BIGSOUND 2023 is a matter of DAYS away, and with more than 140 acts performing over three nights, you’re bound to discover at least one of your new favourite artists. Here are five you should definitely have on your radar.
This year’s BIGSOUND program is, without a doubt in the world, one of the biggest and most jam-packed in its 21-year history. Sprawling across almost every venue in Meanjin/Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley entertainment precinct, it’s an Australian music oasis – by day an educational mecca of panels, workshops and networking opportunities, and by night a rollicking live music festival with more than 140 acts taking to stages big and small.
Running over three nights from Tuesday September 5 to Thursday 7, the BIGSOUND music showcase will see 19 venues host a total of 146 artists, many of whom will perform at multiple events. The schedule – which you can see for yourself here – may seem a little overwhelming, but trust us: no matter where you end up, you’re destined to have a blast and find at least one of your new favourite artists.
After all, BIGSOUND is where some of today’s biggest and brightest artists first cut their teeth: Flume, Gang Of Youths, Courtney Barnett, Tones And I, Spacey Jane, Sampa The Great and The Temper Trap, to name just a few, all played formative shows amid the hectic hustle and bustle of the Valley.
Ahead of our own trek to BIGSOUND 2023, The Music’s brains trust came together and debated over the hottest artists on the bill – and our diverse tastes led us to a pretty eclectic roster. Jess, for example, was all about hip-hop, while Twistie came in clutch with their indie picks and Mary brought some metal-fuelled fury to the table (as for myself, I’m all about the up-and-upcoming Aussie emo). Together, we settled on a list of five artists we think every BIGSOUND attendee should have on their radars.
As we gear up to see them all show us what they’re made of IRL, we caught up with all five of our top picks – Oscar The Wild (who are heading over from Kaurna/Adelaide), Miss Kaninna (Naarm/Melbourne), Platonic Sex (Brisbane), Southeast Desert Metal (Ltyentye Apurte/Santa Teresa, NT) and Bella Amor (Yugambeh/Gold Coast) – to figure out exactly what is that makes them tick...
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This fast-rising four-piece stunned Adelaide’s indie scene with their debut single, Hey, in February of 2019. They’ve since cemented their potential with earwormish bangers like My Daisy and AAA, earning them lucrative spots on the same bills as modern-day legendaries like Amy Shark, Something For Kate and even The Killers. It’s easy to see how, too: their songs are just as catchy as they are captivating, carried by a tightness in their songwriting and balance in tone – oscillating from warm and raw to downright explosive – that speaks to their ironclad chemistry.
The philosophy is simple: Oscar The Wild are best friends first and bandmates second. Creative decisions are informed by the four members’ emotional connections to each other, resulting in songs that not only draw from each of their diverse influences but their personal and overlapped experiences, making for a sound and feel that are entirely their own. So far this year, the band have released two spellbinding singles: Pinch Me Please arrived in March, followed by Unafraid in July. If these tracks give us even a small glimpse of what the future holds, we have no doubt that Oscar The Wild will soon be on the lips of every Aussie music fan.
Oscar The Wild are playing two official showcases at BIGSOUND 2023: 8:30pm at The Outpost on Wednesday September 6, and 10:15pm at Tomcat on Thursday September 7.
Nicola ‘Nic’ Willsmore (guitar): This will be my first time in Brisbane so I’m super excited to soak as much of it in as possible! It’ll be nice to be in the warm weather and be able to meet and hang out with so many people! I’m also very, very excited to learn as much as I can about how everything in the industry works! I find it all so fascinating!
Ariya Gabell (drums): Brisbane is one of my favourite cities and I am so excited to come back – the music scene feels very much like the one here at home and I am pumped to be surrounded by so many other amazing musicians and humans in the industry. It’s going to be a fun week catching up with many old and new friends!
Gemma ‘Gem’ Willsmore (bass): This is also my first time in Brisbane! I’m very much looking forward to getting some sun and finally getting to see what BIGSOUND is all about, after only hearing about it for such a long time!
Ruby Gazzola (vocals/guitar): Thank you! I’m super excited for BIGSOUND and to be in Brisbane – I’m keen to dedicate a week to all things music, see a bunch of amazing acts and hopefully play a couple fun gigs. The sun is also a huge bonus.
Nic: I think my big three must-see acts are RAAVE TAPES, Suzi and Platonic Sex. They’ve been getting up to such cool stuff lately and it’ll be so awesome to finally get to see them – or see them again!
Ariya: This is a hard one, there’s just so many must-see acts this year for me, including ones I have seen many times before. I am keen to see Aleksiah play with her full band, a first for me! I am also keen to see Miss June and Zheani – it seems like both will be very fun sets to catch, and I haven’t seen these artists before.
Gem: Definitely Adelaide icons Aleksiah and The Empty Threats! Also seeing Tamara & The Dreams again!
Ruby: Porpoise Spit are one of my favourite bands and I can’t wait to have some beers in commemoration of Karl Stefanovic. I’m very excited to groove to Gut Health, and release my inner weird to RAAVE TAPES.
Nic: I hope audiences get to experience how fun and inclusive our sets can be, and how much we care. We are always having so much fun with each other onstage, and usually that can be felt in the audiences we play to.
Ariya: We hope to make the audiences feel like they can have a fun and silly time with us, and feel safe and like they can just be themselves, as this is the energy we hope we bring to every show we play. We hope to have everyone dancing and singing along with us, and that we can grow our special little Oscar community across the country.
Gem: I hope our audiences can have as much fun as we do! It never really feels like an audience-band-member divide, more just like a big group of mates having a couple of beers and a boogie to some good tunes.
Ruby: I just want everyone to have a good time and feel completely free.
Ruby: Thank you again! I wrote Pinch Me Please in a time when I was struggling, and then Unafraid on the upward battle. I felt stuck and lost at the same time and Pinch Me Please was born from compulsive overthinking. I used Unafraid to try and view things from a wider perspective and encourage positive self-talk, even if I don’t necessarily believe what I was saying. Both songs reflect the collective sound we have nurtured as a band, and with our influences all over the place, everyone contributed to the final products. With a consistent theme of indie rock for the existential thinker, these tracks foreshadow the music we are yet to release in 2023.
Nic: Those singles are in fact a part of a bigger release, which we are super proud of! It’s a big evolution for us personally and musically, and the biggest project we’ve undertaken so far. We’re so excited for it to be out. All will be revealed soon!
Nic: My favourite thing about our local scene is that everyone is so supportive and it’s a pretty tight-knit community! You’re almost guaranteed to see a friend at almost every show. Some of my favourite bands from the scene are Mum Friends, Stormy-Lou and Aleksiah.
Ariya: The Adelaide community is such a great little family, everyone is keen to support each other’s releases, shows and just general existence and evolution. I feel like a big “Adelaide music scene mum” because if I’m not playing shows, I’m always out watching and supporting others every weekend. My list of recommendations is a long one: to add to Nic’s recs, I’d say Sunsick Daisy, The Empty Threats, Colourblind, Twine, Keeskea, Coldwave, Rose Clouseau, Sour Sob, Nuclear Family, Busseys, Ebony Emili, Pity Lips, Hubris, The Tullamarines, Alexander Black, Raccoon City… Honestly, there’s just too many amazing bands to name.
Gem: I mean really, who else is left to cover? My favourite thing about the Adelaide music scene is the familiarity of the venues! Lion Arts Factory and the Cranker are like Oscar’s second home, and both know how to host an absolute party.
Ruby: Seconding all that Nic, Ariya and Gem have said! We are so lucky to be in Adelaide’s inclusive music community. There is a friend in the audience at every show and a lot of people are dedicated to the local music scene, whether they are musicians or artists or music lovers. I think Three D Radio has also been crucial to spreading the local music love!
Nic: I think the most important lesson for me is the importance of looking after each other. You’d think that’d be a given, but it really is so important for us to be there for each other and boost each other up! Another important lesson is that hard work really does pay off, so it’s important to give it your all in every aspect of being in a band!
Ariya: I have to agree with both of the points Nic raised! Although the current established lineup have only played together for the last three years, we have grown up not only as a band but also as a tight little family. We have learnt so much about each other as individuals and how we work best together, as well as so much about being in a band and how hard you have to work – but we are having an absolute blast giving it everything we’ve got.
Gem: I’m the latest addition, and also the youngest, so I had to learn a lot really fast, mostly around consumption. Alcohol can be a very good way to not feel nervous, but you don’t play even half as well if you’re absolutely trashed. So now I play every gig sober and it’s great.
Ruby: Everyone’s responses are really good and I don’t have much more to add. Half a decade sounds so long, it really hasn’t felt like it. I suppose through all the wild experiences we’ve had, we still thoroughly enjoy each other's company. We’ve learnt to communicate and adapt and work as a team, some – Nic – really carrying the team home. And to Gem’s credit, she learnt her important lesson faster than I did. She had an epic finish though, to say the least!
Ruby: I hope our songs make people feel something. Whatever that is, it’s completely up to the listener – It should just be viewed as a true part of me, which I hope is another reminder for others to be open about themselves too. Writing music is cathartic and healing. I don’t really think too much about its effect, it just comes out from what I’m experiencing. I love to dance – even though I’m mediocre at best – so the songs usually have to have a kick to it, which Ariya very much helps with!
Ariya: We hope 2024 is the time we can take Oscar The Wild interstate. We have really developed and matured in our sound and songwriting and we are so excited to share this growth through new releases and shows over the next year! We hope this evolution of Oscar can connect with our listeners on a deeper level and let them scream out with us and let everything go like we do when we play these songs ourselves.
Despite having just one single under her belt – the slick and swaggering Blak Britney, which arrived back in May of this year – Miss Kaninna has made a name for herself as a hip-hop megastar in the making. She’s a proud Yorta Yorta, Kalkadoon and Yirendali woman, describing herself as “a Blak girl in the colony trying to uplift [her] community”. Blak Britney, too, was posed as an “anti-establishment anthem”, its message immediately resonating with its target audience – within a fortnight of its release, it was the #1 most-played song on triple j.
She was later hand-picked to perform at this year’s Treaty Day Out event and A Festival Called Panama, both of which saw crowds veritably eating from her palm. The latter festival’s director, Tim Carroll, was particularly blown away by Miss Kaninna’s set, saying he’d “never heard the crowd scream so loud in adoration for an artist”. Songs performed in her recent live sets prove that she won’t be a one-hit wonder, either: her material is sharp and commands your attention, stacked with whiplash-inducing bars that resonate long after she’s rapped them. Our prediction? 2024 will be the year of Miss Kaninna.
She’s performing two official showcases at BIGSOUND 2023: 11:15pm at The Valley Loft on Tuesday September 5, and 10:30pm at The Brightside on Thursday September 7. She’s also set to perform at the Goolwal Goolwal x Yirramboi Mixer Event on the Tuesday afternoon, going down at Blute’s from 4:00pm.
I am a proud Yorta Yorta, Kalkadoon and Yirendali artist living on stolen land in Naarm. I am a representation of the power of my ancestors and my music reflects the conversations within my community.
I was so nervous and excited to release Blak Britney because it was my first-ever single and once it was out, there was no going back. I was honestly so surprised it got the traction it did, but I’m so proud and humbled by the support. What made me happy is all the videos I received of Blak women singing the song and getting down and feeling represented. If I can continue to do that I’ll be happy.
I love that! I think it’s really special that people are experiencing that and finding their own connection to it. I mean I’m not the type of person to tell people how they should move their body when music comes on, so whatever he feels comes out of him! Power to him! Maybe he can teach me one day.
I had so much fun recording this next single. I would say it leans more into sexual positivity and feminine power, with a heavy bass line. The one thing I will say about the next few songs coming out is they are all very different and don’t fit into one genre. So keep an open mind because we making Blak music out here.
The biggest turning point was definitely the release of my first single. Up until then, I had no recorded proof or evidence of my artistry, so people just had to come to a show and watch me live. So it was hard for people to take me seriously. People often would come to my live show and say, “Oh, I didn’t know it was going to be like that.” I think that’s because people underestimate me all the time, especially being a Blak woman from Tassie. It’s kinda fun because I think my music is very different to anyone else’s at the moment.
The most challenging thing about being an artist is being a First Nations artist and a woman. What I am talking about can make people uncomfortable – which is what my aim is – but it has also caused a lot of racist people to come out of the woodwork and belittle my craft just because I’m Blak. I’m glad that I have the backbone and support to take some of this racism because it’s time for truth-telling and having those hard conversations. I think a lot of people think that because it’s 2023, racism and biases don’t exist – and I’m here to say that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I hope to deliver my best performance and make my claim in so-called “Australian music”, as well as meet other artists and people in the industry that have been so supportive of me so far. I’m really excited to see everyone’s performances and just be a part of it, really. I’m so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to showcase my art.
Brisbane’s own Platonic Sex are returning to BIGSOUND as festival veterans, having played their debut showcases at last year’s edition. The four-piece (now a trio, having farewelled bassist Mikki Hain earlier this year) earned acclaim for their raucous and impassioned sets of punk-laced indie-rock, which according to The Music’s own Sisi Sparkle, “fire[d] up their audience with whimsical and vastly impressive vocals and tunes”.
She also spotlit one of the band’s biggest strengths: their idiosyncratic balance of visceral grit and pastel shimmer, owing in large part to the contrast between frontperson Bridget Brandolini and their bandmates. “[Platonic Sex] together have forged a pretty voice into a folky, grungy soundscape,” Sparkle said aptly, “and incorporate a message with a kick.” Thus far, Platonic Sex have released one EP – the six-track Grit, which arrived last December – and a couple of loose singles (including the shit-hot Bitch In The Heat, which is less than a month old), with their debut album in the works for next year.
The band will perform one official showcase at BIGSOUND 2023: 10:00pm at The Zoo on Thursday September 7. They’ll also appear at Amazon Music’s After Hours: Pride party, which kicks off at 11:00pm, Tuesday September 5 at The Wickham.
We toured with Jess Day in February, and it was awesome to play the songs from Grip in other cities! Playing shows after the EP had some time to breathe and settle in meant we felt super connected to our audiences – especially during Devil’s Advocate, which feels like the song everyone screams their lil’ hearts out to.
Brando here! In my mind, Bitch is a release of all the frustrations you have when you’re constantly running into people, or reminders of a relationship from the past. You have to swallow your angst and co-exist with your ex in spaces you wish you could have to yourself. But the track itself is so sunny and shiny – it places those emotions inside a chamber of bubbly, sparkly guitar tones that lighten the situation. I feel like it’s a reminder to lean on your friends and celebrate what exists now, and just wait it out in the post-breakup grey area.
We’ve been writing like crazy all year, and preparing to record our debut album! That’s probably still a while away, but we’re happy to announce that there will be another two Platonic Sex singles out this year, so you won’t have to wait too long for more music from us. Something that’s special about Platonic Sex is how much we love to work on songs together. Writing music together is the most personal thing, and we try to hold space for each other so that the best art can come through.
We’ve also just gotten back from a music video shoot, where we visited a very large landmark, located about three hours west of sunny Brisbane... We’ll leave it to y’all to guess where we went.
We hope our album helps us reach more fans and hopefully take the band overseas! We also hope that our listeners can hear the work we’ve been putting into our writing, and that they feel connected to the new songs, because they feel like the deepest expression of our band so far.
BIGSOUND last year completely exceeded our expectations. As the week went on, every room felt fuller and fuller. It was so wonderful to feel the camaraderie of the Australian music scene around us. We can’t wait for this year’s festival – we’re looking forward to meeting more bands, catching up with old mates and getting to hear what everyone’s been working on.
We’re very keen to see Gut Health, their sound is so cool. We’re also really looking forward to Bec Stevens – we’ve been wanting to see her play live for ages, and her recent album has only fuelled that excitement more! Bec’s voice just pulls at that memory of being ten and singing along to the OG Missy Higgins CDs – big nostalgia. Our last pick for BIGSOUND is Smol Fish – their music feels like summer on a plate. It’s witty, whimsical and silly but serious, and we know they’re going to be a joy onstage!
We hope audiences see us as we are, hear our songs as we mean them, and care about the stories in the same way that we do. The relationship between artist and audience can be so intimate, and we hope people in the crowd feel connected to us and our values.
Brando has been living in Brisbane for nearly seven years and only just discovered the Swiss Deli in West End, which opened in 1980. It’s now their number one place to take friends visiting on tour. Jane is the patron saint of an Aperol Spritz at the Howard Smith Wharves, and we all love to watch the sunset at a classic New Farm Park picnic. For a pre-show Valley feed, make sure to hit up Fat Dumpling for their Asian green beans. So good. In Winn Lane, QUIVR is our favourite queer bar and DJ spot. They’ll make you a delicious cocktail that you can enjoy with a burger from Ben’s, next door – a perfect combo.
Self-described as “the most isolated heavy metal band in the world”, Southeast Desert Metal have come a long way from their roots in Arrernte land, Ltyentye Apurte (or Santa Teresa, some 80km out from Alice Springs) in the Northern Territory. A family band – frontman Chris Wallace is joined by his brother Robert on drums, while guitarist Gavin Hayes is a brother to bassist Derek – the four-piece formed more than a decade ago, galvanised by their love of bands like Metallica and Judas Priest.
The band have thus far released two albums – a self-titled effort in 2015, followed by Break The Silence in 2018 – with their third in the works. Along the way, they’ve toured nationally with acts like Amyl And The Sniffers, Karnivool and Cosmic Psychos, drawing in hordes of their own fans with a pummelling energy that makes their live show something you truly need to see to believe. The band’s origins have also been explored in the short-form documentary Desert Metal Dreaming, which is available to stream on ABC iView.
Southeast Desert Metal are primed to hit BIGSOUND 2023 with a mighty five performances: they’ve got three sets planned for Tuesday September 5 – first at 12:30pm at the Fortitude Music Hall (as part of the official Opening Ceremony), then 10:30pm at The Outpost, and finally 12:15am at The Zoo – followed by a set at 8:15pm, Wednesday September 6 at Wonderland. They’ll also perform at the regional Australian showcase Take Me Home Country Roads, starting at 3:00pm, Thursday September 7 at the Judith Wright Centre.
We’re excited to get back to performing again. It’s been a long season without touring after COVID-19. So we’re really looking forward to travelling again. And meeting other bands as well – sharing the same stage and jamming together, bringing the music to life.
I’m not really familiar with many of the bands. I had a look at the lineup but I’ve never heard of most of them. But I’m looking forward to finding some new music. Music is how we connect, how we relate. I’m gonna check out all the bands, I don’t just listen to the heavy stuff all the time. I’ll listen to county, pop and reggae. If it’s a good song I’ll listen to it!
We just want the crowd to come out and enjoy themselves. We’ve got fans in Brisbane. We last played there with Karnivool in 2019. We just wanna share our stories through our music. We wanna share our culture from out here. Arrernte culture. And hopefully they dig it!
We wanna share the stories of our dreamtime. And share the stories for the young generation. You know, we just wanna be recognised that we’re all human. No matter what colour skin you have. The blood is the same. We still class the world our fanbase. We call them our brothers and sisters.
We just love being onstage. We love playing small crowds and big festivals. People recognise us for who we are. We love our fanbase and we just love what we do.
We’re still climbing the mountain. We’re only half way to the top. Rock’n’roll is a hard road. Like Bon Scott said, it’s a long way to the top. Hopefully in the future we can get more support with touring. We really wanna succeed in our goals. That’s what we’re aiming for. We’re on our journey and we just appreciate all the support we get along the way.
It’s done! It’s coming really soon. Stay tuned!
We’re just really working on our own show. We wanna play all over the place. We’re looking forward to getting out there again. Gavin, our guitarist, has evolved his playing so much. He’s really influenced by modern metal. Robert, our drummer, he’s got so much style now. His footwork and his rolls and fills. He’s on another level. And Kerry’s working on his bass technique. He’s the showoff in the band, he’s good onstage. As for myself, I'm still into the ‘80s metal. I’m trying to improve my singing too. I’m still at the Ozzy Osbourne level but I wanna sound like Judas Priest!
Hell hath no fury like this Gold Coast-native jaw-dropper surging up to the big leagues; she dropped her debut single, Can’t Get Laid, a year ago to the date, following it up over the next few months with All My Friends Are High and Heart Attack. Three for three with her critically adored alt-pop bangers, Bella Amor laid it all out on the table, singing candidly about sex, mental health, and the turbulence of early adulthood – all spun through an infectiously melodic web of grungy guitars and shimmery pop production.
A planned EP, Crayons Of The Soul, was scraped by Amor before she made it to the finish line, but that wound up being for the best, allowing her to focus her energy on an even bigger, more ambitious longform project. She’s kept the hype for it alive with a few more standalone singles – Sentimental wowed us when we first heard it in March of this year, followed by Does It Get Boring In July – and between them, she linked up with Eora/Sydney rapper BLESSED to deliver the spellbinding joint single Cut Too Deep. She’s on track to be a household name in no time, touring nationally with the likes of Lime Cordiale and Teenage Joans, and scoring full-time rotation on triple j.
Bella Amor will perform two official showcases at BIGSOUND 2023: 9:00pm at The Warehouse on Tuesday September 5, then 11:00pm at the Black Bear Lodge on Thursday September 7. She’ll also play the iconic OzTix party on Thursday afternoon (running from 4:00pm at The Brightside) as well as the Queenslander BBQ Brunch at Felons on the morning of Friday September 8.
I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my mates and honestly just kick back with the homies! It's so much fun when all musicians are in one area, I swear we always have the best time and I am just really looking forward to all the lovely energy around.
Man, there are so many people I am super excited to see. I'm real keen to see Ūla perform. I've written some songs with her before and I love her energy but I have never seen her perform so I'll be really looking forward to that. My queen Aleksiah, she has the most beautiful voice but I haven't seen her perform with a full band yet so I'm hoping she's bringing that energy to BIGSOUND. And Ben Swissa – my gosh, what a prodigy that kid is. I wanna hear his voice live and I feel like his stage presence will be unmatched.
I hope audiences take away the experience. I wanna create a fun, dancey vibe where everyone can just have fun. I want them to walk away and be like, “Damn, her stage presence is awesome.” I love performing so much, so I hope that comes across the most.
2023 has been a huge year for me and honestly I am here for all of it. This whole year has been memorable but for me, the biggest highlight was the first time people came to a show and sang my words. It was a small show in Bondi but they did not disappoint. A few people knew all the words and it made me real happy to see that my hard work has been paying off. I am super excited to get play the part out into the world so you all have another song to learn the words to!
Ooh, getting real juicy. These releases are just my intro into the world and nothing more. I have some real fun, exciting things that I'm working on, but that info is disclosed...
It was bloody incredible. He gave me an incredible song to work with so it was not hard to fill the gaps and just give it some extra loving. I had a lot of fun and it's honestly one of my favourite songs to sing.
Music for me is healing. I heal through sound and through the words I sing, so for me, connection to what I am writing about is the most important part. In play the part, I was struggling a bit with this situation and it became clear through writing the song that I had to let go. Music reveals things to me that I don’t even know at first glance. And if I can bring this type of insight for my own experiences, I hope I can do the same for other people. Creating a community of like-minded individuals is all I want to do. And through my experiences, sharing them in song, I can do that.
Money. I hate to say it but money is a big part of this industry. I have a couple of other jobs that I work on top of being a musician, and sometimes it gets tricky. I get burnt out real quickly just so I can support my dreams. But we all gotta hustle to do what we want, and I know it will all pay off.
Alf the Great
BAYANG (tha Bushranger)
Charm of Finches
Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice
Freight Train Foxes
Friends of Friends
Full Flower Moon Band
Glenn Skuthorpe Band
Joan & The Giants
Joey Leigh Wagtail
Oscar The Wild
Proteins of Magic
Ra Pa Viper
Radio Free Alice
Southeast Desert Metal
Tamara & the Dreams
The Empty Threats
Vixens of Fall
WHO SHOT SCOTT
Tuesday September 5 – Friday September 7
Fortitude Valley, Meanjin/Brisbane