, but her instrumental acoustic guitar pieces also incorporate blues, roots and Celtic folk influences as well as moments of heavy metal intensity and allusions to Eastern string music.

Central to it all is Steph’s rhythmic precision, which has seen her woo audiences around the country in support of Ash Grunwald and the Pierce Brothers. You can expect Steph to graduate to much bigger stages in the near future.

She arrives at Chapel Off Chapel on Sunday March 21. Grab tickets here.

Husky

Turn the clock back ten years or so and this country was churning out psych and Americana-influenced folk rock bands. Many didn’t last beyond the swell of interest in the subgenre, but Melbourne band Husky have been one of the stayers. Though, to be fair, Husky never seemed particularly interested in adhering to some transient notion of what was cool. Going back to their debut album Forever So (2011), there’s always been a kind of proggy nerdiness to Husky’s songwriting and arrangements and this sustains on the Melbourne band’s fourth album, Stardust Blues.

Stardust Blues was released at the outset of Melbourne’s 112-day lockdown and it’s an appropriately-immersive work of folk-rock worship that has more in common with British figureheads like Sally Oldfield and Richard Thompson than Husky’s pop-oriented contemporaries Boy & Bear and Josh Pyke. Husky’s Chapel headline slot is their first show since the album came out.

Husky hits the Chapel Off Chapel stage on Thursday March 25. Sort tickets here.

Cool Out Sun

Cool Out Sun proudly self-describe as a cross-cultural outfit. The trio’s collective African heritage spans South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Morocco, all of which feeds into their music. Their boundary-breaking 2018 debut album also infuses influences from Latin America to the Bronx and draws on the members’ experiences at the forefront of Australia’s hip hop, Afro-house and soul scenes over the last two decades.

Frontperson N’fa Jones is no stranger to breaking boundaries. In the early-‘00s, his group 1200 Techniques not only demonstrated hip hop could be a viable mainstream movement in Australia, but also injected an alternative perspective to the white-male hegemony. N’fa’s joined in Cool Out Sun by percussionist Nui Moon, one-half of dancefloor-oriented Afro-house duo Digital Afrika, and drummer, producer and REMI collaborator, Sensible J.

Cool Out Sun arrive at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday March 26. Tix available here.

Pierce Brothers

The penultimate show of the 2021 Chapel Summer Sessions will see the affable Pierce Brothers take to the stage. Friday March 5 saw the release of the band’s new album, into the great unknown, the duo’s first 100% independent body of work. Recorded at Jan Skubiszewski’s Red Moon Studios in Gisborne from April to June 2020, between the two Victorian lockdowns, Jack and Pat Pierce hid themselves away to piece together the record.

What’s ensued is a another rich folk LP that sees the band venture into previously-unknown territories – led by the brooding string arrangements on ‘reflecteur’, and soaring arena-like performances on ‘brother’ and ‘trouble’. With a fresh batch of tracks under their belt – a compendium set to translate wondrously in the live space, this show comes with plenty of anticipation.

Pierce Brothers perform at Chapel Off Chapel on Saturday March 27. Sort tickets here.

Jerome Farah

Even if you haven’t heard Jerome Farah’s music, you’ll be familiar with his work. This is the guy who produced and co-wrote Baker Boy’s breakout singles ‘Mr La Di Da Di’ and ‘Marryuna’, Adrian Eagle’s ‘A.O.K.’ and KIAN’s international smash ‘Waiting’. More recently, Farah guested on Tash Sultana’s ‘Willow Tree’ and released a string of solo singles including the angry, consciousness-raising ‘I Can’t Breathe’.

Farah’s solo career has been a long time in the making. He’s been performing music for the last decade, often alongside his brother Jacob in outfits such as Daktal and Jakubi. But having now built an estimable CV as a writer-producer, the time has come for Farah’s solo moment.

His latest single, ‘Vibrate’, is a soulful R&B number that spotlights Farah’s hip hop-inflected vocal phrasing and effortless way with melody. It’s pop music that’ll get you dancing, and dance music that’ll linger long after the beat’s stopped.

Jerome Farah hits Chapel Off Chapel on Sunday March 28. Grab your tix here.

Chapel Summer Sessions 2021 goes down from March 20-28 at Chapel Off Chapel. Find out more here.