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Review: L-FRESH The LION at Mojo’s Bar Fremantle

For the average punter, winter is a downtime in the music scene, the festival season a distant memory whilst one hunkers down in preparation for the next one. For the music obsessive though, winter is yet another opportunity to catch more intimate gigs as they head indoors. With both the weather and political climate looking dour, it was a perfect time to head to my happy place that is Mojo’s Bar in North Fremantle. On the bill Saturday night was some local favourites, in the form of Selekt Few, Marksman and Mathas. From the other side of the country headlining was L-FRESH The LION, fresh from flying from the East Coast to end the One tour in Perth.

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Kicking things off was Selekt Few, whose debut album launch was just the other week at the same venue. Technical problems did little to mar the fun the group was clearly having on stage, indeed it was One of those Days as per the groups’ track, with a rendition of Right & Responsibilities separating the group from the usual Australian hip hop which is all about how much alcohol one can sink. The set was capped off with Pretty Woman, the guitar infused tune, reminiscent of the Roy Orbison tune of the same name. The tracks’ album cut usually contains Callum Presbury who climbed on stage as well as local emcee FG of The Community who like many, was at the Lauryn Hill gig. The guitar licks of the tune played out the set, a bright start to a blustery day.

Marksman took to the stage in his solo setup. Marksman has supported the likes of Horrowshow and Macklemore, gaining fans with his energy and positivity. Starting early with Mediocreville, the track balances the history of Perth being “dullsville” against the unabashed love one would have for their home town. Fake Empire, which samples The National song of the same name had the emcee sitting on stage, virtually collapsing from his performance, whilst All Falls Down featuring Whisky Winter had many in the audience clapping. Ending with Dreamers, the effort and sweat was visibly pouring off Marksman, setting the stage for another local favourite.

Multi- WAMi award winner Mathas climbed onto the stage with what he dubbed his “briefcase”, a magical music box of sorts to compliment his rhyming. Kicking off with Doctorshopping, the track highlighting the drug culture of both legal and illegal drug use in Perth. A rendition of Police State, a topic that is close to the hearts of the citizens in this fair city put our hometown in the forefront, which was further emphasised with his next track. Puppies in Fish Tanks, a reworking of Perth’s noise merchants Injured Ninja track seemed to be a match made in heaven, with the pounding beat working seamlessly with the heavy topics that Mathas chooses to cover.

White Sugar, the track that brought him attention with its blistering attack on the commodity was a welcome addition to the set, whilst his performance of cuts off the upcoming album Arm Wrestling Atlas served to heighten the anticipation factor for its release. The performance of Nourishment, the track that took out single of the year at the WAMis, was yet another reminder why the upcoming album is so anticipated. Throughout the set Mathas was at his caustic best, his “just asking questions” persona a reason why he is locally loved and one of the brightest talents to come out of the Perth scene.

After the triple of shot of local talent, it was time for the main act to arrive. Finale gigs always tend to have a special place on a tour, with this one being no different. DJ Mk-1 took us right back at the classics, starting things with playbook bangers such as Be Easy and Made You Look. Picking up where Mk-1 started, L-FRESH The LION hit the stage dressed in a ‘Power to the Peaceful’ T-shirt, utilising both the peace sign and the clenched fist to represent two often divergent philosophies. The old school vibe was continued with the sound of KRS-One for One Intro, with the Sikh emcee grabbing the legendary KRS-One’s attention when he was here for one of his rare Australian appearances. It’s with tracks such as One that shows why the Melbourne caught the attention of the legend. The focus on the uniformity of the hip hop culture, over jazzy breaks that hold up production wise anywhere was a reminder to the audience how far the local hip hop scene has come, as well as how easily it can penetrate across the cultural lines.

The night continued with an examination of the influences life can have on an artist. L-FRESH dedicated tracks to his suburb of Liverpool as well as highlighting the influence his faith has had on his life. Survive, beginning with an Indian prayer before the piano riff kicked in was the perfect track to facilitate musings of such heady topics. The cultural exchange didn’t stop there though, the emcee got the audience to shout back in Punjabi in time to Mundian To Bach Ke by Panjabi MC (popularised by Jay-Z with Beware of the Boys), before Mk-1 continued the party with an hour set of more hip hop classics, even throwing in Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit for the pop culture fiends. All up, L-FRESH’s set was an unexpected surprise for those unfamiliar with his work and a timely reminder for people that are.

By David Coffey

Check the gig photos taken by Matsu Photography here.

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