BIGSOUND 2017: Introduction and pre-festival Rice is Nice X Spunk showcase

By on Monday, 18th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I think that it’s inevitable after having gone to a wide range of events around the world that you will compare and contrast them. BIGSOUND in Brisbane, Australia represents a major commitment in time and money from America, or Europe for that matter. However, BIGSOUND offers a combination of positives that provide an advantage of over SXSW and The Great Escape (TGE) that pleasantly surprised me.

1. Like TGE, BIGSOUND lasts for a manageable 3 days. It’s the right length to really get stuck in and get into great music discovery while not feeling like an exhausting slog like the 6 days of SXSW.

2. Like TGE and unlike SXSW, the hordes of punters are manageable and of good cheer at BIGSOUND. While I didn’t enjoy the crush of bodies at the Brightside outdoor stage or triple j’s stage Oh Hello, the good nature of music fans who were attending the event reminded me much of Liverpool Sound City when it was a city festival, RIP.

3. Like SXSW and unlike The Great Escape, the weather in Brisbane is sunny and fantastic. If you have ever been stuck under a brolly in Brighton, trying to keep your spirits up, you understand what this means. I have wondered, too, if it’s the weather or the unruliness of the punters that make the many bouncers of Brighton surly and unhelpful.

4. Shows start on time. This might not sound like a big deal, but it makes things so much easier for someone like me who’s got a full schedule organised each day and night. From the general music fan’s point of view, this is also of benefit: if you’re really keen on seeing on a certain band, you won’t be kept waiting.

5. Related to the previous point, all venues are organised, with the soundboards managed by good engineers. Ever been to a festival and been bored to tears waiting for a band to go on after doing live soundchecks when they really should be performing? I can’t recall a single time this happened at BIGSOUND. Every band was ready to go from the start of their set.

6. There is plenty of stuff to fill your time at BIGSOUND, but there is also plenty of time to enjoy the Fortitude Valley of Brisbane if you so choose. A dizzying array of lunchtime and afternoon showcases made it hard for delegate to choose between professional sessions and more laid-back performances, many in outdoor and/or whimsical spaces. If you so wished, the James Street shopping precinct and boho neighbourhoods of New Farm, Newstead and Teneriffe weren’t far walks to get a flavour outside of the Valley, and the Brisbane CBD was an easy walk or taxi ride away too. Having great and varied food and drink options makes going to a festival much more an experience than the event itself.

Laura Jean at BIGSOUND 2017

But let’s get back to the music. Unsurprisingly, Aussie indie labels Rice is Nice and Spunk wanted to hit the ground running with BIGSOUND, offering up an entirely free showcase at the Black Bear Lodge in Brunswick Street Mall to ease folks into the event if they’ve arrived in town early like myself. The songs of keyboard-playing Laura Jean from Melbourne, supported by a backing band, while perfectly serviceable, didn’t capture my imagination. With major labels preferring to back solo artists these days for financial reasons, acts like her make sense. These acts have the unenviable task of trying to be different and exciting enough to separate themselves from their peers and those already famous, while also not veering too far from mainstream sounds and topics.

REBEL YELL at BIGSOUND 2017

REBEL YELL was a surprising non-BIGSOUND showcasing artist who I found much more interesting. Despite her act’s name, no, Grace Stevenson’s music has nothing to do with Billy Idol. Okay, so in what some EDM heads and those in the know in Australia are calling ‘the post-Flume apocalypse’, there are more electronic producers – or people who are still too green, fancying themselves as genuine electronic producers – in Australia than the industry can actually support. I don’t think it’s Stevenson’s intention to truly shake things up in Brisbane, but she’s got good enough chops as a one-woman electronic dance show that I hope she shows up at a rave near you soon enough.

Big White at BIGSOUND 2017

From the 21st century, it was jarring to go into the next act. Sydney’s New Wave rockers Big White sound like you’ve gone through a time warp. Remember when we were in the late ‘70s and ‘80s and trying to pretend disco never happened? They’ve got a vibe that The Knack and The Vapors rode high on. Do we really want to go back to that time? Judging those in the lodge who were clicking up their heels, I guess some do.

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