The Waifs have come along way from their Western Australian roots. And 17 years since the brave act of buying a campervan and deciding to head out playing music on the road, the Waifs are “still cruzin”. Out to support their latest album “”Sun Dirt Water”, the Waifs are impressive, independent and endlessly interesting.

It is Jez Mead who is greeted with the slowly filling room of muttering Waifs fans: not an easy gig. A huge wall of people catching up, buying drinks: and the whole room feels like its crackling with conversation. Unannounced Jez starts. Complete with beige peak cap, and friendly folky facial hair, Jez launches into his set with force and fragility in equal measure. One man, one six string guitar, one boot off, a tapping foot and a world of complete honest emotion. He’s amazing. A blend of folk, blues and melodic finger-picking gymnastics with a voice which verges on a style similar to Alice in Chains and we are away: a series of songs, beautifully built and each completely crafted. Wonderful narratives, a sweetly gentle version of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”and my favourite song which I didn’t catch the name of was “written for my ex girlfriend’s boyfriend” and has “hit single” written all over it. He conquers the crowd, building each song with intensity and then letting it fall away. At the end of the set, which has featured toe tapping rhythms and a collection of forceful harmonica rifts, and relentless strumming: he nearly limps off stage. A highly energetic start for the night: and wildly fascinating.

After a brief break… some changes in light. The crowd begins squealing for The Waifs. Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn light up the stage with a friendly confidence as they promise an evening of old stuff amid the whistles and cheers and applause. The song list is fun (Waitress), poignant (London Still ) and jaw dropping (Rescue)… and we bounce between styles: folk, gospel, blues, lounge, pop, rockabilly and rock… as Josh Cunningham swings between acoustic and electric guitar.

Harmonies are strong, the writing is robust and the sentiments are overwhelmingly sweet.

There is something that catches me, catches in my throat, with The Waifs. And it must be something universal, because all age groups seem to be on their hind legs like meerkats, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Donna as she dances, jokes and confesses, Vikki as she melts hearts with her syrupy voice. And 17 years to be independent artists, supporting themselves on the road, creating music and living a gypsy life of jamming, performing and writing all over the world throughout the festival circuit and beyond. Wow. Impressive. They have done this: the hard yards… and they sing of the land, of their love, of their children. And by the end of the night I feel comforted. There is an overwhelming tenderness and openness in The Waifs: and it centres around images and memories of “home”. Land. Love. Family.

Donna says of Vikki, “She’s unreal” explains they fell pregnant the same night, both had babies due on the same day, both have blonde haired children and have bought houses next to each other. There is a connectedness: of course differences between the voices, the songs, the styles.. but still connected. And that’s where there is comfort. The music is simple and loving. Even one of the encore songs , as The Waifs nestle around the microphone singing, is fun and giggly and is delightful because the fact they are laughing so much, and being so cheesy: like sisters can be… makes it all the more comfortable to watch… and charming. It seems unaffected, unpretentious. And the moment after the final lyric in Rescue, Donna lightly kissed Josh, and it felt spontaneous, natural and comfortable. That what they are singing is real. Authentic Australian voices, untainted by accents that aren’t their own, filled with references to a unique and genuine Australian experience. The Waifs are beyond a beautiful recording of songs: their live performance is fun, high energy and a wonderful reminder of the important things.