It didn’t take long for live music to assert itself as the last bastion of hope and positivity in this post-election Nashville. While tumult and turnover happens up on Capitol Hill, progressive thought shone through in its finest capacity this past Tuesday, at Exit/In.
Coming from our far more open minded neighbors up north (Canada for the cartographically challenged), Austra made a stop in Music City that saw the band open with the slightest of hesitancy, but eventually morph their 15-ish song set into a music escapist’s paradise.
Following the always exceptional opening set from The Range – who will be joining Austra on the majority of their US run – Austra brought on an ethereal exhibition. Touring in support of their most recent – and aptly titled – LP, Future Politics, Austra didn’t take long to dive into the realm of which their album title suggests. As will likely become the case in the coming months post-election, Austra’s Katie Stelmasis seemed notably hesitant in her initial banter.
Hailing from our neighbors from the North, its fair for Stelmasis to have been slightly guarded when it came to referencing their poignant album title and appearance in town, as well.
So we’re Austra and this is our first time in Nashville. Or at least our first time headlining. I didn’t know… okay never mind. We’re very happy to be here.”
Who knows what Stelmasis felt she needed to hold back, but needless to say, the further along in the set Austra got, the sooner her trepidations were assuaged.
After running through “Forgive Me” off the band’s exceptional 2013 release, Olympia, Stelmasis made another – this time, more free flowing and good humored – appeal to the crowd.
“We put out a new record, and it came out the same day Donald Trump became president.” She paused for the cacophony of boos throughout the crowd to subside before continuing. “I wanted to gauge that. So cool, we’re in a safe place. Anyway, this is an old song.”
And just like that, the tension was totally and completely disposed of, and Austra dropped into an absolute banger of “Freepower.” It should be noted that Austra’s keys player, Ryan Wonsiak is an exceptional dancer, and his on stage swaying every which way is reason alone to see Austra live.
From that point on, the show was an unequivocal combination of merriment and cavorting pleasure, as Austra and their Exit/In crowd were all but unified by their mutual cavorting. Austra further endeared themselves to the Nashville crowd by proudly announcing their post-show plan included a trip to Robert’s (always a wise decision, as many of us know).
Anyway, if there’s one major takeaway from Austra’s Nashville set and their collective discography as a whole, its that Stelmasis, Wonsiak, Dorian Wolf, and Maya Postepski’s music as Austra is about as well equipped for this new era of political discourse than most others. Stelmasis’ lyrics feel like thoughts and sentiments of a group long undermined that’s geared to climb the summit of oppression.
Austra’s version of synth and pop and electronic music imbues a sense of urgency and immediacy in this age of alt-rightedness and patriarchal dominance. It opens itself up to a social and political plane that has long perturbed other musicians (or at the very least, frightened them), but not Austra.
All in all, such sentiments probably shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Austra’s aptly titled Future Politics LP, but nevertheless, they do what they do effectively. And others should follow suit, especially with what’s to come in the next four years.