By Anna Letson, Senior Multimedia Editor
A hop, skip and a jump across the Pacific from his Arizona bedroom to a packed show at the Oxford Art Factory, YouTube star Alex Aiono was making waves at his Sydney debut. Escaping the heat of a Saturday afternoon, the venue was abuzz with the vibe of a re-purposed Brooklyn basement, full of exposed brick, pasted murals along the perimeter and a crowd squeezed in wall to wall. Following rounds of meet and greets, the crowd’s anticipation was nearly palpable as it built up to Aiono’s entrance. He ran out on stage with the energy of an encore set, an Australian flag tied around his neck like a cape.
Despite only having released a few singles out under his own name over the past year, coming up with material to perform was no difficult task for Aiono. Between his own songs, Aiono sang some of the popular covers he has uploaded over the years to YouTube, including the mashup that brought him to internet fame; a skillful mix of Drake’s “Controlla” and Nicky Jam’s “Hasta el Amanecer.” His original music mixed well with that of the other artists he covered, drawing a clear line between him and his influences. Deep, heavy baselines that make your hairs stand on end in tandem with catchy hooks and choruses seem to be a common thread.
Proving to be master at creating mashups, Aiono pulled together songs that were unexpected yet well known and easy for the audience to sing along to. It was clear that he fed off a lot of the energy from the crowd, a huge grin across his face as he danced along with the rest of the room. The only thing that was missing was the build up to the song his audience is so used to from his YouTube videos, the first few moments where he layers beats and instrumentals on his drum pad before diving into the lyrics. It is through those moments where you see how well Aiono can piece apart a song before putting it back together or combining it with something else.
When it comes to vocals, Aiono has complete control. His runs are clean and his voice doesn’t falter, even at the toughest of notes. Soaring into the higher reaches of his vocal range, his sound is powerful and driven without becoming too forced. Match that with his presence on stage and you have a strong performing artist. Much like his vocals, Aiono put his all into the performance. Sweat was dripping down his temples early on in the set as he worked both sides of the crowd and he barely stood still for even a second.
It’s clear that Aiono is on his way to becoming a successful recording and performing artist with the reaction he received at his first Australian headlining show. With fantastic presence behind the camera and on stage, he keeps the crowd wanting more. After signing with Interscope Records last year and releasing half a dozen singles since, Alex Aiono has shown that there’s more to come and that he’s worth keeping an eye on.