Jack Colwell at Oxford Art Factory: a showman and a pleasure to behold

After far too long a wait, Jack Colwell took SWANDREAM to the stage at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory.

It had been almost an entire trip around the sun since I’d last gazed upon the glittering spectacle that is Sydney’s own Jack Colwell. In October last year, the indubitably captivating singer-songwriter was performing an intimate solo set to celebrate the launch of single In My Dreams. Fans packed into the room, finding a spot wherever they could on the Factory floor, and leaned into every trembling lick and lyric.

Fast forward one year to the long-awaited launch of his debut album SWANDREAM, as well as the dawn of the COVID-seated gig and, honestly, it was like we never left the room. Colwell has been fine tuning this project, this memoir of sorts, for the last four years.

SWANDREAM is a narrative about Colwell’s childhood, a rumination on forgiving wrongs, dreaming of a utopia, and the culminating transformation of queer youth.

Jack Colwell Oxford Art Factory Dani Hansen Happy Mag

Texturally, Colwell’s classical training lends to these themes in a most intricate way. The main narrative floats atop sweeping baroque arrangements, disturbed by more sombre moments that devolve, as the mind does, into abrasive subconscious thoughts. Thudding guitar and primordial shrieks give way to folkloric harmonies, which meet a buoyant peak on the infectiously anthemic Don’t Cry Those Tears. It’s beauty and pain intertwining in equal measure.

After having to postpone this highly anticipated launch show due to the current state of the world, we were finally able to experience the album in full and in person at the Oxford Art Factory.

Warming the stage was local indie outfit Huck Hastings, aka Harrie Hastings. Flanked by his bandmates, the three-piece delivered a handful of beautiful tracks, drenched in a cool electric steeze and topped with tongue-in-cheek humour.

We covered a lot of ground in about 30 minutes; from half-hearted commitment issues all the way through to a refrain for the end of the world. Basically, the most ideal antidote for the year we’ve been having.

Hyped for Colwell, the anticipation from the seated audience was obvious. Perhaps they were all too aware that when you go to a Jack Colwell show, what you end up with is more accurately half live music, half comedy act.

Jack Colwell Oxford Art Factory Dani Hansen Happy Mag

Despite the solemn undertones throughout the album, each track was preceded by a story or anecdote that generally received a round of guffaws or otherwise simply bordered the insane. The inspiration for I Am a Dog? A bizarre dream involving Colwell, a dog, and a Catholic family that I don’t think I can repeat here.

Colwell also took a moment to shout out the efforts of Oxford Art Factory CEO and Founder Mark Gerber and his appeal to Save Our Stages. The current health crisis has completely upheaved the live music industry and this sorely needed petition is calling for government intervention and support to allow our venues to remain open and, hopefully, save the industry.

God willing, by this time next year, we’ll be somewhere fabulous enjoying yet another Jack Colwell show. After all, if there is one thing SWANDREAM inspires, it’s resilience.


SWANDREAM, a new live EP, and more from Jack Colwell are out now. Check it all out here.