Angie McMahon

Event details

Angie McMahon
Sat, Aug 17 Show: 8:30 pm (Doors: 7:30 pm )
Angie McMahon with Mimi Gilbert LIVE at Grog Shop

Saturday, August 17
7:30pm doors / 8:30pm show
All Ages
$25 advance / $30 day of show
+ $3 at the door if under 21

To make her new album, Light, Dark, Light Again, Angie McMahon had to walk through the fire. The Melbourne singer-songwriter’s second LP was written from the ashes of a tough but transformative few years of relationship changes, private breakdowns and core-shaking revelations about self. At times, McMahon felt like falling apart. But instead, she pushed through and found that hope, joy and relief lies on the other side of pain. 

The inevitability of change, the push and pull and between light and dark, and the natural cycles of the world are all over Light, Dark, Light Again, which marks McMahon’s step into a bolder, bigger, brighter expanse of sound than she has utilised before. Whether she is documenting her own metamorphosis on Saturn Returning, rumbling with rage, power and reverence for the earth on Mother Nature, celebrating release on Letting Go or pledging to step into the bravest version of herself on Exploding, McMahon’s songs feel like a triumph; music that buoys and cradles you. 

Light, Dark, Light Again is a record about facing the fear and learning it can be a portal to something bigger and better. It finds that the only certainty in life is that everything ends, and everything begins again – that there is life and death and life again, that there is light and dark and light again.

Angie McMahon

When nothing was going right, Angie McMahon started staring at the sky. Every day, she would drag her mattress into her front yard, put a cold washer on her face and lay there looking up; not moving, just observing. Lately she had been feeling that her life had fallen apart, that her body was shutting down, that she had to relinquish the illusion she had any real control over anything.


But above her, murmurations of birds would gather every afternoon, changing form – one moment a fish, the next a wave. Forced by a bout of illness to slow down and tune in, McMahon would watch the birds every day, noticing the cycles of nature that she hadn’t stopped to see before. As they morphed and swelled, left and returned, the birds began to reflect the things she’d been learning about life – that everything can and will change, and the only constant is reinvention, rebirth, reconfiguration. 


“It was a zoom out,” McMahon says. “My life just felt like it was really throwing me and going very badly. But the sky and the water, they were still very constant, and very balancing. I found so much solace in that.” 


That truth and the other quiet revelations Angie McMahon had about life, herself and the universe over a tough but transformative few years have been poured into her new album, Light, Dark, Light Again. It is a record about going to the darkest places inside yourself, facing the fear and finding it can be a portal to something bigger and better. Light, Dark, Light Again examines McMahon’s relationship with self and the journey to becoming okay with whoever she is and whatever the future holds. It captures coming undone then healing slowly and strangely; the roots that grow around fractures and failures, creating new foundations and letting the light in.


While McMahon’s acclaimed 2019 debut album was stripped-back and soft, for Light, Dark, Light Again she wanted to see how big she could take her sound. Serving as the album’s co-producer, McMahon steered its sonics from start to finish. The vision was to craft songs that were warm, cosmic and vast – that captured, variously, the feeling of being trapped underwater, the moment where the endorphins kick in as you’re running up a hill, or standing on a canyon and screaming into the wind. But McMahon also wanted to retain the intimacy of the way many of the songs were first written – alone in her bedroom, as home demos that were shared with friends over two largely isolated years. 


A deeply considered work, Light, Dark, Light Again was recorded slowly and purposefully across another year between McMahon’s home city of Melbourne, regional Victoria and the North Carolina town of Durham. In the latter – where the majority of the album’s tracks came together – McMahon worked alongside esteemed Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter Brad Cook, who has previously produced for the likes of Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, Kevin Morby and Snail Mail. Completing the studio band was Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan, Canadian singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk and Megafaun musician Phil Cook, and the chance to travel abroad and collaborate with artists whose work she so admires felt like a dream come true for McMahon. She also found being free from a set timeline, able to go slow and trust the timing of the universe was a liberator – getting to take her songs across the world and create with friends new and old helped make them more expansive, more real and more resonant.


Some songs were made grand and immense with the help of McMahon’s live band and choirs of voices that sparkle like guardian angels. But McMahon crafted others alone by tinkering with production – using tools like vocal stacks to evoke the sound of voices in your head that get so loud you can’t ignore them anymore, or taking field recordings to sprinkle in 

echoes of the natural world. Across its 13 tracks, Light, Dark, Light Again radiates the journey through uncharted waters McMahon went on during the past few years, and the small but powerful ways she learned to come back to herself and tune into her body when her mind was paralysed: movement, meditation, breathwork and immersing herself in nature. 


Work on Light, Dark, Light Again began three years ago, as McMahon went through intense personal reckonings: relationship shifts, private breakdowns and core-shaking revelations about herself. Lead single Saturn Returning documents the fire she walked through, and the hope, relief and joy that lay on the other side of surrender. It is a song informed by McMahon’s own Saturn return, the astrological transit that wreaks major life changes and forces intense growth. McMahon’s song is written as a note-to-self about the importance of forgiveness, self-compassion, letting go and accepting that she doesn’t know everything yet. “I’m gonna love every inch of this body / Just wanna be wide awake when I’m forty!” she cries, at once a refusal to fade away with age in an industry that fetishes youth, and a promise to always be present – not hiding, not pretending, not letting fear drive the car. 


The quiet poetry of McMahon’s lyrics will serve as a buoy to anyone facing their own fear, empowering and encouraging them to go forward. Fireball Whiskey and Fish excavate relationship breaks and find McMahon ready to accept that all things eventually end. On the Springsteen-inspired Letting Go, she celebrates release, letting things be, and knowing that closing some doors means opening others. (“It’s okay/ make mistakes,” McMahon yells in its final moments, a self-help affirmation transposed to song). Divine Fault Line, co-written with singer-songwriter Emma Louise in Los Angeles, marks an acceptance that hope and moving forward comes from first feeling broken and at rock bottom. Mother Nature – the song written after those weeks McMahon spent laying in her front yard, watching the birds above her house, and realising that there was a lot to understand and appreciate from observing nature – became a climate protest track of sorts, rumbling with rage, power and reverence for the earth. The song became a receptacle for a lot of emotions and intensity, as McMahon used it to process how overwhelmed she feels by the magnitude of the climate crisis. But McMahon – who has long used her platform to amplify voices and push for progress – hopes it will provoke a necessary fury about the state of our planet.


Black Eye acknowledges personal failings and the hard times, Staying Down Low addresses the fierce tentacles of depression, and Serotonin documents the uphill battle of weening off antidepressants and feeling hopeful again. Music’s Coming In celebrates breaking through the things that block us, and features a choir of Melbourne-based musicians in McMahon’s community: Ruby Gill, Olivia Hally, Tori Zietsch, Jess Ellwood, Georgia Knight and Hannah McKittrick. Exploding is McMahon’s pledge to step into the bravest version of herself, always being as expressive, real and authentic as she can. On I Am Already Enough, co-written with Meg Duffy of Hand Habits, McMahon wanted to create a call-to-arms that she could scream out on stage both for herself and for other people, encouraging a rebellion against the pervasive societal idea fuelled by marketing machines that we are not good enough as we are. 


“I didn't know then that out of ash and destruction the ground will grow things,” McMahon sings on the album’s powerful closing note, Making It Through. “Time is supposed to run out / Sun is supposed to go down / Rise, fall, rise / Life, death, life again / Day, night, day again / Light, dark, light again”. That lyric, which became the album’s title, felt like the perfect encapsulation of everything she had learned throughout her Saturn return: that everything will be okay because everything is meant to change, and everything is meant to die, and there is meant to be darkness along with the light. Pain is inevitable, happiness will always return, and you can trust that the ebbs and flows of life will balance themselves out in time. The wave will crash, break and recede. The birds will leave, return and reform.


“I wanted to celebrate that I wasn't resisting change anymore,” McMahon says. “And I wasn't trying to cling to things the way that I used to, but rather trust in natural cycles and accept that everything is temporary in life and everything is uncertain. And if I need something to be certain about, it's that cycle – that there is life and death and life again, there's light then dark then light again.”


Words: Katie Cunningham