The vibe at Icehouse is quite fitting of its namesake, as if I were asked to describe it in a single adjective it would be “chill.” Unsure of what to expect from the venue I’d never been to before, I walked in greeted with an atmosphere that seemed content to live in contradiction. The general read of the room gave the impression of high class, and yet the entire building felt casual. The empty stage in the center of the room bathed in cold blue light, ready to be graced with performance.
It didn’t take too long for the first opening act, Dua, to take the stage. Seemingly playing into the chilled atmosphere at Icehouse, she went for the cold opening, lacing the air with spacey instrumentals and singing drawn out oohs and aahs. After this, a proper introduction complete with a good bit where she asked for everyone’s name in the room simultaneous, and suddenly the night was off and running.
There are certain things that can be expected of your typical show. One of these things is that the opening acts, while important and crucial to the structure of the show, are not necessarily going to be of the same caliber as your headliner. Such is the nature of the opening act, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Another typical convention of a show is that the opening acts would generally play less time than the headliner, but that’s where this particular show decided to kick convention to the curb.
Dua proceeded to play a set that lasted an hour, truly testing the meaning of the words “opening act.” An hour is a lot of time to spend on stage, especially when that stage seems as though it’s threatening to swallow you whole. For quite some time Dua’s stage presence was rooted in the center, unable to fully capture the attention of the room. After a bit of warming up she did start to move around and find her groove, but perhaps she should have quit while she was ahead.
Throughout an eclectic mix of music anywhere from spaced out to straight-up droning, Dua performed songs to varying degrees of success. Near the end is where it started to really go off the rails, however, with one lone dancer performing what seemed to be an abridged male belly dancer wearing high heels take the floor in the middle of the room, Dua’s set started to wind down with a selection of songs that seemed to become less and less musical.
This eventually culminated in the finale of an a cappella that apparently consisted of a single chorus repeated indefinitely. Over the course of an hour, there was spacey singing, droning hip hop, and what nearly sounded like Gregorian chanting, leaving me with a set difficult to ultimately wrap my head around.
This isn’t to say she wasn’t good. She definitely seemed comfortable on stage and showed a lot of potential, but the set needed to be tightened up and brought with more energy. This would have been a prime example of the old adage “less is more.”
After a brief amount of time spent collecting my thoughts, I was suddenly aware that another act had taken the stage. The second opener of the night, Devata Daun, sang as Ryan Olcott (previously of the 2000’s group, 12 Rods, and most recently known as the creator of electro-psych record label Pytch Records) awkwardly pretended to play some controller pads after queuing up the back track for each song on his Macbook.
The true tragedy here was how unceremoniously they began and ended, seemingly blending into the night like a chameleon. While they coated the room in a blanket of music that felt danceable and pleasing, their stage presence was practically non-existent.
This is, once again, not to say that they weren’t enjoyable as the music was quite good, it simply felt more like sonic wallpaper. A wallpaper that’s very nice, but I still don’t want to sit and stare at the wall.
Still, there was a strong cohesion to the set that Devata Daun brought to the table and this clearly resonated with a group of people who started to form on the dance floor, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to a hypnotic rhythm.
I even found myself stepping up, mesmerized by the thick synth sounds pouring into the room. As suddenly as it seemed to begin it was over after only 33 minutes, and then there was only time left to wait for the headliner.
Lizea Harper took the stage shortly after midnight and immediately took control as no one else had done yet in the night. Where the other acts simply seemed to reside on stage, Lizea now commanded it and brought Icehouse the warmth that it so desperately needed by this point in the night.
Accompanied by DJ NAME and her backup singer, Nyasia, Lizea proceeded to perform songs from her new album “Dive” consisting of passionate singing and insightful rapped verses. Every moment seemed well rehearsed as she barreled through what would ultimately (and weirdly) be the shortest set of the night.
Nearing the end of the short but powerful set she used her time on stage to remind the crowd that in this day and age, when it comes to issues such as sexism and racism, simply being a good person isn’t going to cut it anymore.
We must all take action to end intolerance within our own circles first before we can dismantle the system that has entrapped us all.
This was the note she left us with before launching into her final song of the night, “Siren,” which ends on a similar sentiment:
The worst thing that we can do is believe there’s nothing that we can do.
Nothing changes if we don’t, too.
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