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Live Review: BIGSOUND Night Two: Drum'n'sax Renegades & CBGB Time Travellers

5 September 2019 | 11:25 am | Mitch KnoxZara GilbertTaylor MarshallCarly PackerLauren Baxter

Here's what went down on night two of BIGSOUND 2019.

How's BIGSOUND treating you? Do you need pain killers? Coffee through an IV? Maybe just a hug from mum? Us too. But we're limbering up for another night of live music and would be stoked if you'd join us.

Saint Lane sets the tone for day two in a pink velvet suit with his banger of a tune, Compliment My Shirt. A man of many talents, he shows off his comedy chops between songs, bantering with the crowd. With his clean, groovy backing tracks and witty lyricism, Saint Lane is definitely one to watch out for.

The first soaring vocal from VOTIA made everyone turn their heads in wonder of Réunion Island's traditional Maloya music. The percussive beats and unified harmonies brought a sense of joy to a small but enthusiastic crowd, who were enticed to join in the singing, even if they had no idea what the words were.

X Cargo is... empty. It seems everyone has seen The Music’s cover scattered around the Valley and got the hint; the Tones & I line is already a mile long. No matter, Newcastle’s FRITZ are in top form, bringing their delightfully shoegaze-y noise-pop to the adoring crowd. While the mic stand keeps slipping down - Tilly Murphy calls it the BIGSOUND curse - the band bring Brisbane's own striped sunlight sound, perfect for the city's balmy nights. 




 



 

FRITZ on night one. Photo by Bobby Rein.

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Kicking things off downstairs at Crowbar, NETTI brings considerable energy and charisma to the stage, armed with an eclectic collection of hip hop-steeped electronic heaviness – all of which makes it such a shame that the showcase is, to be blunt, a sonic mess. With the Melburnian’s musical accompaniment emanating from an onstage laptop, the production quality, balance and mix vary wildly between the extremes of dynamic soundscape and textural black hole while NETTI spits lyrics capably enough and asks the audience what is up a lot. (Not much. This.) Valiantly, she soldiers on, but things really only hit the sweet spot where everything makes sense together deep into the (mercifully short) set, with fiery closer Dxngeon.

With a small introduction from triple j’s Dan Howe, Semantics run up on stage. Their sound powers through the entire venue, but with an odd blend of overpowered guitars, it’s difficult to hear the frontman’s voice. In an attempt to upstage Howe handing out tote bags to crowd-goers, the band throw out their own sets of shirts. They cover Boys Don’t Cry to a few people singing but ultimately the crowd remain mostly stagnant. The stage energy remains powerful but it isn’t the best result for an opening set.

When Tones & I hit the stage, it was to a hero’s welcome, with punters singing along to Never Seen The Rain and Johnny Run Away, while Dance Monkey had one of BIGSOUND’s best receptions for the year.

  • Want to know what happened at Tones & I’s BIGSOUND debut? Head here for the full review.



 





 

Tones & I. Photo by Markus Ravik.




 



 



 
Tones & I. Photo by Markus Ravik.

In the intimacy of the criminally under filled Black Bear Lodge, Deline Briscoe lays down velvet-smooth, jazz-flecked jams with class and conviction. Accompanied by drummer Airileke Ingram and keyboardist/bassist Stephen Maxwell, the Far North Queensland-born Yalanji artist draws on her two decade's experience performing with the likes of Black Arm Band and Paul Kelly to deliver a stunningly soulful, sincere set of songs that deservedly finds a sizeable audience by the time they hit their stride. The buoyant, communal Heartbeat – during which Briscoe and her band are joined by a trio of guest vocalists from Papua New Guinea – is a mid-set highlight, even giving Maxwell room for a delightfully dexterous keys solo, while Ignorance Is Bliss is also a standout. An all-round exceptional display from a consummate professional.




 

Deline Briscoe on night one. Photo by Dave Kan.

The hypnotic swell of Mariam Sawires' neo-soul coming from Ric's Big Backyard attracts many looking to relax after a busy day. The Sydney artist delivers a warm and thoughtful set inspired by the world around her and her Egyptian roots. With a set swirling with emotion, and a voice that lifted the hearts of the crowd, Sawires is an exciting discovery for many.

For an early set, DVNA aka Dana Lowrey has already filled out the generous space of The Valley Drive In with a comfortable crowd. Her band's soulful melodies are amplified by Lowrey's bold, serenading voice, enrapturing everyone. She takes out a guitar halfway through the set to sing a song written by her friend, who’s grooving away in the crowd. The place is packed, the music is grooving and the atmosphere couldn’t be better.




 

DVNA. Photo by Bobby Rein.

Serina Pech serenades a small crowd at The Empire Hotel with an intimate and bluesy set. Despite Pech’s shy, tentative stage presence, her vocals are strong, clear, confident and punctuated.

X Cargo packs out for Holiday Party, the Brisbane locals, led by Melissa Tickle, bringing both the holiday and the party. We’re thinking margaritas by the pool in a fancy resort. What a visual. It’s a set filled with new music and they sound excellent. A cruisy way to ease into night two and limber the hips up.




 

Holiday Party. Photo by Bianca Holderness.

The top floor of Crowbar is absolutely packed for Concrete Surfers. The band open with Roma Street to heads swinging and bodies jumping and anticipation builds as Vcr slowly fades in before blasting eardrums. The crowd roar for Miscommunication and don't stop throughout the remainder of the band's set. They’re one of the best rock bands to come out of Queensland in recent memory and there’s not a soul that could say otherwise.

At The Foundry Kitschen Boy show off their lo-fi style - floral, jangly guitars dancing over an active bass line and straight-ahead beat. Dylan Baddeley seems an unlikely frontman for the most part, preferring to let the music do most of the talking. Despite an upbeat start, their music takes a decidedly lethargic turn towards shoegaze territory. Their first time playing Brisbane won't be their last though, judging by a decent turnout and crowd reaction.

Comprising renowned musicians/producers Oliver Tank and Vinay Matta, ascendant Sydney duo Polythought trade in lush, thoughtful, The Postal Service-esque electronica that straddles the worlds of pop, soul, house, downtempo and beyond. Tank’s live vocal work is sublime, standing up just as well on its own merits as it does when aided by a layer of ever-trusty AutoTune. Matta flexes the acclaimed production skills he has honed in his work as Hansaa, effortlessly juggling an array of samples and cues atop walls of bass and floor-shaking kick drums. There is an evident creative chemistry blossoming here, and this showcase – the duo's first live outing under this moniker – proves a most tantalising herald for the good things still to come from this pairing.

LÂLKA gets off to a shaky start due to some apparent technical difficulties, however, once the first song gets started, it's clear the next 30 minutes are going to be worry-free. The set is fast-paced, aggressive and free of inhibitions. If gritty electro-pop delivered with unapologetic confidence is what you’re after, LÂLKA is your ticket.

Leonie Kingdom woos the crowd with her sombre voice and acoustic guitar echoing warmly though the mix. She gives a sweet introduction to every song and consistently beautifies the room. She covers Britney Spears’ Toxic, but not before letting everyone know she covered it before Ruby Fields. The venue starts to fill as she closes with Night Terrors, which is a shame seeing as the whole set was nothing but captivating.

This observation is far from original - and it won’t remotely surprise anyone who has followed anything Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet have done over their careers - but, fuck, Party Dozen are so good. Defying easy description and as disdainful of convention as ever, the inimitable Sydney noise-punk...ish duo absolutely tear through their set of nothin' but bangers at Family. It's an unstoppable, unapologetic blast wave of experimental, amorphous and abrasive drum'n'sax-fuelled excellence. “PRAY FOR PARTY DOZEN", a giant screen reads in bold white font, its background flashing black and red with the same spasmodic energy as... everything this band does. You should, too. Pray for Party Dozen - to enter your life and never leave it. Only then will you find salvation – or, at the very least, some killer songs and a phenomenal live show.




 

Party Dozen. Photo by Bobby Rein.

The Amazons have people intrigued as they packed out The Elephant. The UK four-piece, playing their first-ever Australian show, deliver off the bat with a big block of rock that wouldn't be misplaced in an arena. Big riffs. Big crowd. Big sound. A song about their home town of Reading is a highlight, belted out with passion. Having worked with a producer credited with The Killers and Wolf Alice, there's little mystery where they want to be. Will they break into the market and continue Australia's love affair with British rock bands? Time will tell.




 

The Amazons. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.

Ever since Lucy Peach submitted her Artist Focus to The Music for BIGSOUND we knew we had to be at her set. I mean, “inspired by Stevie Nicks, my convict ancestors and my menstrual cycle” is everything. Heavier live, the six-piece, including Peach, bring a kind of stadium folk to The Zoo, Peach urging the crowd to come closer to the stage. It’s a soundtrack-to-a-spaghetti-western vibe and Peach dedicates the final track to anyone who’s ever been premenstrual: “Use the PMS for good.” Consider us just a bit obsessed.

Adrian Eagle is bringing the gospel vibes on night two at Famous. Possibly the nicest guy to the grace the festival, Eagle is full of praise for Tones & I, who took the stage before him, and continues to bring the love throughout the rest of his set. His positivity-soaked sound resonates with the crowd, who groove and sing along with him until the very end. Eagle’s music gently delivers an important message with a gospel/hip hop twist, inspiring optimism in even the most cynical of listeners.




 

Adrian Eagle. Photo by Justin Ma.

Ivory Tusk feels like an entirely different world as you enter, a bubbling murmur of awe and enjoyment across the faces of the entire room as GAUCI bop away. It’s a little bit disco, a little bit dream pop, and a lot of fun. The bar is empty and the dancefloor is packed as the groove takes a hold of us, and we forget about everything except the trio on stage.

Adelaide’s TOWNS have been joking around with the soundman and crowd for more than ten minutes before their set. For their third show of the day, their energy is still high and mighty and with such a large crowd gathered within The Foundry they power through their final Wednesday set at a level significantly higher than their previous shows. The crowd dance and push just to be at the front and every looped segment of their show is perfectly timed to the point they sound like a full band rather than just a two-piece. Incredible is an understatement!



 

TOWNS. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.

Bobby Alu’s set at The Zoo is the perfect escape for weary punters looking to rest their feet for 30 minutes and chill out to some smooth, tropical tunes. Complete with a guest appearance from his adorable mum, who treats the crowd to a traditional Samoan dance, the show is sweet, fun and rhythmically exciting. 

While the energy in the room isn’t much to feed on, boler mani darts around his stage with his super high energy bars. He’s vibrant, energetic, emotive and everything you could want for The Flying Cock, but the room doesn’t seem to reciprocate, with everyone standing mostly by the back, looking on from afar. This doesn’t stop him in the slightest, as he bounces from one side of the room to the other, then back again, never losing a beat, never missing a line, umbrella hat spinning away into the night.

Raw, exciting punk. That's 100. All the guitarists get a chance on the mic - they're all quite different and it immediately gives the group a multi-dimensional feel. Crowbar is up for it, packing out the front and vibing on the bass-heavy grooves and a song about wankers (a love song apparently). "It is fucking hot up in this state," declares singer and guitarist Rowen Tucker and the room is definitely hot and packed.

Johnny Hunter are straight out of the ‘70s New York punk scene so, obviously, we are here for it. The mullet means business and we wonder if frontman Nick Hutt took make-up advice from Robert Smith - maybe he can finally teach me how to apply eyeliner properly. It’s a commanding set and we can’t tear our eyes off Hutt as he punches the air and paces across the stage. We, very easily, could have time-warped back to CBGB off Bowery when we walked down those Family stairs.




 

Johnny Hunter. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.

Having cut his teeth over the past decade or so in a laundry list of beloved bands – The Cactus Channel and Frida chief among them – Melbourne mainstay darvid thor is striking out on his own (more or less) with his quirky brand of soulful, dreamlike indie-pop. Complemented by a trio of backing musicians manning bass, keys, guitar and drums, thor proves a charming, affable frontman, his mostly midrange, ambling vocals warm and inviting atop the set’s ‘80s-tinged arrangements. Airy pick-me-up Rest Of Your Life – written for the singer-songwriter's teenage brother during a personal crisis – and the introspective Get Out are exemplars of thor's talent for making diverse, disparate tunes that are captivating in both their subtle complexity and overt accessibility. Watching him in action tonight, it seems truly likely that, despite his years of distinguished service, darvid thor's best work is yet to come.

It’s nearly impossible to get inside Crowbar for SCABZ - and for those that beat the odds, it's even more difficult to physically see the band with such a huge crowd on the dancefloor. They scream a mix of Bikini Kill and Ramones and their crowd throws back every ounce of aggression the band pelt out.




 

SCABZ. Photo by Aimee Catt.

Earnest and passionate, Kat Edwards delivers low and velvety vocals at Black Bear Lodge. Edwards’ sound is full of contradictions, but in the best way possible. She is vulnerable but powerful, delicate but gritty. The raw honesty of her lyrics inspires sorrow and the need to sway simultaneously.

Back at The Valley Drive In, Creed tha Kid has drawn crowds from all over, the car park barely littered with empty space. His sound is very similar to up and coming US rapper Juice WRLD, every line dripping with emotion and personal experience. The vibrant lighting illuminates everything and seems to bring the stage alive, the performers barely having to move and still putting on a good show. That doesn’t include Creed, however, as he paces up and down the stage with the mic, seemingly singing to every single person individually.




 

Creed tha Kid. Photo by Markus Ravik.

Bowraville's Tasman Keith shows no signs of slowing down. His raps vary from rapid-fire to dark and hypnotic, but there are always hidden depths in his lyrics and he delivers them with conviction that makes the whole of Ric's Big Backyard take notice. A guest appearance from vocalist Stevie Jean sees them perform a live collaboration from their newly released joint EP.

A fair crowd gathers as Nerve takes the stage at 256 Wickham. Rather than walking, the majority of attendees make their way around the venue by bobbing around. The audience screams out every word - there’s almost no need for Nerve’s hype man to be on stage with such an enthused crowd.




 

Nerve. Photo by Aimee Catt.

Numbulwar-based octet Mambali win over the receptive crowd at The Zoo with their bold, endearing mix of musicality both contemporary and traditional. Most of their set is sung in language, but even those songs not written in English clearly resonate with the audience, who return the band's infectious energy in enthusiastic spades. Highlighting the universality of artistic expressions such as this, Mambali seamlessly fuse metal, classic rock, ska and pop influences with a fundamentally Indigenous sound and celebration of culture. The group are even joined by acclaimed singer-songwriter Emily Wurramara for a pitch-perfect performance of this year’s Yuwani, which they describe as one of their “critical songs"; a fitting assessment, given this talented ensemble are arguably one of BIGSOUND's most critical acts – and, objectively, one of its most unashamedly, wholesomely fun.  

Things get a little saucy when Huntly take to the stage at Woolly Mammoth. The effortlessly cool Melbourne trio combine R&B with electronic pop to create a sultry, danceable sound that is uniquely their own. Their set has drama, addictive beats, gorgeous vocals and members of Cry Club dancing in the audience.




 

Huntly. Photo by Markus Ravik.

A beautiful mix of guitars and sampled drums echo throughout Ric's Big Backyard for Milan Ring. There’s a huge crowd blocking out all view of the electronic hip hop artist. The stage is in a captivating hue of yellow as she plays through Drifting. She alternates between guitar solos and changing samples quickly, elegantly and professionally. The audience remains captivated and continuously dancing. Time constraints prevent her from playing her final song but overall her set is definitely a huge highlight of the second night.




 

Milan Ring. Photo by Lachlan Douglas.

“Turn up, Brisbane! Turn up, turn up, turn up!” These New South Whales’ Jamie Timony is shirtless, feeding the hungry crowd with marshmallows from his bum bag: “We call this part of the show feeding the birds.” Management, bookings and publicity details flash up on the screen - we love an efficient system - and between the Q&A section and circle pit attempts we hope the right people have taken note of those emails. It’s driving, catchy punk not meant to be reviewed. We’re going into the mosh. Catch you tomorrow.




 



 

These New South Whales. Photo by Justin Ma.

The band formerly known as POW! Negro return to BIGSOUND with not only a new name, SUPEREGO, but a swag of new tracks as well. MC Nelson Mondlane's booming voice is still there and they're still a very fine group of musicians, but it feels like they've cranked the attitude up a notch - "Apparently we've only got 17 months left of civilisation, so this song is about that." The final song is edgy, rocky and dark, and showcases the direction the Fremantle group are headed as they reinvent themselves with a more collaborative feel. It's exciting, but fuck it's loud!