ICYMI REVIEW // Stella Donnelly Showcases Feminist Folk & Australian Humour at Manchester Debut

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

Image by Evie Mackay.

Words by Cass Hyde


Rising star Stella Donnelly showcases feminist folk and Australian humour in Manchester debut

Having only released one EP, Stella Donnelly, has already shown herself to be a rising star in Australian music; jokingly entitled, `Thrush Metal`, the EP consists of five tracks, with Stella simply playing her guitar and singing. Not expecting it to be successful - for one, the cover is a picture of her with spaghetti hanging out of her mouth - `Thrush Metal` was first released in 2017 on just 30 cassettes.

However, the EP proved to be something special, five additional runs of the cassette were quickly produced to meet demand. One year later, after a successful SXSW and North American tour, the EP was re-released on indie label fave, Secretly Canadian.

Through her short debut show at Manchester's Soup Kitchen , Stella Donnelly’s natural sense of humour weaved in and out of her songs.

Much of this came in the form of disclaimers before songs. Prior to playing `You Owe Me`, a tirade against an old boss, she explained that one of the lyrics refers to VB, “a not very nice Australian beer, but it’s tastes good after a few”.

Another such disclaimer was before her cover of `Across the Universe by The Beatles, stating “I will forget all the words”.

Yet, this humour coexisted with her more serious songs.

“Beware of the Dogs”, for instance, sees Donnelly dismantle the far right taking over mainstream Australian politics, calling out their treatment of the Aboriginal population and LGBT communities before launching its her protest song.

Her breakout single `Boys Will Be Boys`, she explained, was written after a friend of hers was sexually assaulted. The song opens with the lyrics “My friend told me of a secret, Told me that she blames herself, You invaded her magnificence, Put your hand over her mouth”. Written in 2015, the song has a striking relevance in a post #MeToo 2018, making the feminist protest song as necessary as it is brutal.

A commendable aspect to her performance was her confidence. To be able to talk about serious, political issues, such as rape culture, in a performance is a difficult thing to pull off anyway. Yet, Stella also brings her warm, natural sense of humour into the mix as well. With just an amp, a guitar and a pedal or two, Stella was not only able to hold these two different elements of the show together – she made it look easy!

Performing a 45-minute set, Stella’s set was short and sweet. Yet, given that this was a solo tour, Stella was performing with just her electric guitar. Playing her songs with simple finger-picking patterns, musically, little changed between songs except for the position of the capo. While her humour and warm, easy-going stage presence helped her performance, the show would have felt overstretched had it gone beyond the 45-minute mark.

Overall, with a short, punchy set, Stella’s set showcases why she is able to tour the world with just one EP under her belt. She is just simply brilliant!

"Thrush Metal" is available now on Secretly Canadian.

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