The Herd, Sietta @ The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide, (27/08/11)

As a collective The Herd have provided us with four successful albums and now a fifth in Future Shade and they have also nurtured many acts into success through their Elefant Traks label. In amongst their own body of work have come solo projects from basically all of the eight members that form the band; the work of Urthboy, Ozi Batla, Unkle Ho, and Jane Tyrrell’s contribution to Newcastle acoustic troupe Firekites provides a snapshot of the hard work and commitment to the music industry that these guys have delivered. Their political nature and controversial lyricism has further defined their 10-year career, allowing them to reach audiences broader than simply the Australian hip-hop community. And yet they achieve this with such a great sense of honesty and modesty, two attributes that can be hard to find in a genre dominated by big egos and self-indulgence.

Their support act, the Darwin-via-Adelaide two-piece Sietta, has recently signedto Elefant Traks and they have received strong recognition for its debut release The Seventh Passenger. A successful frame of mind usually brings about confidence in any field, and from the first moments of these guys taking to The Gov stage, Sietta were completely at home. A strong performance was merely a fait accompli. Along with two backing singers, lead vocalist Caiti Baker is bold, completely soulful, and full of the elements that made her influences Etta James and Aretha Franklin great. Her flow is smooth, and complements the musical stylings of her compatriot James Mangohig, who has the production and soundscape side of things covered. These soundscapes are eclectic, ranging from funk and soul, to much deeper electronic and bass sounds, whilst even dabbling in amongst the reggae and dub creations that appear to be sweeping the world at present. This is most likely the reason they will go onto great success; their variation of sounds will hold them in good stead going forth into further recordings and tours. And with a breakout song as attractive as current hit What Am I Supposed To Do, the future looks bright for this talented duo.

You can feel the anticipation throughout The Gov as The Herd prepare to take the stage. And when they do, they begin an hour-and-a-half onslaught of pure, no holds barred music. Opener 20/20 is the perfect way to kick off the set, demonstrating the 8-piece at their absolute best, both musically and lyrically. The set-up is spellbinding for a hip-hop crew; there are turntables, keyboards, electric and bass guitars, piano accordions, oh, and some MC’s for good measure. Most often, each member takes a turn at assisting the group’s sound with any instrument they can get their hands on. Tracks from their new album demonstrate the progression this group has made over the course of their 10-year history. The Tyrrell-penned Grandma’s Song is indicative of their ever-growing maturity, while the chorus in Spin Cycle is hard to avoid, portraying the urgency of the band’s messages.

Recent singles The Sum Of It All and Signs Of Life are played to perfection. There’s something about Signs Of Life that really hooks you in; there is a slightly off-time feel to it, slowly flowing along, then completely over-emphasised in its culminating fade-out. Popular track from previous album Summerland, The King Is Dead, gets a worthy spin before the band leave the stage, only to return for an encore that largely pleased the sold-out Gov crowd. The group’s brilliant cover of Redgum’s I Was Only 19, possibly the most successful Australian cover of recent time in terms of not only musicianship but also cultural significance, was indeed an emotional performance. Then finally, the crowd was rewarded with a version of the band’s first ever single Scallops, to which they responded with word-for-word sing-a-longs.

My burning after-thought from tonight’s gig was that Australian hip-hop, and in a broader sense, the Australian music industry is a far brighter scene with The Herd around. Their influence on young musicians in the genre has provided it with a level of respectability that can sometimes be lost in amongst the narrow-mindedness of many urban artists in the Australian music landscape. If the band did happen to walk away from the business tomorrow, they would leave the Australian independent in a far better place than they found it in. A capable pair of hands they have brought to us, along with cultural sense, political advocacy, moral conscience, and fantastic music to boot. They still set the pace amidst their contemporaries in all areas, and seem as though they may do so for some time to come.