The Radio Friendly BIGSOUND Diary — Wednesday Night

BIGSOUND only comes around once a year. I’m no astrologist, but I sure do understand how the calendar works. I have to suck up the fact I haven’t been home since 7am and have just taught a one-hour class of judo, which has resulted in me now going a little over the speed limit to get to BIGSOUND on time. My fool proof plan I set in place last night isn’t holding up. As much as I’d like to stick around in the Valley all day and watch the day-time showcases over a crisp lager, I’ve got to try and earn some moolah through the day. I contemplate grabbing a Red Bull to shake off my six hours of sleep, but fuck it, I’m late and I’ll just grab a beer.

8:21pm. I follow my legs into The Brightside. Pink Matter are ten minutes into their set. The local jazzy quartet have drawn a fair crowd for the early timeslot. But I remind myself that this is BIGSOUND; people are out and about earlier than your average Friday night gig. The smell of piss smacks me across the face harder than I’d like this early on into the night. The Brightside must have got well and truly fucked up last night.

Pink Matter

Pink Matter look elated on stage; their blend of neo-soul and jazz proving to be the perfect accompaniment to start the second night of showcases. It’s rewarding to see a band play with such confidence while showing a degree of enjoyment on stage. I look around into the sizeable crowd to see everyone swaying and dipping to Pink Matter’s grooves. I try to do the same, but it seems my boots are stuck to the carpet. I slowly peel them away and begin to groove. Pink Matter’s dynamic jazz fusion starts to dabble with electronics as spacy synths twinkle. Fortunately, their sound improves as their set continues — the mixing on the bass was riddled with feedback early on. Pink Matter’s sound finally thickens as they play their final songs. There’s cohesion in the band, they feel unified in every rhythm change and groove they play. [Pink Matter’s track] Cleo’s tense simplicity and sinister key and bass combo is a highlight of their set.

8:35pm. I’m playing catch up here as I climb the steps in The Foundry. Overdriven guitar chords and crashing cymbals echo down. I’m here to catch the last fifteen minutes of Miss June. Flying across from our cross-continental cousins, the New Zealand four-piece claim to have never played in Brisbane prior to BIGSOUND. Lead singer, Annabel Liddell commands my attention as soon as my eyes hit the stage. Dressed in a white singlet, her blonde hair hangs over her face as she howls into the microphone. She resembles a young Courtney Love, though the band sound more like a heavier Sonic Youth. Their droning guitar has a lazy noise effect to it, complimenting Liddell distraught vocals. Miss June take the best parts of the 90s grunge scene and slap a new face on it.

I look to grab a beer, but I’m too captivated by what’s occurring on stage. The band’s energetic, noisy solos separate Miss June from other bands who are replicating the sounds of yesteryear. It’s a sophisticated chaos on stage but it’s Liddell’s lyrics that have me in awe. I’m not one to usually stress too heavily on what’s being sung, but fuck me, Miss June’s lyrics are so raw and powerful to the point that I had to jot them down in my phone. I felt like a teenage girl setting a reminder to post these to my Tumblr. Liddell screams, “I could be anything but instead I chose to be with you,” until her voice becomes hoarse. Atmospheric guitar lines screech and bend in the verses as the band strip away and only vocals are left. It adds a sinister level to their punk rock. Liddell drops the mic at the end of their set, exhausted after wailing her refrain, “it always falls through the cracks.” I haven’t seen anything this emotional and powerful in a long time.

8:56pm. Back at the Brightside. The Valley Drive In rather.

To tell you the truth, I don’t even know what beer this is.

8:57pm. First beer of the night. As I stand at the bar, the smell of old alcohol bleaches my nostrils. It’s sweet and gut churning, like bin juice. My nose hairs fall out and I worry whether I’ve stepped into a radioactive zone.

9:10pm. Brisbane rockers Tape/Off begin. The sound of their thick, hefty bass soars over the guitars. The crashing cymbals attract my ears. The four blokes on stage aren’t here to fuck around, their musicianship and cohesion is evident from the start. The drums keep the intensity flowing with crisp snare hits and crashing cymbals as Tape/Off play their blend of garage rock and post-hardcore.

The crowd begins to thicken but seem too afraid to move any closer to the stage. Tape/Off don’t care. They have a true punk rock attitude whilst keeping a level of professionalism to their set. The lead singer does an excellent job of transitioning between a powerful scream and a melodic Aussie twang. Even if he borders on out-of-pitch, the rawness of the performance adds to Tape/Off’s charm. They resemble an Aussie Sunny Day Real Estate. The band incorporate extended solos and jams into their songs, elevating their performance and showcasing that they have much more to offer than others in their genre. Their songs are more dynamic than other punk rockers in Australia; Tape/Off aren’t afraid to thin out instrumentally in the verse and erupt in the chorus. It’s refreshing to hear.

Tape/Off

9:46pm. I’m in Crowbar. I’m standing next to the wall. I lift my head above the crowd to grab some cool air. It’s fucking packed in here.

9:50pm. Raave Tapes begin. I can’t see much of the stage since I’m being pushed back and forth like I’m waiting in the drinks line at the Flying Cock. More people are filing in. I wonder whether the security guard at the door knows how many people he’s letting in. Raave Tapes sound alright, considering I can’t see much. They remind me of a punky Jungle Giants; staccato guitar notes are paired against a dancy drum beat.

I had to stand on a stool to get this photo.

10:00pm. I don’t think Crowbar was the correct venue for these guys. I’m leaving. There’s something about being rubbed up against a wall that doesn’t rub well with me. But word on the street is Paul Kelly is playing a midnight show at the Zoo.

10:06pm. Meal break. Back at the feeding ground: 5 Dogs. How about a sponsorship?

I can never find this beer at the bottle-o

10:18pm. I’ve entered the Woolly Mammoth. Time for beer number two.

10:24pm. I notice many a drunk kid out tonight. More so than last night. Well, they aren’t kids, they look eighteen. They sway back in forth in front of Bin Juice setting up on stage. The stage lights blind them for a moment before returning to their drunken haze.

Note: not the bin juice I mention earlier at the Brightside.

10:30pm. Bin Juice begin. The Sydney based quintet have been on my must see list for BIGSOUND. Known for their jazz fusion, the band begin with a funky tune with elements of jazz and dare I say reggae. They ooze cool and sophistication on stage; the bassist bobs left and right as his fingers dance on the thick bass strings. Vocalist Elias Kwiet has a lazily deep voice that becomes gravely as he croons into the mic. He rarely moves his mouth, I’m surprised to hear melody.

A soulful sax struts into the mix, often mimicking the vocal melodies of Kwiet. Bin Juice have many moving parts; smooth bass lines, muted guitar riffs, jazzed up drum rhythms, and it all works harmoniously.

Thanks to the dude with the hat, I couldn’t get a good photo of Bin Juice.

10:36pm. It’s getting steamy in here. My eyes might be deceiving me, but I think I see a small puff of smoke erupt from the crowd. Bin Juice’s dreamy jazz pop helps introduce the genre to a younger, maybe even half-baked audience. They pay homage to jazz whilst moving the genre forward.

10:45pm. My legs are going to give up soon.

11:05pm. I thought I better poke my head in back at The Valley Drive In aka The Brightside’s backyard. On stage are punk larrikins, The Chats, coming straight from supporting Queens of the Stone Age on their Aussie tour. Known for their humorous tradie anthem, Smoko, I want to see if this band are more than a one hit wonder. The place is as packed as a state school hat rack. I push past the buffoons out the back who are too drunk to move out of the way. Beckoning from the stage like the Eye of Sauron is the infamous red bowl cut mullet of lead singer Eamon Sandwith. I can’t help but wonder whether this is all for show though? Do The Chats want us to take them seriously? They might say they don’t give two fucks about what people think of them, which you could gather from the haircut, but I think secretly they do want you to like them. Smoko hit a sweet spot in the Australian zeitgeist; in an age where people are afraid of a dying Australian identity, here are three young blokes singing in a uniquely Aussie drawl about uniquely Australian topics. I reckon they try a bit too hard to be the bogan stereotype, and to me that’s not really punk rock. Take a page out of Voiid’s book, or Miss June, or any of the other great punk bands at BIGSOUND that don’t have as big of a crowd because they didn’t make a meme song.

The Chats, from the stairs at the back of the Brightside. Which I got kicked off from after taking this photo.

Sandwith yells out, “put ya hand up if you’ve had a sexually transmitted disease.” The dudes around me laugh. Some hands fly into the air. “This song is about getting chlamydia.” I look at the band and wonder whether this is true story.

11:12pm. I think I’ll leave now. I reckon staying here and supporting The Chats only moves Australian punk rock backwards. There are much better bands at BIGSOUND that deserve more attention, namely my favourite band from last night. And I hope they get it after this week.

As I walk out I hear the bass intro to Smoko. And there’s a hefty applause too. I guess I’m in the minority with this band.

Now I would stay for Paul Kelly, but I’ve got a bed calling my name. And I stopped feeling my feet hours ago. I guess I’ll beat a sixty-three-year-old to bed tonight.

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