Brisbane – you go alright. Sydney folk have given you a bit of a rough ride throughout the years: “It’s too hot…full of bogans…fucking Maroon wankers” are all pretty common complaints. But after offering up so many fantastic bands over the years, it was awesome to finally experience the whirlwind of your uncomfortably warm embrace. And BIGSOUND! What a treat! Despite an abundance of blokes (always blokes) with incredibly overinflated egos (shoutouts to the guy that threw his pass in a security guard’s face, throwing his arm at the 30 second queue and exclaiming “But I’m a delegate! That’s a punter’s line…THIS IS BULLSHIT!”) BIGSOUND is an opportunity.
Y’see, there’s over 150 bands playingsome incredible, some lame as shit, but all there to hopefully further their careers and find success, whatever that definition might be. And I’m really happy about that – there’s not nearly enough cash being thrown back to the musicians who make our punter lives such a joy. So, even though I don’t like it, who gives a shit? I’m happy for any artist, of any genre, to achieve their goal, particularly through a process like BIGSOUND, which is a great way to connect with folks who can help you. For every guy that can’t stop mentioning the fact that he works in the “music industry”, there are a dozen people who genuinely care about checking out as many of the good things on offer. So here’s my two cents on the best bands up at BIGSOUND – and by the way, if you ever fucking make me wait in a queue again, I will sue you.
10. Rainbow Chan
The electronic contingent at BIGSOUND was pretty disappointing this year. Maybe it’s coming from a really ill-informed “band bro” point of view, but watching someone overanalyse a set of decks just really doesn’t seem like that exciting of a thing to watch. It was the acts that went left of centre and made the most of their sets that performed best: Sui Zhen and NULL both pulled off impressive and visually engaging sets that are worth checking out. But it was Rainbow Chan that proved to be the most energetic and lively; she’s criminally underrated, and doesn’t play shows nearly enough. Any chance to catch her bop, groove and twirl onstage is a treat that should be taken advantage of immediately.
9. Tired Lion
If I wasn’t guzzling booze and schmoozing up to the heads of the major labels with all the gusto of Gary Busey on a coke binge, then I probably would’ve made it into the sold-out Gang of Youths gig, and they would’ve been on this list. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen (didn’t even get a fucking corporate sponsorship out of all that sucking up either). However, it did mean that I caught Tired Lion, Perth shredders that feature an absolute powerhouse of a front woman, the unstoppable Sophie Hopes. She latched onto every figure in the packed out room with the ferocity of the band’s namesake tearing open the throat of the slowest gazelle in the Savannah. We are all that gazelle, and all we could do was stare in awe of the show that Tired Lion supplied as they stewed upon our entrails.
8. Cosmic Psychos
Their new album leaves a lot to be desired, as much of a disappointment as my results at uni. But it would be plain ignorant to call Cosmic Psychos as anything less than a heritage act, an influential band that spits in the face of legacy because they’re too busy riding tractors and slamming into dead roos. Their reputation as one of the best pub rockers remains undisputed when it comes to a live show. Sweaty, blood-spurting and beer-soaked faces caked the grey-haired but perpetually young-at-heart performance, as classics “Nice Day to Go the Pub”, “Lost Cause” and “David Lee Roth” all saw air time, both from the stage and the bevy of crowd-surfers.
DARTS played two sets, and both proved to be overwhelming punches of spectacle. Straight ahead, teeth-bared rock that presents itself as a slew snarling anthems, but is plagued with cutting self-analysis and anguish, which explodes in the live arena. DARTS work well in confined spaces, barrelling through track after track on the stages of Brisbane with loaded sets of staunch, lip-curling grunge.
On a bill packed with rock acts, WAAX feel like the band destined to inspire more than fair few teenagers to pick up the guitar and thrash around in their bedroom. This band deserves every loud-loving punters full attention, and catching them live should shoot to the top of the list. Ask anyone who was there, and you’re likely to get the same gushing response as entailed here. Front woman Marie De Vita is particularly worthy of praise, an irrepressible emerald-doused firework who dominates the crowd like she’s Joan of Arc and we’re all a bunch of bloody Brits ready for rock slaughter.
5. Tiny Little Houses
This show was absolutely fucking packed. A full 24 hours later, and my lungs still haven’t decompressed themselves. But mate, wasn’t it bloody worth it? I’d kinda given up on folk bands, what with the realisation that Boy & Bear and The Paper Kites both suck…but man, Tiny Little Houses – swoon! They’re lo-fi recordings shine on a stage, and the inclusion of a fair bit of shredding helps bolster their performances into quite the mesmerising spectacle.
4. The Ocean Party
The Ocean Party are easily the hardest working band in Australia, with more live gigs notched under their belts than Ron Jeremy’s got STD’s. Not only that, but they’ve got a fifth record due out in a month AND all seven members deal with their own stellar recording projects in what mythical spare time they have. With all that practice and constant skill-honing, it’s no wonder that The Ocean Party are one of the most charming bands to watch in Aus. Their gigs will suck you in like a bloody typhoon, and you’ll have their incredible brand of guitar-pop stuck in your head for days, weeks, months, years. Truly, this band is the herpes of music…but delightful instead of burning.
3. Dorsal Fins
There’s a fuck-off amount of members in Dorsal Fins, so many that it’s all too easy to lose count. Watching them is like watching that classic gorilla selective attention experiment video – your eyes are bouncing between so many members that a giant ape could walk through the middle and you wouldn’t notice. Not that King Kong antics are a problem here – you’re having way too much fun! Dorsal Fins do pop to its logical, exuberant climax, and the unstoppable Ella Thompson not only possesses one hell of a voice, but the most enthusiastic dance moves that BIGSOUND had to offer. On a bill filled with bright pop musicians, Dorsal Fins were far and away the most brilliant and enticing.
2. The Goon Sax
One song and a handful of demos is apparently enough to fill up a room to a dangerous capacity. If someone coughed, the whole audience would’ve come down with pneumonia the next day. But of course, everyone was excited to check out the new Chapter Music signing. After 20 years, one of the most prestigious and continuously enigmatic labels in Australia went out on a limb and signed their first band based on unsolicited demos. Holy shit did they make the right decision: three high school kids, loaded with shy charm and a love for bands that I wish I could’ve claimed to be into in Year 12 (The Apartments, Go-Betweens, and The Bats) deserved every cheer and clap they got during their slot. I don’t even give a shit if I’ve got whooping cough now – seeing The Goon Sax will be worth every second of my impending plague.
I am so okay with a band with four guitars. Yeah, you read that right – four. This band has the same amount of guitars as the core cast of Seinfeld has members. And they use these guitars in their entire brutal capacity – nobody was leaving this room without bleeding eardrums and grin planted on their cranium. Fuck, there is so much to love about this band: from the name, to the incredible musicianship on display, to the simple awe generated by the sheer volume of it all. This band is epic, but with all the pretension removed. Watching DEAFCULT is an experience that anyone with even a passing interest in what guitars can do should participate in. Fuck…I think I’ve shit myself just from thinking back to it.