I planned on starting this review with a personal anecdote about a 30-minute phone conversation.
Now, post-performance, I’ve decided to start it like this: “We went to the same school as her.” … “No way, you did too?!” … “It’s crazy to consider that shy, little girl is about to perform a headlining set at The Zoo.”
Crazy it was, and sold out, no less (30 June), that headlining act is no more than 19-years-old. Her DJ entered first quietly priming the turntable, Mallrat (Grace Shaw) bounding on stage moments later.
The crowd response was indescribable, incomparable, it was LOUD, and not in a sense of creating noise for the sake of noise. Think excitement and exhilaration in the most genuine possible way, not just pure joy, the purest; her returning expression reading similar.
‘Inside Voices’ to start, I was drawn to the song immediately; boppy beats layered with blunt, vulnerable words: “Everyone talks nicely, but I don’t think they like me, 'cause when they go out, they never invite me. Maybe I’m too quiet, but should I try and fight it? I just need someone to sit beside in silence.”
Again, the audience was chaotic, chanting her name as she stood and smiled, minutes passed before fans were quiet enough for her to resume. Though the short-lived silence proved only to be the calm before the storm, ‘For Real’ came next, her most-streamed release, an ode to the innocence of teenage love.
“This is the first song I wrote,” Grace announced prior to ‘Suicide Blonde’, another piece from her debut EP, ‘Uninvited’. Before ‘Bunny Island’: “On tour, I’ve had to explain the context of this track. Repeat after me: ‘I don’t like the Valley, but I’ve got nowhere to be’.”
‘Tokyo Drift’ came next, Grace then pausing: “This is a new one,” ‘Texas’ taking the title as the set’s first taste of 2018 EP, ‘In The Sky’. And you could hear the difference, the two-year stretch of experience and production practice, it was pretty, and polished, and made a positive impression, despite being relatively unrecognisable.
Recent single ‘Groceries’ asserted its accolade of having risen to success so quickly; she performed a sweet rendition of an Outkast classic afterwards, adjusting the melody of ‘Hey Ya’ to personify.
‘Better’ was blissful, a combination of carefree and existential crisis; Allday’s absence didn’t hinder the darker ‘UFO’. Grace finished on ‘Uninvited’, boasting a drop that deserves recognition, bridge building to a chorus chanted by hundreds of mouths, “Get me off the list!”
Interestingly, Mallrat’s vocals aren’t where the strength in her singing lies, instead, the real skill stems from her delivery. Not quite sung, not quite spoken, with the odd rapping in between, she exudes effortless nonchalance while reciting her lyrics.
Realistically, it’s those lyrics that are the real star of her music, so much maturity and self-awareness embedded into very simple sentences. What’s even cleverer is the way she wraps each statement into earwormy hooks, transforming every, single song into a pop banger.
Two years ago I interviewed Grace on the phone for an article about her impending performance at Bigsound; she sounded nervous and reserved though insightful and intelligent and intuitive, all at once.
Those qualities still seem very much intact, after having watched her perform; nerves especially, on stage, she’s so clearly adverse to any notion of basking in the industry’s limelight for attention or ‘fame’, she almost seems shy – it’s incredibly sincere and endearing – all part of the irresistible Mallrat charm.
I was stunned after speaking to her, she was so young, but with fierce ambitions and promising releases. It’s crazy to consider that two years on I would see that shy, little girl perform a headlining set at The Zoo.