Writing by Erandhi Mendis // Photography by Briarna Dal Col
Some people love the Croxton bandroom. In particular, my uber driver, who spent a good 10 minutes regaling to me the glory days of seeing AC/DC, Midnight Oil and INXS do the circuit “back in the day,” before music “lost meaning.”
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t love the Croxton. Its layout lends to weird (read: bad) sightlines unless you are on the stairs, the FOH have to work pretty hard on lighting because the ceiling seems low and the width of the stage often feels disproportionate to the venue. Personal gripes of someone who goes to a lot of gigs. Anyway. I shelved all of these thoughts to see Faye Webster, the Atlanta born alternative country musician play her first Australian show – ever.
Webster’s rise in popularity is something to behold. In a landscape where TikTok is publicly throwing down with record labels, I often wonder what artists like Webster think about this – her career and prominence as an international artist is in part, reliant upon the delayed gratification of going viral on the app. Her song I Know You – which was met with raucous delight – increased in streaming by over 1000% on Spotify in only a few months after going viral on TikTok. Her Australian tour? Had seemingly minimal promotion and sold out within 3 minutes.
Of course it must be noted that Webster had success before all of this – hell, ex-US President Barack Obama listed her as one of his favourites in his annual roundup long before her TikTok sound debut. Still, the sheer scale of her rise to superstardom since then – and its distinct timelines – are easily attributed to the mobile app. Which is why it is interesting (and refreshing) how broad the demographic is at the Croxton on a Wednesday night. I do think much of this has to do with how Webster circumvents expectation.
Arriving on stage with a gigantic blow up doll reminiscent of a Travis Scott concert and singing dulcet indie rock with a crooning sax solo is a succinct abstract of Webster’s multifaceted personality and broad appeal.
It’s a deceptively short set – an hour doesn’t quite feel like enough for the fans, who are cheering and singing along, beer in hand. There are many sweet call and response moments between Webster and the audience and fans delight at opener But Not Kiss and Right Side Of My Neck.
Other standout performances include Cheers, and the encore Kingston. Throughout the set the enduring highlight is the use of saxophone arrangements; just enough to keep you wanting more but not enough that it overpowers the room. Webster keeps the chit chat between songs to a minimum and there is a humility to her stage presence where it does feel at times, like this could be any random set at the local pub (save for the fact that it is packed to the rafters and if you were on the floor, you definitely could not move).
Before she plays Lifetime she proclaims she is about to play a new song. It’s a single from her upcoming release Underdressed at the Symphony – an oddly relatable title. The song is lush, dreamy and is a masterclass of merging seemingly contradictory sounds – hip hop production and piano ballads with pedal steel. All that underneath an indie pop vocal delivery. It’s somewhat mesmerising and the crowd, including me, is gripped. I liken Webster’s relationship with hip hop and Atlanta to how Phoebe Bridgers’ adulates (and makes better) the sounds of California’s sad boy rock. Artists who use environment and history as inspiration often create the most dazzling sonic landscapes, something that continues to be prioritised by ambient, mellow-loving gen Z consumers.
I did however briefly think Webster would throw out her most recent single Lego Ring which has a feature from Lil Yachty. It’s a sound crucible and classic experimental Webster. The way she pays homage to her Georgia roots is fascinating: guitars, horns, electronic production and vocal synths – the whole kit and caboodle so to speak. It’s like taking a trip through the musical state’s history and something I look forward to seeing Webster do more of. So, as far as my uber driver is concerned – I don’t think music has lost meaning. If anything, with artists like Webster on the rise, it’s only getting better.