THERE were moments during the performance of In Loving Memory of Szymon when you couldn’t help but wonder “what if.”
Three songs into the Borzestowski family’s loving re-creation of their late brother’s music the stage went dark. A crackly video then appeared on the projection screen, showing a teenage Szymon playing his song Roma in 2009 at Polish House. Alone on the stage, masked by a mop of blond hair, his angelic voice was mesmerising as he sang, “Oh what is this anchor here/Why won't it just disappear/Driven by a fear that just won't go.” While the hand-held camera recording wasn’t crystal clear, Szymon’s talent was.
Unfortunately the world would never see the Novocastrian’s music reach the heights it deserved in his own life time. Szymon took his own life aged 23 in 2012 after a battle with mental illness. However, his family and EMI’s Mark Holland and Craig Hawker assured his music lived on.
Releasing his album Tigersapp posthumously last year was step one. Step two was re-creating Szymon’s music on stage at Splendour In The Grass on Saturday. The sold-out Lizotte’s show last week was a chance to fine-tune the performance and allow family and friends to celebrate Szymon’s music.
The performance was a labour of love. Szymon’s brothers Kubush (vocals and guitar) and Dom (drums and vocals), and sister Eva (programmed beats and vocals) led the performance, backed by brother-in-law Josh Irwin and friends Luke O’Dea and Andrew Burgess.
Szymon remained at the heart of the performance. His vocal track was given prominence in the mix and it guided Kubush, who admitted being nervous of playing the role of the frontman. Szymon’s spirit was also there in more comedic ways. After opening with the instrumental Katyusha and the terrifically poppy Medusa, there was a brief stoppage to replace a broken bass string. “The only person I know who’s ever broken a bass string was Szymon,” Dom joked.
In Loving Memory of Szymon was about re-creating the songs live. The songs stuck close to the recorded versions and the band never attempted to stamp their own authority on the tracks. This was about Szymon, after all. Interspersed between songs Dom, Kubush and Eva all gave their recollections of their brother’s journey in creating Tigersapp and joked that his strive for perfection prevented them from being allowed to appear on the recordings.
The audience were also given an opportunity to hear two unreleased tracks. Yakuza, which was driven by a jazzy keyboard riff, was one of the last songs ever recorded by Szymon. “He gave me this song not long before he passed away and said, ‘I want you to have this Dom, it’s a good one’,” Dom said. The other named Blue Coloured Mountain is well known among family and friends as “Catchapoo” due to its hooky catch cry.
Following the main set, Kubush, Dom and Eva reappeared on stage to provide the audience with an insight into Szymon’s music. It was all heart-felt and poignant.
In the encore they returned for Brokenworld, dedicated to Szymon’s grandparents. There’s a real hope within the initially melancholic track as Szymon sings, “There's a way out of this ocean/You and I, you and I.” It is apparent celebrating Szymon’s music continues to help his family and fans out of their own ocean of tears.