The Many Things You Learn At BIGSOUND

9 September 2011 | 3:00 pm | Dan Condon

What happens on tour stays on tour - unless it's Friday at BIGSOUND.


Fortitude Valley's opulent Laruche Bar became jam packed full of music industry delegates early Tuesday evening as BIGSOUNDs official opening night party kicked off the conference with a bang. There was nary room to move inside the venue as figures from each and every side of the music industry rubbed shoulders for the first time – though certainly not the last – this week. Spirits were high as thanks were delivered to all who have been involved in the now ten-year-old industry event since its formation, though the biggest cheers were yet to come.

Virgin Australia Group Executive Richard Tanner took to the stage to announce a massive overhaul of their policy with regard to travelling musicians' baggage allowances. “Your concerns and costs around baggage are over,” Tanner said to a massive roar from those assembled.

Tanner went on to announce that the airline will now offer all musicians 32kg of checked luggage, which members of a touring party can pool together, with the option of purchasing an extra 32kg for $15. They will allow touring parties to use the group check in system and will match the loyalty status that any given artist currently holds with QANTAS.

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The deal will only be made available to those artists who partner with certain music industry organisations, a list of which will be published soon.


The complexities of the modern day music festival were explored in an entertaining panel discussion today, with a panel made up of Bluesfest's Peter Noble, Peat's Ridge's Damian Cunningham, Big Day Out's Johanna Greenway, Anita Nedeljkovic of Way Over There and Germany's Henning Ahrens of Four Artists Agency.

Given the number of bands and band managers in the audience, the topic of how to get on a festival was explored in detail; but frankly the only answer given was that “you have to be ready”. As a bare minimum bands ought to have YouTube footage that give promoters an idea of their live show, radio airplay, strong promotion and the bare necessities of press photos, press releases, and mp3s.

Coming from the European perspective, Ahrens suggested that Australian bands should have a strong following in their home country before heading overseas and suggests that trying to visit Europe with a UK booking agent doesn't make a great deal of sense.

The saturation of the festival market was another point explored in detail, Noble suggesting that there are “I just think it's obvious that there's too many now” and “There will be a bit of a fallout this year. I think we will see quite a few cancellations. The writing appears to be on the wall.”

Greenway added that the huge number of touring opportunities for international bands mean the appeal of seeing them in our country has dulled and that “Fans are holding onto their money and waiting until close to the festival to decide what they're going to do.” She also mentioned that the price to book bands has risen considerably since more festivals came on the circuit as the events compete for new acts.

This led to discussion surrounding the price of festivals, with Ahrens saying he was “irritated” when he found out that Splendour In The Grass were charging over $400 for an event ticket this year and seemed incredulous at the idea that some people will pay nine dollars for a beer at an event.

Some interesting points about the running of festivals were raised too:

Peter Noble said that Bluesfest needs to take $12 million before it breaks even. He hinted heavily that he was “probably” going to book Brisbane's Dubmarine for next year's festival and that the festival's touring arm will be booking tours for 22 of the acts that play 2012's event.

Greenway told a story of Marilyn Manson flooding the backstage area of the Perth Big Day Out after storming offstage.

Cunningham mentioned that this year he has listened to around 3000 tracks submitted by bands wanting to play this year's Peat's Ridge event.

Nedeljkovic said that Marva Whitney having a heart attack on stage at the Falls Festival was her lowlight when it came to festival involvement; not quite as serious was the case of King Khan eating something in the vicinity of 60 oysters and becoming very ill.

The panel wrapped up with some discussion about the presence of drug dogs and the prohibitive nature of liquor licenses that affect festivals. Last word went to Ahrens who simply stated, “When you want to get really messy, come to a festival in Germany.”


Enjoyable as Wednesday's conference events are, it becomes pretty obvious that very quickly everyone is gagging to get amongst some live music. So, come 5pm, delegates make a beeline for one of the parties being thrown to celebrate the talent of their area/launch a given product or campaign.

I choose the New Zealand party for a few reasons. Firstly, Tiny Ruins and Street Chant are on my list of must see bands, secondly I figured there might be a slight chance of them serving kiwi beer and finally, I already feel bad for once again stripping our Antipodean of yet another Rugby World Cup title next month.

I arrive in time to catch a few songs from Ruby Frost; ladies doing slamming electro-pop sure is popular these days and while it's definitely not my kind of thing, she does what she does well.

Tiny Ruins doesn't have the advantage of booming bass and energetic dance moves and frankly seeing her trying to perform in front of a bunch of chattering industry folk who are paying no attention is kind of heartbreaking. Her lilting brand of indie folk is delicate and beautiful though, honestly speaking, it's wasted on those assembled this evening.

It seems most who have made it along this afternoon are eagerly anticipating new kiwi supergroup The Adults. Shihad's Jonny Toogood hasn't lost any energy; he pulls all sorts of shapes as he bounds around the stage, the band's droning electro rock the soundtrack. Fur Patrol's Julia Deans holds things down nicely, but when Straightjacket Fits' Shayne Carter picks up a guitar and makes all sorts of grating, psychedelic sounds roar from his amp the set hits its peak.

Poor old Street Chant might not have thought through the whole “industry showcase” thing too much. They don't look happy to be here. They still deliver the goods in spades musically though, and while I sometimes wonder whether I'm just excited to finally be seeing a rock'n'roll band, I definitely walk away a convert of their melodic punk-infused indie jams.

It's time to leave; there's networking to be done (HAHAHAHA) and the fuckers were serving Australian beer anyway. So after a wonderful meal of MSG and cheap Riesling at one of the Valley's finest Chinese restaurants with the who's who of the industry it's time to hit the showcases proper.

There simply has to be more people at these showcases than last year; it seems that every venue is just about packed to capacity tonight; definitely a very good thing. Adalita has Electric Playground hanging on her every note as she works through tracks from her eponymous debut. It's bizarre being back in the old Healer, it has been many, many years since I was in this building – nine dollar beers fucking hurt but the sound is great.

It's exciting to see Ben Salter and his band (who tonight he has coined The Awesome-Os) playing to such a full house. It's even better to see them deliver such an incredible set. Packed full of songs from his cracking debut The Cat, the set shows that the band are perfectly suited to embellish the material. Finishing up with a ripping cover of Guided By Voices' Teenage FBI certainly helps too.

Unsurprisingly the Black Bear Lodge is at capacity to catch Lanie Lane with a nice sized queue stretching out the door. It doesn't really provide an ideal setting to see her and we'll undoubtedly have many chances to see her over the coming months so I duck across to Ric's Bar where Mike Noga has the venue hanging off his every word. Excitingly I get to meet Adalita for the first time since I was 15-years-old and she's every bit as lovely as I remembered.

I've loved Velociraptor since they were a three-piece playing Ric's on a Monday night, so I'm equal parts excited and nervous to see their showcase over at Electric Playground; excited because the buzz on the band is huge and nervous because I really don't want them to fuck it up. They don't. In fact, they play one of the best sets I've ever seen them deliver; there are limbs flailing everywhere, audience members onstage, they sound fantastic in this room (not easy given the sheer number of guitarists in the band) and their songs come across just like they should; energetic, infectious as fuck and with enough guts to give the industry heads present a little taste of Brisbane's thriving garage rock scene. I vaguely remember appealing to a Q Music dignitary to make every band as good as Velociraptor next year. Sorry about that.

I'm almost convinced to join the band in some celebratory beers but resist temptation. If I didn't feel like I'd swallowed a cat I'd probably pat myself on the back this morning for such a wise move.

Day two is upon us. I'd rather be in bed, but I know come 5pm I'll be back out there searching for beer and loud rock music to make me do things I'll regret tomorrow. Because that's what BIGSOUND does.


The always controversial topic of the greatest Australian records of all time was the centre of discussion at a panel of experts at BIGSOUND this afternoon as The Australian 's Iain Shedden, triple j's Richard Kingsmill, News Ltd.'s Kathy McCabe, Love Police's Brian Taranto and Cold Chisel's co-manager and the author of The 100 Best Australian Albums John O'Donnell, facilitated by Street Press Australia's Steve Bell.

Shedden said The Triffids' Born Sandy Devotional and The Go-Betweens' 16 Lovers Lane were important records for him, but it was the UK release of AC/DC's High Voltage in 1976 (very different to the Australian version of 1975) that was the most powerful. Kingsmill mentioned Radio Birdman's Radios Appear was his favourite, McCabe mentioned INXS' Kick and 16 Lovers Lane as her picks, Taranto's were Cold Chisel's Circus Animals, Skyhooks' Living In The 70s and You Am I's Hourly Daily as the finest while O'Donnell said that Born Sandy Devotional only just pipped The Avalanches' 2001 opus Since I Left You in his mind.

The absence of Nick Cave was addressed, Kingsmill stating that due to the sheer size of his catalogue and its supreme quality it becomes difficult to pick just the one record. One punter also asked why there were no female artists being mentioned, before Sarah Blasko, Kasey Chambers and The Divinyls were given kudos.

On modern Australian music, Kingsmill gave Gotye massive props for his latest record and said that possible over exposure was the only thing standing in the way of his Somebody That I Used To Know single winning next year's Hottest 100. He mentioned his station has backed off playing it, but feels it's ubiquity could potentially be damaging. Kathy McCabe admitted that, when voting for this year's ARIA Awards, she found it very difficult selecting three Australian records from the past 12 months she considered “great albums”.


The “what happens on tour stays on tour” adage doesn't really apply on the Friday afternoon at BIGSOUND as a group of the industry's hardest tourers sit down to trade tales of life on the road.

Everything from cocaine to scrotums to trouble with the law to surfing were covered in a light hearted panel featuring Chugg Entertainment's Michael Chugg, Co-Operative Music's Neil Robertson, Stage Mothers' Mary Mihelakos, Foundations Management's Brian Winton and Matt Tanner of Native Tongue Publishing.

The overall vibe from the speakers was that bands and their management these days take touring somewhat more seriously than in the past; they're better organised and less inclined to dedicate all of their time to partying.

Chugg gave some insight into the booking and running of large tours and gave some great insight into the seriousness of post-tour depression, but it was mostly an afternoon of fun anecdotes of some of the speakers' crazier moments on the road. A mix of local and international touring experts and the different levels on which they operate meant a wide variety of fascinating yarns were spun.


Why on earth do we do this to ourselves? Even if you're straight edge I've no doubt that you probably feel a little bit rubbish and if you're anything like me you're contemplating a move into the public service where there are no free beers [or lemonades], no interstate colleagues to catch up with and sure as fuck no rock'n'roll bands. Alas, BIGSOUND Live night two was there for the taking and I, for one, grabbed the opportunity as best as I could. Let me tell you all about it.

If you're a customer with the Westpac bank then I imagine your night would have been soured by their whole network being out of action for a few hours. While it was frustrating for me not being able to purchase much needed food, beer and Red Bull until 11pm, this was made somewhat more bearable by thinking about people's networking opportunities being impeded by this technological fuck up and how they will manage to explain to their hot new rock act that they can't pay for dinner as their cards have all been declined. Actually, I feel a bit bad saying that. If you were affected please accept my sympathies. Cheers, buy you a 360 deal some time.

I have a quick look at Andy Bull early on just because I've not seen him before; impressive act but not really for me. Frankly, even if it was, I don't think I would have lasted too long; there is literally no room in Ric's – I mean no room – to move and I don't like strangers touching me at the best of times so I do my best to slip out of this sardine tin and head elsewhere.

Locals Little Scout deliver another very cool set at The Aviary; I can't quite figure out whether it's more relaxed or more uptight than usual, but the vibe is good, as are the songs and the crowd really genuinely seem to get a kick out of what they're doing.

A very quick dash down Ann St to the Bakery Lane stage is in order to catch the always entertaining and massively hyped DZ Deathrays. I'm not entirely sure how we actually get into the venue, but we do, and it's exciting to see the two piece smashing out their massive tunes to such a huge and adoring crowd. Unfortunately the PA doesn't quite give them enough grunt, I'm unsure as to whether the sheer number of people is soaking up the sound or whether those operating the stage have been told to turn things down a notch since yesterday's New Zealand showcase, but the band simply aren't loud enough. They're still mighty enjoyable though and it's great to hear that by the time BIGSOUND is finished today they'll have made some serious steps to massively increasing their profile.

Melbourne's Loon Lake have the Black Bear Lodge at capacity (though I'm pretty sure every venue is at capacity as its default setting tonight) and while it's debatable as to how many people are there to actually see the band, they make sure that everyone present at least sees them with their best foot forward. They're an indie-rock band, simple as that, and tonight they remind me of kind of a clean cut but by no means uninteresting Australian version of Modest Mouse. In fact I really like the clean sound that they are bringing and their songs are so catchy it would be a real shame if they don't go far. I'm pretty sure it'll connect with a wide audience given the opportunity, let's wait and see what happens.

I admit I have a fear of Bleeding Knees Club letting me down; I think they have great tunes but I'm slightly concerned that they'll be too contrived to be enjoyable. Honestly, I should stop being such a precious fuckwit every once in a while because tonight they prove that they are a genuinely excellent band. Their style of pop punk owes a great debt to the new school of this kind of music like Wavves, but there's nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. While their songs and the tightness of their live performance are fantastic, I think the most exciting thing about this band is the room in which they have to grow; you can see where and how they can get better and if they do they will be a force to be reckoned with. For now they're a super fun party band and I think they'd be able to win over the most jaded of punters.

The night ends over at Birdees for the Street Press Australia party; there's a line about 17km long out the front which always bodes well (when you don't have to stand in the line) and sure enough everyone flocks in and quickly smashes all of the free booze on offer. I'm Djing with co-worker Steve after Alan McGee (pictured behind the decks with Rohan Marley) which is interesting, I don't really know what to say to him while we're standing in the booth together so I mutter something about music or hats or something and he goes along with it and I pat him on the back (literally) and his security guard takes him away and we get on with the business of playing some good old fashioned rock'n'roll records. It's a whole lot of fun and my heart is warmed as synchronised dance moves take over the dance floor (as they always should) and people smile at me politely even though I'm not playing any of their requests.

What happens next? You tell me. I sure as shit don't have much of an idea. I can tell you this, however; I wake up in my bed, wearing a Blues Explosion shirt I can't remember seeing in a good two years, with my head screaming in pain. There's only a few short hours until it's all over, let's make the most of it. See you all in hell.


Don't brag to out-of-towners about how good our weather is. It'll piss down before long.

Bleeding Knees Club, Velociraptor and DZ Deathrays are not examples of style over substance, not matter what the jaded industry types say.

Jokes about networking with people you aren't networking with never get old.

A lot of people have adopted Twitter in the past 12 months. #bigsound

Free beers might taste better, but you still say stupid shit and feel like hell after indulging.

If you want to see a band at BIGSOUND, you must get there early these days. Every venue will be packed to capacity.

If you want to see a panel at BIGSOUND, you must get there early. No one likes standing up for an hour and a half.

The Black Bear Lodge still sounds (and feels) as good as The Troubadour did.

Bakery Lane should be a venue every week.

There's less doom and gloom talk in the conference sessions. People in the music industry are adapting to operating in different ways and some are even excited about it.

Australian music is in great shape. We knew that already, but it's always nice to be reminded.