Amongst the scattering of austere, old buildings at The Abbotsford Convent, a tangle of fairy lights hang from one of the trees. The lights draw people towards them. Soon, a large group of people are milling around beneath the tree, some smoking and some waiting in line at the makeshift bar, a table behind which servers pick drinks out of great big ice buckets. No one wants to venture inside the church-like building nearby. We are all content to remain outdoors on one of the first balmy spring evenings Melbourne has seen all year. My bare arms haven’t felt twilight air for a long time.
Eventually, it’s time for the show to begin so like sheep, we are herded inside. Appearing on the stage is an unassuming, youngish guy. He was dressed casually in jeans and a green parka and his white electric guitar is battered and bruised, black electrical tape holding its wounds together. He tells us that his name is Whitley.
It wasn’t until he started playing that my attention was completely captured. He was standing alone on the stage, just a man and his guitar, and his soulful folk was beautiful and varied. A song that reminded me of The Cold War Kids immediately followed his first song that sounded a bit Death Cab For Cutie-ish. It wasn’t until his third song that recognition dawned on me. Whitley had actually received a fair bit of Triple J and 3RRR airplay for his song I Remember. I also recognised his remaining two songs, one of which was More Than Life.
Unfortunately, for the duration of Whitley’s set the audience was buzzing with conversation. However, he still managed to convey a witty sense of humour. “Do you guys mind if I do a Kisschasy cover?” he asked at one stage. “Well I’m not, because they’re shit” he answered himself. “Oops, I didn’t mean to say that, it just came out!” The passive crowd had finally been engaged and a few disgruntled words were thrown at the stage. I cheered extra loudly at this Kisschasy condemnation. I also cheered extra loudly for the rest of his set, trying to offset the mood of the rest of the audience. I don’t know how successful I was but this morning I messaged him on Facebook, just to let him know that his performance was enjoyed by at least one girl.