BIGSOUND 2014: Review
Words by Emma Jones - Published on September 16, 2014
As PBD (Post BIGSOUND Depression) sets in heavier than expected (seriously, what are we meant to do now?!) two Scenewavers look back on the 48 hours that was, and try to narrow their time down to just five highlights each. Less than 12 months to go ’til next year, right?!
One of the real success stories of Australian music in 2014 is Canberra trio SAFIA, who have ascended from complete obscurity to sell out shows across the country. The ethereal Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds laid down the foundation for a polished and dynamic set, in which SAFIA showcased the genuine passion and dedication to their music that has underscored their success. In something of an anthology of the band’s short career, fans were treated to Mercury, the first song SAFIA ever released, as well as a handful of new material. Their breakout single, Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues, which transitions rather spectacularly from delicate vocals to thumping bass, capped off the set in the perfect fashion.
4. Rolls Bayce and the Circle of Life
So it’s not exactly The Lion King, but local trio Rolls Bayce certainly filled me with pride and optimism on Wednesday night. I should preface that by explaining that I found the dissipation of Hungry Kids of Hungary last year particularly sad; after all, they were one of the first bands that I followed closely from their early EPs through to their second and final album, 2013’s You’re a Shadow. To see and hear Dean McGrath fronting another band with such passion and style was naturally very fulfilling. Even though I had never heard the majority of Rolls Bayce’s set (they have only released one single so far), the familiarity of McGrath’s vocals made the whole experience very endearing, and I left The Zoo with a smile.
3. Orphans Orphans
I’m not sure if Aidan Moore meant to fall over at the end of Orphans Orphans’ set, but the singer’s Fosbury Flop over the speakers drew a nice parallel with the band’s frenetic and unpredictable brand of rock. The band comprises three interchanging vocalists (Moore of Moses Gunn Collective, Morning Harvey’s Spencer White and The Belligerents’ Lewis Stephenson), as well as bassist Steve Kempnich (who has previously toured with Millions and Last Dinosaurs). Throw in The Jungle Giants’ Sam Hales bashing the drums in a cowboy hat and Orphans Orphans are everything you could want in a band. The distinctly different styles of each vocalist provide a unique, refreshing element to their sound. White’s deep, guttural style is at times reminiscent of The Dandy Warhols and was particularly well-received. Stephenson is more flamboyant in his approach and (to my delight) even played a bit of kazoo. Moore is quite understated – in his singing, at least – but this allows for the rhythm to take centre stage, such as in their rollicking single, Orphan. Expect big things from these guys.
Looking like a gang of speed dealers and with frontman Tommy O’Dell brandishing a tambourine stick, DMA’s were tremendous at the JBL Live Stage on Wednesday night. The Sydney trio, almost certainly VIPs at Adidas Originals, have rapidly risen to prominence this year with their debut single, Delete. And what a single it is. Pleasingly, the rest of their eponymous EP is of equal quality, though it’s altogether less whimsical. In the 30 minutes they had at BIGSOUND, DMA’s proved exactly why they have fostered so much hype; each song was delivered with passion and precision, and the kind of enthralling stage presence that few bands can muster. The fact that guitarist Matt Mason looked like he might relieve several audience members of their valuables should be no deterrent to seeing this band at your very next opportunity.
1. Client Liaison
I knew exactly what to expect, but I still found myself in awe of Client Liaison as they took the stage at Oh Hello! on Thursday. I’m not ashamed to say I found the experience almost sensual; such is the profound appeal of Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller. Fuelled by hedonism and interspersed with glorious throwaway lines, such as, ‘Do you want to dance?’ and ‘It’s all about being free, baby!’, the whole performance was exhilarating fun. Free of Fear, Feeling and End of the Earth were highlights, although the term ‘highlight’ seems redundant when everything Client Liaison did was magical. They’re without parallel, these guys.
5. Spinning Top
The Perth Crew put on quite a show, with stellar sets from Nicholas Allbrook, Felicity Groom, and Peter Bibby all proving to be major highlights over the few days. Bibby’s crazily energetic set into the packed out Rics with Allbrook on the drums (with a few missing cymbals) was one of the best of Night 1. The jovial intensity of the band as more and more people squeezed in to get a look at the man and his merry band reached critical levels, it was hard to tell who was having a better time out of those on stage or those watching. Felicity Groom‘s incredible voice was next, and was especially perfect in her latest single, Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller. She was perfectly suited for the setting of Black Bear Lodge, and was surprisingly sweet for someone with such badass pipes! Night 2 saw people standing in hallways to hear Nicholas Allbrook‘s solo set, with new material from his album Ganough, Wallis and Fatunah. The bizarrely mesmerizing set, filled with (maybe unintentionally) funny banter, including Nick introducing his songs as, “This is another one by Nick Allbrook. I just really like that guy’s stuff”, was as entertaining as it was eye opening. His solo record performed live will re-affirm the fact for many that this is a seriously talented dude.
4. The Murlocs
Geelong psych-rock five-piece, The Murlocs were definitely one act I was not missing. Having caught the end of their set whilst supporting King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard the weekend just gone at Alhambra Lounge, I made sure I wasn’t going to let them slip away again. Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s unique whirling voice, combined with the harmonica and doomy, rolling guitars is right up my alley, and these guys had the crowd eating out of their hand from the first few notes. Other BIGSOUND acts were on the same page as me, as Nick Allbrook and Peter Bibby were standing up close, and members from Morning Harvey also making their way along for a look. My personal favourite, Space Cadet was a crowd highlight, and left no one questioning why they were there, or the obvious success that lies in front of them.
3.The vibe (The Constitution, Mabo…)
Sorry, couldn’t resist a quote from The Castle, but anyway! I’m going to be lame and say just how good the vibe was. The Valley is notorious for dickheads, but BIGSOUND creates a dickhead free zone. Full of people equally in love with music and generally stoked with the calibre of artists, and their sets, over the two nights. Bathroom conversations were full of sharing highlights, suggestions and opinions, as well as venues packed to see the next crop of who we’ll be listening to a lot in the months to come. It was an excitable and electric atmosphere everywhere you went, with sociable attitudes and drinks (So. Many. Drinks) flowing freely.
Adelaide beatmaker Oisima has been on my list for a while now. Hiding behind one of the best beards of the two days – maybe ever – lies a gentle and talented man with a lot of potential. His unique sound and enjoyable live show made for a bit of a change of pace, albeit a groovy change of pace. With so many electronic artists dominating the club circuit and airwaves these days, Oisima is a welcome change of pace; with less focus on the bangers and more on the instrumentation and the song as a whole. Everything About Her featuring the gorgeous vocals of Annabel Weston was a personal highlight, with that hip hop based beat paired with a dreamy and lush sound scape, left no one guessing why he was on this year’s lineup.
These guys command your respect, and had the crowd in their hands for their entire set. Immersed in a fog set against an incredibly impressive light show, the three Sydney guys were the perfect way to cap off Day 1. Including a quick Happy Birthday to the great Alex Cameron, their remarkable and aurally delicious set cemented them as the pioneers in Australian, and international, electronic music. The haunting Test & Recognise, Cameron’s forlorn vocals in Another, even ol’ faithful Void – the set was tight, meticulous, and promising for Seekae fans, old and new (even ones they surely would have gained in that set) for things still to come.