Here's what went down on night one of BIGSOUND 2019.
Buckle up, kids... it’s BIGSOUND night one. Hope you’re not hitting the free piss too hard; we’ve got three days of this remember. Keep your hands, arms, and legs inside the rollercoaster car at all times and we’ll tuck you under our wing through night one.
Opening The Wickham stage, her strange and celestial voice emanating through the beer garden, is electronic pop artist Aphir and her friend KAIAR. Their otherworldly performance captivates as they slowly coax the room into submission. With delayed vocals and an enigmatic beat of hypnotising electronic drums, it seems more like a piece of theatre performance than a live set, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy as she looks deep into your eyes, seeing straight through you to something you can’t quite comprehend - something mystical, alien and beautiful.
Aphir. Photo by Aimee Catt.
Hometown alt-indie insurgent Jaguar Jonze wastes no time getting down to business as The Zoo’s first showcase of the night. The moody strains of her opening track float down the stairs to the street as the doors open and an impressive influx of festival-goers streams in, abuzz with anticipation. To her credit, ably backed by her live band, Jonze (aka QMA-winning singer-songwriter Deena Lynch) rewards the bountiful early interest in spades. Her glass-cannon vocals, delicate and powerful in equal measure, float atop the group’s mix of atmospheric grooves – emotive new single Beijing Baby is a particular highlight – as they turn out a polished, striking performance that sets Tuesday’s bar exceptionally high. It even includes an always-welcome flute appearance so, really... your move, everyone else.
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The Brightside roars with a bursting drumkit, introducing The Lazy Eyes’ set. Phased keys and distorted guitars blend between psychotic and psychedelic rock. Feedback noise isn’t just a by-product of all the fuzz - it’s a beautifully planned and synchronised part of their set. The venue erupts into flashes of strobes almost causing attendees to forget that this is only one of the first sets of the night - headliner-worthy is an understatement.
Being Jane Lane's first song lasted, like one minute. With a solid punk rock ethos, there is a lot to love about this outfit. Yeah, it's loose. Yeah, it's thrash, but you'd be disappointed if it wasn't. Be Okay and Less Is More are driven by pumping bass, while vocalist Teigan Le Plastrier gets up close and personal with punters. Crowbar loves every second of it.
Being Jane Lane. Photo by Jess Gleeson.
Brisbane-bred electronic duo Dream Coast hypnotise Heya Bar with their otherworldly oeuvre, easily ensnaring their audience with their synth-soaked wiles. Members Conor Graham and Josh Bowling are clear masters-in-the-making at their craft, expertly laying undulating melodies, spacy wobbles and effects, and competing arpeggios atop pulsing, subtly changing percussion and bass lines; they even earn an early cheer of familiarity for 2017 breakthrough Releaser. Indeed, from start to finish, the pair put on a technically proficient, creatively captivating live show, despite a faulty microphone making anything more than the most nominal audience engagement impractical – well, verbally, at least. Musically, though? We’re all in.
There’s a debate in The Music offices that’s also ringing throughout the streets of Brisbane: “Is it Stevan as in Stephen or do we elongate the A - 'Stevaaaaan'.” With two excellent singles out, call it what you want (we’re for the long A if you care). The PACKED crowd at Ric’s Big Backyard don’t seem to mind either. A Star Wars tee and mouth full of braces sees the 18-year-old wunderkind greet an industry-strong crowd, his nerves shining endearingly. Live, the band aren’t as tight as they are on record, but hey, that just speaks to the power of those two tracks. “Think it’s the time”, is the precede to closer Timee (everyone loves a terrible pun) but not before a cover of Andre 3000’s Prototype.
The presence at The Valley Drive In for Raj Mahal is domineering and erratic, like a rave in a car park. The beat is intense as Mahal and his entourage pace around the stage dropping verses with a passionate fury. He litters his set with a selection of beautiful monologues about his personal growth, trauma, and love for his friends, imbuing the crowd with a sense of wholesome empathy, only for the next song to start and make the room broil with energy.
Raj Mahal. Photo by Bobby Rein.
Hannah Blackburn is serving some serious Sharon Van Etten vibes with her BIGSOUND debut at Black Bear Lodge. Her set features crooning electric guitar solos, clear folky vocals and stunning harmonies. The cosy venue is packed with bodies, swaying in support of Blackburn as she earnestly pours her heart out. Every minute of her set is a heartwarming example of what BIGSOUND is all about.
It's a shame that Wolfjay doesn't have more people in The Flying Cock for their first showcase of the week, but the people inside witness a passionate and fulfilling set of music from the Melbourne (via Adelaide) artist that compares to Postal Service. The artist, along with excellent drummer Andreanna Massacci, certainly makes an impact on the people in the room with music that swells to a crescendo and flows down the Valley. The vibe around them is big, just like their music, and She Calls To Me, with its upbeat tempo, finishes off a killer set from a promising artist.
Between the SpongeBob SquarePants and Crazy Town's Butterfly teasers, band members climbing the venue rafters and “USA, USA” chants, Private Function have the bottle-necking crowd in stitches. They take a moment to find the most common name in the crowd (???); it’s Chris, aka “the shittest name” frontman Chris Penney has heard in his life. Penney regales the crowd with a tale about the band's attempts for sponsorship; a $2000 promise from some geezer in Melbourne to see him light the guitarist on fire (which he does!) only to be put out by *AD PLACEMENT* Mountain Dew. Don’t try this at home kids.
Duel synths occupy the stage for Close Counters at Family - harmonised notes, samples and spectrums of different sounds occupy the halls of the nightclub. Though the venue may be predominantly empty, there isn’t a soul just standing around. They’re like a stripped-down Jamiroquai without vocals. It's fun, energetic and joyous!
Ozi Jarel came to have a good time. Repping his roots with a Ugandan flag wrapped around his shoulders, he gets the crowd moving with his fast-paced lyrics, and simple, catchy choruses. Jarel puts on a hell of a show, one that showcases culture as well as his bars.
Five minutes of Freedom Of Fear is enough to bring out your inner metal demon. Raw, vicious metal fire spills from the Crowbar stage as the Adelaideans tear through tracks, fans and guitar solos. This group mean business.
Centred on the creative core of husband-wife musicians Jaaji and Chelsey June, Indigenous Canadian ensemble Twin Flames bring their tales and truths to Empire Hotel, grabbing our attention – albeit after a slightly delayed start – with driving opener Native By Nature before unleashing their full arsenal of diverse, shifting instrumentation, rich vocal harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics. Punctuating their songs with poignant, thoughtful backstories of their peoples’ heartaches and triumphs, the five-piece make their showcase a truly social affair, welcoming the audience into their world as they treat us to a genre-hopping journey of culture, community and camaraderie.
Twin Flames. Photo by Aimee Catt.
imbi the girl aka Imbar Nassi starts their set with a call for a few simple breathing exercises to relax the mind and body, before a heartwarming acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land. Nassi's voice echoes through the Backyard as they sing their first song, which has a beautiful saxophone accompanying it. They sing about sensuality and the importance of loving yourself, highschool bullies and society. Their backing track harmonises with their melodies and gives the set a gospel feel as Nassi preaches to the captivated crowd. Halfway through their set Nassi stops to speak to us all heart-to-heart, reciting spoken word poetry full of deepfelt upset at world and societal crises, their voice faltering with raw emotion.
imbi the girl. Photo by Bobby Rein.
Love Deluxe aka Mike O'Connell is ready and waiting to get the good times rolling and he and his band waste no time, jumping straight into a fast-paced set. His revamped '80s synth sound coaxes a decent crowd, who are encouraged by the boys to have a "boogie".
Holiday kicked off Flossy's first BIGSOUND showcase and it set the tone for a powerful set. Pumping bass, catchy hooks and some great headbanging shit are just the tonic for a huge first day of the festival. The Perth trio power through tracks that make a packed Crowbar take notice as sisters Lauren and Sinead O’Hara, alternating and harmonising vocals expertly, take us on a rollicking rock trip through tracks about anxiety-ridden dreams and being ok being alone. There is no holding back and they barely take a breath, showcasing their best straight off the bat.
The Buoys come on stage without any initial introduction - the four-piece blast straight in with overdriven, uptempo guitars and the once empty dancefloor is quickly filled to the brim. With a few small technical errors in play, a quick switch of cables gets the band going once again. After that there’s not a second to catch a breath - their set is powerful and full of energy.
Powerhouse group Dianas take The Foundry stage as the excited crowd swells in to watch. The audience's energy feeds into the band as they groove along, their ethereal voices weaving seamlessly into an eclectic surfy, western vibe. Their voices soar and echo throughout the room, cascading upon each other and lifting the energy. Their sound is almost reminiscent of early King Gizz, with punchy rhythmic chords and obscure, dream pop lyrics.
Brisbane’s Royal & The Southern Echo steps onto the Brightside stage in a dapper AF velvet jacket that we immediately ask to borrow (he agrees!). Another Brisbane scene stalwart Gabe Webster (The Creases) is on drums driving a mighty tidy set from the locals. The brainchild of Bryce Schneider, things expand to a five-piece for live BIGSOUND shenanigans and it works, rolling waves of indie-rock goodness melting over the enraptured crowd like the visuals Schneider tells us he put together in bed one night at 3am.
With several line-up changes over the past few years, Chakra Efendi and his band are definitely at the top of their game. Opening with Mia, there’s a clear consensus that Efendi’s growth is continuing exponentially. The band are a fusion of folk-indie and jazz. Reverb pierces through the mix with every strain of Efendi’s voice. They pelt through Waste Of Space and a new track called 'Morphine' with huge crowd engagement - the primary lacklustre moments, however, are Efendi’s engagement in between tracks.
Chakra Efendi. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.
It’s a testament to the raw talent possessed by west Victorian wunderkind Nancie Schipper that, at not even 20 years old, she’s already writing songs of the calibre we see tonight. From her clever, frequently conversational lyrics to her affable stage manner and inviting melodies, it’s clear that Schipper has been putting in the hard yards to hone her craft as both a writer and performer. On stage, flanked by an in-form expanded live line-up, the up-and-comer carries herself with the confidence of an old hand, appearing both buoyed and humbled by – yet entirely at ease in front of – the buzzing audience packed into Black Bear Lodge (who show their appreciation in kind, even offering an audible pop at the mere mention of fresh cut When You Get Home). It’s a good thing, too – if tonight’s standout showing is anything to go by, Schipper will soon find herself entertaining more than her fair share of adoring crowds from here on out.
If Middle Kids and Tiny Little Houses had a love child, it would be The Money War. Their dreamy, folk-pop sound is polished and defies you not to sway along. Despite a missing egg shaker, they treat the crowd to the title track of their latest EP, Life Is Better In Dreams, rounding out what was ultimately a stellar set.
We’re front right for Bakers Eddy, nice and close to the amp, and that fluro socks and Docs combo - not to mention the killer tunes - keeps us locked and loaded. Guitars are duck taped on and we “skkkkkkrrttt” our way through a floor-buckling set that’s only topped by some dude in the crowd being pulled on stage to sit on the kit to stop the kick drum moving. Now we think about it, he was promised free beer... someone should probably get him one.
Obscura Hail are a band on a lot of radars and there's little wonder why. Sensitive vocals, restrained instruments and a feeling that there's a lot under the surface. The trio from Melbourne perform with precision and purpose. There are moments in certain songs that built to fill the room, overtaking the meetings and the networking and demanding the attention they deserve. Ultimately, their only show of the festival wins over the crowd, the songwriting of Sean Conran such that you can't not be enthralled. New single Swear Jar, with its jaunty rhythm and quirk, highlights a set that justifies their recent signing to Dot Dash and Remote Control Records.
Obscura Hail. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.
It’s a late start at Crowbar for The Gloom In The Corner and, after fixing technical issues, the Melbourne hardcore outfit roar into obnoxious displays of all that is noise. The crowd is less formal than the rest of the BIGSOUND cadre, with attendees rocking mostly black attire. The crowd erupts into a frenzy of fists and feet swinging throughout the air - with the death glares from each member of the band being blasted into the crowd, the last thing anyone wants to do is disappoint the brutal atmosphere.
Closing out the night at The Foundry, Melbourne post-punks PINCH POINTS are all fun and fury, their enthralling energy infecting every one of us as they detour into extended, angular and downright excellent instrumental breaks between bursts of shouty, frequently pro-safety, vocals. After about half an hour – in this case, by the time they hit the delightful discordant jangle of Shibboleth – your mileage may begin to vary with respect to the conceptual gimmick at play. But, on the other hand, PINCH POINTS have also shown themselves to possess the musical chops, and then some, to keep themselves from being considered a one-trick pony. It’s a tough balance – but it’s fair to say they pull it off in style.
Since exploding onto the scene and performing at Download Festival this year, Sydney's RedHook have been getting noticed worldwide. Lead singer Emmy Mack is electric on stage. Whether it's growling with ferocity or singing with a misguided pop tenderness, she, and a band that are as tight as you can get, smash out a wicked set at Woolly Mammoth.
DRMNGNOW’s set is a captivating mix of spoken word, passionate rap and theatrical delivery. His striking lyrics are enhanced by powerful backing vocals and intense instrumentals, working together to convey his cultural message. DRMNGNOW’s music is entertaining and interesting but most of all, important.
DRMNGNOW. Photo by Dave Kan.
Late starts never throw Ivey - they get the bar moving from the first note. Their crowd engagement is spot-on and the room grooves away under the stage lights bouncing from The Outpost's suspend mirror ball.
Ivey. Photos by Aimee Catt.
Greta Stanley is greeted enthusiasticly when she takes the stage at Black Bear Lodge. Singing her heartfelt lyrics back to her, the supportive crowd earns a bashful smile from Stanley. Her vocals switch effortlessly from delicate to powerful, giving her songs a unique edge.
Greta Stanley. Photo by Jess Gleeson.
A near-complete culmination of every absurd thought has manifested and it takes the shape of Tobacco Rat. Their presence on the stage is surreal, dressed in an all-white tracksuit and white rat mask, speaking only via a sample pad loaded with robotic words. It complements their unusual and erratic performance as they writhe around the stage, the beat pouring from the deck almost seeming to come alive and possess their own creator. If you need a wake-up call on the tail end of day one, this is it.
Closing Family on the first night of BIGSOUND with the smoothness of Butter was an inspired choice. This sextet from Fremantle are nothing short of delectable with their warmth, their humour and those sexy, sexy horns. Swinging from funk to hip hop with a bit of jazz in between, they mix up a concoction of sounds that have Family moving, not to mention their very playful stage presence, including singer and guitarist Lachlan Payet bouncing energetically around the stage. Slower, unreleased track 'Remedy' is ignited by the organ sounds of Nick Ireland and is the perfect antidote for a frantic first day of the festival, reminding everyone of the need to pace oneself.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Bad//Dreems and, no doubt, it won’t be the last. A surprise addition on the BIGSOUND line-up, not that we’re complaining, the seasoned professionals rip through a set with old faves, new faves and, of course, the slow pretty part. We’re still in disbelief Alex Cameron is a legit surgeon (those guitar skills) and, despite the number of times we’ve seen him and the fact we’re scream-singing the lyrics back, frontman Ben Marwe looks like he’s just spitting his train of consciousness as he paces back and forth restlessly. They’re magnetic and the new album can’t come quick enough.
Upon entering Empire Hotel, we’re greeted instantly with a warm and welcoming ballad, the many voices of Little Quirks soaring throughout the building and lifting our spirits. They're dancing around on stage together, swinging their guitars and singing their hearts out in a scene reminiscent of a campfire Kumbaya in the countryside. It’s heartwarming, sincere and inspiring, as the family of musicians introduce themselves and launch into their last song, which gets the generous crowd of people in front dancing with each other and with strangers in true community fashion. A triumphant and powerful finish to the night here at Empire Hotel.
Hooligan Hefs has been the talk of the night, and for good reason. Energy is high at The Valley Drive In, the front rows full of people moshing and belting out each lyric. Phones fill the air - competing with plastic cups and even a pair of crutches! - as Hooligan Hefs leaps around the stage, kicking his feet into the air alongside his DJ. He disappears without a defining finishing moment - it’s slightly confusing for some attendees, but overall, it's an incredible set.
Hooligan Hefs. Photo by Aimee Catt.