Friday 9th April 2021
It’s no secret that 2020/21 has been incredibly challenging for live music. Reflecting, as I made my way to Waywards in Newtown on Friday 9th April 2021 to see Little Quirks, I pondered this strange sanitizer saturated world of today, and tried to grasp how painfully alien an ordeal for musicians, to have been obstructed from performing in front of fans for so long.
Upon stepping inside the venue, I scoped the new normal… strategically positioned antibacterial pump dispensers at every turn. But well worth it if it meant the show could go ahead, and indeed it did.
Little Quirks is a very young, indie folk band hailing from the Central Coast of New South Wales; formed in 2015 by two sisters, Abbey Toole (guitar and lead vocals) and sister Mia Toole (drums, vocals), while current members also include cousins Jaymi Toole (mandolin, vocals) and Alex (bass guitar, vocals).
One mustn’t be fooled by their average age though, as these youngsters who comprise Little Quirks really do make a statement. For deceptively hidden beneath their sweet harmonies and lively sing-a-longs, does emerge a distinctively heavier and more thought-provoking depth at times, as was conveyed during their show.
Finally presenting on stage, the band in an instant ignited a tone of extreme energy, which was impressively sustained throughout the entire set. To have captivated the crowd so strongly and so soon and with such ease was supremely unexpected; a dynamic kidney that many bands today do not exhibit.
Their high-spirited set included a stirringly vast variety of material. Some familiar tracks, some new, a few quality covers and even a couple of quirky surprises for good measure. Much of the crowd were acquainted with the band’s music and made it known, as they enthusiastically echoed lyrics the whole time. For any artist, the stuff of dreams.
Observing Abbey immerse herself into ‘Where We Hide’ early on in the piece was very interesting for me. I’m all about the words - and this song, supported by strong attitude steeped lyrics, imparts a brave sentiment alluding to heartbreak.
So, of course I found myself all the more drawn; having such authenticity unveil itself via a band’s live interpretation is rather special. Abbey’s powerful vocals weren’t washed away by the strength of the band, rather, the aural elements synchronized fluidly into one. Pretty promising, I whispered to myself.
What’s better than one guitar on stage? How about four guitars on stage? Works for me. A friend by the name of Jordan supported additionally in this department and I was suitably stoked. Not to mention, Abbey consistently switching guitars all night was both surprising and impressive.
If you were at the show, you could be forgiven for having found the track ‘Life Wouldn’t Be’ faintly reminiscent of a distant Mumford and Sons echo… complete with the proper punch to the guts as Jaymi belted her heart out. The band’s ability to arrive at a perfectly structured song was evidenced here - pulsating beats combined with contagiously cute harmonies made it impossible for us not to be swept away ever so swiftly.
Comfortably sinking into the set, the mighty, yet to be released track ‘The Rain’, was positively received. You know when artists sample new material at a gig and it falls flat. Well, this was not one of those times.
I’d already heard some noise about youngest band member Mia on drums prior to the show. But OMG… to see her in full flight for myself was breathtaking. Imagine an embryonic female version of Kram. And if her pummeling prowess wasn’t enough, add to the mix her leaping on vocals whenever required without so much as missing a beat. Well done.
Mia’s level of intoxicating adrenalin could only be matched by her big sister Abbey’s inability to stand still. Staring at her literally jumping all night was bliss. She mixed it up when she would race off stage in a proper frenzy to continue cavorting right among the fans, and didn’t they just love it. Yes, I did. If space permitted, she would have crowd surfed. I’d pay to see that.
The rollicking mirrored movements shared between cousins Jaymi and Abbey on stage were particularly endearing. This was Little Quirks’ party, personalised by a truly infectious unrestrained passion. As well, the banter between the two girls was priceless. The back-to-back storytelling served only to further reinforce the obvious rapport within this family ensemble, encouraging further engagement with the audience. Such interaction made it impossible for the fans to have felt excluded at any time.
A third down the setlist, ‘Bird Song’ rounded off yet another one of their innocent tales, channeling a charming vision from their earlier busking days. Mia having moved away from behind the drums at this point, to sing side by side with Abbey and Jaymi, was so refreshing to watch. Adorable reminiscing and rendition.
Next, the very laid back ‘Devil’s Ivy’ filled the room and was met with much warmth. This track is perhaps a little more country and even a little more conservative in part - but still folk-pop charged all the way. The strings on stage worked their magic, exuding an even greater intimate aura across our cosy space.
At no time was their depth of penmanship more apparent than when the achingly tender acoustics of ‘Cover My Eyes’ pierced the air. The opening tone of this track then morphed seamlessly into a far lighter mood, allowing us to witness that very maturity to which I referred earlier.
Although the song’s contemplative chorus instantly commanded the attention of an entire crowd with striking melodies and sophisticatedly layered hooky vocals, introspectively it did in fact denote mental health, “Somewhere we’re lost with hope to find / with covered eyes, we’ll follow blind / why don’t we say it’ll all be fine?” A subtle yet stark irony, and as impactful a musical commentary of this nature couldn’t serve as more timely nor apt.
Personally, ‘Bury Our Bones’ was the stand out performance for me. The more developed and robust of all the tunes performed throughout the evening. Undeniably a very vulnerable body of work, which rendered us somewhat momentarily subdued. Enchantingly pronounced poeticism did gift life to hauntingly stunning imagery. The exquisite arrangement overall was paced with purpose, as it illuminated a certain melancholy with great impact. From a live perspective, the gentle guitars managed to skillfully stay in their own lane, all the while discreetly wrapping themselves around the gorgeous harmonies. Such restraint also succeeded in quietly elevating Jaymi’s heartfelt primary vocals. A maturity beyond their years.
As we prepared to say goodbye way too soon, the band happily reappeared on stage for a desired encore. My curiosity was satisfied as one last surprise soon surfaced, in the form of Alex assuming lead vocals for the first time, as the band performed their version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Second Hand News’. A lovely way to flummox me once more before the definitive close of the show.
An inspiring band whose art reflects ambitious qualities born out of unquestionable talent, Little Quirks’ music evokes a certain timeless quality and, given their contribution as a group so young, Little Quirks’ potential is clearly far from finite.
If you’re interested in having some genuine, post-lockdown fun, do attend Little Quirks’ next live show. They absolutely deserve our support and will not disappoint.
Mary Di Matteo
Photos by Rob Mezz Photo (courtesy of Little Quirks)