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Live Review: Hemlocke Springs, Chloe Dadd @ Oxford Art Factory

8 February 2024 | 3:57 pm | Shaun Colnan

The lyric “I realised I am just the piece of sh*t I was before” sounded like a rendezvous between Prince and Peaches.

Hemlocke Springs

Hemlocke Springs (Credit: Ana Peralta Chong)

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24-year-old North Carolinian Hemlocke Springs has been touted as one of the most exciting burgeoning acts in the alt-pop scene. She exploded onto the scene in 2022 with two back-to-back TikTok viral singles while taking an unexpected detour from studying bioinformatics at Dartmouth. 

This launched her into the alt-pop limelight, bolstered by the experimental and ambitious 2023 track sever the blight. Aussie crowds were eager to see what this young act with millions of streams to her name might sound like live.

Fresh from touring around the country with Laneway Festival, the young singer started late on a Wednesday night, arriving at 10 pm, enhancing the anticipation.

But first, local talent Chloe Dadd and her band arrived on stage with her brand of nervous pop. She shows promise with teen-relevant bobby pop tunes and a somewhat dreamy voice, but there is development to be made to create a confident stagecraft for her live sets.

The rhythm section was fairly tight which kept driving the set forward. The saccharine love stories were showcased with the track, Hesitate. “It’s about falling in love on park benches,” said Dadd. Here was a fast-paced yet pensive song with a little bass riff and an emancipatory guitar flourish to inaugurate listeners into the chorus. 

While the lyrics were hard to decipher, there are clear hallmarks of pop icons like Taylor Swift in her songs with a sort of country twang mixing with emotionally aware verbose tell-all lyrics.

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Dadd displayed some cutesy interactions with the audience between songs like: “I’m having a great day. I had some eggs for breakfast”, feeling like part of the zeitgeist.

She was certainly present with the audience, fighting through the nerves, saying: “I might play a new one for you. It’s not released yet. All the other ones are. This one’s called Only One.”

Tracks like Keep It 2gether continued the theme with some variation, with Dadd explaining, “This is about when a relationship changes so that you want to speak to them. So, if you want to, just speak to them.

Vitamin C was both a “song about a girl” and about “taking vitamins every day”, with the heavy auto-tune a memorable feature.

Then, the band’s rendition of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor by the Arctic Monkeys showed some versatility and a fitting instrumental homage to this noughties pop-rock banger.

Radar - “a song about when you meet someone and then you drop out of their radar” - came along with a very Swift-esque structure and a repetitive choral line, including the title countless times, taking Chloe Dadd’s set to its end.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Hemlocke - well, my name wasn’t Hemlocke then…” came the self-mythologising call of the headline act, Hemlocke Springs.

Clad in Alice In Wonderland-inspired petticoats, a vibrant wig and even more vibrant highlighted eyebrows, the prospective PhD student breathed new life into the night with her quirky antics and unique singing style. 

“...And she wrote this song to keep from doing an assignment.” This oddball bare-all sparked cheers from the crowd. “...So I went to the toilet to take a sh… to pee… and when I was taking a… peeing… I came up with the line “I like kisses and hugs…I just want your love.” This little anecdote heralded the delivery of the wistful, weird and wonderful track, gimme all ur luv.

Next, enknee1 saw a spirited singalong of the track’s refrain from the entire crowd, imploring, “Is there anyone out there who loves me?” A theme was certainly developing, expressing a desire for companionship and a questioning of the place of a kooky character in society.

Hemlocke’s stage antics were endearing, eliciting laughs and smiles as she relayed: “I’ve had several wardrobe malfunctions…I slipped, and I was like shiiiit… And then the other day my tits were out… I mean my breasts… and now it’s my little glove…”

Her track pos had a fun, distinct drum beat with a smattering of cowbells. The lyric “I realised I am just the piece of shit I was before-ore” sounded like a rendezvous between Prince and Peaches. Her bizarre vocal delivery and self-deprecatory lyrics melded perfectly with the messy pop stylings of the instrumental.

The antics weren’t over; how could they be? Hemlocke sunk to the ground, screaming “Babyyyy” and flipping around on the ground. Then she entreated everyone to sing along with her “Hemlocke springs is falling down… my fair lady.”

This led to another singalong - “of just literally syllables” on the track, the train to nowhere. Really, this entire set which took the audience on a tour of her 2023 EP, going...going...GONE! was a fun, original and rousing performance - well worth a listen if you’re into this eclectic genre.