Review by Alison Stoddart
The Moonshine Bar sits innocuously in its Sydney Festival location halfway down Pier 1/2 amongst the festival’s new hub hotspot. Sydney's historic Hungry Mile precinct has been renamed for the festival to the Thirsty Mile, in what it promotes as a ‘cheeky nod to the wharves' working history and a fierce nod forward to what audiences are thirsty to see change’.
The high ceilings and massive wooden beams girding Walsh Bay's Pier1/2 wharf seem initially a natural fit for the festival’s late-night rendezvous and creative performance space that is the Moonshine Bar. Despite this however, the curation of the space underwhelms once entered, being devoid of any real ambience, themed along the lines it would seem, as a sparse featureless university bar.
But perhaps that's the point, the bar is just bar, a place to gather to bear witness!
Thank goodness then for Hi-Vis, a 46-metre-long installation created specifically for the festival by British sculptor Michael Shaw, with its brightly coloured, bloated and capacious intestinal track wrapping vibrantly around the insides of the Moonshines performance space, where, upon sundown, and via illuminating UV lights, the sculpture comes to life and seemingly begins to breath.
Experienced within this performance space alongside the festival’s 'breathing' sculpture, another British visitor was welcomed, Nabihah Iqbal, headlining Saturday's late night Moonshine Bar session, delivered by the festival’s "go-to crew for forward-thinking electronic music", Astral People and Kerfew.
This was the first occasion I had to listen to Nabihah Iqbal; a prolific artist described among other things as a musician, producer, DJ, broadcaster, curator and lecturer from London, who switched from human rights lawyer to a full-time career in music 2013, and who tonight was completing her sold out Australia tour with songs drawn from her second studio album - Dreamer.
According to her website:
"DREAMER’ see’s Nabihah reflect on her experiences during the early months of 2020, when her studio was burgled...more introspective, because it's about things that I’ve been through over the last few year... an intimate journey through snapshots and memories...Exploring personal identity and grief through the soft-focus lens of melancholy".
A capacity audience swayed and pulsed to an alternating set of, at times, soft melancholic and at other, loud poppy rhythms and beats with Iqbal's musical genre perhaps best described by the festival’s guide as a mix of dream pop, post punk electronic music.
Between songs, Iqbal took the time to explain the genesis and inspiration for each, reflecting with the audience that her favourite sources of inspiration were, Bryron, Keats and all those artists that may have died prematurely, with her major reveal of the night being that her favourite book Thomas Hardy's, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, was the major inspiration for her song/album Dream.
Iqbal's performance, self-assured, accomplished and earnest though it was, did suffer some initial issues around sound quality. However once these were ironed out those of us bearing witness were at once soothed and then jolted along for what was a highly captivating and engaging experience.
I'm definitely a fan.