words & photos: Maddie Vlismas @maddievlis
“Her frankness allows her to tackle topics of suburban heartbreak and the general shittiness of being a woman sometimes.”
I can smell girl power in the air, and boy (girl) is it sweet. Ali Barter is back in Melbourne promoting her new single You’re a Piece of Shit, and we’re all here on our Friday night to take down the patriarchy and look good doing it.
It’s my first time at Brunswick’s Howler Bar and it has some real potential as one of my favourite music venues. It’s floors are not yet sticky, the bathrooms are clean and the theatre/ music room is a moody canvas full of potential. Taking the stage are Baby Blue, a Melbourne act who are equal parts 60s surf-rock and Aussie grunge.
Although they’ve only been kicking around for two or so years, they’ve become legends of the Melbourne tour circuit and have built up an impressive group of loyal followers.
The ensemble are comfortable and confident in their craft, quietly grooving to themselves without the showiness of other bands, and it really works for them. Just as much as we are - they’re listening to the music too.
Front-woman Rhea, cheekily offers up that there haven’t been any heckles so far, “anyone got any heckles for us?” She asks. “You’re good!” shouts someone from the back and the crowd chuckles because they’ve hit the nail right on the head.
Before long our beloved Ali Barter is taking the stage and the audience make a not-so-silent promise to themselves to dance their butts off all night. She rocks straight into Cigarette and “a couple of new ones,” we can only assume/hope will be released soon.
She’s our Aussie rock Princess; so sweet and loveable in a simple jeans and t-shirt ensemble, like a bubblegum pixie - only with a potty mouth and a dry sense of humour. “I’m so tired of standing next to you, with nobody caring what I do,” she cries taking her aggression out on her bass guitar. Her voice has this immense power that I struggle to encapsulate. She belts without any visible effort, caught somewhere between a controlled wail, scream or shout - who knows what she’s doing, it just sounds damn good. Her past as a classically trained soprano is evident in her sugar sweet pitch, but she gets her gusto from somewhere else. One thing is clear - she’s not messing around.
In between songs she’s honest, witty and quietly confident, making quips that the audience gobbles up. Her band leave her to play solo for a few songs and she joking tells the audience to shut up before starting and is greeting by laughs and whoops. “Seriously, though shut up,” she says before firing up another new one.
She whips out high energy belters, Light Them on Fire, Far Away and One Foot In in quick succession without batting an eyelid. Her frankness allows her to tackle topics of suburban heartbreak and the general shittiness of being a woman sometimes.
Her new single she says “is dedicated to all you pieces of shit out there,” and while this sounds somewhat accusatory - it’s actually a love letter to her best mates, some of whom are in the audience tonight. She explains that the song is about how the hectic stuff her and her friends endured as youths has brought them together as adults. It’s beautiful and slightly rougher than some of her other tracks but still carries those bubblegum pop hooks.
Ending firmly with Girlie Bits as she “feels weird and uncomfortable doing an encore,” (don’t we all?), the audience rally for one more round and yell her words back to her with just as much gusto. “What a woman really made of?” Something glorious indeed.
Ali Barter is a force to be reckoned with and in this modern era of change and challenging the status quo, I’m thrilled that her articulate voice is one that’s rising to the top.