Words by Natalie Blacklock.
Now in its 18th year, Brisbane’s BIGSOUND Conference and the BIGSOUND Festival curated alongside, is the biggest and best opportunity to discover the future of Australian music right here in our own backyard! Running through the first week of September, Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley has come alive for a global gathering of musicians, industry heavyweights, brands, print and digital media, and music lovers alike.
We at Good Call Live could not have been more excited about the 2019 BIGSOUND program. Our writers and photographers have been partying hard and taking in all that BIGSOUND has to offer. Read on for the wash-up of the best sets of the biggest week in the Brisbane music calendar.
Night 1 – Tuesday 03/09:
Kicking off BIGSOUND 2019, we found ourselves at Crowbar Black, the upstairs venue of Brisbane’s “Home of The Heavy”, Crowbar, to catch SCABZ. The Sydney 3-piece, proclaimed themselves as the “shittest band at BIGSOUND”, before ripping into a bunch of tracks, old and new. What You Stand For called on Federal Labor Leader and ‘cool’ politician, Anthony Albanese, not to be a sell-out. 2017’s Poor This Week saw Jonathan Tooke from Wollongong’s Cry Club get on stage and provide some extra guitar power. The Spiderbait-esque Nice Guy aptly described one of those songs that “if you don’t think it’s about you, it’s most definitely about you”, certainly struck a chord. The crowd were certainly ready to party as frontwoman Siobhan Poynton, gave us the backstory of the almost-as-funny-as-it-sounds Brett Lee’s Got No I.D. (And He Can’t Get Into World Bar), cementing SCABZ’s minimal fuss, maximum impact punk sound to an absolute tee.
Before too long, it was time to trek downstairs to the ‘original’ Crowbar, to catch local all-girl punk outfit, Being Jane Lane. Already a few songs deep into their set, the crowd were loving it. The 5-piece bounded around the Crowbar stage as they got into Never Have I Ever – a feat even more impressive as Bassist Louise Sanders rocked a Moonboot! With their debut album ‘Savage Sunday’ out on October 1, the album’s title track Savage Sunday is an exciting new addition to their set. Frontwoman Teigan Le Plastrier ventured down onto the barrier and into the crowd on a few occasions, finding some willing and eager punters to get sweaty with. Closing out with a couple of old favourites in the form of the up-tempo Be Okay and one of the set’s more heavier tracks, Sailboat before requesting an all-in circle pit for their final song Less Is More. This was another solid performance from Being Jane Lane, leaving a bunch of happy punters ready to head off to the next set.
Heading back upstairs (Crowbar / Crowbar Black definitely had the goods!) things were gearing up for Private Function to take the stage. Nailing a position down the front close to the lads from The Chats and Jesse Coulter from Adelaide’s Grenadiers – wild does not even begin to explain their set. Opening song, Duct Tape, saw frontman Chris Penney (also of Mesa Cosa) launch himself up onto one of Crowbar’s Jack Daniels’ Table Barrels by the front of the stage and proceeds to jump and flay about, microphone in hand. By the second track, White Lady Funerals, Penney had climbed up onto the top of the booth seating of Crowbar Black, swinging and screaming, reminiscent of the early career antics of Stevie Williams fromfellow Melbourne punk outfit, Clowns. The brutal 1-2 punch of the amusingly named No Hat, No Play and I Wish Australia Had its Guns Again was a thrilling reminder of the messy yet satisfying no-holds barred energy and animosity of authentic Australian punk. Wrapping up with a cover of Midnight Oil’s King of The Mountain followed by 2017 track Spontaneous Combustion (yes… there was actual fire – extinguished with Mountain Dew), Private Function sure delivered one of those sets; you didn’t know where to look but you certainly knew not to look away!
Back downstairs at Crowbar, Freedom of Fear still had a few songs left. It is no secret that Australia has pumped out some killer heavy music over the years, and Adelaide 5-piece, Freedom of Fear are a fine example of that fact. A small but mighty crowd of metal faithful stand strong as Jade Monserrat (Vocals), Matt Walters (Guitar), Corey Davis (Guitar), Georgina Kittel (Bass Guitar) and Jarrad Taylor (Drums) show their Death / Melodic / Progressive Metal prowess as they unleashed cuts from their ‘Nocturnal Gates’ LP including 6-minute epic Purgatorium. The vocals of Monserrat are captivating and draw strong parallels with metal god and Crowbar alumni Karina Utomo from High Tension. Walters and Davis also present a strong and dynamic partnership on the Guitars – an important element of any strong metal outfit. These youthful Adelaidians are pushing the boundaries to connect the foundations of old with the excitement of a brand new era of Aussie Metal.
It was time to leave Brisbane’s “Home of the Heavy” and make the trek to Brisbane stalwart venue, The Zoo. Undergoing a recent facelift has transformed the appearance inside but has not changed what The Zoo stands for or means to the Brisbane music community. Next up on stage, was Melbournians, LOSER. The new project from members and ex-members of Apart From This, Grim Rhythm, The Bennies and The Smith Street Band, LOSER have come together to bring back the quintessential grunge and slacker rock sound of the 1990’s for a brand new generation with their recently expanded 5-piece ‘wall of sound’ approach. Emerging in July 2018, with their debut single followed by breakout EP ‘Restless Noise’ (out on Domestic La La Records), LOSER have earnt themselves a solid fan base and a number of upcoming tour supports including with Canadians Fucked Up this October. Opening with Mindless Joy and Get It All Out from their soon-to-be-released debut record set a strong precedent for their first showcase of BIGSOUND 2019. Newest single, Out of Luck, encapsulates the essence of being a loser – about growing up in the modern world and realising that nothing ever comes easy. The first song written by frontman Tim Maxwell for the LOSER project, Phase Me, was a clear hit with the crowd – even Domestic La La boss and Violent Soho Bassist, James Tidswell was partying down the front (and hi-fiving punters reppin’ Soho merch). Closing their set with self-titled track and certified banger Loser plus another new cut, the catchy Gone, it’s obvious that LOSER are in it for the long haul – and we’re so damn keen!
Returning to Crowbar Black, the crowd is already milling around for Bakers Eddy. At the end of 2016, Bakers Eddy packed their bags and up and left their home in New Zealand to pursue their musical exploits, and with the help of Tom Larkin, drummer for Kiwi powerhouse, Shihad, to create their sophomore EP ‘I’m Not Making Good Decisions’. On the back on winning the 2018 Triple J Unearthed competition to play Falls Festival in Lorne, the Melbourne-based 4-piece of Ciarann Babbington (Vocals / Guitar), Alex Spagnolo (Guitar), Ian Spagnolo (Bass) and Jamie Gordon (Drums) are building a steady legion of fans. After a short delay of the band getting stuck in the Crowbar Church ‘Greenroom’, Bakers Eddy bounded onto the upstairs stage and ripped straight into Sad & Happy, and the Crowbar Black floor bounced (quite literally – it was moving like it never has before). Tracks including Leave It To Me and Loaded Gun showcased the infectious charisma, and fast-paced party attitude of frontman Ciarann Babbington. Closing with their new single and ode to social smokers everywhere, Can’t Afford It, Bakers Eddy’s energetic and enjoyable approach to ‘in ya face’ short, fast and loud punk rock was on show – loud and proud.
The word on the Fortitude Valley streets said that Perth’s Spacey Jane was going to be the biggest set of Night 1 of BIGSOUND 2019 – and they were not wrong. The bandroom of The Brightside was packed to capacity as punters and industry buffs alike tried to catch a glimpse. Formed in 2016, the garage-pop / surf rock outfit comprising of Caleb Harper (Vocals / Guitar), Ashton Le Cornu (Guitar), Amelia Murray (Bass) and Kieran Lama (Drums) have experienced a quick rise to notoriety, sharing the stage with the likes of Alex Lahey, The Jungle Giants and British India. Having already released their first EP, ‘No Way To Treat An Animal’ in 2017, as well as a string of singles, Spacey Jane are making their mark in a big way.Currently on a sold out Australian tour in support of their new single Good For You, which had the crowd frothing with excitement, the 4-piece definitely proved why they’re worth the hype and should be on your radar as one to watch.
Finally, to round out Night 1 of BIGSOUND 2019, we head back over to The Zoo, to catch Adelaide alt-rockers, Bad//Dreems. Coming to attention in 2014 with the release of Dumb Ideas, which quickly earnt them a reputation of ‘Aussie pub rock at its best’. Ben Marwe (Vocals / Guitar) commanded the attention from the crowd from the outset as his eclectic stage persona took over. Opening with Morning Rain, Johnny Irony and Piss Christ, The Zoo crowd was just warming up. My Only Friend, taken from 2015 record ‘Dogs At Bay’, has become a crowd favourite amongst die-hard Bad//Dreems fans over the years, and this set was no exception. Even a broken string on Marwe’s acoustic guitar could not stop the sheer level of shredding power on Hume. Bringing up the rear of the set really saw the band in their element; Alex Cameron (Guitar / Backing Vocals), Ali Wells (Guitar), James Bartold (Bass) and Miles Wilson (Drums) gave it all for Double Dreaming andthe always-raucous Cuffed and Collared. Closing with angsty banger Mob Rule, the willing crowd took over the front of The Zoo for one last mosh. Many happy (albeit sweaty) faces left The Zoo, presumably headed to one of the many BIGSOUND ‘after-parties’ in and around the Fortitude Valley precinct to party on ‘til dawn.
Night 2 – Wednesday 04/09:
After a hectic Night 1 at BIGSOUND 2019, we are ready for Night 2! It’s straight off to The Wickham to check out Gold Coast rapper, Saint Lane. Lane (aka Lane Muir) already has had a storied career. Muir played Bass in the high school rock band, Clashing Colours, before reinventing himself as one half of Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell. Now going solo, he offers a self-effacing persona, whimsical swagger and cutting-edge beats, lending itself perfectly to his introduction to opening track Compliment My Shirt (a great flowery number teamed with a powder pink suit). A small but intrigued crowd watch on as Lane tells a true account getting wasted, throwing up in the swimming pool at a hotel where he worked and waking up the next morning having to find the guy who did it before ripping into Pitbull Type Beat. Recent single Sugary Sweet, produced by Dennis Dowlutt (Peking Duk, Flight Facilities, Set Mo) and The Griswolds Guitarist, Danny Duque-Perez, is a song for“people who have been taken advantage of and now they are saying no no no!” No stranger to the industry, Saint Lane is already making big waves with this new project.
Making the quick dash over to the Triple J Unearthed stage at Famous Nightclub (for those of us old enough to remember, the old Club 299 (RIP)) to catch one of the BIGSOUND 2019 x Triple J Unearthed winners, Semantics. The Brisbane band wore their heart on their sleeve, and spared no effort to connect with punters. Sitting somewhere between punk, rock, indie and hardcore, stand-alone single Cemeteries have the crowd already screaming along. Dishing up a cover of The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry showcased the band’s versatility as performers. The last three songs of the set were all as strong as the next; Maximilian was outstanding, with Mitch Lawrence shining behind the kit. 2017’s Transparent saw Guitarist Gerard Settgast unleash some unexpected but powerful screamo vocals and latest single Drunk, got the crowd a little bit rowdy and had Bassist Madeleine Tunstall shredding to her heart’s content. Triple J Unearthed certainly nailed this one – Semantics are going to be huge!
Staying at Famous was the idea shared by much of the crowd as the stage techs began preparing for the most anticipated set of Night 2; Tones and I. Coming from relative obscurity, Tones and I (aka Toni Watson) burst onto the scene in March this year, following the release of her debut single Johnny Run Away to critical acclaim. As Tones and I entered the stage, the packed house absolutely lost their minds. Telling the audience that she wondered “if life is at its peak now”, and that “you can’t be happy all the time”, she launched into the euphoric Never Seen The Rain. Tones and I showed another side to her performance as she live-looped beats for Colourblind. Telling the audience of busking at last year’s BIGSOUND to being on the Triple J Unearthed stage, really spoke of her meteoric rise to success. As the familiar sounds of Johnny Run Away started, the crowd ignited into a chorus of screams and singalongs. Followed up by latest track Dance Monkey, a song that touches on the expectations placed on musical performers – which could not be a more appropriate topic to address this BIGSOUND week. Tones and I professed her love of Triple J for supporting her music thus far before responding to a guy in the front row, who’d been trying to get her attention all night – and gave him her shoes, scrawled with the title of her debut EP and closing track of her set The Kids Are Coming. Characterised by the collection of hoodie-clad kids, who provided backing vocals on the track, it is evident that this is more than a song, but rather a movement. The Kids Are Coming is an anthem for empowerment, change and ‘sticking it to the man’ in 2019. The set ended on a high, and as the crowd slowly dispersed, it is apparent that we should expect bigger things from Tones and I in the next 6-12 months.
MID CITY, are a Melbourne-based 4-piece coming from the ashes of mid-2010’s outfit Them Bruins. With a slick fusion of indie rock designed to make people dance hard and forget about who they are or what they want to be, MID CITY are definitely a band to get excited about. The venue, X Cargo, is easily one of the best spaces across the Fortitude Valley precinct this BIGSOUND. The band opens with the catchy No Surrender and a steady crowd formed at every vantage point across the multi-levelled open-air venue. The band, Joel Griffith (Vocals), Ben Woodmason (Guitar), Nick Manuell (Guitar), James Campbell (Bass) and Tim Woodmason (Drums) offer a strong stage presence moving into Forget It and Emily. Soon enough, Griffith was writhing around on the stage and in the front few rows screaming the catchy, gang-vocals of Fake Friends Forever. The crowd got off their feet, for the surging rock offering and second single Old Habits, with the addictive chorus rushing past in a whirlwind of adrenalin and bravado plus a fair bit of moshing from those game enough to be down the front. MID CITY‘s approach to their set typifies their take on the modern music; fizzing guitar melodies over urgent rhythms with lyrics that shift between aimless angst and cathartic joy – if you missed it, you missed out!
Melbournehardcore crew, Outright, have taken over downstairs at Crowbar and this is definitely a set I could not miss! Fierce and politically charged, Outright deliver confrontational and thought provoking tunes with an air of intensity and confidence – bringing community and their DIY ethos to the forefront. Since 2014’s stellar full-length Avalanche, Outright have undergone some line-up changes but have gone from strength to strength in their live performance. The dedicated crowd are close to the stage, vibing frontwoman Jelena Goluza’s powerhouse vocals, enigmatic and fearless stage presence. Already deep into their showcase set, they launch into new track No Fear before taking us back to the 2014 ‘Avalanche’ LP with arguably 3 of its best tracks to round out the set. Goluza exclaimed “make some noise, because that’s the only thing that causes change” in a nod to the band’s activist roots before launching into Troubled and Iron String, which highlighted the tightness of the band with heavy riffs and punk pace coming in spades from Guitarists Joel Cairns and Lincoln Le Fevre, Bassist Brett Eitzen and Rory Kelaart on Drums. The final song of Outright’s set, title track Avalanche, stood as a great reminder of the exceptional quality of hardcore music in the country.
Sydneysiders Johnny Hunter are next up on stage at Family and the growing crowd are here for it. At BIGSOUND for the first time, the 5-piece; Nick Hutt (Vocals), Ben Wilson (Guitar), Xander Burgess (Guitar), Nick Cerone (Bass) and Gerry Thompson (Drums) were keen to impress – and impress they certainly did. Delivering glam-pop songs of love and loss with a side of post-punk sheen – and a frontman with one of the best stage personas in the business, the crowd were hanging on every word. Frontman, Nick Hutt, strutted the stage with dominance and swagger, set off by Robert Smith (The Cure) level eyeliner and a mullet that puts others to shame. Newest single, Ashamed was a stand-out with its almost spoken-word conversational tone, teamed with groovy guitar driven riffage. Be sure to keep an eye out for Johnny Hunter on their next trek to Brisbane, supporting Press Club in November.
Over at Black Bear Lodge, Hobart’s Kat Edwards was kicking off. She burst into the hearts of Tassie music lovers with her soulful acoustic folk in late 2015. After opening for the likes of Stella Donnelly, Alex The Astronaut and Julien Baker, and performing at Falls Festival, Party In The Paddock, her live performances blossomed with the lessons learnt from years of busking at Hobart’s Salamanca Market. Edwards just finished an East-Coast run of dates supporting Didirri and Ro and is on the line-up for Launceston legends Luca Brasi’s hometown festival, ‘Til The Wheels Fall Off this November. Her recent single Good Girl, produced by Xavier Dunn (Jack River, GRAACE) and Holy Holy Guitarist Oscar Dawson, served as a reminder to “not let anyone treat you like shit” and showed a deep vulnerability; well beyond her years. Playing as a 3-piece, Edwards and her band delivered a strong performance – vulnerable, powerful and most importantly, honest. It is an exciting time, as Tasmania is yet again bringing the musical ‘goods’ for us mainland folk!
With the night drawing to a close, we return to Family to catch the ever-provocative and always entertaining These New South Whales from Sydney. Not just a band, but also the stars of their own “semi-real” Mockumentary series on Comedy Central, which tracks their day-to-day lives as a band. Since forming in 2011, These New South Whales were considered a noisy side project, but slowly the band have developed a strong following with the release of their EP ‘Fetal Instincts’ in 2015. The release of ‘You Work For Us’ in 2017, was a sign that These New South Whales were keen to take their music more seriously – but are no less fun to watch. Entering the stage to 1999 Jennifer Lopez hit Let’s Get Loud, it is clear that this is going to be one hell of a time. Charismatic frontman, Jamie Timony is shirtless (but sans the signature black gaffa tape across his nipples), equipped with a bum bag full of marshmallows; throwing them into the crowd, calling it “feeding the pigeons”. The set is off to a strong start as Timony, Todd Andrews (Guitar), Will Shepard (Bass) and Frank Sweet (Drums) rip through their opening tracks before using the electronic screen behind them to display their management and publicity team’s contact details – definitely clever thinking for a ‘networking’ event. Firing into the catchy Cholesterol Heart (God Bless Ya) encouraged punters to get moving and by the time Jonathan Boulet-produced new single, Nerve 2 Reverse, kicked in, a good quality moshpit was well and truly underway. Tracks like the slow-burning and moody Divided and low-fi meets hi-punk Meat Hook kept the set flowing before closing the set with You Work For Us from the 2017 album of the same name. With Night 2 of BIGSOUND all but wrapped up, it’s fair to say that Brisbane did indeed “turn up!” As the crowd trekked out into Fortitude Valley’s streets, ‘after-parties’ and *free beers* are the words on everyone’s lips.
The first two nights of BIGSOUND 2019 have set an exceptionally high standard, so be sure to keep across all of our Night 3 – Thursday 05/09 action, with Good Call Live’s very own Shannon-Lee Sloane (The Colourful Writer) taking the wheel.