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  • Jia Sharma

Review: First Eyegum Of The Year - Cruelly, Sleeping Village, and Empress Oli

Words by Jia Sharma (she/her)

Eyegum (Free!) Wednesdays at San Fran are a staple of the local alternative music and creative scene in Wellington. This Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the first Eyegum event of the year, featuring artists Cruelly, Sleeping Village, and Empress Oli. This was my first time going to an Eyegum Wednesday, and after seeing these acts perform, I’m convinced to never miss one again. 

Kicking off the night was Cruelly. Forming in 2022 as a grunge punk band, they began playing gigs in March of last year. The first thing that stood out to me about Cruelly was the speed with which the crowd eagerly abandoned their cigarettes and rushed from the San Fran balcony to the stage. Throughout their set Cruelly moved fluidly between an indie and punk sound, creating an ethereal atmosphere that was truly captivating. I remember being unable to tear my eyes away from the four of them on the stage because their physical presence was just as captivating as their music. 

Next up was Sleeping Village, a band that started in 2020 with just one member and has since evolved into a seven piece powerhouse. Describing their sound as “poly-genre experimental rock”, they showcased a variety of musical influences that captured everyone in the room. The lead singer Oscar’s range and crowd work was incredibly impressive; they’re a really charismatic band as a whole. The crowd screamed the loudest when Oscar shouted “Fuck Cristopher Luxon and fuck David Seymour!” 

There was a moment during their set when Oscar put on a gas mask/microphone contraption—it elevated the sound and performance to a whole new level. I have also never seen better lighting at a gig, it worked so well with the music and the crowd would not let the band leave without playing an encore which is testament enough. 

My favourite thing about Cruelly and Sleeping Village was how much they truly felt like one band. When I spoke to them before the show, we talked about the strong community between Wellington bands. Logan from Sleeping Village told me “All of us in this sort of scene, the bands that play together all the time have become really close friends, and a lot of those people play in multiple projects”. This connection was so clear when speaking to these two bands because they really felt like a group of close friends, emblematic of Wellington's tight-knit music community. 

The night was closed with a set by DJ Empress Oli. Originally a Londoner before settling in Wellington, Empress Oli plays a wide range of genres depending on his mood and is especially inspired by the new sounds coming out of the UK. His beats kept the venue alive even at the end of the night when it started to clear out. When talking about Eyegum Wednesdays, Empress Oli said “It’s a gig where I can be quite experimental, the vibes are always changing”. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety he gave, his willingness to experiment gave an exciting dimension to the set. I’d also recommend that you check out his art on social media, which is just as impressive. 

All in all, this was a perfect lineup. All of the artists were so incredibly talented and the community they’ve built amongst themselves is reflected in their performances. I’m so excited to keep following these artists and will eagerly be on the hunt for their next gigs.


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