I have been to a few BIGSOUNDs and written extensive articles reviewing performances of up and coming bands. Now, as a somewhat experienced reviewer and gig-goer, I go into the three-night (technically week long) festival with a plan. I set myself up with a schedule of each night, make sure I know where each venue is, and give myself plenty of time to trek in between. Fool proof. Unless of course I enjoy a band so much that I’m not willing to leave five minutes early. In that case my entire schedule becomes fucked. But that’s BIGSOUND for you. In my rookie days I would try to see as many acts as possible. I’d weasel myself into the front of the crowd. I’d drink my fair share of overpriced lager. Now I’m a little older, a little wiser, and must wake up at 6am for work the next day. I’m going to try and stick to my fool proof schedule.
This year I plan on spreading the Radio Friendly seed whatever way I can. And since it’s an unspoken rule that unless you’ve got a conference lanyard hanging around your neck, no one will talk to you. So, I made my own lanyard, since media passes only consist of a soft piece of fabric tied to your wrist. Let’s see if anyone notices the half-assed photoshop job I’ve got hanging around my neck.
8:18pm. As I wait in line for my media wrist band aka the same wrist band the drunks behind me are going to wear, I hear the soft country wails of a young busker in the mall. BIGSOUND has certainly grown since the first time I came five years ago. There’s a Nashville Busker station set up a stones throw from the ticketing line. Standing at the mic is a young girl singing Christie Mcvie’s famous Songbird. It looks like BIGSOUND is cashing in on the yodelling boy meme. The group of lads behind me in the line yell out in their drunken slur, “Oi is that Fleetwood Mac?” Yes dickhead. Yes, it is.
8:20pm. I’ve wandered into the Foundry to start my evening. Opening the Foundry’s BIGSOUND is Pool Shop, led by local Brisbane girl Jaimee Fryer. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen Pool Shop, the band has grown from one to four members. They begin a dreamy, shoe-gaze pop. The guitars jangle against the boppy bass and wavy synth melodies. The growing crowd deftly sway side to side.
8:24pm. I grab my first beer.
8:28pm. Pool Shop play my favourite track, How Long. Fryer’s vocals are delicate but confident. There’s an emotionality to Pool Shop’s music that is captivating, which is only elevated by the soft, jangly guitar melodies. In saying that, it seems that the band are a bit rusty with timing, and occasionally pitch. The odd chord change is out, but it’s not enough to detract from their performance. The band begin a solid cover of a Broken Social Scene song. Don’t ask me to tell you the name, I’m not that versed in their discography. The band embrace the cover as their own and end their set strong.
8:49pm. I climb the stairs to The Zoo. Taking the stage as soon as I pop my head in is four-piece punk band Voiid. I’ve seen the name Voiid thrown around a fair bit over social media, so I figured I better check these girls out. My ears are immediately sucked in thanks to Voiid’s thick and heavy bass line. It’s as if they’ve outstretched their arm and pulled me in by my soul. Dressed in black, chains hanging from her pants, and goth-like makeup, lead singer Anji Greenwood stands front and centre on stage. She looks like the kind of girl who would scare me at the skatepark as a kid. But now, I’m enthralled with the old school punk booming from the stage. Greenwood’s vocals are emotionally theatrical; she screams and wails as she struts across the stage. Lead guitarist, Kate McGuire, thrashes her hair back and forth as her overdriven guitar punches me in the gut. It’s some Max Cavalera shit. The band are giving the crowd some classic punk rock with a fresh face. If this was 1999, Voiid would be on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack.
8:54pm. The Zoo might have a fresh coat of paint and a decor shakeup, but fuck it still gets hot in here. I plant myself next to the window for fresh air. I’m still captivated by the set on stage. Each member of the band is giving an excellent performance; they’ve brought their A-Game for BIGSOUND. A handful of long-haired-hooligans begin to thrash their heads in the centre of the crowd; a true sign of some great punk rock.
I said this last year when I caught WHALEHOUSE and BOAT SHOW, but women are really pushing the punk genre forward. More so than what the guys are doing. And I don’t want to have to make the comparison between the two, but while Voiid are delivering a fresh take on the classic thrashy punk-rock, with simple socially conscience lyrics, and music that’s heavy enough to dance to; popular male punk rock is full of recycled riffs and lyrics about smoko and memes. It’s pretty much apples to oranges. This band deserves to be playing a closing set. Voiid have knocked me for a six.
9:20pm. I’m behind schedule. Demon Days began ten minutes ago as I push my way into Ric’s Backyard. Perth’s neo-jazz collective have been on my BIGSOUND list since I looked up the line-up. Their jazzy melodies drift into the open, rain filled sky. Each member of the band looks as if they are immersed in their own world. Intricate jazz rhythms intertwine with one-another. The bass bops up and down while the keys freestyle; the drums keeping a consistent, upbeat tempo.
9:25pm. It’s uncomfortable standing here without something in my hand. I grab another beer.
When vocalist Bella Nicholls isn’t singing her soulful melodies, she twists and jumps about on stage. Demon Days truly deliver a performance. As an audience member, I can’t predict the next verse or chorus. I’m in the hands of Demon Days, they are taking me on a journey. The jazzy tunes begin to meld into electronic jazz, Nicholls continues to jump along to each twist and turn the band take. It’s like watching Zach de la Rocha dance to some Miles Davis.
9:45pm. I take a gamble. I can either see local psych rockers Nice Biscuit for the umpteenth dozen time or slide down to Crowbar Black to see post-hardcore band, Sleep Talk. I want to hear new things at BIGSOUND, so I decide on a change of scenery. And what a change indeed. From the jazzy, outdoor atmosphere to the damp, dark dungeon of the Valley. The ferocious screams have already begun as I make my way in. The lead vocalist has a scratchy tone to his screams that makes me worried for his vocal health. It’s a passionate performance; more emotional than I expected as the vocalist stands at the mic as if he’s about to deliver a delicate croon. Instead, a scratchy wail erupts from his vocal chords. It’s a shame I can’t hear the melodic vocal lines from the band members, a trait I enjoyed in Sleep Talk’s singles. The crowd, like myself, are still. There’s little to no moshing in Crowbar; a first for the venue. Sleep Talk’s music is heavy, and abrasive, but emotionally captivating.
9:55pm. The band hesitate to start the next track. There seems to be some technical difficulties with a guitar or amp. This would be a real pain in the ass for the band, especially on a showcase gig where time is precious. The crowd begin to pitter away, and I do to.
10:01pm. Bugs have begun at The Valley Drive In. Brisbane’s three-piece have stirred some waters in the scene as of late. But I get this feeling that they are cashing in on the lad/slackerboy music stylings that Dune Rats and Skeggs have helped popularise. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I like those bands. But it’s nothing new. The lead singer has an over accentuated Aussie accent in his vocals that irks me. Maybe he’s a true-blue Aussie bloke, but I don’t hear many people over accentuate anymore. Bugs deliver some catchy pop hooks, with some simple punky chords. It’s the formula that we’ve seen many bands utilise since the rise of Violent Soho. And it seems like Bugs are filling in the gap as an Aussie Blink 182. It’s almost a nostalgia trip standing in this crowd of dudes. And I emphasise dudes. I’m surrounded by young lads in Connies, Vans and Adidas shoes. There’s probably enough blokes here to have a heaps good hotbox hey.
10:08pm. It’s starting to piss down now. I’m standing at the edge of the shelter and my boots and jeans are getting a tad damp. Bugs continue to deliver poppy hooks that have the crowd cheering. There’s slight distortion on their guitars and lyrics about break ups and love, as if this is the heaviest that the slacker-hipster can get. I can’t really understand what else is being sung under the thick Aussie slur. I just keep hearing, “in a safe plaaaaace, I’m in a suaarfe plaaauaace.”
10:21pm. I’m taking a break. I’m eating now. 5 Dogs Chilli Cheese Fries to be exact. Usually I’m drunk when I’m eating this. But fuck, this is spicy tonight.
10:36pm. I’ve changed my scenery again. Inside The Elephant, punters are dressed in their finest street wear; the triple white stripe beams in the stage lights, the Nike caps shelter them from the rain, though their crisp white shoes might get a bit dirty in those puddles.
10:40pm. Kwame takes the stage as the rain picks up more. Immediately, the Sydney rapper/producer begins jumping across the stage. Armed with his mic, Kwame begins spitting bars that do not sound like the typical Aussie Hip Hop. Kwame borrows traits from American trap and pop rap; even meddling with some auto-tune. Luckily, it’s not overbearing; it’s more like modern Kanye auto-tune. His bars are crisp and slick, showing precision as his lyrics line up exactly with his production playing in the background. His hype man/DJ does an excellent job elevating Kwame with adlibs, thickening the sound on stage.
For a young performer, Kwame has the confidence and stage presence of a seasoned veteran. He engages with all audience members and isn’t afraid to move around the stage. His hit single WOW is a highlight, everyone begins to dance in the falling rain. I stay back under shelter. I watch as some of the whitest people on Earth start to dance awkwardly to Kwame’s excellent beats; their Uniqlo hooded jumpers covering their crisp button up shirts. But hey, at least they are having a good time. Kwame has put on the most energetic set I’ve seen tonight. And I wouldn’t be surprised with myself if I stumble back into another one of his sets.
11:10pm. I’m tired, wet and ready for bed. I bolt into the streets and down to my car. I’ve given up on trying to stay dry. I tuck my lanyard under my shirt; no one noticed it tonight, but I’ve got to keep it dry. I’ve got another two nights of this, I might still get lucky. For now, I need to get some sleep.
Goodnight for now.