Hollow Coves + Alexander Biggs: Live review | The Triffid | Saturday 25 January 2020

Reflecting on the band’s first-ever gig in Brisbane four years or so ago now, Hollow Coves frontman Ryan Henderson recalls fifteen punters, mostly friends and family, turning up to Ric’s Bar to see the boys play. Halfway through that set, a group of fans arrived and interrupted asking if the band had played ‘Home’ yet, almost surreally reminding the then-rookie performers that their songs had cut through on social media and found fans.

Fast forward to January 2020, and hearing 500 or so GC and Brissy fans belting out the catchy ooh’s and choruses of their songs at the Triffid on a balmy Saturday night seemed to have caught Ryan by surprise based on his post-concert remarks.

“There were so many epic singalongs tonight. It was such a fun show. The connection we had with the crowd felt stronger than ever before here.”

 But back to that a bit later…

The Triffid was brimming with date nights and groups of young women, combined with a surprising number of older couples. Hollow Coves evidently mixes up their social media-driven crowds with the fans they acquire via their Folk Festival activity, at Woodford and elsewhere.

One beneficiary of that broad church was support act Alexander Biggs, whose melancholy songs of love and therapy and laundromats, may have impressed those drawn to lyrical laments in minor keys. The counterpoint was Biggs’ gentle comical heckling of the crowd between songs, and self-deprecating humour that drew more than a few laughs. One incident, the catalyst being a drunk and loud patron who had entered during a particularly poignant tune, interrupted the performer’s vibe;

“We all show our love in different ways… some do it by being disruptive, eh mate?”

Sounding a bit like Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and a bit like Ben Lee without his hopeful optimism of more recent years, Biggs politely invited the crowd into the carpark after the main act to raise money for his confirmed trip to SXSW2020 in the USA.

“Here’s a song about staying up late thinking about bad relationships… if you don’t like that you might be at the wrong gig. There’s more of those coming…”

Biggs is no doubt a talented lyricist and performer, if not a bit sad for music lovers keen to stay positive as they listen including, perhaps ironically, many Hollow Coves fans.

Those Hollow Coves fans included twenty-something Zoe from the Gold Coast, who offered her insight between sets. She’d brought a clan of her five mates from Griffith Uni up to the Triffid after they’d found Hollow Coves on Spotify and found it the ideal soundtrack to studying. It was their first-ever Hollow Coves gig and their first-ever trip to The Triffid. I got the feeling it won’t be their last. Birthday girl Liesel was gifted the concert tickets by partner Mike, and both had seen the band at the Woodford Folk Festival and fallen in love with it. While probably 20+ years ahead of Zoe’s group age-wise, Liesel and Mike were seen pressing forward to enjoy the set, and those vox-pops collectively summed up the broader crowd of mixed ages and interests.

Dynamic duo Ryan and Matt brought session musicians Tom on drums and the other multi-instrumental Carins brother Ryan on bass. Introducing the set via ‘We Will Run’ the crowd responded immediately, lifting their voices and you could see the eyes of the frontmen light up as they played proudly songs that have resonated so well in other parts of the world, so close to their Palm Beach & Redlands homes.

“In the past, it has definitely felt like it’s been harder here than other parts of the world for us. [The Triffid] is somewhere we’ve both wanted to play for a while now. We’ve been to concerts there and it’s such a great sounding venue. I couldn’t help but notice all the posters of artists we admire who have played. Seeing those posters made me take a moment to realise how far things have come for us.”

Hollow Coves have clearly been touring hard and crafting an exceptional show. Ryan’s evident confidence and humility as he drives the set has evolved, but perhaps unsurprisingly Matt has found his voice beyond bringing harmonies, intercepting a few intros, and encouraging the crowd to sing, enjoy, and later in the set to look after one another.

A highlight of the night was the acoustic duo version of ‘Beauty in the Light’, complete with participatory backing vocals from a willing audience. Ryan expressed some regret at the album version’s string quartet rendering concert delivery financially impossible just yet but the duo nailed the alternate acoustic style. Raucous laughter met the story of ‘Toast Land’; the one-time working title from an unwitting producer, unaware of the online success of ‘Coastline’. Chants of “WE LOVE TOAST” were mimicked to match the Adelaide crowd’s response to the same story. The encore called for ‘Toast Land’ and the boys obliged, adding the beautiful ‘Anew’ after along with a heartfelt and hopeful plea from Matt to care for one another in this time of depression and mental health issues troubling our nation.

Hollow Coves have worked tirelessly in Europe and the USA over recent years to attain their 200 million Spotify spins and are yet to see that success overseas translate equally in their home market. But if the evident satisfaction of 500+ fans at The Triffid on Saturday night is any indication, there’s more to come in Australia for this band. This was a great gig by a great emerging band, with their heart and soul embedded in the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Hollow Coves header image (c) Lamp Photography. Gig images taken by reviewer.

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