Early last year, Ecca Vandal was a name that not many people had heard of. I described her as “somewhat enigmatic” in a review of one of her earliest shows. Not even 12 months later and, on the back of a Splendour set and a fantastic surprise EP, the whisper of her name has become a shout. Her hometown show at Howler is pretty much sold out and the 400 capacity venue is barely able to contain the collective excitement of her new (and old) fans who, it will turn out, are not quite prepared for the onslaught that will soon befall them.
“I’m just a girl!” screams Marie DeVita, the frontwoman of Brisbane powerhouse WAAX. It’s the first line of the third song of their set ‘I For An Eye’ and, while I heard their thundering guitars as I made my way towards Howler’s bandroom, it’s at this moment that I first realise exactly what I’m in for and it’s exactly what I want. There’s nothing about WAAX’s music that is gentle, certainly not DeVita’s vocals which range from indomitable to downright ferocious. She makes it very clear she owns the stage, the dancefloor and the entire crowd as she dominates the room with her unapologetic swagger.
While she initially starts to request we make our way to the stage it proves easier to demand it. ”GET CLOSER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET HERE!” she hollers and the crowd eagerly acquiesces. DeVita picks up a guitar for ‘CC Thugs,’ which is probably the only ‘quiet’ moment in the set – though it is still incredibly intense – before smashing out the rest of the set in brutal fashion. As she sings the last line of ‘Fight Fair’ DeVita dramatically drops the mic and struts off stage, leaving the band to finish it up and the crowd in complete and utter awe.
White light radiates from the stylised ’E’ and ‘V’ hanging on the back wall of the stage and the crowd starts to get restless while we wait for the main event. It’s not too long before the band hits the stage and Stacey Gray launches into a frenetic guitar riff almost instantly. I’ve got no idea what it is but it doesn’t matter, it’s infectious and staying still is an impossibility. The crowd erupts as Ecca Vandal herself shows up and grabs the mic, ready to slay the crowd.
And slay she does. There’s no other way of saying it. Ecca Vandal delivers nothing less than a truly world class performance: no easy feat, especially for someone with such a small discography. For a solid hour, all eyes in Howler are on her as she plays through tracks from her recent surprise EP and more. The band are amazing: Dan Maio is a powerhouse on the drums; Gray’s guitar work is dynamic and relentless; and Kidnot is pretty much a fucking wizard, triggering loops on Ableton, playing bass and, at times, doing both simultaneously; but Vandal is un-fucking-doubtedly the star of this show, working the crowd with a seasoned air and absolutely hammering the vocals home.
It seems that the crowd aren’t totally familiar with all of the songs in the set, but when Vandal heads into the singles the energy spikes and it approaches that point of struggling to hear the singer over the fans, which clearly delights Ecca as a smile appears on her face that she can’t seem to wipe off. As she closes out the show, I just stand there for a bit reeling from the impact of it all. It damn sure won’t be the last time I see Ecca Vandal but I doubt very much she’ll be playing many more shows in venues as small as Howler.