A celebration of family, home and the people who guide us. One thing’s guaranteed at a King Stingray gig – it’ll end in a party.
“This is a song about getting out of the city… not this city though. We’ll stay a while longer here,” says guitarist Roy Kellaway before the surf-rock band explode into ‘Get Me Out‘. It’s a rolling indie-rock hit with stunning Indigenous melodies.
But the band won’t be in Melbourne much longer – after two sold out shows, they’ll head to Adelaide to continue their first major headline tour following the release of their self-titled debut album.
The band consists of Roy Kellaway, son of Yothu Yindi bassist Stu Kellaway, and lead vocalist Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu, nephew of Yothu Yindi’s late frontman, Dr M Yunupiŋu. They’ve been writing songs together since they were kids. Their camaraderie is highlighted in a jamming session halfway through the show, where Kellaway introduces the bandmates they joined forces with to take their jangly schoolyard tunes to a nationwide audience. Campbell Messer is on bass, Dimathaya Burarrwanga is on guitar and Yidaki (didgeridoo), and Lewis Styles is on drums.
Hailing from North-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, this five-piece burst onto the scene with their 2020 single ‘Hey Wanhaka‘. Punk rockers The Chats had signed the band to their own record label, Bargain Bin. Their songs, with lyrics in both English and Yolŋu Matha, tell stories of community, leadership, wisdom, and returning to Country.
Up in the second row, being in the crowd feels like standing amidst an explosion of joy. During ‘Let’s Go‘, an ode to road trips and good times on the Central Arnhem Highway, the crowd chants just one of many catchy hooks that make King Stingray’s discography arena-ready.
The set opener, ‘Sweet Arnhem Land‘, saw their hometown get another shout out. Yunupiŋu repeated throughout the show how grateful they were to have the opportunity to tour, coming from the small regional town of Yirrkala.
The band dips into punk with ‘Raypirri‘, Kellaway’s guitar wailing with an epic solo. The band knows the lines the crowd will scream, Yunupiŋu beckoning them to sing “louder!” to ‘Camp Dog‘; “Oh camp dog, I know you’re angry, but please don’t take this out on me.”
At the end of a high energy set, they leave the stage rather unceremoniously. The crowd chants for an encore and Kellaway waltzes back on stage, nonchalantly claiming, “Guys, guys… we were just grabbing a drink of water.”
They’ve saved the fan favourites for last. First, the band brings it down for a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow‘, which they also performed for Like A Version earlier this year. And then, the grand finale. The venue erupts into a party with ‘Milkumana‘ – a disco-funk rocker about leadership and sharing wisdom with each other. Spotlights in every colour dance across the stage as the crowd moves to the irresistible groove.
“That’s what this music is about… We’re all here together, and we’re supporting each other,” says Kellaway.
That’s the thing about a King Stingray gig – it’s impossible to feel alone, and impossible not to dance.
Written by Sabrina Caires
Image courtesy of Luke Henery