BIGSOUND is Brisbane’s biggest festival for new music. I had the absolute pleasure of attending the week-long festival. Here I got the chance to see a range of new genres and artists, and experience Brisbane music while revisiting some bands that I hadn’t heard from in a while, as well as being inspired by the incredible artistic people around me. Through attending BIGSOUND, I discovered some cool venues and was swallowed by the diverse and incredible Australian music scene.
Conferences during the daytimes were inspiring to say the least. The festival began on the Tuesday morning with Women in Music, a fantastic event to socialise with other likeminded women in the industry while sipping on a complimentary mimosa provided the venue, X Cargo (thank you). A beautiful location to meet some determined industry people and artists alike, BIGSOUND was off to a fantastic start. With excitement in my veins, I went off to the next event, the BIGSOUND Welcome Party to catch a bit of Alice Skye’s set. She began by paying her respects to the original custodians of the land and expressing how grateful she was for her band, the crowd and the festival. Her stage banter, although she came off a little shy, was quite endearing, coming off like a friend, rather than a performer.
After a quick stop into the Lucky Egg for a bit of lunch and shelter from the unfortunate amount of rain, I was off to Ric’s Backyard where Guardian Australia teamed up with BIGSOUND to bring us the Songs of Brisbane. After hearing a lot about Emily Wurramara, it was a pleasure to finally see her live. A simple set up with just her, her guitar and a bandmate on a cajón, it was inspiring to see such a simple setup mesmerise a crowd. She was followed next by Total Pace, completely juxtaposing Wurramara’s sound, brought the vibe up, combining the artistic direction of well-known local bands Violent Soho and DZ Deathrays. Although they are definitely the type of band I would love to groove to after a long work week, I felt although I enjoyed their set, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. Next was the mesmerising Austen. Dressed to impress, Austen blew the crowds away with new track ‘Too High to Cry’ and oldie ‘Faded’. Although her stage presence, vocal performance and general set was incredible, she was unfortunately let down by the sound guy that night, with constant feedback presumably from the synth as well as it difficult to her vocals as much as I would have liked. I decided to call it quits on day 1 of BIGSOUND, heading home to rest easy for a massive day two.
Day two began early with The New Music Business conference, lead by Stem President and Co-founder Tim Luckow and Facilitator Tim Kelly, owner of Open Collar. Although the discussions were interesting, I felt there was nothing really new discussed, bringing the conference down. Next was the Managing the CEO of the Year: The Artist conference. This was an in depth, interesting conference discussing the new music business and how it is predominately run by the artist rather than the company, with representatives from Father/Daughter Records, Unified Music Group, Future Classic, MTheory and Friendly Announcer. It was really refreshing to hear from a range of different managers their experiences with working with a diverse range of different artists as well as what works, what doesn’t and when artists should consider management. After a break from conferences, we were off to hear some music.
The first band we saw on the Wednesday night was Pink Matter. This is a neo-soul band comprised of all females – Kerry, Izzy, Megan and Lizzy. The girls were donned in colourful clothing and had an innocent energy about them. The lead singer held a relaxed demeanour, making it easy to either sit back and enjoy the show, or dance along with her. The keyboardist was engaging and every woman on stage appeared to be having a ball. One thing that let the show down was the sound at The Brightside. The bass was loud in the mix and it was hard to hear the separate instrumental parts clearly, besides the vocals which were peaking and hard to listen to for this reason. The crowd favourite was new track ‘Cleo’, which was released on July 6th with a music video. The audience was familiar with the tune and grooved along to the sweet synth sounds and pretty chords.
Next up for the evening was Eliza and the Delusionals. This band has exceptional chemistry and the tone of Eliza’s voice gave a flare to the otherwise classic indie-rock sound. It was refreshing to watch the members of Eliza and the Delusionals truly enjoy their time on stage.
I was off to Crowbar to hear Totty next, and although the 3-piece are clearly new to performing (and the sound at Crowbar was sub-par), it was hard to keep my eyes off the lead singer, Kelly, whose excitement and character was endearing to say the least.
The final act for the night was PoolShop - dream-pop shoe-gaze band lead by Jaimee Fryer from Major Leagues which was the cleanest performance of the night. Their pretty harmonies, smooth melody lines and guitar tones were familiar, and reminded me strongly of USA artists such as Alvvays and Beach House. Their set was hosted at Blackbear Lodge which is a moody, intimate space and provided some quality sound besides feedback from the guitar at the beginning of the set.
The last morning I attended conferences was the Thursday, starting off with the most informative and inclusive conversation I attended for the whole week; Changing Music Industry Behaviour: The Science of Change. Beginning by using examples of how behavioural societal change has been achieved through gradual change ie with smoking, guests were then invited to choose a topic to discuss and present ideas of how to make those changes. Keeping up with the theme of inclusivity in the industry as well as many conversations going on right now, the panel chose Men Behaving Badly. It was refreshing to see the men in the room positively contributing to the discussion and helping to find solutions. Topics discussed included women not being introduced in crowds of men, festival line up quotas and if they’re effective (which BIGSOUND did a fantastic job of), inappropriate groping in crowd and the assumption that women in music are “pretty good for a girl”. This refreshing, hands-on conversation was definitely a positive start to the third day of the fantastic festival.
Moving on from one discussion about strong women to a room lead by a very accomplished one, I found myself in a room with Virginia Grohl, Dave Grohl’s mother. She was fantastically well spoken, including photos from meeting other mothers of successful artists such as Dr. Dre, telling not only her own inspiring story but the inspiring stories of others. It was funny to hear her call her son ‘David’, much more formally spoken about than the rock star we know and love, humanising him in a super refreshing light.
The next night of BIGSOUND Festival proved better than the last. With no expectations (and a few rum and cokes from favourite bar at BIGSOUND - Netherworld), I stepped out of my comfort zone and into some venues I’d never even heard of. First up was Sweater Curse. I rocked up to The Valley Drive-In to stand amongst a captivated audience. Sweater Curse performed some solid post-punk tunes switching between male and female lead vocals. The only thing that let them down was their lack of crowd interaction, they chose to stand idly and play which was a bit of a let-down for such a lively genre.
I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Family in Fortitude Valley for I Know Leopard. This band produced some popular tracks in 2014 and delivered these in a polished and crisp performance. The fact that I Know Leopard has been around and playing together for a while was very evident. They have a flawless idea of their image and sound, all wearing black turtlenecks and sparkling diamond chokers. I Know Leopard played every hit such as ‘Perfect Picture’ and ‘Rather Be Lonely’, adding some new ones too. It’s hard to stand out with this genre of music since the industry is saturated with 70's inspired indie-pop, but if anyone can stand out, it’s I Know Leopard whose catchy melodies and soaring synth solos got the whole crowd dancing and singing along.
I had been waiting all day to see one of my favourite Australian artists, Gabriella Cohen, and she never disappoints. Gabriella has a charming and sophisticated demeanour which projects through her music. She is renowned for an alluring stage presence, irregular time signatures and her ability to be emotionally vulnerable through the delivery of unapologetic, almost sinister lyrics. The ladies from Nice Biscuit joined her on stage for percussion and backing vocals halfway through the set and it was like two worlds colliding in the most magnificent way. The stage presence of Gabriella’s band and everyone combined was one of a kind. Set for a USA tour in the coming months, this band is a force to be reckoned with.
Before saying goodbye to BIGSOUND, I made a quick stop at Family for a second time to see Olympia. Having only vaguely heard of this act, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was blown away by her skilful and elegant style of performing. The singer was wearing a bright yellow dress with a big pink frill, which contrasted her sophisticated, refined playing and soaring vocals.
The seventeenth year of BIGSOUND proved that not only does Australia produce some amazing bands and musicians, it is so diverse in every way possible. Thanks to the inclusivity of genres and artists of all kind, there was something new around every corner, and a different venue to accommodate for each. If you want to immerse yourself amongst the industry or simply enjoy what Australia has to offer in terms of up-and-coming musicians, BIGSOUND is the place to do so.
Words by Anna Leathem and Emily Hollitt