Reviewed on Friday December 13

It’s an unwritten rule of live performance that there should always be more people in the crowd than there are onstage. The balance seemed in serious jeopardy at the beginning of the evening – even though there was literally only one person under the spotlight. With the barrier gone and the curtains covering the entire mezzanine, The Hi-Fi has probably never felt more desolate.

A sombre Ozi Batla attempted to raise the mood for the dozen or so early arrivals, but not even a quick run-through of The Herd’s classic ‘77%’ could shake off the demons. Frankston’s Tenfold fared even worse; their cheap-sounding beats and lazy flows motivating little more from those watching than a face buried in their phones.

Only one man could save the day, and Sage Francis wasted precious little time kicking the night into action. That’s not just an expression, either – he set up a laptop, yelled “check” into his microphone, dropped trou and began rapping. Don’t worry – he had a costume on underneath his pants; a preacher man outfit that was all too fitting for the Friday the 13th festivities.

As Francis launched headfirst into ‘Escape Artist’, the buzz in the room made it feel full. Francis captivated every last attendee with a perfect balance of goofing off (running around the stage to ‘America [Fuck Yeah]’ from Team America) and solemn, heart-on-sleeve poetry (the brilliant finale in ‘The Best Of Times’). The crowd knew every word to every song, and could go home safe in the knowledge that Sage had made their trek out to the Entertainment Quarter worth it.

Trying to follow Francis’ set was akin to shooting oneself in the foot and then attempting to race. Not that you could have told Sweden’s Looptroop Rockers that, though – their high spirits and boundless energy threw a smile instantly onto the dial of everyone that had decided to stick around. The affable Swedes delivered impressive verse after impressive verse, taking bits and pieces from across their discography and even throwing in a couple of songs from Promoe’s severely underrated 2004 solo effort, The Long Distance Runner.

Did it match up to Sage? Not quite. But let’s face it – not much could have. Looptroop kept up spirits and refused to let the size of the crowd get them down, and for that alone they deserve the utmost credit.


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