Live Review: E^ST @ Howler, 03.11.18

aka Mel Bester


Life Ain’t Always Roses Tour

Live at Howler Bar, Melbourne

03 / 11 / 18

Words by Rachel Iampolski / Photos by Kenny Doan


It’s Saturday night and I am at Howler in the band room, one of my favourite Melbourne venues as it is the perfect in-between size – not too big, not too small – and with great acoustics. The crowd is getting hyped as we wait for 20-year-old Brisbane native E^ST, who has been making waves in the electronic pop music scene over the past few years, to grace the Melbourne stage as part of her Life Ain’t Always Roses tour.

Jack Gray performs at Howler

Jack Gray performs at Howler

So far we are feeling sufficiently pumped thanks to a fantastic warm-up effort from Jack Gray.  The Queensland local is rising in success thanks to his youthful and laidback vocals laid over very catchy alt-pop beats and guitar riffs, which he delivered along with a two-piece band. The 19 year-old has just come back from touring the UK with Dean Lewis, and his single ‘Red Rental Car’ comfortably sits at over one-million streams on Spotify, with the follow up single ‘My Hands’ (both of which were stand-out tracks during his performance) set to do the same shorty. This is definitely one to watch!

Next-up, and following along the theme of ridiculously-talented-young-people, was Kota Banks who strutted onto the stage and delivered a show with an immense and highly contagious bravado that got everyone dancing.  The Sydney local filled the entire venue with her high-octane, sultry pop energy – both in her songs and in her dance moves. Her single ‘Empty Streets’ – which has almost twenty million streams – is what we in the industry would call a ‘total banger’ with a hard beat and a well-deserved drop, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time till it, or Kota Banks in general, with her university recognisable and loved pop sound, will be on regular rotation on commercial radio airways.

Kota Banks getting in close to the crowd

Kota Banks getting in close to the crowd

After a short intermission it was time for the main act. E^ST (AKA Mel Bester) burst onto the stage, humble but excited and in her signature style of a casual but quirky, colourful outfit, and giddily welcomed the audience. It’s hard to believe that the last time she was on a stage, one month earlier, it was for a crowd of literal thousands at Hisense Arena when she opened for Panic! At the Disco’s Australian stadium tour, as she had the down-to-earth but excitable energy of someone just starting out in the industry (and someone who it seems it would be super fun to have a bevy with). With a casual ten million Spotify streams on her breakout hit ‘Life Goes On’, E^ST is certainly making a name for herself as a real force to be reckoned with in the electronic pop-scene. So much so that is hard to believe that the Brisbane native is barely 20.

She began her set with one of her bigger hits, ‘Alien’ and was joined on stage by three… aliens? Well, back-up dancers wearing giant green alien plush heads, and in a cheerleader/dancer hybrid uniform, but the effect certainly had the crowd pleased and ready for a wild ride. With nothing much in way of set design other than a giant screen with the words ‘E^ST’ scrolled across on a colour-changing background, Mel spent most of the night bouncing around the stage in an infectious and high-energy fashion! Her set consisted of some of her bigger established tracks including ‘Get Money’, ‘Blowjob’, which is always a weird one to sing aloud with a crowd of strangers, and ‘I Don’t Lack Imagination’ which really got the crowd going, and was my personal favourite for the night! She also performed some new music, including ‘Friends’, which chronicles what it means to be kind to your nearest and dearest, which she dedicated to her younger sister and her friend who were in the crowd. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

E^ST performing on the Howler stage

E^ST performing on the Howler stage

In between songs E^ST would briefly chat to the audience, even admitting that some songs were hard to play because she wrote them when she was in a dark place, before reassuring the audience that it’s okay though because know she is in a “really good place”, thankful to her friends and fans, which as you can imagine received lots of cheers and excitement from the audience. She really made the show her own, and brought in her signature cheeky, and slightly pop-punk style by starting certain songs with the opening themes from different cartoons, including Spongebob Squarepants and Rugrats, which the crowd frothed for, and performing a cover of the All-American Rejects classic hit, ‘Gives You Hell’ which you could not help but belt along with.

E^ST closed out the set of her Life Ain’t Always Roses tour with one of her biggest hits, ‘Life Goes On’, a highly relatable bop about getting over a broken relationship. She joked that it would be the last song and that there would be no encore, because she doesn’t have any other songs to play. Which for such a relatively new artist makes sense, but it also taps into the broader conversation the music sector has been having lately about whether there is even still a need for acts to have an encore, given how predictable a trope it has become! Wherever you stand on the debate vis-a-vis the need for encores though, knowing that this was the last track certainly meant everyone was ready to get down, and E^ST managed to close a high-energy, tight, exciting set on a real bang!


Life Ain’t Always Roses tour continues for the next month at the following locations:

November 10 – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane

Saturday November 24 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth

Thursday November 29 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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