BY Laura Melrose

Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that was Maggie Rogers and Stella Donnelly in concert last Monday. 

These two queens are a match made in heaven – opener Stella Donnelly charmed the audience with her adorable manner and quirky dance moves, followed closely by the supernova burst of energy and positivity that is Maggie Rogers.

Donnelly burst on to the music scene in 2017 with the heart-wrenching Boys Will Be Boys, a hauntingly melodic j’accuse to her friend’s rapist. Her music is light and occasionally almost childish in its simplicity, which disguises the deceptively profound lyrics and strong messages. Listeners shouldn’t be fooled by her infectious grin and her soft, girlish voice, however – this woman takes no prisoners. Introducing a song about her old boss, Donnelly spoke of a pub in WA that she used to work in, which would remain nameless because she’s ‘not a fucking idiot’. There was a pause, and just before launching into U Owe Me, Donnelly coughed the name of the Fremantle establishment into the microphone with a wink and a grin to her laughing audience.

With only the occasional accompaniment of her one fellow musician Jenny on guitar and keys, Stella Donnelly moved seamlessly from emotional content to comedy and back. She giggled while she told the story of her mother’s reaction to Mosquito, and then provoked mascara tears and full-blown sobs (at least from me) during Boys Will Be Boys. It’s honest and relatable moments like these, combined with her dorky dance moves (ol’ Stells loves a grapevine) and truly magnetic personality, that convert people from occasional listeners into die-hard fans. Before attending the gig, I had heard and liked a few of Donnelly’s songs, but it wasn’t until I saw her live that I truly fell in love.

You would be forgiven for thinking that a performance like this couldn’t be followed but if anyone could be up to the task, it was Maryland-born Maggie Rogers. As the lights went down, the unmistakeable strains of ABBA’s Dancing Queen poured through the speakers, and we took the unsubtle hint. Rogers opened with Give A Little, and gave more than that – for the next 90 minutes, she frolicked about the stage with endless energy, her hair flying about her head in a wavy blonde halo and a long blue scarf floating behind her like Isadora Duncan (without the grisly end).

Rogers is proud of her folksy origins, and her cultivated synth-pop is blended with a banjo twang to create her unique brand of folk-inspired electronic anthems, that would be equally at home in a living room dance sesh or a disco in the bush. Backed by four talented musicians and a dream lighting team, she had everyone from the front of the mosh pit to the back of the top balcony on their feet and dancing. That’s no exaggeration – I’ve never seen the entire balcony (a seated viewing area) on their feet like that before. Rogers laughed, grooved, flirted and freewheeled, leading us through the hills and valleys of Back In My Body, the heartbreak of Alaska and the clouds of Light On.

Unsurprisingly, the spellbound crowd wasn’t going to let her go without a fight. Her encore, Colour Song, was the perfect balm to the scorching heat of her dance-centric set. Alone on stage in a single spotlight, Rogers brought the night to a close with a reminder that even without all the lights, beats and frenetic energy, she’s got a hell of a voice.

The feelings evoked by each artist were so different, and yet somehow perfectly complementary. Listening to Donnelly, I was transported to an eclectically decorated coffee shop with plush armchairs and mismatched cups, sitting cosily opposite my friend Stella while she regaled me with her latest life adventures over a soy cappuccino. Rogers, by contrast, wove a magic spell over the audience, leading us all in a dancing, thriving mass while she bounded about the stage like a chiffon-trailing Pied Piper. Both artists are shining examples of female positivity, strength and love, and anyone who is ever lucky enough to see them perform cannot help but walk away feeling blessed.

Header photo by Georgia Griffiths.

Laura is studying Law/International Relations and devotes her spare brainpower to making sense of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She is passionate about politics and social justice and loves climbing, diving, and bio-glitter. Her usual methods of self-care are buying more houseplants or singing Disney songs in the shower.

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