All images © Claire Antagonym
When all else fails…
(spectacularly), there was nothing to do but join the 6000 or so eclectic musos and loquacious industry characters to consume performances by over 130 artists across 18 venues in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Supposedly it is the biggest music conference in the Southern Hemisphere, jammed into this flashy, neon, gritty, tacky red-light district where bad behavior flourishes and music is all.
Now in its seventeenth year, Bigsound has become known for launching the fledging careers of many internationally renowned Australian musicians. The festival is testament of the power of local music, and where live acts hailing from Brissie across a range of genres shone.
Last time I flew to Brisbane was day two of their cyclone hurricane. Apocalyptic end of days-y news bulletins showed Dali-esque images of furniture floating down streets and a bull shark washed up in the floods. I called my editor to ask how things were going and he said some kind of statewide emergency had been declared, the Premier had got on the blower and told everyone to leave their place of work and go home immediately. All public transport was free. Planes were grounded. Northern NSW and Queensland was underwater. Folk ensemble The Button Collective, ever wonderful, played swampy bluegrass in a canoe that floated down the main street of Lismore.
Then quite independently of the insane weather conditions the plane brakes failed and all the engineering systems went dodgy. So compared to all that it was much easier journey this time and I could message Rogue Inky’s editor extraordinaire:
“Arrived safe + got tix (no cyclones this time). Next three nights Osaka Punch, Polaris & Sleepmakeswaves. Almost full moon. Wish you were beer.”
‘A small, passionate & organised dissenting group within a larger majority.’
‘Which describes what it’s like to be into heavy music’ according to Faction, ‘Australia’s newest destination for the heavy music community.’ I went for the launch of their smartphone app, heavy radio station and publication site, and to make an attempt at socialising with a like-minded crowd. Stereo without the type.
Tribes and warfare, mating rituals. Like in the metal community the dance of avoiding eye contact and not saying hello. Or saying too much hello. There is no in between.
Me and Brissie public transport. Actually, me and all public transport. Having conclusively fucked it up during the day I set to walking myself from South Bank to West end. That walk was the extremely scenic tour of all the hills in Brisbane. Glad I wore my explorer socks. Pretty views though. Chilled West side then headed to Brightside.
Waax’s set at The Brightside was like the uplifting end of a cult indie movie where a band is rocking out and the camera pans further and further out so you can see the extent of the epic crowd and how much they are losing their shit. Combined with mesmerising psychedelic visuals and the raw and thrashy energy that they all exuded this was a highlight that definitely lived up to the hype.
I've talked to three people in total so far and it seems everyone in Brisbane is deeply hungover. Even the Uber driver had a massive one. I do have a funny love for this place and the collective willingness of its inhabitants to get outlandishly blotto on a Tuesday night.
I did my too awks to talk, hang with the records bit. So much vinyl porn… (but I’m trying to cut way back).
Later I witnessed some outerwordly levitation during the fucking excellent performance by Polaris; Metalcore. Brutal. Experimental. Nautical.
And Osaka Punch, who were described as “Zappa meets Faith No More, cooked in a James Brown soup." Pop-ballady, jazz-freaky, masters of ‘dank groove’ and general hilarity.
Then Sleepmakeswaves, who captured the mood perfectly with their fiery, melodic, post-rock prog feels, creating a dreamy, frenzied energy in this potent stand-alone performance. Their sound is at times serene and ambient, but with a depth and sinister edge, intensified by frantic moments of ghost notes and abstract drumming. They deftly wove an intricate web of sound both that was eerie, oppressive and richly melodic.
I call it post post-rock.
Midas Gold in Ric’s Big Backyard had an explosive energy and stage presence that screamed without restraint; here I am, look where I’ve got to, if you don’t like it, go fuck yourself.
And there was something familiar about the ethereal, dreamy, sparkly presence of Nice Biscuit. I realised I had seen them last time I was in Brisbane. They seem to have a love of glitter to rival Priscilla Queen of the Desert that has not abated.
They were already on the list of ‘bands I have no idea what they’re about but would seek out just for the name (this list includes The Winnie Blues and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets) Their sound is whimsical, effervescent. It should be sickly sweet but is actually pretty fucking sexy. Wah wah wah.
I kept peering at his silver necklace, seeming to make out its imprint of a man moving forward carrying something on his shoulders and holding a large stick. Or a drunk shepherd.
“Saint of what?”
he said, sleepily.
How to disappear completely
At the airport the infinitely patient woman at check in said to one a woman in the queue, demonstrably a Bigsound punter fallen victim to the widely famed Friday hangover after the revels of the unofficial after party, then the next two parties after that.
“I am so sorry my dear, I seem to have just flicked a rubber band at your head.”
The girl looked at her, dazed. “Its fine” she said. "I’m not even here."
An awfully big adventure
Travellers, nomads, locals. Small, passionate, dissenting groups. Tribes with their delirium and their hilarity and their outcasts. Social gameplay. Bullshit networking. Ineffectual schmoozing. Sleeping through the alarm.
If you came to work or you came to get sozzled. If you got put up in a hotel or did the ring-around to see if anyone had a free couch. If you were too afraid to really talk to anyone or you instigated a speakeasy-esque public showdown with fisticuffs and the ramifications of social media babble. If you designed a custom luminescent space bikini or wore the same coat for five days.
This is the magical thing about Bigsound. All kinds of music, all the freaky genres, the countercultures, the disruptors. For a small few it captures something deep within, something that makes you feel powerful. Something that gives you the strength to face your demons and tell them to go fuck themselves. To feel raw, skinned, stripped bare, and properly alive.
All images © Claire Antagonym